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|The influence of learning styles...|
|Integrated management for Florida...|
|Biogasification of sugarbeet...|
|Examining hikers of the Florida...|
|Development of indicators...|
|Marine fish habitat|
|Increasing the folate content of...|
|Early calf weening improves feedlot...|
|Citrus best management practic...|
|Finding resistance to citrus...|
|Tomatoes and tomato breeding|
|Florida after-school enrichment...|
|New and better flowers for...|
|Bacteria to produce ethanol|
|West Nile virus in Florida|
|Director's financial report|
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|Table of Contents|
Table of Contents
The influence of learning styles on thinking skills
Integrated management for Florida blueberries
Biogasification of sugarbeet tailings
Examining hikers of the Florida trails
Development of indicators of eutrophication
Marine fish habitat
Increasing the folate content of plants
Early calf weening improves feedlot efficiency
Citrus best management practices
Finding resistance to citrus canker
Tomatoes and tomato breeding
Florida after-school enrichment project
New and better flowers for Floridians
Bacteria to produce ethanol
West Nile virus in Florida
Director's financial report
University of Florida I Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
RES EA RCultural Experiment StatioPO RT
2005 Annual Reprt fo Flrda Agricultural Experiment Station T
HBFs kn/JiR i
This has been a year of change.
Changes in Florida's agriculture
have been dramatic, and they
provide major challenges and
major opportunities for research at the
University of Florida Institute of Food
and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).
The emergence of canker and
greening threatens the state's signature
crop, and we have moved from making
eradication plans to aggressively seeking
unique solutions. Increased labor
costs and immigration concerns have
heightened the state's growers' need
for less labor-intensive crop varieties,
opening up new directions in germplasm
development and harvest automation.
Florida's population growth and higher
land values present challenges to Florida
agriculture but it also motivate IFAS
researchers to find more value and more
opportunities through science to make
agriculture in Florida sustainable and
profitable. Hurricanes have damaged
crops as well as spread disease and pests,
but in the process, IFAS researchers have
become known for their leading research
in disease control and pest management.
Rising energy costs are providing budget
challenges for IFAS; however, energy
needs also create opportunities for our
biofuels research. Food safety, invasive
plants, and travelers entering our ports all
lead to concerns over new and emerging
pathogens. These multidisciplinary issues
create opportunities for faculty to work
together across colleges and disciplines to
find new and novel approaches. Through
it all, IFAS researchers continue to find
solutions for your life.
Meeting the challenges to Florida's
food, agriculture and natural resource
systems is the primary role of IFAS
researchers. IFAS Research administration
is changing key leadership positions in
the dean's office and adding several new
chairs of academic departments, as well
as some new center directors. We are also
adding new faculty experts to help us to
be more proactive and effective. Even this
annual report reflects changes in how we
communicate. The official annual report
of the Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station will now consist of three
components located on our Web site:
1) a Research Report of highlights, 2) a
current report of all research publications
by unit for the year and 3) a report of all
our extramural grant awards by unit.
While serving Florida, our faculty is
also addressing national and international
concerns. In addition to the Gainesville
campus, our faculty conducts research
at 13 research centers across the state
and travels to many foreign countries.
Faculty members understand the need
for a balance in research that includes
basic discovery, innovations and novel
applications. In the land-grant tradition
of higher education, we combine this
discovery, innovation and application
with hard-hitting results.
With all the changes and challenges,
Florida agriculture continues to grow,
with more than $87 billion dollars in
annual economic impact. Production per
acre continues to increase. The quality
and quantity of more new varieties of
crops are being increased, when market
prices are most favorable.
In a time of change, we are seizing
opportunities to enhance knowledge
about food, agriculture and natural
resources. We do so with an excellent and
competitive faculty, strong state support
and a committed engagement with our
A special thanks to my predecessor,
Dr. Richard Jones, as we transition into
a new leadership and new direction. We
appreciate his passion for our mission, his
continued guidance and his commitment
to excellence. J4
2 1 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
University of Florida I Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
ESEA RCicultural Experiment StationEPO RT
2005 Annual Reportfor the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
4 The Influence of Learning
Styles on Thinking Skills
6 Integrated Pest Management
for Florida Blueberries
8 Biogasification of
10 Examining Hikers of
the Florida Trail
12 Development of Indicators
14 Marine Fish Habitat
16 Increasing the Folate
Content of Plants
18 Early Calf Weaning
Improves Feedlot Efficiency
20 Citrus Best Management
22 Finding Resistance to
24 Soybean Rust
28 Tomatoes and Tomato
30 Florida After-School
32 New and Better Flowers for
34 Bacteria to Produce Ethanol
36 West Nile Virus in Florida
38 Foundation Professors
41 Featured Spotlight
42 Financial Report
On the Cover
The University of Florida Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences faculty and students are
provided with cutting edge technology to put them
in the forefront of the research field.
MARK R. MCLELLAN
Dean for Research and Director,
Florida Agricultural Experiment
MARY L. DURYEA
Associate Dean for Research
GEORGE J. HOCHMUTH
Associate Dean for Research
Associate Dean for Research
WRITER Cindy Spence
PHOTO EDITOR Thomas S. Wright
DESIGNER Tracy D. Zwillinger
PHOTOGRAPHERS Thomas S. Wright
COPY EDITOR Amanda K. Aubuchon
PRINTED BY Boyd Brothers, Inc.
RESEARCH REPORT is published by the
University of Florida's Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences and is produced by
IFAS Communication Services (Ashley M.
To change an address, request extra copies
of RESEARCH REPORT, or to be added to the
mailing list, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to Research Administration, P.O. Box
110200, University of Florida, Gainesville,
RESEARCH REPORT is available in
alternative formats. Visit our
Web site: http://research.ifas.ufl.edu
COPYRIGHT 2006 BY THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA/IFAS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED I RESEARCH REPORT
Are students' critical thinking skills developed
through the subject matter they study, or
through the use of specific teaching methods?
That question guides the research of Dr. James
* Parents who wonder how
their teens can listen to music
while studying and still get
good grades might want to
consider James Dyer's research.
4 1 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
The Influence of
Learning Styles on
It's all about learning styles, the University of
Florida researcher said, and one type of learner
actually can study successfully and listen to
music at the same time.
Learning styles influence a professor's success
at teaching and a student's success at learning, but
research into students' differences in learning is
relatively new. Dyer says the field is crucial, how-
ever, because it affects students' success in college
and afterward in the workforce.
Dyer teaches a leadership development class,
and as part of that class his 150 students figure out
which of four learning styles fits them. Every year,
the class bears out his research on the
impact of learning styles, Dyer said.
"These 150 students are training to be
leaders and teachers, and in that course
they light up when they learn about
learning styles," Dyer said. "One of the
things I see over and over is that once
they realize what type of learners they are,
they are more comfortable with a major,
or they change a major to one they're
more comfortable with.
"They realize it's OK to be yourself
and be the best self you can be. It's amaz-
ing to see the changes in their lives."
Dyer uses the four learning styles
identified by researcher Anthony Gregorc
in the 1970s. Concrete sequential
learners like hands-on instruction.
Abstract random learners are intuitive
and function well with less structure.
Abstract sequential learners are highly
verbal. And concrete random learners are
independent, take-charge types. Although
students have one dominant style, Dyer
said, one key to better instruction is to
help them draw on other styles to develop
"What we're trying to identify is the
ability to think through a problem to the
solution. Is it the course that teaches that?
Is it the teacher that teaches that?" Dyer
said. "What is the key to the thought
process that triggers learning? How do
students develop cognitive process skills,
higher critical thinking skills?
"What we're finding is that it has less
to do with what I teach or how I teach
than with learning style."
For his research, Dyer tested
individual classes at the beginning of a
semester. During the semester the classes
were exposed to different teaching styles,
and then the classes were retested at the
end of the semester. The students who
scored highest on the tests were those
whose learning styles matched their learn-
ing situation in class.
"We can increase all students' scores if
we teach to learning styles," Dyer said.
Education used to be viewed as a
process in which those who know, teach,
and those who do not know, learn, Dyer
said. What researchers are finding is that
it's much more complicated. Dyer said
faculty members tend to be abstract,
reflective thinkers, and college freshmen
tend to be concrete, active learners. The
two styles don't always mix, with the
result that some students flounder, choose
the wrong major, lose confidence or even
For students who find themselves
stuck in a discipline that doesn't fit their
learning style, college will seem harder
than it has to be and some will even feel
physically ill. But when students know
their learning style, they can set a course
toward classes, majors and careers in
which they are more likely to succeed.
As for professors, they can be more
effective by adding visual presentations or
demonstrations to their lectures, so that
something in each class will address each
"Watch any classroom, and you'll see
students who take the lead, some who
hang back, some who don't want any
attention at all," Dyer said. "The chal-
lenge is to arrive at a teaching technique
that triggers the thought process for all of
Dyer, who was a farmer and a
public school teacher before he joined
UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences, says his social science
research fits in fine with the agriculture
"We're growing more people than
we're growing fruits, vegetables and
flowers," Dyer said.4
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 5
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT
FOR FLORIDA BLUEBERRIES
ot a question about insects bothering your blueber-
ries? Call Oscar Liburd. The University of Florida's
expert on insect pest management in blueberries takes
calls almost daily, some from as far away as Oregon, from grow-
ers who need help managing the insects that chew on blueberry
If Liburd can't answer a question, chances are it's under
investigation in UF's Small Fruit and Vegetable IPM Laboratory,
which he started with his arrival on campus in 2001. The lab
has grown to seven scientists and graduate students, who are
researching integrated pest management problems to shield
farmers from the effects of flower thrips, blueberry gall midge
and blueberry maggot.
The incentive for the
research is a blossoming
blueberry market. The 6
Southeast blueberry market Unlike citr
has a $120 million impact on
the regional economy, and peOple in F
Florida blueberry growers fill
an important niche in that know how
market, Liburd said.
"Here in Florida, we are blueberries
able to produce early-season O SC
blueberries when other states
can't. Sebring can even
produce blueberries in March,
and no other state can do that," Liburd said. "So the price in
March and April is $5 a pound, compared to 60 cents a pound
in June and July when Northeastern blueberries come to market.
"It's an important niche crop," Liburd said.
Liburd's research starts with understanding the insect pests'
behavior and biology. What do they feed on? How do they re-
produce? Is there a beneficial insect that eats the pest? Are there
environmentally safe pesticides that can control or eliminate
And another important question: Will they feed on related
plants? For decades, Florida blueberry farmers grew Rabbiteye
blueberries. However, the blueberry gall midge has almost
completely eliminated all the productive Rabbiteye plantings
in Florida. Liburd and his colleagues, however, have studied
the susceptibility of other blueberry species to gall midge
with good results. Southern Highbush, for example, is a cross
between Northern Highbush and the wild blueberry, and several
varieties have performed well in blueberry fields at the Institute
of Food and Agricultural Sciences' Citra Experiment Station.
