Tag Archives: horticulture

Horticultural Careers

“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!

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UF Horticulture Scientist to Speak at Congressional Hearing

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.

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“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.”

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The 2015 Florida Blueberry Season: Production high, but prices low

The numbers from the 2015 Florida blueberry season are in, and despite ideal production conditions, growers saw a drop in farm price.

According to UF horticulture professor Jeff Williamson, the record breaking production output caused an oversupply that drove down prices.

“I think yields (pounds of blueberries per acre) were real good. I’m not sure all of the crop was picked,” he said. “With the high volume, prices declined earlier than they normally do.”

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Prices could also have been affected by unusual weather, both in Florida and in Chile. The Florida blueberry season spans the last few weeks of March to the first week of April, right after blueberries stop being imported from Chile and before more northern states like Georgia can start their harvest. For those few weeks, Florida is the only source of fresh blueberries in the U.S. market, and growers can charge a premium price.

This season, cold weather prevented Chilean growers from starting their harvest on schedule, and they were exporting blueberries to the U.S. until the end of March. A warm spring in Florida forced growers to start harvesting two weeks earlier than normal, meaning both regions were selling blueberries at the same time. This, coupled with the fact that the Florida heat caused most farms to produce even more than usual, created an oversupply in the market and brought prices down for everyone.

Despite these setbacks, the 2015 blueberry season was still deemed profitable, and USDA statistics show that consumers taste for blueberries is only growing, with domestic sale increasing form 40 million pounds in 1980 to 429  million pounds in 2013.

For more information about the 2015 blueberry season, check out this article: http://www.theledger.com/article/20150612/NEWSCHIEF/150619823?p=1&tc=pg

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UF Hort Sci Professors Featured in Documentary

Drs. Manjul Dutt and Jude Grosser of the UF Citrus Research and Education Center will be featured in an upcoming documentary film on transgenic crop solutions.

Dutt and Grosser are being filmed for their work developing solutions to citrus greening through genetic crop improvement. In the photo below, they are demonstrating early flowering citrus that would speed breeding efforts.

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Dr. Kevin Folta, chairman of the UF Horticultural Sciences department, said he believes the professor’s work is being featured because they have a unique approach to the citrus greening problem.

“When integrated with insect control, nutrition and other strategies, transgenic solutions may help Florida farmers continue profitable farming,” he said.

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New Strawberry Bred by UF Hort Scientist Improves Flavor and Shelf life

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.”

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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.

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UF Hort Chair Featured on NPR

UFHortSci professor and Chair Dr. Kevin Folta speaks with NPR in Miami about agricultural biotechnology.

UFHortSci professor and Chair Dr. Kevin Folta speaks with NPR in Miami about agricultural biotechnology.

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UF Hort Scientists to Collaborate with Shanghai Academy

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Scientists from Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences signed a key collaboration agreement with the University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department.  Both institutions have strong interests in breeding strawberries and peaches, and in their diseases and postharvest care.  The agreement strengthens bi-national opportunities for both groups and facilitates the exchange of scientists and students for research experiences in foreign laboratories.

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