GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A trio of projects aimed at helping Florida producers cope with the bacterial disease known as citrus greening topped the list of stories shared by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 2016.
This year marked the beginning of the state’s second decade battling greening disease, which is also known as Huanglongbing or HLB. Other top stories for the year involved invasive organisms causing negative impacts to Florida’s economy and environment, and even the health of its residents.
Here are the top 10 UF/IFAS 2016 stories:
1. Citrus greening: UF/IFAS citrus breeders have developed trial varieties of Hamlin and Valencia oranges with enhanced resistance to citrus greening disease. Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of bactericides, and a technique that may enable scientists to remove and replace genes that cause citrus trees to be vulnerable to the disease.
2. Zika virus: UF/IFAS faculty are on the front lines in the battle against the Zika virus. Researchers are exploring myriad possibilities for protecting Florida residents from the virus, which is transmitted by two invasive mosquito species. UF/IFAS outreach efforts also educated residents on protecting themselves and their homes.
3. Finding Dory: Researchers with the UF Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory have successfully raised a marine fish known as the Pacific blue tang, a species featured in the Disney “Finding Dory” film. This achievement was an important step toward raising the species commercially, which could increase profits for the state’s ornamental fish producers and reduce collection pressures in the wild.
4. Food security: UF/IFAS was awarded a five-year, $49 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. The project focuses on enhancing livestock production in six developing nations in Africa and Asia, to combat hunger and help smallholder farmers earn more money.
5. Water conservation: UF/IFAS Extension hired five Regional Specialized Agents (RSAs) whose responsibilities focus on water resources within the state’s five Extension districts. Water quality and conservation are major programming priorities.
6. Q-biotype whitefly: The Q-biotype whitefly, a tiny, invasive flying insect was found in seven Florida counties. UF/IFAS scientists and Extension agents continue to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to manage the whitefly.
7. Nature Coast Biological Station: Based in historic Cedar Key, this new UF/IFAS facility is dedicated to research and Extension activities focused on Florida’s Big Bend coastal ecosystems. One research team affiliated with NCBS was awarded $8.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The team will work to restore 32 acres of oyster reefs off the Levy County coast to establish new oyster populations, and to make local ecosystems and economies more resilient.
8. Tropical bed bugs: For the first time in 60 years, the tropical bed bug has been found in Florida, infesting a Brevard County home. UF/IFAS researchers are working to prevent the insect from spreading and determine how much of a threat it poses to the state.
9. Climate science: A study involving UF/IFAS researchers and collaborators from 10 nations indicated that global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems.
10. New Ph.D. program: The UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) added a new Ph.D. program in youth development and family science to start in fall 2017.
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