Although the blueberry gall midge can lay a large number of
eggs in Southern Highbush blueberries, many of the eggs do not
develop, indicating some level of resistance to this pest.
"The growers are thankful when you tell them about
Highbush. The idea is to tell the growers we can manage these
pests, and there are varieties we can recommend," Liburd said.
"The growers have been very receptive. We had 100 growers at
our last meeting and many of these growers are new to blueberry
"They are really listening to us," Liburd said. "Unlike
citrus, very few people in Florida really know how best to grow
Liburd got his interest in
insects growing up on a farm
, very few on the Caribbean islands
of St. Kitts and Nevis. His
)rida really intention was to return and
work on the farm, but the
est to grow deeper he got into agricultural
entomology, the stronger the
lure of science became. His
LI BURD upbringing also fueled his
interest in environmentally
safe methods of controlling
insects and integrated pest
management, which controls pests by emphasizing methods that
are least harmful to the environment and targeted to a particular
"Many growers will call and say, 'I've used conventional
pesticides, but the pests are reoccurring.' The conventional
pesticides work, but they also kill the insects that are the natural
enemies of the blueberry pests, so the problem gets worse,"
With a 15 percent expansion in the last decade, blueberries
will continue to get attention from his lab, Liburd said.
"We now know we can produce blueberries in Florida suc-
cessfully and economically," Liburd said. 4
For more information:
Dr. Oscar Liburd (left) conducts research
on the management ofthrips in blueberries.
2005 RESEARCH REPORT 1 7
n the process of making sugar from sugar
beets, the plant generates a 400-ton mountain
of beet tailings each day. Some of it can be
made into animal feed, but most of it is waste
and is hauled away to a landfill at the rate of 16
truckloads a day.
Bioprocess research professor Pratap Pullammanappallil
and graduate student loannis Polematidis (above)
examine leachate from a high-solids anaerobic digestion
of sugar beet tailings.
The very next day, there's another 400-ton
mountain of waste.
The Minnesota company teamed up with
the University of Florida and applied to the Xcel
Energy Renewable Development Fund, which
solicited grant proposals for renewable energy
8 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
projects. Pratap Pullammanappallil and
his UF colleagues thought they knew just
what to do with the beet tailings.
"We thought, 'What if we can take
the sugar processing byproduct and turn
it into fuel?"' said Pullammanappallil,
a chemical engineer in UF's Institute of
Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Can we
take something they don't want, and turn
it into something they do want?"
Pullammanappallil, Arthur Teixeira
and their colleagues figured UF's
patented sequential batch anaerobic
composting (SBAC) technology, origi-
nally developed by David Chynoweth
in the Department of Agricultural and
Biological Engineering, would be just the
ticket. SEBAC is a process that breaks
down waste to generate biogas fuel and
compost. In anaerobic digestion, a waste
stream is encapsulated, oxygen is removed
and microorganisms are introduced that
break down the wastes. The process
initially was used to dispose of municipal
The researchers were in for a surprise
when they tried SEBAC with the sugar
beet tailings. The sugar beet wastes didn't
react the same way as the municipal
"We thought we could apply SEBAC
directly to this, and it was surprising that
we couldn't. What we found is each waste
stream is different," Pullammanappallil
said. "So we came back to the lab and
conducted additional research to modify
the reactor design."
In adapting SEBAC to the sugar beet
tailings, they also improved its reaction
time. The researchers hypothesized that
it would take 20 days to break down the
sugar beet tailings. In the lab, the modi-
fied reactor design accelerated the whole
process into one week.
"Time also impacts the economics
as it reduces the number of reactors
required to convert the tailings,"
The potential savings is significant.
About 40 percent of the sugar in the
United States comes from processing
sugar beets, and American Crystal Sugar
alone operates five plants.
American Crystal Sugar was using
natural gas to dry the tailings in making
animal feed. The process, however,
produces a biogas that consists of 60
percent methane. The biogas, which
can be generated and used on-site, can
substitute for natural gas and offset
the company's natural gas fuel costs.
Originally, Pullammanappallil estimated
the process would generate four million
Btu, but he found that it generates
energy at 12 million Btu. The ability to
generate fuel also buffers the company
from fluctuations in energy costs in an
uncertain energy market.
"They can save 25 to 30 percent
on their natural gas costs, while
also saving on their disposal costs,"
Pullammanappallil said. "We estimate
the savings to be $1 million a year at each
facility for the sugar beet tailings alone.
Additional savings could be gained by
converting other refining byproducts as
SEBAC and other renewable energy
projects are in demand because of a
push to reduce American dependence
on imported petroleum. Such projects
also draw NASA support because waste
reduction and disposal are critical issues
for long-term space exploration.
"This project is a great example of
space-based technology that benefits
both NASA and industry," said Bill
Sheehan of UF's Environmental Systems
Commercial Space Technology Center,
which seeks to find earth-based commer-
cial uses for technologies, like SEBAC,
that were originally developed for space
"These tailings were just waste
that was expensive to landfill," said
Pullammanappallil. "With this process,
they can save money on waste disposal
costs and create a fuel supply.
"This is a renewable source of energy,
and in this case, it comes from something
that was even being thrown away."4
2005 RESEARCH REPORT 9
Hiking boots and mosquito repellent rank high
as research tools for University of Florida scientist
Dr. Taylor Stein (above)
examines who hikes the
Florida Trail and why.
n 2003, Stein embarked on re-
search to determine who is using
the Florida National Scenic Trail
and why. By 2008, when the project is set
to end, he will have logged a few miles
himself and will have a wealth of demographic data
about hikers on the 1,400-mile trail.
The U.S. Forest Service is funding the research
as a means of gathering support for connecting
the gaps in the trail. The trail stretches from Gulf
10 I 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
of the P.i(id ThrMl
Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle near
Pensacola to the Everglades, passing through
swamps, prairies, pine forests, ranches, farms and
cities. The Forest Service would like to fill the
gaps by buying land or obtaining permission from
private property owners to cut through their land.
Both options meant collecting more data about
trail hikers. Private property owners, in particular,
were interested in knowing who would be passing
through their land, Stein said.
"Landowners have been reluctant to help
connect the trail without knowing who's hiking
and why they're there," Stein said. "And Congress
wanted more information about the number of
people who hike the trail before spending money
Stein is using many methods
to gather information. Sensors that
count visitors as they walk by were
used for raw numbers. More detailed
information came from registration
cards, surveys at trailheads and just plain
old people-watching. Graduate students
in the School of Forest Resources and
Conservation, where Stein is one of the
few professors who studies people rather
than trees, have participated in gathering
data and adding to the research.
So far, Stein said, the trail hikers are
hardly a rowdy bunch.
"What we're seeing are people mostly
in their 60s, just nice people," Stein said.
"We sort of thought it was catering to
senior citizens, but now we can back
What surprised him, he said, was the
top reason for using the trail.
"Physical fitness usually doesn't rank
above nature appreciation, stress relief
and education as a reason for hiking,
but over 80 percent of the people we've
surveyed say physical fitness is their
reason for being out there," Stein said.
If fitness is the hikers' focus, that has
implications for trail managers and the
"If you manage the trail for joggers,
you'd cut the roots out," Stein said. "In
the nature appreciation crowd, people
can handle the roots and would be upset
if you cut them out. So knowing who is
using the trail helps in managing
The trail, however, likely has
something to suit any hiker. Stretches of
five to 20 miles are common, and some
only require sneakers as they cut through
suburbs and cities. Other treks would
require hiking boots and perhaps a pass-
ing knowledge of survival skills as they
cut through swamps far from civilization.
One of the most heavily used sections is
a loop around Lake Okeechobee, where
Stein counted more than 200,000 visitors
last year. The longest paths pass through
the Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala
"This trail is the only way to get into
the truly wilderness areas of Florida,"
Stein said. "It will take you through some
of the most beautiful parts of the state."
The trail is one of only eight federally
designated national scenic trails, of which
the best known is the Appalachian Trail.
Although the Appalachian Trail has a
reputation for through-hikers people
who hike from beginning to end it has
gaps and town walks, too. Only about
600 miles of Florida's trail are true foot-
paths, Stein said, and filling in the gaps
with footpaths likely will be impossible.
"Florida is a horrible state to try to
beat out the developers," Stein said. "It's
changing so quickly. Some trails that were
rural four years ago could have neighbor-
hoods next door when we go back. In a
heavily developed state, having the trail
remain a footpath is a lot to ask."
The Florida Trail Association,
a devoted group of volunteers, has
partnered with the Forest Service to help
maintain the trail since it started in the
Ocala National Forest 40 years ago. The
ardent volunteers are active lobbyists for
the trail, and as ecotourism gets more
popular, the trail could gain even more
support, Stein said.
"For a volunteer effort, it's amazing
how much maintenance the trail gets,"
Stein said. "People do love this trail."
2005 RESEARCH REPORT I 11
12 1 005 'RMR
Indicators of Eutrophication
It doesn't take an expert to detect when the
Everglades is at its best. It's easy to see: The
sawgrass is sparse and the animals that depend
on sawgrass for shelter and food are abundant.
When the Everglades is ailing, that is easy to see,
too: Thick stands of cattails take over and the
sawgrass dwellers disappear.
But how do you know when the Everglades is
in between, heading from clean to polluted or from
polluted to recovering?
That's a key question in the largest
environmental restoration project
in history, and for that you need
something more than observation.
For that, you need to understand the
biogeochemical processes at work
in the soil and water of the fragile
"When you get sick, the first
thing the doctor does is take your
temperature, then he might do a
blood test and then a CAT scan," said
University of Florida biogeochemist
Ramesh Reddy. "That's a lot like
what we're doing with the Everglades.
We're looking at the soil and water at
progressively more detailed levels."
"We need a convenient and rapid
indicator like taking a temperature
- for ecosystems," added Andrew
Ogram, a microbial biologist in UF's
Institute of Food and Agricultural
The Everglades ecosystem's tiniest inhabitants
are the first to sense dangerous levels of pollutants
and also the first to sense decreases in levels of
pollutants. These microorganisms that live in
the soil can play a vital role as indicators of the
ecosystem's health, said Ogram. Reddy, a graduate
research professor who has conducted research in
the Everglades for more than 15 years, said the mi-
croorganisms' sensitivity to the presence or absence
of pollutants, particularly phosphorus, is vital.
