“Horticultural Careers” is a series of mini-videos featuring interviews with professionals in the horticulture industry. This effort, supported by a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences teaching mini-grant to Dr. Bala “Saba” Rathinasabapathi and Dr. Steven Sargent, Professors of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida, is aimed to inspire the next generation of successful professionals in Horticulture!
With help from several departments in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, UF has released a series of “smart irrigation apps” to help manage urban and agricultural irrigation.
The apps are designed to help commercial farmers and small-time gardeners calculate their plant’s precise water demand to save money and water resources.
There are currently apps available for citrus, strawberries, cotton, avocado, vegetables and urban lawn. Check them out here: http://smartirrigationapps.org/
Read more about these and other UF/IFAS apps here: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2015/08/ufifas-apps-give-irrigation-growing-tips-and-more/#more-9025
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
Professors and students from the UF Horticultural Sciences department will speak at a U.S. House Science Committee hearing on June 25. Though there is no set agenda for the hearing, the chairman of the department, Dr. Kevin Folta, said they will most likely be answering questions about GMO regulatory processes, food labeling and product safety.
“It is great that this committee is consulting with scientists that understand the evidence, and hopefully evidence will help them devise new policy,” Folta said.
Chris Barbey, a Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology doctoral student speaking at the hearing, said he hopes to clarify a few pervasive myths surrounding GMOs and biotechnology. Barbey said public fear and negative perception has left decades of publicly-funded crop research sits on the shelf.
“The safety of GMOs has been established and confirmed again and again. However, there is still substantial distance between the scientific facts and public perception,” he said.
Although this hearing may not do much to change that, Folta and the other scientists have the opporunity to provide Congress with scientific and evidence-based answers to the GMO debate.
“This is about discussing the science-based strengths and limitations of this technology,” Folta said. “I’m grateful that our students will have a chance to present the current state of the science.”
The “Florida 127” strawberry, developed by Vance Whitaker, assistant professor of strawberry breeding at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, could be the fruit consumers and growers have been waiting for.
This promising new variety increases flavor, while still allowing for early production and prolonged shelf life. According to Whitaker, fruit from Florida 127 last longer than the typical 10-14 day shelf life by one or two days, which can make a big difference considering the primary market for Florida strawberries is the Northeast.
“I think that’s a good advance. If you’re shipping all the way to Ontario, which many Florida strawberries do, they’ve spent several days on the road,” Whitaker said. “That (shelf life) is a really important aspect we’ve got to focus on.”
Florida 127 was planted on only 150 acres last season, but it is expected to expand to 2,000 acres for the 2-15-16 season.
UFHortSci professor and Chair Dr. Kevin Folta speaks with NPR in Miami about agricultural biotechnology.