Dr. Ann Blount Named 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture

Dr. Ann Blount Named 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture

Ann Blount UF/IFAS Forage Breeder

Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Specialist talks to cattle producers about the Legend oat variety that her team developed with rust resistance and increased yield. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

On September 19th, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced that Dr. Ann Blount has been named the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture. Dr. Blount has dedicated her career to researching and implementing innovative techniques to improve fall forage production in Florida’s southern coastal areas. The award, now in its 34th year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.

I’m honored to recognize Dr. Blount as the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture. Throughout her career, Dr. Blount’s extensive research and techniques have incorporated Florida’s unique natural resources to bolster our agriculture industry,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam.

Dr. Blount earned a Bachelor of Science in Crop Ecology from Texas A&M University. She continued her education at the University of Florida, where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Dr. Blount has since spearheaded research of breeding efforts on physiological aspects of fall forage, specifically: developing improved bahiagrass, evaluating new perennial peanut varieties, and enhancing small grains and ryegrasses.

Dr. Blount joined the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 1988, and she currently serves as an extension specialist and professor of forage breeding and genetics for the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Dr. Blount uses a hand-on approach to train new and veteran agents to implement innovative foraging and help landowners test new livestock forages and wildlife blends to assess potential use on their properties.

Dr. Blount has made significant contributions to the agriculture industry, such as six plant patents and plant variety protections, as well as 76 cultivars and germplasm releases and forages. She has also written several educational publications, including: two book chapters, 198 refereed articles, 385 non-refereed articles, 22 national and international proceedings, 124 abstracts and 28 refereed Extension articles. Dr. Blount’s impressive forage breeding program and UF/IFAS Extension activities have improved the production and efficiency of thousands of acres of Florida’s forage varieties.

Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Specialist developed a Pensacola cultivar called UF Riata that has les daylength sensitivity, so it has a longer growing season than other Bahia varieties. Photo credit: Marisol Amador, UF/IFAS

The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority. The award will be presented to Dr. Blount during the 2019 Florida State Fair, in Tampa.

Editors Note:  Dr. Blount has invested the last 30 years of her life educating livestock producers, county extension agents, and researchers about forage varieties and and forage management. Use the following email link if you would like to send her congratulations on this tremendous honor:  Ann Blount, UF/IFAS Forage Specialist.

New Agritourism App Connects Visitors to Florida’s Agricultural Assets

New Agritourism App Connects Visitors to Florida’s Agricultural Assets

 

Visit Florida, in partnership with the Florida Agritourism Association, announced the release of a new mobile app aimed at connecting visitors with Florida’s agricultural assets. Through the app, Florida’s farms, ranches, and vineyards are opening their doors and inviting visitors to sample the abundant bounty and natural beauty found in the Sunshine State’s agritourism offerings.

Agritourism combines Florida’s two largest industries – tourism and agriculture – and allows farmers to open their agricultural land to the public for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes; to view or participate in activities such as farming, ranching, historical, cultural, civic, ceremonial, training and exhibition, harvest-your-own events. According to the most recent agricultural census by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Florida’s 724 agritourism operations contribute $15.7 million annually to the state’s economy.

Ken Lawson, President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA said, “Agritourism has become more and more popular as visitors seek off-the-beaten-path adventures. In 2017, Florida welcomed 116.5 million visitors, many of whom enjoyed our state’s agricultural attractions such as such as u-pick farms, ranches, vineyards, and more. Through the Florida Agritourism app, travelers from around the globe will be able to discover and enjoy authentic Florida experiences offered by our state’s agritourism operations.”

The free mobile app, available for Android and iOS devices, is an easy-to-use tool for discovering and locating agritourism sites in Florida. The app features a comprehensive farm guide, seasonal produce calendar, and a list of more than 100 agricultural events taking place throughout the state. In the app, users can browse venue information, navigate to farms, and RSVP for events. Additionally, if desired, users can create a personalized list of favorite farms and receive notifications regarding those farm’s events and activities.

Lena Juarez, Executive Director of the Florida Agritourism Association, said, “This mobile app is a game-changer for our state’s agritourism operators. It enables Floridians and visitors to find fun activities and events happening on our farms. We encourage users to utilize it regularly to explore Florida.”

To discover more about agritourism opportunities in Florida, go to https://visitfloridafarms.com/ or download the Florida Agritourism app in the Apple and Google Play stores.

 

Friday Feature:  Defining GMOs in Food

Friday Feature: Defining GMOs in Food

This week’s featured video was published by Iowa State University to help explain what genetically modified organisms or GMOs are and why these crops are used.  This is a very controversial topic, with contrasting points of view trying to inform consumers about GMOs in foods.  Many consumers really don’t understand what GMOs are, or the science behind their use.  Dr. Ruth Macdon, Chair of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Iowa State University provides a science-based overview that can be used to share on social media or shared with people who ask questions about the safety of GMO crops.