The decline of the northern Everglades started
decades ago when land south of Lake Okeechobee
was drained, revealing rich muck perfect for sugar
cane farms. Over the years, fertilized irrigation and
rainwater from the farms flowed into the
Everglades, with drastic results. Today, the
water leaving the Everglades Agricultural
Area is by far the cleanest water leaving
an agricultural area, but it is not clean
enough for the low-phosphorus environ-
ment of the pristine Everglades.
"In effect, the Everglades was being
fertilized, and that's not good because
the Everglades evolved as an extremely
The Everglades is an
important part of the
American psyche, the
most famous marsh in
North America and the
restoration project in
low-nutrient environment," Ogram said.
"Fertilizing it changes everything."
Managing the runoff to reduce
phosphorus flowing into the Everglades
is a large part of restoration. Reddy's
group sampled some 1,400 sites in the
Everglades to map the distribution of
phosphorus in the soil and identify hot
spots. These results showed that phospho-
rus flowed into the ecosystem like a front,
creating a gradient with phosphorus
concentrations highest near the farms and
lowest near the coastal Everglades. Along
the gradient, researchers can link envi-
ronmental damage to microbes' reaction
to phosphorus. Even though agricultural
drainage is treated, the phosphorus stored
in soils can affect the ecosystem for a long
time before it recovers.
Microorganisms that live in the soil
play an important role in this process.
Although they are among the simplest
of life forms, they constitute a complex
ecological community. Some react to
nitrogen, some to sulfur, others to phos-
phorus. Ogram and Reddy
extracted the DNA of the
soil to identify the bacteria
that react to phosphorus
and found that the levels of
these bacteria related directly
to levels of phosphorus,
providing information about
the health of the ecosystem
at various locations.
"Phosphorus is the
villain here, and we need a
way to tell if the changes in
phosphorus will become a
disease," Ogram said. "This
gives us a truly sensitive
indicator of changes in
the ecosystem well before
S these changes can be seen.
If we waited to observe
these changes in plant com-
munities, the damage would
already be severe. The ecosystem is either
being polluted or it's recovering, and we
want to be able to tell that's happening
before the changes are too far along.
"The Everglades is an important
part of the American psyche, the most
famous marsh in North America and the
largest environmental restoration project
in history," Ogram said. "The bacteria
in the soil can be the first line of defense
for the Everglades, and can also provide
us with important information on the
environmental quality of the marsh." ;
Dr. Andrew Ogram, shown with assistant research scientist Dr. Todd Osborne (left), is part of a project that
involves linkages between biogeochemical processes and microbial communities in wetland ecosystems.
2005 RESEARCH REPORT I 13
Marine Fish Habitat
Dr. Bill Lindberg (above) leads
research done underwater by
highly trained scientific divers.
The program's diver locker with
advanced technologies is a vital
part of day-to-day operations.
Judging by what Bill Lindberg knows
about grouper, you would think the
fish were talking to him.
And maybe they are.
In research that started in the 1980s,
the University of Florida marine scientist
has been working with prefabricated ar-
tificial reefs, manipulating their size and
placement, to answer key questions about
how habitat affects the grouper's behavior
and growth in the Gulf of Mexico.
"By manipulating the reefs, we can
essentially ask the fish what matters to
them," Lindberg said. "Through our
experiments, they tell us what they like,
what they need."
14 I 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Lindberg's research is important for fisheries
management. State figures show grouper as a
species is second only to shrimp in Florida in
estimated value and weight harvested annually. The
grouper's status, Lindberg said, calls for
"For the vast majority offish species, all we
can tell you is where they are and roughly estimate
how abundant they are," Lindberg said. "We need
to do more to understand how habitat contributes
to their growth and survival if we want to sustain
economic and ecologically important fisheries,
Using the Big Bend area of the Gulf
as his laboratory and the gag grouper
as his white rat, Lindberg and his team
spread artificial patch reefs in a large
swath, creating the Suwannee Regional
Reef System from 1991-93. The size of
the reefs, basically concrete cubes with
fish-friendly openings, was varied, as was
the spacing from reef to reef. Researchers
monitored gag numbers, implanted 81 of
them with transmitters and did a variety
of related studies. Putting the concrete in
the water manipulated grouper habitat,
and the researchers mined the data.
"We wanted to answer: Do artificial
reefs attract fish or do they also produce
fish? Do they just make it easier to
catch them or can they contribute and
enhance?" Lindberg said.
The hypothesis that the amount of
shelter would limit the density of the gag
proved true. Other findings might seem
surprising. Grouper have growth rings
in their ear bones, and by measuring
those rings during the fish's time on the
reef, the researchers found that the fish
grew better and were plumper on smaller
patch reefs. A 15 percent difference in
size at first reproduction can make a 58
percent to 1,200 percent difference in
egg production, seeming to suggest that
the fish should prefer smaller patch reefs,
However, the opposite proved to be
true. The fish gravitated to larger patch
reefs and were found there in higher
densities. The higher densities resulted
in more competition for food and might
have forced the fish to be more active
- the human equivalent of burning
more calories searching for food or
interacting. Energy spent on maintenance
and activity does not go into growth
and reproduction, so the gag on larger,
preferred reefs weren't growing as well.
"This suggests to us that their first
priority is shelter, refuge, and they are
willing to sacrifice growth for shelter,"
Lindberg said. "The gag foraged away
from the reefs and used the reefs more as
refuge than a feeding ground."
Fishing pressure was important, too.
When locations of a subset of reefs were
advertised, all the fish of legal size were
gone within one year. Six to eight years
later, the number of legal-size fish on
those reefs was still low.
The implications for fisheries
management are obvious. Larger fish
that reproduce better would replenish
the grouper fishery faster, and the gag
on larger, more preferred reefs are more
likely to be caught.
"The fish and the fishery get more
bang for the buck by building smaller,
more widely scattered patch reefs,"
Lindberg said. "We'd expect more fish
from such habitat."
The researchers also found the fish
were spending an average of 9.8 months
on the reefs, with some staying two years.
They found the gag could home, show-
ing the capacity to return to a residence
from two to three kilometers away, set-
ting up future research on a larger scale.
Another unexpected finding was the gag's
potential range. Of the 81 tagged fish,
23 were known to be caught, including
one off a Texas oil rig and another off
"That's a dispersal that was previously
unrecognized," Lindberg said. "So what
happens on the West Florida shelf
has implications on a much broader
The next step in the research is to
expand. Lindberg and his colleagues are
developing a 100-square-mile area of
the Gulf off Steinhatchee to apply what
they learned from the first reef system.
To date, 40 standardized reefs have been
built as monitoring stations bracketing
the Big Bend. In another study using
side-scan sonar, they are surveying the sea
floor to map and measure natural features
important to the gag.
"Now that we know better what's
important to the gag, we can identify
the extent to which these things exist in
nature. We can apply what we learned
experimentally to the natural habitat,"
Lindberg said. "And we can examine the
assumptions fisheries managers make
about habitat. Are they justified? This
knowledge will help manage fisheries
more effectively." F
12005 RESEARCH REPORT I 15
Andrew Hanson had a novel idea. The
horticultural scientist in the University
of Florida's Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) wanted to explore
the possibility of adding extra folate, a B vitamin
critical for good health, to a food crop. He knew he
would need to collaborate with a food scientist to
help measure folate and how it is metabolized.
"I began reading through the literature and
realized we had a leader in folate metabolism and
16 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Graduate student Rocio Diaz de la Garza
discusses a high-folate tomato plant with
Drs. Andrew Hanson and Jesse Gregory
chemistry right here on campus," Hanson said.
He introduced himself and the idea to UF food
scientist Jesse Gregory, and Gregory was hooked.
"Although we interact a lot in IFAS, we didn't
know each other," Gregory said. "It's an unusual
collaboration, but it sounded worthwhile."
The project is at the forefront of the emerging
field of biofortification, the science of adding
nutrients to plants before harvest rather than dur-
ing food processing.
Gregory specializes in how the
chemical composition of food affects
nutritional quality. He was already a
leader in folate research. In the 1990s, he
and a UF colleague found that the dietary
requirement for folate is twice what was
previously believed. That research led to
changes in the nation's Recommended
Dietary Allowances for folate. Follow-up
research showed that highly absorbable
folate can be delivered in cereal grains,
and that led to the fortification of foods
like bread and pasta with folate.
Folate is needed for normal metabo-
lism and cell regeneration and reduces the
risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
And when women of reproductive age get
enough folate, evidence shows it prevents
"Neural tube defects in the United
States per 1,000 births are less than one.
In Western Europe, it's less than two,"
Hanson said. "But in some parts of the
world, it's 10 per 1,000 births. About
400,000 births annually could be affected
with better folate consumption. And
that's a conservative estimate."
For all its benefits, millions do not
get enough folate. In Europe, the issue is
philosophical. European food producers
don't fortify their foods with vitamins
and minerals the way U.S. producers
do. And Third World countries lack the
centralized food processing infrastructure
needed to fortify foods.
"Populations worldwide are not
getting adequate folate," Gregory said.
"So if we can manipulate the chemistry
of plants biofortify them that would
be another important tool in solving
worldwide insufficiencies of folate."
The tomato is a major crop world-
wide, so it was a logical starting point.
Hanson first looked at how tomatoes
store folate, since folate in inedible stems
or roots would not achieve the goal. He
found the tomato stores folate in the
fruit, but he wanted to manipulate the
storage process to get the tomato to store
even more. Through genetic engineering,
Hanson was able to insert genes to boost
the folate levels in the fruit.
Gregory's laboratory analyzed the fruit
and found that the folate content of the
tomato could be raised as much as ten-
fold. The tomato also was ideal, Gregory
said, because it is high in vitamin C,
which stabilizes folate.
The research has the potential to
develop much further in the next three
to five years. Moreover, Gregory said, the
basic science of folate has been improved.
"Folate in plants has not been well
understood, so this research has generated
a lot of basic science," Gregory said.
Another generation of scientists, too,
has cut its teeth under Gregory's and
"One goal of research is the educa-
tion and training of young scientists,"
Hanson said. "They've learned metabolic
engineering, and they can use it in other
Hanson and Gregory now are consid-
ering biofortification in other crops.
"Now we have proof that we can do
this in fruits," Hanson said. "A next step
would be to extend this research to tuber
crops, like sweet potatoes, which are
important in Africa."
As the safety record of genetically
engineered crops becomes established, re-
sistance eventually will wane worldwide,
Hanson predicts. "When that happens,
there will be available a technology to
biofortify crops," he said.
Although biofortification could be
used anywhere, it might have the greatest
impact in impoverished or developing
"The land grant system has a long
and honorable tradition of being inter-
national in scope, and we fit right into
that tradition," Hanson said. "And UF is
even more international than the average
land-grant school." ;
2005 RESEARCH REPORT 1 17
EARLY CALF.WEAN I NGIM
18 005 RE'ARCRORT
ROVES FEEDLOT EFFICIENCY
John Arthington laughs when he hears people talk about
how great Florida steaks taste or how bad.
