Horticulture Department Chair Dr. Kevin Folta and students Chris Barbey and Alejandra Abril Guevara spoke about genetic engineering at a bipartisan roundtable in the House Science Committee this past June. This discussion was led by Congressional Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma. Citing the disparatity between scientific consensus and pubic opinion, Rep. Lucas wanted our department to address some of the unscientific misconceptions surrounding GM crops.
Read Rep. Lucas describe the meeting in his own words: http://www.stwnewspress.com/opinion/columns/rep-frank-lucas-perception-of-gmo-foods-underserved/article_1f33e538-2dc6-11e5-bb29-6b2137526872.html
Horticulture scientists Drs. Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferl have been honored by NASA with an award in the Most Compelling Results category for their research on plant astrobiology.
Ferl and Paul are determining how plants react in the zero-gravity space environment. Their research is not only paves the way for plants to be grown in space, but it also provides insight into how plants function at a molecular level here on Earth.
NASA is honoring Paul and Ferl for three recent experiments they conducted with plants on the International Space Station. For an in-depth look at these experiments, click here: http://www.labmanager.com/news/2015/07/growing-plants-in-space?fw1pk=2#.Va-uzvlVhHw
UF horticulture scientist Dr. Harry Klee was featured in Slate magazine this week for his work on the Garden Gem, a new variety of tomato with the great flavor of an heirloom tomato but made for commercial production.
The Garden Gem is the culmination of 20 years work by Dr. Klee, including growing and testing 400 varieties and collecting data from more than 500 sensory panelists. In 2011, he crossed the variety Fla. 8059, a commercial powerhouse, and the delicious Maglia Rosa, the heirloom tomato rated best tasting by sensory panelists. This new variety had flavor that was almost identical to the Maglia Rosa, but it also had qualities that are advantageous in large-scale production, like disease resistance, excellent shelf life, and productivity.
Anyone who’s ever bit into a bland, watery tomato knows that flavor isn’t high priority for tomato producers. Tomato varieties that produce great tasting fruit are often passed over by growers in favor of varieties that produce large, durable and easy to harvest fruit.
So it would it would seem the Garden Gem is the answer to everyone’s prayers, as it provides great taste for consumers and high productivity for growers, right? Wrong.
Check out the Slate article to find out why: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2015/07/garden_gem_tomato_why_harry_klee_s_perfect_cultivar_isn_t_sold_in_supermarkets.html
If you enjoyed reading about UF Space Plants, our reduced gravity horticulture lab, in last month’s blog post, check out their new video for a first hand look into how their parabolic flight experiments work:
Check out our original post here:
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural was recently awarded $1 million by the state to fight citrus greening.
The money was awarded to a research project by IFAS scientists to develop a microbial-based product with patented plant-defense inducers and beneficial bacteria strains. Although this will not completely cure the tree, IFAS researcher Nian Wang said the results of this project could help citrus growers around the world combat greening.
In initial field trials, the project has shown unprecedented positive results. The product not only decreases the severity of greening by 25 percent, but it also builds the tree’s internal immunity, increases root growth and strength, and prolongs the tree’s life more effectively than any other product currently on the market.
For more information, visit IFAS news: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2015/07/citrus-greening-research-gets-1-million-in-state-budget-funding/
Check out July’s issue of our monthly newsletter The Vegetarian for fruits and veggie tidbits from UF Horticultural Sciences faculty and county agents:
A “new breed of breeder” – that’s how Wired magazine described UF Horticultural Sciences professor Vance Whitaker for his work on improving the flavor of strawberries.
Whitaker, along with other researchers from UF’s strawberry breeding program, has identified the genetic data that produces aromatic strawberry flavors that consumers love. This work is revolutionary because most breeders select plants based on traits that are desirable to fruit producers, like size, color, shelf-life, and disease resistance. While these traits are important for large-scale strawberry production, they are often chosen instead of the traits that produce things consumers love, like flavor, aroma and nutrition.
Read Wired’s take here: http://www.wired.com/2015/06/genetic-quest-make-strawberries-taste-great/