If you enjoy time spent outdoors, chances are you’ve come across a plant or two that has caused you to say, “That’s interesting! I wonder what that is?”. Identifying the plants you’re looking at can be a challenge, unless you happen to be a botanist. Even a handy book or reference guide can leave some room for confusion. You can always bring a picture or sample of a plant to your local extension office for help, but we also have some new tools available to help with identification. With the development of artificially intelligent software, we have apps on our cell phones that can do amazing things, including identifying living organisms.
There are a lot of options available, however, and cutting through the clutter is hard. To help decide which apps are the most trustworthy and effective, read on! Here are some plant identification apps that stand out currently:
Free. Runs on Android devices (6.0 or later) or iOS devices (12.0 or later). This app requires an account, and combines artificial intelligence (AI) identification with a community of “citizen scientists” online who can help to confirm results.
Free to download, with a $2.99 monthly charge, $19.99 yearly charge, or $39.99 lifetime subscription for their premium version. Runs on Android devices (5.0 or later) and iOS devices (12.0 or later). PlantSnap relies on AI to identify plants using a database of over 600,000 plants and fungi.
Free to download, 7 day free trial with $29.99 premium access. Works on Android devices (5.0 or later) and iOS devices (13.0 or later). AI provides immediate identification of over 10,000 plant species.
Free to download, with a $7.99 monthly fee or $35.99 yearly subscription. Works on Android devices (8.1 or later) or iOS devices (14.5 or later). Specifically tailored to houseplants, Planta includes plant identification as well as a light meter, care guides, and automatic reminders for houseplant care.
Free. Works with Android devices (6.0 or later) and iOS devices (14.0 or later). Among many other functionalities such as searching for consumer products, Google Lens is able to use its AI to identify plants.
Free. Usable only on iOS devices (15.0 or later). Included with the iOS 15.0 system, simply tap the info button on a photograph of a plant and then the leaf icon that appears. The iOS system will use its AI to attempt to identify the plant in question.
There are plenty more options out there and, as AI develops, more are undoubtedly on the way! Remember that not every identification, regardless of the software’s quality, might be accurate. Rare plants or those with many similar look-alikes could be mistaken. Use caution with these tools, especially for plants that might be harmful or toxic. While these can be a good starting point, it’s always a good idea to consult a knowledgeable human being (such as an Extension Agent or Master Gardener Volunteer) to be sure about any plant’s identity. Happy IDing!
The spring is traditionally a busy time in the life of a Horticulture Extension Agent. As plants start to awaken from winter and people get the urge to get outdoors, lots of questions pour into the office about growing everything from flowers to trees. There is also an uptick in diagnostic questions at this time of year as insects emerge and plant disease organisms thrive in the warm, humid weather. Usually, most of us are running from one event to another and don’t have much time to focus on our own yards, but this year is different.
Many of us are working from home; my own makeshift office is on my back patio. The more time I spend out here, the more I notice the plants, insects, birds, and other wildlife I am usually moving too quickly to appreciate. We know that while you are following the #stayhomesavelives protocol you are paying even more attention to your landscapes than usual, too. We hope you will use this time to either enhance your gardening expertise or just learn the basics and we are here to help!
Although the doors to our offices may be locked, your UF/IFAS Extension Agents are still available to help answer your gardening questions. We are also working hard to develop more online content every day. Here are some online social media resources already available:
The Irrigation Association (IA) kicks off the official start of this year’s campaign on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The initiative promotes the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf and agricultural irrigation.
Irrigation (agricultural and turf/landscape) accounts for 65-70% of total freshwater use in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program, the average American family household uses more than 300 gallons of water per day; roughly 30% of this occurs outdoors. Efficient landscape irrigation systems and practices dramatically reduce water being lost or wasted.
The starting point for improving the efficiency of a home landscape sprinkler system is to calibrate each zone (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00003389/00001) and make adjustments and repairs. That includes the rain shut-off device.
Florida is one of the few states with a rain sensor law. The most recent version of the statute (2010) states the following: “Any person who operates an automatic landscape irrigation system shall properly install, maintain, and operate technology that inhibits or interrupts operation of the system during periods of sufficient moisture.” (Florida Statute 373.62). Regardless of the water source or age of the system, all in-ground irrigation systems must be connected to a functioning rain sensor of some kind.
Expanding disk Rain Sensor
Expanded disk devices are the most popular rain sensor due to their low cost, ease of installation, and low maintenance. Traditionally, they are wired into the controller, but a wireless version allows for quicker installation and mounting up to 300 feet from the controller. These “mini-click” sensors contain disks made of cork that absorb rainfall and expand, triggering a pressure switch. The disk cover is rotated to adjust for the predetermined amount of rainfall required to trigger the switch. It should be set on ½ – ¾ inch, depending on soil type and rooting depth of irrigated plants. The switch continues to interrupt the scheduled controller as long as the disks are swollen. When the rain stops, the disks begin to dry out. Once they have contracted, the switch closes and the regularly scheduled irrigation cycle begins where it left off before the interruption. These small cork disks wear out in Florida’s heat and need to be replaced. By checking and repairing the sensor parts, the sprinkler system will operate much more efficiently. We have all seen irrigation systems running in pouring rain. Keep yours maintained to avoid this needless waste of water.