"In terms of the retail meat industry, there's no such
thing as a Florida steak," said Arthington, director of the
Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, a part
of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences. "Our cattle industry is big, but it doesn't directly send
steaks to the supermarket."
Florida is No. 1 in the United States in the number of large
beef cattle ranches 500 or more head of cattle and more than
80 percent of those are within 150 miles of Ona. But Florida's
industry is geared to producing calves, which are shipped out
of state to locations around the country, where they grow to
maturity before entering the beef market. And that's why Florida
ranchers keep a close eye on Arthington's research.
Arthington is studying how to shorten the cycle that starts
when a cow becomes pregnant and ends when the calf is ready
to be shipped out of state. Shortening that cycle is money in a
Florida rancher's pocket. A cow that can conceive, give birth,
wean, then recover, all in time to have another calf the next year,
is ideal. And while Arthington's research started out looking at
the mothers, he has discovered interesting benefits for calves
along the way.
The Florida herd consists primarily of crossbred cows con-
taining a percentage of Brahman genetics, a breed that is uncom-
mon in other states where Angus and Hereford cattle flourish.
Florida's heat and humidity, however, call for a different breed,
and Brahman tolerate the environment better. But another trait
of Brahman females makes weaning a touchy situation.
"Brahman-influenced females have a high maternal instinct,"
Brahman females, however, also mature more slowly than
their Angus and Hereford counterparts. They can breed at the
normal age, approximately 15 months, but they are not fully
mature. The cows, essentially pubescent, find it difficult to care
for themselves and their calves at that age. And ranchers were
leaving the calves with the mothers for seven or eight months,
cutting into the time needed for the cow to recover from the
strain of lactation while attempting to become pregnant again,
Arthington said. From pregnancy to pregnancy, most ranchers
were only getting one calf in three years from their
"She's costing the rancher money every day, so we started on
research to shorten the time to weaning."
What he found was that the cow and the calf benefit when
they part early, with an optimum age of weaning at 80 days.
The calves born in October could be weaned in January, when
Florida weather is mild and nutritious ryegrass can be grown.
They can be moved north to a grass or a feedlot after the rye-
grass dries out and before the heat becomes an issue. Weaning
is the most stressful event in a calf's life, but calves weaned early
were less stressed than those weaned at the later time, and the
mothers recovered better, too.
"We thought the calves might be troublesome so young, but
they did better than calves weaned later. It was remarkable how
much better the efficiency was," Arthington said. "The cost of
the weight gain for the calf from early weaning to shipping is
roughly 40 cents a pound and the value per pound of weight
on a lightweight calf varies from $1 to $1.50. That's a major
difference in profitability for the rancher. And if you had left the
calves with the mothers longer, you would have lost a generation
of calves. It added up to considerable savings."
Early weaning helped the calves when they faced the next
stressful event in their lives: a 24-hour truck ride out of state.
Calves weaned at the usual seven- or eight-month time frame
and then immediately shipped were more highly stressed on
arrival at feedlots, and stress can lead to illness, Arthington said.
The early-weaned calves arrived at feedlots tired but not stressed.
Arthington said early weaning is used on the UF/IFAS herd,
adding that he wouldn't recommend it to ranchers if it didn't
work at Ona, where 600 cows roam the 3,000-acre experiment
station ranch in the name of research and education.
"Our station has to be run like a working ranch or we could
never transfer the technology to our clientele," Arthington said.
Arthington grew up on a farm in Indiana where his family
raised beef cattle and grew row crops. He says he understands
the pressure ranching families are under these days, with land
costs rising and development encroaching. Some have opened
land to hunters and ecotourists, and most are protective of the
natural resources on their land. Arthington said he recently had
a rancher ask him how a herd management decision might affect
the bobwhite quail population on his pastures. Another rancher
employs both a herdsman and a wildlife manager.
"There's a whole new way of thinking of the ranch
landscape, something their grandparents never thought of,"
Arthington said. "But ranches can balance cattle and natural
resources. The beef cow is the most efficient, non-intrusive user
of the environment. You can easily manage a productive ranch
with the environment in mind."
"Ranching families are good people no matter where you
go, but the people in Florida really appreciate the science and
technology you do more than anywhere else. They are very
receptive and very protective of their investment in IFAS,"
Arthington said. "Nationwide, the resources to do this kind of
work at land-grant universities is dwindling. In IFAS, we have
three herds, with the largest one here in Ona. Here, we have all
these cows, all this land. We have a resource that is unique." ;
Dr. John Arthington (left) shown with early-weaned calves
grazing summer perennial pastures in South Florida.
2005 RESEARCH REPORT I 19
Dr. Brian Boman (above) displays BMP
manuals currently available to Florida's citrus
producers to help implement conservation
practices to reduce impacts on water resources.
BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
20 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Most Floridians would agree that
clean water is a good thing, but
clean might mean one thing to
a farmer, another thing to a scientist and still
another thing to an environmentalist.
Brian Boman found that out when
he began work to come up with best
management practices, or BMPs, for citrus
growers in the Indian River area in 1998.
The University of Florida irrigation engineer
was the man in the middle when it came to
hammering out practices that govern water,
fertilizer and pesticide use on groves, and
the environmental impacts of agricultural
"It still amazes me when I look back,
how hostile the atmosphere was at the
beginning between the growers, regulators
and environmentalists," said Boman, who
blazed the trail for the BMP program from
the Indian River Research and Education
Center, a part of UF's Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences. "We're all friends now.
When we have our meetings today, it's like a
family gathering. I think we all realize we're
doing good work for the Indian
The Indian River citrus BMPs, adopted
in 2001, were among the first in Florida and
have served as a model for BMPs in other
citrus-growing regions throughout the state.
The program has caught on with other com-
modities, and Boman said BMP manuals
are in the works for vegetable and row crops,
container nurseries, sod farmers, dairies, and
cow-calf ranches, among others. In the next
two years, he said, BMPs will be established
for every agricultural commodity.
Best management practices are designed
to be environmentally and economically
viable. Among the issues BMPs address are
how much water is needed for a crop, the
amount of fertilizers and pesticides needed
to keep a crop healthy and how much of the
nutrients and agricultural chemicals move
off-site by draining into groundwater or
leaving the land as runoff.
The BMP manuals are backed by
the state Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, which relies on IFAS
scientists in developing the practices.
When growers implement BMPs that
have been developed for their area,
the department considers them in
compliance with the state water quality
standards. Growers who opt out of the
voluntary BMP program may be subject
to more scrutiny and regulation.
"Just about everyone involved with
agriculture realizes regulation is an
impossible situation. With 44,000 farms
in Florida, if you tried to document each
grower's compliance, you would need an
army of inspectors," Boman said. "The
BMPs focus on education rather than
The BMPs are flexible enough for
use on a case-by-case basis, Boman said.
Growing conditions might vary farm to
farm, or even plot to plot on the same
farm, and the effect of a certain practice
can vary the same way. BMP manuals
are living documents, with some early
practices already modified, Boman said.
As the science changes, the recommended
practices change, too.
"That's what it all boils down to,
science-based practices," Boman said. "If
there's something everyone knows is a
good practice, we quantify it. If there isn't
research to support a practice, then we do
the research and gather the data. In IFAS,
it has spawned a lot of really important
work to quantify the effectiveness of
BMPs and answer questions raised in
One focus of BMPs is precision
agriculture, which uses technology not
available a decade ago. An example of
precision agriculture in citrus would
be fertilizer application. Most growers
remove diseased trees and replace them
with young trees, leading to groves with
trees of mixed ages. Traditionally, a
grower would fertilize at a rate suitable
for the older trees, over-fertilizing the
young trees. Precision agriculture uses
geographic information systems and data
such as soil types and tree ages to guide
the fertilizer application, maximizing
efficiency and minimizing the amount of
fertilizer used. The machines needed are
costly at first, but the state shares some of
"The growers end up applying
less fertilizer per acre, and it keeps the
fertilizer from going into surface and
groundwater," Boman said. "Time and
materials are saved, and everybody wins.
It's fun to be a part of that."
Precision agriculture and other
BMPs are demonstrated at field days and
workshops throughout the state, with
the help of numerous extension agents,
researchers and industry partners. Boman
said acceptance by growers and farmers
will determine whether the Legislature
continues the voluntary BMP program
or turns to more regulation when the
program comes up for review in 2009.
"Growers need to be aware that
the clock is ticking. If the Legislature
sees that agriculture across the board
embraces BMPs, it won't proceed with
regulation," Boman said. "If only a small
percentage of farmers are involved, BMPs
won't be voluntary anymore."
"They have a track record here in the
Indian River area, and it's just amazed
me what they've done, above and beyond
what we thought they'd do," Boman said.
"The majority of them do it because they
realize it's the right thing to do."
Although he "got beaten up a little
on all sides" in the early negotiations,
Boman said the middle is a good place to
"It was a big challenge to get everyone
to sit down and talk, much less agree,"
Boman said. "But we learned to compro-
mise, and what we have is a consensus
document. No one would say everything
is in there. But the value of it is we agreed
on what is in there." ;
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 21
Dr. Fred Gmitter's (above) search for canker resistance
genes begins in laboratories, but ultimately, the result
will be canker-resistant citrus trees in the field.
FINDING RESISTANCE TO
22 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Citrus research has gone from the Stone
Age to the Space Age in the last decade,
a scientific leap that opens doors for
researchers like the University of Florida's Fred
"If you had asked me 10 years ago, how we'd
get a kumquat gene into citrus, I would have told
you it would take 100 years," Gmitter said.
But the kumquat gene is one of Gmitter's
research tools in his painstaking efforts
to help Florida citrus growers battle the
scourge of canker. Gmitter, a specialist
in citrus breeding and molecular
genetics, works at UF's Citrus Research
and Education Center in Lake Alfred
with a team of scientists committed to
improving citrus and solving problems
Canker is a bacterial disease that dam-
ages citrus fruit and causes it to drop pre-
maturely. It can weaken a tree and make
it susceptible to other pests and diseases.
Citrus is a $2 billion industry in Florida,
and the spread of canker eventually could
cost the state $254.2 million a year, ac-
cording to a UF report. Making matters
worse, the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005
spread the disease and highlighted the
shortcomings of traditional methods of
managing canker, like planting non-citrus
trees for windbreaks and spacing trees
"Growers have gone to expensive
lengths to manage canker, even
dedicating land not to citrus trees but to
windbreaks. Some of these tools work
some years, in others they're a disaster,"
Gmitter said. "Our intention is to
prevent disaster and minimize the added
expense of canker. The best strategy is to
have plants resistant to canker."
