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Florida Agricultural Experiment Station holds fourth annual awards event

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dozens of distinguished researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences were honored May 19 at the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station’s fourth annual awards ceremony.

The event, held at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, recognized faculty members and graduate students from around the state. They were honored for accomplishments in 2010, which ranged from research papers to patented plant varieties to membership in prestigious academic organizations, said Mark McLellan, IFAS dean for research and director of the experiment station, known as FAES.

“This is a very special celebration, because the honorees have devoted so much time and effort to work that occurs far from the spotlight—in laboratories, in libraries and in the field,” McLellan said. “It’s great to give them an evening where their colleagues say ‘we appreciate what you’re doing’ and let them get a little better sense of how important their work is.”

The research arm of UF’s entire land-grant enterprise, FAES supports research activities by College of Agricultural and Life Sciences personnel in Gainesville and at 13 research and education centers statewide.

Highlights of the event included:

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE (AAAS) FELLOWS

Two faculty members were recognized with the AAAS Fellows Award. They are Kenneth Boote, a professor emeritus of agronomy, and Linda Young, a professor and associate chair of statistics. Both were named Fellows in 2010, and were formally inducted at the AAAS annual meeting Feb. 19 in Washington, D.C.

Boote was elected a Fellow in recognition of his work in measuring and modeling crop responses to climate change, notably temperature and the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere. Young was elected based on her work developing statistical models for environmental, agricultural and health sciences.

RESEARCH PROFESSOR EMERITUS AWARD

This year’s recipient was Larkin “Curt” Hannah, a professor emeritus in the horticultural sciences department. Hannah specializes in the biochemistry of starch production in cereal crops, and lately has focused on the enzyme ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, which is essential for starch synthesis in corn.

GRADUATE RESEARCH AWARDS

The Awards of Excellence for Graduate Research recognize the most significant and well-constructed studies by graduate students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The winners were Evelien Van Ekert for best master’s thesis and Charles Hunter for best doctoral dissertation.

Van Ekert, an entomology student, studied mosquito biochemistry in her project, “Identification and Characterization of Juvenile Hormone Acid Methyl Transferase, the Ultimate Enzyme in the Juvenile Hormone Biosynthetic Pathway of Aedes aegypti.”

Hunter, earning his Ph.D. from the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, investigated corn DNA sequences in his study, “The Mu Transposons of Zea Mays and Their Use in Determining Gene Function: Cellulose Synthase-Like D Genes in Plant and Cell Development.”

NEW FACULTY AWARDS

This year’s recipients of the Richard L. Jones New Faculty Research Awards were Michelle Danyluk, a food science and human nutrition assistant professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred; and Robert Fletcher, an assistant professor in the wildlife ecology and conservation department.

Danyluk’s work focuses on food safety and microbiology, particularly as they regard fruit juices, fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. She also works with citrus processors and packers to enhance the quality, safety and value of their products. Many of her recent studies have investigated management and control of Salmonella bacteria, a significant foodborne pathogen.

Fletcher researches landscape and spatial ecology, with special emphasis on animal populations and animal behavior. Some of his recent projects have investigated the impact of biofuels production on biodiversity, the effects of climate change on natural selection, and conservation of migratory songbirds.

PLANT PATENT AWARDS

Recently retired blueberry breeder Paul Lyrene shows no signs of slowing down; he obtained a U.S. plant patent for the blueberry cultivar Primadonna. This southern highbush variety produces large, high-quality berries that ripen early; it’s been licensed in Florida, Georgia and Oregon.

Hammock® centipedegrass earned a U.S. plant patent for Kevin Kenworthy, an agronomy associate professor; Robert Beiriger, a biological scientist at the Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade; and Bryan Unruh, an environmental horticulture professor at the West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton. The turfgrass has finer texture, faster growth and reduced maintenance needs compared with standard varieties, and it’s exclusively licensed to Environmental Turf Inc. of Avon Park, Fla.

Richard Henny, an environmental horticulture professor at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka and Jianjun Chen, an environmental horticulture associate professor at the center, obtained patents on three plants representing different species.

Their aglaonema, Mondo Bay®, is a tropical foliage plant crowded with long, sword-shaped leaves in alternating light and dark green streaks; it also received a U.S. trademark. The second plant, an epipremnum currently known as UFM10, features dark green heart-shaped leaves on graceful, vine-like stems. The third is a philodendron, known as Frilly Philly™, that produces a multitude of small, bright green lanceolate leaves that resemble blades of grass.

David Clark, an environmental horticulture professor, is well known for his coleus breeding program. This year, he received trademarks for two cultivars. Big Red Judy® features wide, bright red leaves with a dusting of yellow coloration along the margins; as the name implies, Velvet Mocha® is a rich reddish brown, with narrow, elliptical leaves. Both are available for nonexclusive licensing.

Caladiums are a popular ornamental plant and five varieties were patented by the team of Zhanao Deng, an associate professor of environmental horticulture at the Gulf Coast Research and Education in Balm, and Brent Harbaugh, a professor emeritus at the Balm center.

Cranberry Star features narrow white leaves with dramatic cranberry-colored accents. Summer Rose has broad leaves with green margins surrounding white bands and mellow, pink centers. Firecracker Red has an exceptionally wide leaf with vibrant green margins transitioning into bright red veins and centers. Garden White boasts medium-width leaves that are almost exclusively white and Berry Patch is an unusual blend of medium-green leaves with dramatic white veins and bright pink spots.

In Florida strawberry breeding, Craig Chandler has had many notable achievements and he’s received a U.S. plant patent for the Florida Radiance cultivar, which features high early-season yield and good fruit size. It’s available for licensing in selected areas from Florida Foundation Seed Producers Inc.

Peaches and nectarines are promising crops for the Sunshine State and Jose Chaparro received U.S. plant patents for three cultivars, all bred for performance in hot, humid climates.

The nectarine UFRoyal is a firm, low-chill variety with bright red skin; the peach Gulfcrimson is a heavy-bearing cultivar with medium-size firm, yellow fruit. Flordabest is a low-chill peach that produces heavy crops of firm, yellow fruit.

In forage crops, Ronald Barnett, an agronomy professor with the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy and Ann Blount, an agronomy professor with the North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna, received U.S. plant variety protection for two oat cultivars. The plants, known as Horizon 270 and LA99016, should be available soon for commercial licensing.

A U.S. trademark was secured by Gordon Prine, for the annual ryegrass Florlina®. This high-yielding, cold tolerant cultivar has excellent crown rust resistance and is available for licensing from Florida Foundation Seed Producers Inc.

In addition, a research team that included IFAS’ Lonnie Ingram, Keelnatham Shanmugam, Lorraine Yomano and Johnathan Moore secured a U.S. utility patent for materials and methods of efficient lactic acid production. The project involved genetically modified E. coli bacteria capable of producing lactic acid, a chemical used to manufacture bioplastics.

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Source: Mark McLellan, 352-392-1784, mrm1@ufl.edu