Fresh vanilla one step closer

Plain and simple, American consumers have a taste for vanilla. But what if farmers could grow vanilla here? University of Florida scientists have sequenced the vanilla genome. The breakthrough could help researchers select the best types for breeding new varieties of the plant to grow in the Sunshine State.

UF/IFAS scientists Alan Chambers and Elias Bassil led a team of researchers that established a vanilla collection featuring more than 100 potentially unique individuals. Details of the project were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

In addition, the scientists also constructed a “draft genome” of vanilla DNA. This includes functions such as how to make leaves or roots, how the plant responds to pathogens, and how the plants make the aroma of the beans, Chambers explained. “If a genome was a car, a draft genome would be a basic vehicle with no frills,” Chambers stated in a news release. “The next step is to go from the basic vehicle to a luxury sports car.”

The study also yielded a few new insights regarding identification of vanilla hybrids between different species. In the U.S. and Europe, you can only use two types of vanilla beans (vanilla planifolia and Tahitian vanilla) and call it “vanilla extract,” according to Chambers. “The identified hybrids could represent a unique branding opportunity if a grower wants to produce something unique in all the world,” he said. “These hybrids will most likely have distinct aromas and disease resistance.”

Paul Rusnak is Senior Managing Online Editor for Florida Grower, American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower and Greenhouse Grower magazines

Career advice from women in agriculture

Women are an increasingly strong force in the apple industry. Lisa Jenereaux is president of the International Fruit Tree Association, and Kaari Stannard is the chair of the USApple board of directors.

Q: What advice would you have liked to have heard when you were starting out?

Jenereaux: “Trust your instincts.”

Stannard: “Even those who you think have it all worked out—they don’t. Basically, don’t ever be afraid to ask a question. Nine out of 10 times, you will find that most are also seeking the answer and through collaboration, you can work together to find the best answer to any question.”

Q: What do you think the most important skills are for success in this field?

Jenereaux: “Always be a student. You need to be continually learning or you will be left behind.”

Stannard: “[Have] the skill to be able to relate to people and have great working relationships built on integrity and trust; to be able to make solid relationships with your peers, customers, or other leaders; to actively listen, process, often repeat back your understanding and then respond; and to allow for every team member to make their own decisions.”

Q: Supporting women entering agriculture as a career?

Jenereaux: “When you give women the opportunity to have leadership roles in businesses and associations, we are automatically providing the structure to support new women in the industry. Having women in leadership positions is empowering for all women because it shows what can be done and provides examples of how it can be done.”

Stannard: “Agriculture is a wonderful field for women. Our industry associations do a wonderful job for training, educating, and networking for women. Individual companies hiring women should have a clear understanding of each women’s support systems and work openly with them on any constraints to the working day or hours. By creating an open and honest dialogue, companies and the employee can have a win-win.”

Christina Herrick is Senior Editor for American Fruit Grower magazine

Shedding (UV) light on pathogens 

Plant diseases like powdery mildew can leave strawberry growers seeing red. Researchers are trying to shed a light—ultraviolet light—on problematic pathogens and find potential new crop protection solutions.

Natalia Peres, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida, is working with researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Cornell University, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy, and the USDA Grape Genetics Research Unit on novel uses of light to suppress pathogens in several specialty crops.

Thus far, the team has developed a tractor-drawn machine with several UV lamps. According to Peres, a breakthrough in the research recently took place when Norwegian researchers discovered that treatments were more effective when applied at night. She explained that the mildew pathogen evolved to survive natural UV in sunlight. But part of that adaptation to sunlight resulted in the pathogen not being able to defend against natural UV light at night. So, nighttime UV applications bypass the natural defenses of the pathogen.

The new technology has been tested at UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center’sstrawberry fields and at Wish Farms in nearby Duette, Fla. Similar trials are being conducted across North America and Europe by the research collaborators on grapes, hops and cucumbers.

Paul Rusnak is Senior Managing Online Editor for Florida Grower, American Vegetable Grower, American Fruit Grower and Greenhouse Grower magazines

Florida shrimp and beef tacos

Ingredients

Skewer marinade and sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Beef skewers

24 ounces Florida beef (tenderloin, sirloin or your favorite cut of beef) cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large Florida bell peppers (your favorite color), cut into 1-inch squares

2 large onions cut into 1-inch squares

8 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 1 hour) or metal skewers

Cooking oil spray for grilling

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Shrimp skewers

1 pound large Florida shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tail on

2 large Florida bell peppers (your favorite color), cut into 1-inch squares

2 large onions cut into 1-inch squares

8 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 1 hour) or metal skewers

Cooking oil spray for grilling

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Prep

Skewer marinade and sauce

Combine olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, cilantro and lime juice in a blender and puree until smooth. Use half of the marinade on the raw skewers. Taste marinade and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Use the reserved marinade as a sauce.

Beef skewers

Make skewers by alternating the beef, peppers and onions. Lightly season the assembled skewers with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly spray the skewers with the cooking oil spray and place onto the grill, cook to desired temperature. When done, remove from the grill and let rest for five minutes; serve warm.

Shrimp skewers

Make skewers by alternating the shrimp, peppers and onions. Lightly season the assembled skewers with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly spray the skewers with the cooking oil spray and place onto the grill; cook until the shrimp are just done.

Tacos

To serve as tacos remove the meat from the skewers, place into hard shell or soft shell tacos. Serve with fresh salsa, Florida avocado and shredded lettuce.

0
0
0
0
0

Load comments