That's where the kumquat comes
in. Gmitter and his team noted that the
kumquat, a relative of citrus, appears
to have a natural resistance to canker.
Gmitter and UF researcher Gloria Moore
published the first genetic maps of the
citrus genome and now are carrying
that work forward to isolate the gene,
or genes, for canker resistance in the
"There's a gene in the kumquat that
appears to be very powerful," Gmitter
The team also is evaluating a variety
of wild citrus that appears to be resistant
to canker. They stumbled onto this
source of canker resistance while working
on a project to produce cold-hardy citrus.
Once the resistant genes are identified
in the wild citrus and the kumquat, they
can be compared to see if both genes
might be useful. If the genes are different,
that's better, Gmitter said, because it
would give the scientists two genetic tools
for disease resistance. Both genes could
then be cloned and used in propagating
canker-resistant citrus varieties.
After all the genetic work is done,
researchers still would need to propagate
trees, plant them and evaluate them in
field trials. Such trials are expensive but
very important. Gmitter points out, for
example, that a variety could be disease
resistant but have such a low yield that it's
not worth planting. Time also tries the
patience of fruit breeders, since determin-
ing the outcome of research depends on
slow-growing trees, Gmitter said.
"You've got to be a little crazy to
be a fruit breeder," Gmitter said. "In
tomatoes, for example, you can get three
generations a year. As a fruit breeder,
you're lucky to get three generations in
Gmitter said his interest in plant
science blossomed late. After earning a
bachelor's degree in literature, Gmitter
went on hiatus and worked at various
jobs until the horticulture bug that bit
him as a boy working on his grandfather's
farm in Pennsylvania finally kicked in,
and he shifted gears. After he earned his
master's degree, Moore, a pioneer in UF's
citrus research program, accepted him
as a doctoral student and his scientific
course was charted. Gmitter said UF's
citrus genetic research program was
young then, in the early 1980s, and it
was an exciting time to get into citrus
research. Over his career, he's watched the
science leap forward.
"In the last 20 years, there has been
an explosion in genetic science and
genomics. We used to dream about doing
the things we can do now," Gmitter said.
"What was impossible five years ago, we
do routinely today." F
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 23
24 O20 RES'ACH"REORT
A University of Florida research center near the small Panhandle
town of Quincy has become an international hub for research
on a fungus that attacks soybeans, the second largest crop in the
Although scientists and graduate students used to travel to Africa, Asia
and South America to study soybean rust, they now come to the North
Florida Research and Education Center, a part of UF's Institute of Food
and Agricultural Sciences.
The center's advantage? Soybean rust is literally at its doorstep.
"This is the right geographic area to work on this disease," said plant
pathologist James Marois. "Here, researchers can see the disease in the
field and in the wild, in kudzu patches. We have the facility, the laborato-
ries, the expertise all in one bundle."
With 74 million acres of soybeans planted in North America, the
work is being followed closely. Marois
and agronomist David Wright in
Quincy have teamed up with Phil
and Carrie Harmon in Gainesville
on a multitude of projects, including
soybean rust genetics, behavior of the
disease, fungicide efficacy and cultural
methods of controlling the disease.
The researchers scout sentinel
plots of soybeans throughout the state
and 100 kudzu sites to determine
whether the disease is present. Field
studies also could reveal whether
certain varieties of soybeans are more
susceptible to the fungus than others.
For a study on the effect of rainfall on
soybean rust, plastic sheeting has been
draped around soybean plots, which
are then sprayed to simulate rainfall.
In another study, rows of soybeans have been planted from seven inches
apart to 40 inches apart to determine how spacing affects the spread of
Application techniques for fungicides how much to use, when to
spray also are being studied. Research is being conducted on organically
grown soybeans to determine whether their susceptibility to soybean rust
differs from soybeans grown with the aid of conventional fungicides. The
effect of weather and environmental conditions on spread of the disease is
another research project.
"We're learning how the disease behaves in North America, and how it
works in our cropping system," Wright said.
Soybean rust arrived in the United States in November 2004 in
Louisiana. One week later, it was discovered in Florida soybean fields and
in kudzu, an invasive plant commonly found along roadsides
and natural areas of Florida.
"Our center is 1,100 acres, and we have kudzu, so we
checked our wild areas and found it," Marois said. "That
opened up a whole area of research."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had been studying
soybean rust for a decade in anticipation of its eventual arrival in
the United States, motivated by the experiences of countries like
Brazil, where soybean rust claimed 100 percent of the crop in
many locations. The USDA quickly tapped UF's resources.
"This was probably the best coordinated attack on a pest
problem ever," Wright said.
Marois said the timing of the discovery after the 2004
harvest helped, too.
"That gave us the whole winter to
prepare for the 2005 season," Marois
said. "It's a poster success story for a
nation responding to a new pest, and
very quickly the Southeast moved to
Marois is the state contact for a
national soybean Web site that gets
10,000 hits a day during the growing
season. That information is credited
with saving growers $11 million to
$299 million so far.
Although soybean rust dies off
each year in northern climates, kudzu
in the South provides a year-round
b host. Annually, the researchers said,
the fungus will migrate from kudzu
to Southern soybeans to Midwestern
soybeans via spores that travel on
the wind. Since all soybean crops are susceptible, most may
eventually have to be sprayed. If all North American soybean
acreage needs to be sprayed, Marois said, that would use more
fungicides on that one crop than in all other crops combined.
The alternative not using a fungicide can reduce yield
by 10 bushels an acre, a $50 per acre to $60 per acre crop loss,
"In the Southeast, farmers already use fungicides regularly,
but in the Midwest that's not routine, so they are concerned
about it," Wright said. "When you have millions of acres that
have to be sprayed, it's a different story." ;
Dr. James Marois and Dr. David Wright
(left) examine soybean leaves for rust.
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 25
S hen it comes to
wL aquatic weeds,
hydrilla is public
enemy No. 1. So when he first
started hearing reports in the
late 1990s that the main weapon
used to control hydrilla was
failing, Michael Netherland was
Netherland, a research biolo-
gist with the U.S. Army Engineer
Research and Development Center and
a courtesy associate professor with the
University of Florida's Institute of Food
and Agricultural Sciences, knew it would
take teamwork to solve the problem. He
and UF agronomist William Haller, with
the assistance of herbicide manufacturers
and the USDA, went to work.
"Hydrilla found the perfect environ-
ment in the shallow, nutrient-rich lakes of
Florida. There's not another submerged
plant problem like it," Netherland said
from his office at UF's Center for Aquatic
and Invasive Plants. "The hydrilla issue
has been so scary. We lost the feeling we
had a handle on it, where it might go in
Hydrilla can multiply rapidly,
forming dense surface mats that create
severe problems for water managers and
recreational users of waterways. The rapid
growth of hydrilla can also crowd out
26 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Dr. William Haller and Dr. Michael Netherland (left) com-
pare the effects of a plant growth regulator on the growth
of hydrilla and on coontail, a native plant (foreground).
important native aquatic vegetation. The primary
weapon used on hydrilla, the herbicide fluridone,
kept it in check for years, and most scientists
and water managers felt comfortable relying on
it until the late 1990s.
That's when water managers began reporting
that fluridone just wasn't working the way it had
Netherland, Haller and their
colleagues began an intense scientific
quest, ruling out environmental changes,
changes in use patterns of the herbicide
and all other factors except one. Some-
thing no one thought possible had
"The plant population had changed,"
Netherland said. "We went from 'No,
this can't be,' to 'Maybe it is,' to 'Yes,
this really is happening.' It took us a
long time to come to our conclusions
because in our view it shouldn't have been
Fluridone had killed billions of
hydrilla plants over the last 15 years. But
it had been killing off the plants that were
naturally susceptible to it. Unbeknownst
to scientists, hydrilla plants with a natural
resistance to fluridone perhaps as few as
one in a billion plants were lurking in
the background. As the susceptible plants
died off, the resistant plants expanded.
Scientists were no longer dealing with the
same hydrilla plant.
Hydrilla in Florida is an all-female
clonal population that multiplies
vegetatively, meaning each hydrilla plant
is genetically similar to all other hydrilla
plants. With such low genetic diversity,
a herbicide-resistant plant should not
have been in the population. Initially,
Netherland said, scientists were reluctant
to believe they had discovered a hydrilla
plant with a true genetic resistance to
fluridone. But in the lab, a single amino
acid change in a gene proved to be the
difference between the hydrilla controlled
by fluridone and the hydrilla unfazed
"This was the first documented case
of herbicide resistance in aquatics and the
first documented case of widespread her-
bicide resistance in an exclusively clonal
plant. Agricultural weeds had developed
herbicide resistance, but it shouldn't
have been happening with an all-female
aquatic plant population," Netherland
said. "One of the biggest challenges was
to make people understand this point
mutation was causing these million dollar
treatments to fail."
Rather than surrender Florida's
lakes, Netherland and his colleagues are
looking for alternatives to fluridone. So
far, they've identified four herbicides that
federal and state agencies have approved
for experimental use permits while the
scientists study their effectiveness. One
key issue, Netherland said, is evaluating
how well the herbicides kill hydrilla while
leaving native plants unharmed. Very few
compounds make environmental and
economic sense in an aquatic system,
Netherland said, and finding new ones is
"We began looking for alternative
herbicides alternative anything, really.
Loss of fluridone as a management tool
in many lake systems humbled us,"
Netherland said. "It taught us, as we de-
velop new herbicides, to be cognizant of
the possibility that hydrilla could develop
resistance again. We want to avoid losing
yet another tool."
Netherland said biological control,
in the form of insects that would feed
on hydrilla but leave native plants alone,
is being investigated. So far, mechanical
controls have proved to be too slow
and grass carp too non-selective for
widespread use in public waters. That
leaves herbicides as the best option in the
Hydrilla is thought to be native to
Southeast Asia and arrived in Florida
in the late 1950s. A mere fragment on
a boat propeller can allow the plant to
travel and establish a foothold, lake to
lake. At first, scientists figured it might
be a problem only in smaller lakes, but
when it got into the state's larger lakes
and took over, the costs of managing it
Hydrilla can lie in wait for years, too,
leaving tubers dormant on a lake bottom
until conditions are right for sprouting.
"Even if you don't see hydrilla today,
it's likely there and will come back,"
Netherland said. "There's a very low
probability of ever eradicating it, and
once introduced to a system, it rarely
"Hydrilla adapts much better than we
would have suspected, and it continues to
hold surprises for both basic and applied
scientists," Netherland said. ;
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 27
Dr. Jay Scott (above) inspects a
cutting from a tomato plant that will
be used to extract DNA to test for
molecular markers linked to genes
for resistance to tomato yellow leaf
ay Scott has spent years working
on a jointless tomato that would
save labor and could be harvested
mechanically. His work is a blend of
science, intuition and a healthy dose of
one other ingredient.
