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Posts tagged: Florida

Spraying Smarter Strengthens Strawberry Production

Thanks to a USDA NIFA grant, strawberry growers in Florida are benefiting from a smart system that helps them time spraying to prevent diseases – saving the farmers money while minimizing the environmental impacts. The system is being adapted for growers in other states.

Thanks to a USDA NIFA grant, strawberry growers in Florida are benefiting from a smart system that helps them time spraying to prevent diseases – saving the farmers money while minimizing the environmental impacts. The system is being adapted for growers in other states.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

With the U.S. being the world’s leading producer of strawberries, the success of these tart and sweet treats is essential to the economy of a state like Florida. In fact, with a $366 million-per-year industry, the state comes second only to California as the nation’s largest strawberry producer. Naturally, strawberry growers are looking for ways to sustain their harvests and profitability.

Enter Natalia Peres, University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center professor of plant pathology.  With funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Peres and her research team developed an online web tool, the Strawberry Advisory System (SAS), which helps farmers spend less money on fungicides yet achieve better results with what they do spray. Read more »

Florida Family Farm Adopts Conservation Practices, Helps Gulf of Mexico

A center-pivot irrigation system uses low pressure-high uniformity to water a cover crop mix that includes Daikon Radish on Mitch Holtzclaw’s farm in O’Brien, Fla. NRCS photo by Doug Ulmer.

A center-pivot irrigation system uses low pressure-high uniformity to water a cover crop mix that includes Daikon Radish on Mitch Holtzclaw’s farm in O’Brien, Fla. NRCS photo by Doug Ulmer.

For three generations members of Mitch Holtzclaw’s family has farmed land in Suwanee County, Florida. Today, Holtzclaw grows more than 1,000 acres of peanuts, corn and small grains.

His farm is about three miles from the historic Suwannee River, which flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico. The sandy soil types and karst limestone topography on Holtzclaw’s farm are characteristic of the watersheds in the middle Suwannee River Basin and cause for concern over increased nutrient concentrations that can be found in the area’s ground and surface water. Read more »

Exploration and Agriculture: Connecting the Next Generation with Science to Grow the Future

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Last week, we entered a bold new era of exploration and discovery as NASA launched the Orion spacecraft, a major step testing the possibility of going to Mars.

As NASA contemplates sending human missions to Mars, one question we must answer is: what will the astronauts eat and what foods will assist future missions? NASA and USDA are working together to develop plants that can grow, thrive, and produce in new environments – signaling opportunities for fresh, nutrition-rich food for astronauts on long duration space flights. Read more »

From Scientist to Farmer, Today’s Agriculture Producers Come from All Walks of Life

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida.  According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

In the past, full-time farmers were the norm and children of farmers followed in their parent’s footsteps. That’s not the case today. Now, data from the Census of Agriculture show more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming.

Richard McGinley is a good example of today’s Florida farmer. He spent his early years living the city life until his dad moved the family to Ocala, located in central Florida, to begin farming. But McGinley had other interests that took him far from farming. He established a career in the nuclear industry and even started his own consulting business. Read more »

Collier County, Florida, Features Highly Successful Farm to School Program

Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.

Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.

Throughout the Southeast, school districts are coming up with innovative ways to promote farm to school efforts. Farm to school programs engage students, teachers, and communities on the importance of healthier eating habits, local food systems, and provide nutritional education that stimulates the mind and has a lasting effect. Increasing awareness about Farm to School efforts is no longer on the back burner for school nutrition professionals. In Florida, there are several school districts who have taken on the challenge to increase farm to school efforts using some unique approaches.  In Sarasota County Schools, the Nutrition Department is committed to purchasing at least 50 percent of their produce from local farmers. The School Board of Alachua County has established 29 school gardens used as outdoor learning labs providing students hands-on nutritional education. This year during farm to school month, it is no surprise that Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services is promoting student health and wellness using the theme “Feeding the Future.”

By Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla.

“Feeding the Future” is the theme of Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services, and it certainly applies to their farm to school program. Read more »

Conservation Easements Preserve, Restore Florida Wetlands

Betsie Rothermel, restoration ecology research director at Archbold Biological Station, strolls through an easement she is restoring. NRCS photo.

Betsie Rothermel, restoration ecology research director at Archbold Biological Station, strolls through an easement she is restoring. NRCS photo.

The Archbold Biological Station located in central Florida occupies 5,200 acres of pristine Florida scrub habitat on the southern tip of the Lake Wales Ridge, which is considered an ecological wonder. Eastern indigo snakes, Florida sand skinks, Florida scrub jays, burrowing owls and crested caracaras occupy the mosaic of uplands and wetlands found within the confluence of the Kissimmee River and Fisheating Creek watershed.

This renowned research facility has hosted scientists from all over the world for almost 75 years, and its scientific publications document the status and habits of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on earth. Read more »