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If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo

Friday Feature:  UF’s New Honey Bee Research Lab

Friday Feature: UF’s New Honey Bee Research Lab

This week’s featured video was produced by the Gainesville Sun to share the story of the completion of the brand new University of Florida Honey Bee Research & Extension Lab.  The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research Team will be moving into this wonderful new facility this month.  On June 4th,  Dr. Jamie Ellis, UF Entomologist and world renowned Bee Specialist, provided a video tour of the new facilities.  There will be a Grand Opening Ceremony and Open House for tours of the new facilities in Gainesville, FL held on August 25 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Eastern time.

 

The following information was provided by the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Education Lab (HBREL) website:

The new HBREL facilities are comprised of three buildings.

  1. The main building houses the lab’s faculty, staff, and student offices, a conference/break room, a teaching classroom, a research laboratory, and a honey bee observation hive room.
  2. A large, covered pavilion is located in the HBREL apiary and is used for honey bee events and instruction.
  3. The third building is the Gainesville headquarters of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Apiary Inspection team as well as a workshop and storage shed, a state-of-the-art honey extraction facility, and a beekeeper museum.

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If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo

 

2017-2018 Bee Informed Partnership’s National Bee Colony Loss Report

2017-2018 Bee Informed Partnership’s National Bee Colony Loss Report

Photo by Judy Biss

The 2017-2018 winter (1 October 2017 – 1 April 2018) was tough for beekeepers.  According to data collected by The Bee Informed Partnership and reported in Honey Bee Colony Losses 2017-2018: Preliminary Results, “an estimated 30.7% of managed colonies in the United States were lost (Fig. 1). This represents an increase of 9.5 percentage points over that of the previous year, and an increase of 2.8 percentage points over that of the 10-year average total winter colony loss rate of 27.9%.”

This is the Bee Informed Partnership’s twelfth annual survey gauging managed honeybee colony losses in the United States.  The mission of the Bee Informed Partnership, as stated on their website, is to work “with beekeepers to better understand which management practices work best.” The partnership gathers “survey data from thousands of beekeepers every season to understand how different management practices affect honey bee health…”  Their project “is built on a coalition of researchers, advisors, and stakeholders from various industries that rely on honey bees for pollination.”

Below is a summary of the data reported in Honey Bee Colony Losses 2017-2018: (Bee Informed Partnership Note: This is a preliminary analysis. Sample sizes and estimates are likely to change. A more detailed final report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date.)

4,794 beekeepers collectively managing 175,923 colonies in October 2017 provided validated survey responses. This represents 6.6% of the estimated 2.67 million managed honey-producing colonies in the nation (USDA, 2018).

During 1 October 2017 – 1 April 2018, an estimated 30.7% of managed colonies in the United States were lost (Fig. 1). This represents an increase of 9.5 percentage points over that of the previous year, and an increase of 2.8 percentage points over that of the 10-year average total winter colony loss rate of 27.9%.

Similar to previous years, backyard beekeepers lost more colonies in winter (46.3%) compared to those lost by sideline (38.0%) and commercial (26.4%) beekeepers. Backyard, sideline, and commercial beekeepers are defined as those managing 50 or fewer colonies, 51 – 500 colonies, and 501 or more colonies, respectively.

Interestingly, the self-reported ‘level of acceptable winter colony loss’ increased from 18.7% last year to 20.6% this year. Sixty-nine percent of responding beekeepers lost more of their colonies than deemed to be acceptable.

During 1 April 2017– 1 October 2017, an estimated 17.1% of managed colonies were lost in the U.S. This level is on par with summer colony loss estimates of 18.2% that were reported the previous year, and lower than the 20.9% average experienced by beekeepers since 2010-2011, when summer losses were first recorded by the Bee Informed Partnership.

For the entire survey period (1 April 2017 – 1 April 2018), beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40.1% of their managed honey bee colonies. This is 2.7 percentage points greater than the average annual rate of loss experienced by beekeepers since 2010-2011.

Beekeepers face many challenges ranging from pests and diseases to environmental threats against which they must constantly manage to keep from losing their hives.  Currently three of the greatest challenges are queen health, hive nutrition, and the tiny varroa mite (Varroa destructor), a devastating bee parasite.  Just as in managing any livestock commodity, beekeepers must manage their bee colonies based on ever changing environmental, biological, and economic variables.  The good news is that the importance of pollinating insects to our food supply is receiving greater attention on a national scale, resulting in increased recognition and research into factors causing bee colony declines.

For more information, please see the following resources:

FDACS Honey Bee Protection in Florida

Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides

Bee Informed Partnership

UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research & Extension Lab

 

Friday Feature:  Satsumas from Farm to Schools

Friday Feature: Satsumas from Farm to Schools

This week’s featured video was produced by Chartwells School Dining Services to highlight their “Farm to School” program.  This video features the relationship that was established with Cherokee Farms, Marianna, Florida to supply every student in the Duval County School District with fresh satsuma citrus.  This story highlights the success of their program for purchasing fresh produce direct from farmers for immediate distribution in school lunches.  For more information on how farmers can participate in this type of marketing program, go to the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School webpage.

 

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If you enjoyed this video, you might want to check out the featured videos from previous weeks:  Friday Features

If you come across an interesting or humorous video, or a new product innovation related to agriculture, please send in a link, so we can share it with our readers. Send video links to:  Doug Mayo