"This takes patience," Scott said.
"You can't die young if you're a tomato
Scott began working on tomatoes in
1981, and a long line of tomato improve-
ments has come out of his University of
Florida laboratories at the Gulf Coast
Research and Education Center.
He has worked on breeding tomatoes
for resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl
virus, tomato mottle virus, bacterial spot
and fusarium wilt. He has developed
28 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
tomatoes that are higher in the nutrient lycopene.
He has bred tomatoes for taste and for firmness, for
heat tolerance and shape. And now he is trying to
develop a tomato without joints.
The work can be painstaking: He has been
working 25 years on bacterial spot resistance
without releasing a variety.
"This is a monstrously big research effort,"
Scott said. "It's the tomato version of citrus
But it is also rewarding: All the
tomatoes with resistance to fusarium wilt
race 2 can be traced back to UF's breed-
ing program, saving tomato growers $100
million to $200 million a year. Scott and
his coworkers also are responsible for
fusarium wilt race 3 resistance used in
tomato varieties around the world.
Colleague Waldemar Klassen oversees
the experimental tomatoes, which are
planted in fields at UF's Tropical Research
and Education Center in Homestead.
South Florida growers, in particular,
have been hit hard by hurricanes and
competition from imported tomatoes, so
Klassen said the growers keep a close eye
"Our growers have had tremendous
problems," Klassen said. "Just a few
fields survived the hurricanes last year
and acreage in Dade County is down
from 15,000 two decades ago to 3,000
acres now. We can help if we have
varieties for them that can be grown more
Scott said the jointless tomato
is combined with another gene that
shortens the main stem and increases
the side shoots, making it possible to
grow tomatoes without staking and
tying them, which is required for the
usually gangly tomato plant. In a jointless
tomato, the fruit could be picked "clean,"
breaking free of the vine without a stem
attached. That's important for shipping,
to keep stems from punching holes in
the fruits. The plant's vines would be
more compact, too, so a harvester could
be driven between rows without running
over the vines.
"Even if you hand harvest this tomato
you would still cut out considerable labor
if you don't stake and tie," Scott said.
"Changing the architecture of the plant
like this is not likely to be done by the
private sector, but we're willing to take
a chance on it because it would allow
Florida farmers to compete with Mexican
The jointless tomato project is one of
dozens of breeding projects Scott juggles.
At any moment, he might be testing
as many as 70 hybrids and screening
as many as 16,000 plants in search of
a particular genetic trait. Balancing the
varying needs disease resistance, heat
tolerance, flavor and more -- makes it all
the more difficult. If disease resistance
is controlled by two genes, Scott says, it
quadruples the difficulty of the research
versus control by a single gene.
"There are all kinds of pitfalls, and it's
perplexing as can be, some of it," Scott
said. "Pretty good doesn't cut it. I'd take
one really good variety over 100 pretty
The work requires an international
perspective, too. A plant disease that is
ravaging Guatemala tomato fields today,
could show up in Florida tomorrow.
"We may have borders, but a lot of
these pathogens don't recognize borders,"
Scott said. "We need to identify the
global problem and solution. This
program is kind of an insurance policy
for our growers, so we're ready for what
might be coming."
And Scott hasn't forgotten flavor. His
program is getting ready to release a new
premium fresh market tomato that per-
forms at the top in taste tests. Breeding
tomatoes for taste presents yet another
set of challenges because the precise
chemistry of good flavor is not known,
Scott said. The taste of tomatoes, like
wine grapes, also involves environmental
"A tomato is a combination of sugars,
acids and aromatic volatile compounds.
In comparison to a cake, the sugars and
acids provide the cake itself and the
volatiles would be the icing," Scott says.
"For disease resistance you can say yes
it is resistant or no it isn't, but there's
nothing like that for taste."
Although he was sure as a youth that
he'd never go into agriculture, he ended
up following in the footsteps of his
father, who was also a plant breeder. But
the tomato? Scott said: "It chose me, I
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 29
... .. ii ... .
After two years with the Florida After-School Enrichment
Program, Jaquan's successes are a measure of the program's suc-
cesses. Jaquan, a fourth-grader who lives in subsidized housing in
Polk County, proudly shows counselors his report card: all A's with a few
B's last year. He's proud of his role as 4-H club president last year. And on
the FCAT writing test, Jaquan got the second highest score at his school.
Stories like Jaquan's are exactly what University of Florida researcher
Rose Barnett wants to hear.
"This is the kind of success we need to build on to save these children
who are surrounded by crime in the projects," Barnett said.
Barnett helped set up the program for at-risk children in Bradford
and Polk counties and is evaluating its progress in hopes that it will serve
as a model for similar programs in
other counties. The program provides
free after-school care for families who
otherwise could not afford it, and the W e can hel
third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in it
will be tracked for five years to deter- a re born int
mine how the program improved their
lives. Successes like Jaquan's prompted stances bey
the Polk program to expand to include
sixth-graders. COntrol and
"If we have a child for three years,
we should be able to see changes," an opportu
Barnett said. "There was a need for this better life.
in both communities, a need to focus better Iife.
on children who might not get the them leave
education they need to climb out
of poverty." behind.
The children in the program get
the kind of after-school attention
other children might take for granted.
Barnett said the program has a required
homework time, and children who need extra homework help get it,
something parents particularly appreciate. They get 4-H curriculum
designed to foster skills in decision-making and problem-solving.
Computers are provided and the children are taught how to use them.
Along with snacks comes information on proper nutrition. The center
hosts family nights and passes notes back and forth with teachers. And, of
course, there's supervised playtime.
"The power of play is very important," Barnett said. "Kids learn a lot
about life on the playing field. They learn how to get along."
The program is run by agents in the Florida Cooperative Extension
Service, a part of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The
Dr. Rose Barnett's (left) research on children in after-school programs includes the
benefits of recreation and play, which are important to a child's development.
agents know their communities, Barnett said, and that con-
nection is important. In Bradford, the children landscaped a
church, and in Polk, they sponsored a food drive.
"Volunteerism is important for a sense of community. And
in 4-H, which is national, they become part of something bigger
than themselves," Barnett said. "We want them to see that
there's a greater world out there."
Teachers support the program and have reported back that
100 percent of the children in the program are now completing
their homework with an 83 percent accuracy rate, a large
improvement. Families who might have viewed the program at
first as simply a safe place for their children after school are now
seeing educational gains.
Barnett's specialty is risk
prevention, and she views life
kids who skills and education as tools
all children should have. The
lity for a
Ve can help
children in the program are
assessed to determine which
skills they have and which skills
they lack. The positive skills are
reinforced and the missing skills
"The way to prevent
problems is to get ahead of risky
behavior and insulate children
with life skills. Risk is moving
downward in age these days,
from high school to middle
ET school to elementary school,"
RN E-T Barnett said. "And prevention is
better than intervention."
Risk prevention as a research
specialty is still young, Barnett said, but she is seeing more and
more graduate students coming to her to learn how to design
risk-prevention programming for today's children. And as more
programs like the After School Enrichment Program are evalu-
ated, researchers are getting to the point that they can say what
works best for at-risk children, Barnett said.
"Programs in school and after school are the perfect oppor-
tunity to help kids who don't have a supportive environment,"
Barnett said. "We can help kids who are born into circumstances
beyond their control and give them an opportunity for a better
life. We can help them leave poverty behind." ;
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT I 31
32 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Dr. Brent Harbaugh and Dr. Zhanao
Deng (left) combine new insights and
techniques of plant breeding with
traditional breeding concepts.
A s a child, Brent Harbaugh learned to love
gardening and flowers at his mother's side
in her lush Kansas garden.
The love of flowers led him to the science of
flowers, and a successful ornamental plant breeding
program at the University of Florida's Institute of
Food and Agricultural Sciences. In 1995, when 10
years of painstaking research resulted in a lovely new
lisianthus, he knew just what to name it: Maurine
Blue, after his mother.
Dozens of lisianthus varieties and colors later,
Harbaugh says the work never grows old.
"There's always an excitement every time a new
generation blooms, especially with lisianthus,"
Harbaugh said. "Thousands of combinations are
possible, so every new crop is exciting."
Harbaugh was joined in the ornamental breeding
program in 2003 by Zhanao Deng, who has been
developing caladium and gerbera varieties. The
team's greenhouses at the Gulf Coast Research
and Education Center in Balm were popping at
the seams in 2005 with the release of 13 varieties
of lisianthus, four gerberas and three caladium
cultivars, all developed with the needs of Florida's
flower industry in mind.
With its subtropical climate, Florida is the
second largest flower producer in the United States
and ships flowers internationally, Deng said. The
Florida caladium industry provides 95 percent of
caladium tubers used worldwide, Deng added. In
developing new ornamentals, Deng and Harbaugh
try to balance the needs of commercial and home
gardeners, seed companies and florists.
"We need to determine how easy it is to get
from seed to plug and get that out the door to the
nurseryman, who wants to know how easy it is to get the pot out the
door to the garden center or homeowner. We need the homeowner to
be successful to create the demand that allows the cycle to continue,"
Harbaugh said. "The industry might need a flower to be 15 inches tall for
shipping, but the height might mean nothing to a home gardener, so we
try to balance it all.
"If you can make a flower bloom two weeks earlier, that's money in the
grower's pocket," Harbaugh said. "When we do field days and open the
greenhouses to the public, if everyone migrates to one color, we try to do
more of that."
Harbaugh began working with lisianthus varieties in 1985. The
wildflower is native to the Plains states, but in the 1930s, Japanese
horticulturists took it back to Japan, where it gained popularity.
In the 1980s, the Japanese "introduced" the lisianthus back
into the United States. That's when the lisianthus caught
"It looks like a rose in the bud stage, a tulip when it begins
to open and a poppy when it's fully open," Harbaugh said.
"Everybody seemed to love it."
In Japan, the flower required a cooler climate and flowered
only once a year. For Florida conditions, heat tolerance and a
more frequent flowering cycle was needed. After experimenting
with the flower's physiology, Harbaugh found a few that flow-
ered in the heat of summer and began crossing these with other
varieties to get year-round flowering. In 1995, he succeeded
with two series, Maurine Blue and Florida Blue and immedi-
ately began breeding their replacements. The UF Savanna series,
in eight color combinations, and the UF Double Joy series, with
five color combinations, debuted in 2005.