So, join the kids this summer. Go outside and play in the water. Turn on the sprinkler system and check it out. July is Smart Irrigation Month. Let’s see how efficient you can make your system and reduce the water waste in Florida.
A new research project at the West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, FL is looking into the quality of turfgrass cut with a robotic mower. The study is to determine whether the quality of St. Augustinegrass can be improved by continuous mowing with a robotic mower at 2.4″ height instead of the traditional mowing height of 3.5″, removing only a third of leaf blade material per mowing.
Dr. Shaddox talking to participants at the 2018 Gulfcoast Expo & Turfgrass Field Day. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
The mower being tested is the Miimo manufactured by Honda. This particular model mows and charges on its own and can mow up to 0.37 acres on one charge. It can mow in three programmable cutting patterns: directional; random; or mixed. The study is utilizing the random cutting pattern.
The mower’s three, two-sided blades are mounted on a circular head that can rotate both clockwise and counter-clockwise. The head automatically switches between clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation to reduce wear on the blades. The blades are basically just two-sided razor blades. A buried guide wire is installed on the perimeter of the lawn to serve as a boundary.
A close-up shot of the Miimo mower blades. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
So far, the plots cared for by the robotic mower look promising! The blades on the robot are much finer than those found on a common rotary mower. Because of this, they cut more cleanly and tend to tear the grass blades less often than the rotary mower. Other robotic mowers on the market include the Worx Landroid, Husqvarna Automower, and Bosch Indego. Please stay tuned for future robotic mower evaluations on other products, energy consumption, and nutrient evaluation.
Following basic instructions, grow oyster mushrooms using sterilized straw, a plastic bag, oyster mushroom spawn, and water. Photo by Sunny Liao.
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) – which have nothing to do with oysters besides their similar shape – are some of the most delicate, subtlety flavored, and easiest to prepare mushrooms of the culinary world.
They can easily be fried, stir-fried, or braised within a matter of minutes in broths, vinegar, wines, and sauces; or added to soups, stuffed, or mixed with chopped garlic. Other mushrooms, such as shiitake, are sturdier and impart a meatier flavor and texture to a dish. Oyster mushrooms, especially those lighter in color, pair well with seafood or a white meat. Highly perishable, you will want to freeze oyster mushrooms after sautéing with butter or oil to preserve, or dehydrate them to enjoy at a later date.
In addition to being an easy mushroom to prepare, oyster mushrooms are a great source of fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals, as well as an excellent source of the antioxidant ergothioneine.
Oyster mushrooms can come in many shades, from cream-colored, to gray, golden, tan, and brown. Their white colored gills, when present, extend from beneath the cap down to their very short stems. They are often described as smelling slightly like licorice and can grow up to about nine inches, but are best consumed young when tender and mild.
Oyster mushrooms grow in many subtropical and temperate environments, commonly found in nature growing in layers, decomposing the wood of dying hardwood trees. This decomposition benefits the ecosystem, as the mushrooms return nutrients and minerals back into the soil.
Interestingly, oyster mushrooms are one of the few known carnivorous mushrooms. The mycelia of the fungi can consume and digest nematodes, which is how it is thought the oyster mushrooms acquire nitrogen.
Arguably one of the best qualities of oyster mushrooms are the ease to which they can be cultivated at home. Using sterilized straw, a plastic bag, oyster mushroom spawn, water, and following basic instructions, oyster mushroom can be produced in as little as two weeks!
Are you an avid gardener and looking to step it up a notch? Are your gardening eyes bigger than your dinner plate? If you have ever considered selling your bounty for market, you will certainly need to do your homework! One such step you can take is to attend the UF/IFAS Panhandle Extension Team’s So You Want to be a Farmer? Workshop Series.
There’s a lot to know if you want to get into this business! This series aims to introduce new or potential farmers to innovative and environmentally safe production practices, concepts of soil and water management, integrated pest management, how to grow for a farmers’ market, and farm financial management.
Agricultural professionals are actually in high demand. There is an estimated 60,000 highly skilled jobs in agriculture available annually, but only about half of these positions are being filled by graduates in agricultural fields. Additionally, Florida’s farmers are an aging group, and there was an 8% decrease in the number of farms and 26% decrease in acres of cropland from 2002 to 2012.
Fortunately, demand has greatly increased in recent years for locally produced specialty crops, meats, and dairy. There has also been an increase in the number of direct marketing opportunities and small farmers have been able to adopt new technologies, such as season extension techniques and local online marketing, to generate more revenue on small acreages.