"Maurine took 10 years, plus another seven to get all the
colors. So the first series took 17 years and the second took 10,"
Harbaugh said. "The question is, with a 10-year cycle, will the
consumer still want it? Breeding is a risk. You do a lot of pray-
ing, and breeding instinct plays a role, too. I chose lisianthus to
invest my time and scientific expertise because I felt it had great
potential, and rejected other new flowers being introduced."
It turned out to be the right choice. The two Kansas natives,
Harbaugh and the lisianthus, came full circle recently when
Japan began importing his Florida Blue series, a turn of events
that made him smile, Harbaugh said. With consumer demand
high, the lisianthus has become an important crop for Florida
The gerbera and caladium releases have been well-received,
too, Deng said. Flowers go in and out of style, as do flower col-
ors, but the gerbera's wide color palette should keep it popular.
Deng said the challenge is to develop varieties that not only are
pretty but also have disease resistance and higher yield.
Flower breeding is full of surprises, Harbaugh said. Years
after learning a flower's genetics and performing hundreds of
crosses, something unexpected can happen and send him back
to the laboratory to look for a hidden gene. The lisianthus
gene pool is so diverse that it still offers surprises. Although his
mother has passed away, Harbaugh said he still feels her influ-
ence in his greenhouses and gardens, especially when an unusual
flower turns up.
"In the greenhouse a year ago I had one of those surprises
and said to myself, 'I can't wait to show this to my mother."'"
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 33
h ether fossil fuels come from the Middle East
SAI or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the
V V floor of the Gulf of Mexico or the coal mines of
Appalachia, they will run out one day. And fossil fuel costs -
economic or environmental are not going down.
So a research team at the University of Florida is getting a lot
of attention for scientific advances that can help end dependence
34 I 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Dr. Julie Maupin-Furlow (left) isolates and
characterizes pyruvate decarboxylase and
alcohol dehydrogenase genes for metabolic
engineering high-level ethanol production.
on fossil fuels and make it possible for renewable
energy to fuel the world.
Microbiologists Lonnie Ingram, Julie Maupin-
Furlow and Keelnatham Shanmugam are working
on the science that allows woody biomass corn
stalks, waste lumber, lawn and tree trimmings to
be turned into fuel ethanol.
"When we burn oil or coal, we're taking a fossil
form of carbon and turning it loose in the air.
When we burn plants, we're returning to
the air the same carbon dioxide used to
make those plants and turning the energy
loose," Ingram said. "Ethanol from
renewable sources is really solar energy."
It's science that is ready to hit the
marketplace. The first commercial plant
to use the team's technology is set to go
online in Osaka, Japan in 2007, building
on knowledge gained at a pilot plant in
Louisiana. The plant will use a process
developed by the UF team to use bacteria
to turn wood wastes into ethanol for
fuel. The work already has led to more
than 20 U.S. patents and more than 60
"We're thrilled that this is reaching
the commercial sector," Ingram said.
Ingram and Shanmugam started on
ethanol research in the 1980s. Maupin-
Furlow joined them 10 years later. In the
beginning, ethanol was hardly a house-
hold word, but Ingram and Shanmugam
said they saw its potential.
"We'd already had two oil crises and
had people standing in line for miles
trying to get liquid fuel for their cars,"
Using corn for ethanol had already
been established, but the microbiologists
wanted to try using woody biomass and
wastes to create fuel, solving the problem
of landfilling the wastes while creating
a fuel. The woody materials would have
to be broken down into sugars and then
fermented into ethanol. That process,
however, produced byproducts, so the
scientists kept working to make it more
efficient, producing as much ethanol
as possible with as little byproduct as
Working with Gram-positive and
Gram-negative bacteria, the scientists
identified a Gram-negative bacterium
that worked well in breaking down the
woody materials. Ingram's group engi-
neered this Gram-negative bacterium by
inserting needed genes for converting the
sugars from woody materials to ethanol.
This work was granted the landmark
5,000,000th patent by the U.S. Patent
The work on Gram-negative bacteria
has been continuously improved, but
now the team is looking to Gram-positive
bacteria for further breakthroughs.
Gram-positive bacteria will perform
under higher temperatures and harsher
conditions, which could reduce the cost
of converting the woody wastes to sugars
for production of ethanol. Maupin-
Furlow worked on the genetics and
biochemistry of the genes to change the
metabolism of the Gram-positive bacteria
to produce ethanol.
And the team hasn't limited its efforts
to replacing fuel petroleum. Ingram
and Shanmugam took the research
a step further to develop a means of
replacing petroleum in making a new
kind of plastic that is renewable and also
The established process of using corn
to make ethanol will pave the way for
expansion into ethanol plants based on
woody biomass and wastes, said Ingram,
who is also the director of the Florida
Center for Renewable Chemicals and
Fuels, an interdisciplinary group that
draws expertise from all over campus.
"One row in every seven of corn is
being converted to fuel ethanol. If we
used the stalks and leaves in addition to
the grain, we could double the amount
of ethanol just from corn," Ingram said.
"There's a tremendous advantage to not
landfilling the stalks and leaves."
Ingram, Maupin-Furlow and
Shanmugam said they stayed upbeat dur-
ing the years of research before ethanol
"I don't think we ever got discour-
aged," Ingram said. "Fossil fuels are going
to run out one day, and someone needed
to solve that problem." ;
1 2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 35
Drs. Cynthia Lord and Jonathan Day
(above) are UF/IFAS researchers sta-
tioned at the Florida Medical Entomology
Laboratory in Vero Beach, where they
track West Nile virus and predict the risk
of human epidemics throughout Florida.
est Nile, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, has
I caused epidemics in California and Pennsylvania,
V the Ohio and Mississippi River basins, Colorado
and the Great Plains. Sparsely populated North Dakota has had
an epidemic, as has the desert city of Phoenix. The virus has
wreaked havoc everywhere, it seems, except mosquito paradise.
"Out of all the places where you'd expect a major West Nile
epidemic, the only place that hasn't had one is Florida," said
36 I 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Jonathan Day, a researcher at the Florida Medical
Entomology Laboratory, a part of the University
of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural
While that is good news for Floridians, for
researchers like Day and colleague Cynthia Lord, it
is a bit unnerving.
"We should have had a major epidemic, so it's
disconcerting that we haven't," Day said. "Either
the conditions are not right or the proper
driving mechanisms, like rainfall and
drought, have not yet been optimal in
Florida. In 2003, in Colorado, they had
500 human cases before they knew they
had an epidemic. We don't want to be in
that position in Florida."
Lord is using a five-year, $2.4
million National Institutes of Health
grant to learn more about the dynamics
of transmission of West Nile and
other mosquito-borne viruses such as
eastern equine encephalitis and St. Louis
encephalitis. The project includes a math-
ematical model of the factors that control
transmission of the virus, which showed
up in the United States in 1999 and in
Florida in 2001. She also is studying
how the age of the mosquito population
affects transmission and whether some
species transmit the disease better than
others. Her goal is to produce a model
that can predict outbreaks and the spread
of the disease.
"We want to understand the mecha-
nism of transmission, but there are still
a lot of variables we don't understand,"
Lord said. "Age, for example, influences
transmission because a mosquito needs
to live a long time to transmit the virus.
At every stage, a mosquito faces dangers
- being eaten by a bird or flying into
a spider web. This may change as a
mosquito ages, so age needs to be part of
"We only have five years of data for
West Nile not long when you consider
that Florida has had five major St. Louis
encephalitis outbreaks in the last 50
years. West Nile is similar to St. Louis
encephalitis, but different, too. And West
Nile is still changing," Lord said. "The
more we know, the more we realize we
need to know."
In the field, Day continuously collects
data from mosquito traps and sentinel
chickens. The sentinel chickens are
placed in areas where they will be bitten
by mosquitoes and their blood is tested
regularly for antibodies to the virus. The
sentinel chickens never move, so when
they become infected, researchers know
West Nile virus exists nearby in the wild
bird population. Mosquitoes pick it up
when feeding on the wild birds, then
pass the virus along to humans, causing a
flu-like illness or even fatal inflammation
of the brain.
Day combines his field data with
meteorological and environmental data
to assess and predict the risk of a West
Nile epidemic each year. Weather that
is too wet or too dry lowers the risk of a
West Nile outbreak. The hurricanes of
2004-05, for example, washed away the
organic matter the juvenile mosquitoes
need to develop. In very dry weather, the
mosquito eggs don't get the water they
need to mature. Prime conditions are
"Mosquitoes lay their eggs in dry
areas that are prone to flooding, like the
furrows in orange groves. When the area
floods, it becomes an organic brew and
you get a wicked mosquito problem,"
Day said. "With subsequent wetting
events, mosquitoes disperse and carry the
virus with them."
Once a Medical Alert is issued,
personal behavior plays a role in how
severe an outbreak might be.
"I do it, too. I say, 'Heck, I'm just
going out to the mailbox,' and you get
that bite," Day said.
The medical entomology laboratory
is one of the world's largest facilities
devoted to research on mosquito-borne
diseases and an important resource for
mosquito-control professionals, county
health departments, extension agents and
graduate students. Their colleagues there
provide for a synergy to their work, Lord
and Day said. The lab also has one other
advantage, being located in the midst of a
360-acre conservation area.
"If we need some mosquitoes, we just
hang a trap outside the door," Lord said. F
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 37
PuROESSO OF PLANTPumuHYSI[LOGY ND IOCHEM.IpIr iTRnu
aNTTT ear FOO ADGR ICLUASINE
Although plants can't share their feel-
ings, Professor Charles Guy knows
them pretty well.
The plant physiology and biochemis-
try professor studies how plants respond
to stress, particularly extreme heat and
cold. These "sub-optimal" conditions not
only affect growth, but their ability to
survive and thrive.
"The rationale for this research
program is that with a better understand-
ing of how plants respond to potentially
damaging situations, better strategies to
avoid crop losses can be devised," said
Guy, a UF faculty member since 1985.
Specifically, Guy looks at how plants
adapt or tolerate conditions in order to
resist injury. His goal: to one day improve
tolerance mechanisms for just about
"The most important finding in re-
cent years is that the metabolic responses
of plants to high temperature is remark-
ably similar to when they are responding
to low temperature," he said.
Guy recently collaborated with a
research team at the Max Planck Institute
of Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm,
Germany to profile changes in more than
500 low molecular compound plants
experiencing temperature stress.
"Charlie has been one of the leading
international researchers in cold stress
biotechnology, and as a result has been
an invited speaker at conferences around
the world," said Terrill Nell, Chair of
the Department of Environmental
ROBE: T 3 3RL, PH.D.
INSTITUTE 00F FOOD 3ANDAGRICULTURALSCIENCES
Growing plants in space?
It might sound like science
fiction, but one UF researcher is making
Horticultural Sciences professor
Robert Ferl is an expert in plant gene re-
sponses and adaptations to environmental
stresses. His research, focusing on how
plants recognize environmental stress
and how their genes adapt, and recent
work with NASA have captured much
"Plants growing in space experience a
unique array of environmental impacts,"
said Ferl, who is also assistant director for
UF's biotechnology program and director
of Exploration Life Sciences at Kennedy
Space Center. "You can imagine the
incredible array of differential environ-
ments possible during spaceflight or in
Understanding the impacts of
missions to the moon or Mars is im-
portant not only for intrinsic biological
understanding, but as a practical matter,
astronauts need plants to eat. Space plants
might also filter wastewater, scrub carbon
dioxide and produce oxygen.
To understand what happens to
plants in space, Ferl and his team inserted
a "reporter" gene into the Arabidopsis
plant, a mustard plant that's been part
of the space program since the Gemini
missions of the 1960s.
On an environmental cue such as
low oxygen or cold shock, Ferl said, the
reporter gene turns a colorless substrate in
the plant blue.
By monitoring color changes, Ferl can
pinpoint specific stresses and adjust the
plant's growing environment.
Because of Ferl's accomplishments
in the area of plant biology and space
exploration, he was asked to serve on
the Science Council of the Universities
Space Research Association and was the
only plant molecular biologist appointed
by NASA to be a member of the Lunar
Exploration Analysis Group. ;
38 I 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
DANIE BATIFE 3H
PRFESO 0OF HOTCLUALSINE
0NTTT 005 FOO AN I C T LSINE
W hen plant researcher Daniel
V Cantliffe first came to the
University of Florida in 1974, he created
a model system for controlling absorption
of water in lettuce seeds, called priming,
at a time when it was considered ineffec-
tive. Cantliffe's system worked and today
almost all commercially-grown lettuce
seed is primed.
Thirty years later, Cantliffe, now chair
of the horticultural sciences department,
is still looking ahead. Today he oversees
The Protected Ag project, which has the
goal of cultivating high-value vegetable
crops for Florida producers.
Florida vegetable crops, produced on
nearly 300,000 acres, are valued at more
than $1.6 billion annually. But the crops
require intensive production practices,
causing major challenges for the vegetable
industry, Cantliffe said.
The Protected Ag project aims to
ease those challenges by developing a
closed-production system in massive,
ventilated high-roof greenhouses much
like those in Israel and other Middle
The new system saves water, fertilizer
and pesticides, Cantliffe says, and many
of the crops can be grown year-round.
Cantliffe and his team have cultivated
alternative crops, including Beit Alpha
cucumber (a small, sweet-fleshed
vegetable popular in Europe), Galia
melon, baby squash, colored peppers and
"The quality of the products coming
from the greenhouses is greater and
extremely more valuable in the retail
market," he said.
L.C. Hannah, a fellow horticultural
sciences professor, said The Protected Ag
project research is working.
"It develops information at a rapid
pace so that adoption by growers can
be immediate, factual and economically
feasible," he said. F
*.PII LO BS, mD
PuROFESSORpm(.M OLOGYANDim NEwIVIATOLOG
0NTTT 00F FODADARCLTRLSINE
T he Asian tiger mosquito -first
found in the United States in
southern Texas in 1984 is now the
most important pest mosquito in the
UF entomology professor L. Philip
Lounibos is focused on understanding
the processes that have allowed the Asian
tiger mosquito which can transmit
dangerous human pathogens, such as
dengue virus to become so widespread
in the United States.
"Our studies are focused in Florida,
where we found that some of the resident
species have resisted the effects of this
invasive species and others haven't,"
One example: The native treehole
mosquito is inferior to the Asian tiger
mosquito, but Lounibos and his team
found that it escapes predators better
than the Asian tiger mosquito.
"As a consequence, the native
mosquito doesn't suffer as much from
competition from the Asian tiger as it
normally would in the absence of preda-
tors," he said.
Lounibos and his team, based at
IFAS's Vero Beach Florida Medical
Entomology Laboratory, are studying
how interactions between native and
Asian tiger mosquitoes affect transmis-
sion of dengue virus.
Walter Tabachnick, Florida Medical
Entomology Lab director, calls Lounibos'
work "substantial and critical" to public
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 39
JAMEP.PRSO III 3H
PRFSO FMICO LG N ELSINE
0NTTT 005 FOO AN GIUTRLSINE
The negative impacts of fossil fuels
on the economy, environment and
national security has prompted scientists
from many institutions, including the
University of Florida, to research ways
to convert renewable energy resources to
UF microbiology and cell science pro-
fessor James Preston is trying to develop
bacteria that can convert into ethanol
for alternative fuels and biology-based
products. He is interested in developing
enzymes for processing the material
found in plant walls of wood and crop
residues to release fermentable sugars.
Using technologies in bacterial ge-
nomics, structural biology and metabolic
engineering, the efforts, supported by
the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology
Research and the U.S. Department of
Energy, have contributed to successful
production of alternative fuels and
"Thanks to his work and that of other
faculty in the department, many plant
waste products will one day be converted
to ethanol in an economical fashion,"
said Department Chair Eric Triplett.
Preston, a UF Faculty member since
1969, is also interested in the roles of
carbohydrates in the recognition and at-
tachment of bacteria to plant and animal
"One goal of these efforts is to
develop the biocontrol potential of the
naturally occurring bacterium, Pasteuria
penetrans, as a benign alternative to
chemicals used to control plant-parasitic
nematodes," he said. ;
LApR p. TIM R 3HD
ASSOC~YIAEPROFEfSS(OREOF PUfLANT PAT[OLOGY
0NTTT 00F FODADARCLTRLSINE
An orange, tangerine or grapefruit
with a brown spot, greasy spot or
citrus scab will never make the cut in
grocery stores, causing growers to lose
money on diseased fruit.
These are only three of the citrus fruit
fungal diseases that L. W. "Pete" Timmer,
professor of plant pathology at UF's
Citrus Research and Education Center
in Lake Alfred, is working to predict and
Timmer is investigating the basic biol-
ogy and the effects of the environment on
these diseases and developing detection
tools. He has been able to describe the
sexual cycle and conditions for reproduc-
tion and dispersal of the citrus greasy
spot, a fungal disease that ruins citrus
"A better understanding of the
time-of-spore release of this pathogen has
resulted in different timing of fungicide
applications to control the disease, and
improve disease control," he said.
A major emphasis of Timmer's lab has
been the development of weather-based
models for predicting the disease and
the timing of fungicide applications
for disease control. He has developed a
model for Alternaria brown spot, called
the Alter-Rater, which has been validated
for use in disease management programs
Harold Browning, director of the
Citrus Research and Education Center,
called Timmer one of the state's most
accomplished and productive plant
40 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Berry J. Treat (left) is the germplasm property manager for the Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station (FAES) and Florida Foundation Seed Producers (FFSP). He is responsible for the market-
ing and licensing of all germplasm discovered and developed in the experiment station. Together,
with John Byatt in the Office of Technology and Licensing (OTL), they facilitate invention and
technology transfer to the agriculture industry and manage all forms of intellectual property
for IFAS using an invitation to negotiate (ITN) process. In the past year, FAES has released 21
cultivars, and OTL reported 29 invention disclosures. Total new cultivars and new inventions
number 253 in the past five years. The majority of plant germplasm and inventions developed at
UF/IFAS is protected through the federal U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks and/or the Plant
Variety Protection Office. The licensing agents work closely with UF's faculty and plant breeders
(currently working in over 34 crop areas) and assist in commercializing new and improved variet-
ies and inventions around the world. IFAS revenue from licensed inventions was approximately
$4.2 million in 2004-2005 and a total $17.9 million in the past five years. IFAS research programs
continue to benefit and grow because of technology transfer with private/commercial
Fiscal Year OTL Invention
Fiscal Year OTL License
00/01 01/02 02/03 03/04 04/05
00/01 01/02 02/03 03/04 04/05
FFSP License TOTAL
U.S. PATENTS 25
Fiscal Year OTL patents OTL U.S.
patents issued patents issued
00/01 01/02 02/03 03/04 04/05
FFSP US PVP/P TOTAL
S2005 RESEARCH REPORT 1 41
DIRECTOR'S FINANCIAL REPORT
Research Expenditures by Source of Fund
State Fiscal Year 2004-2005
(NOTE: This is not an accounting document)
Source of Funds
State General Revenue
Federal Agency Funds
National Institute of Health
U.S. Department of Education
Department of Interior
Department of Energy
U.S. Air Force
Department of Commerce
Department of Transportation
National Science Foundation
National Aeronautics and
Agency for International
IFAS Reg. Research/McIntire-
Federal Flow Through Other
Total Source of Funds
State Agency Funds
Department of Education
Department of Transportation
Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services
Department of Citrus
Department of Environmental
Department of Children &
Phosphate Research Institute
Game & Freshwater Fish
Water Management Districts
State Board of Regents
Other Sponsored Funds
UF Foundations Other
39,155,617.25 GRAND TOTAL
42 | 2005 RESEARCH REPORT
Federal Agency Funds
Federal / \ Industry Gi
Formula Funds & Contra
2005 RESEARCH REPORT | 43
St, id, Reeac & Edcto Newr n
Research and Education Centers:
1 CITRUS REC I LakeAlfred
2 EVERGLADES REC | Belle Glade 0
3 FLORIDA MEDICAL ENTOMOLOGY LAB REC I Vero Beach
4 FORT LAUDERDALE REC I Fort Lauderdale 10
5 GULF COAST REC I Wimauma, Plant City 0
6 INDIAN RIVER REC | Fort Pierce
7 MID-FLORIDA REC | Apopka "
8 NORTH FLORIDA REC I Live Oak, Marianna, Quincy
9 RANGE CATTLE REC |I Ona
10 SOUTHWEST FLORIDA REC | Immokalee
11 SUBTROPICAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH STATION (USDA-ARS) REC | Brooksville
12 TROPICAL REC I Homestead
13 WEST FLORIDA REC I Jay, Milton
Research and Demonstration Sites:
14 HASTINGS RDS I Hastings
15 PLANT SCIENCE RESEARCH AND EDUCATION UNIT I Citra
16 TROPICAL AQUACULTURE LABORATORY I Ruskin
FLORIDA AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION I INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES | UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This annual research report is published by Dr. Mark R. McLellan, Dean for Research, in order to further programs and related activities, available to all persons
with nondiscrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or af-
filiations. For information about alternate formats, contact IFAS Communication Services, University of Florida, P.O. Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810.
Produced by IFAS Communication Services I July 2006 I Florida Agricultural Experiment Station