DPI Diary

August 28, 2015

Sometimes we think of DPI Diary as a tasty fruit salad of information that’s just too juicy to pass up. (And sometimes we pass along recipes for actual salad.)

Think before you bring ag products into Florida

Specific rules and regulations apply to importing agricultural products into Florida. Commercial shippers and travelers have to follow them, so we posted a summary of the state and federal rules here. Travelers can get help from www.dontpackapest.com

Who will be Florida’s next Great Student Chef?

Cookoff_banner1_bannerTheFlorida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has kicked off its popular “Student Chef Cook-Off.” Students in 4th through 12th grade can submit snack recipes featuring Florida-grown products for a chance to compete in the regional and state cook-off. The deadline to enter is Sunday, Sept. 13. For more rules and to submit an entry, visit FreshFromFlorida.com/Cookoff.

Mall signs remind shoppers to watch for GALS

This month we have had signs posted at the #Dadeland Mall reminding back-to-school shoppers to watch for & report giant African land snails. For four years our teams have been on a continuous seek and-destroy mission against the invasive pests. Look for Them! Report Them!  Call our Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.


Master Gardeners serve their communities

Master Gardener Cindy Paulhus of Seffner was recognized in the Tampa Tribune this week for her work at Seeds of Faith Community Garden at Bay Life Church in Brandon. Garden organizers offer garden plots for rent to the general public for $35 a year, during the growing season.

A teachable moment

We linked to a blog post pointing out that this would be a good week for parents to explain to kids how farms play a key role in producing most of those back-to-school clothes and supplies, a landscape architect very correctly tweeted: “Let’s not forget the lesson about farm plants that need pollinators that need wildflowers as much as Sunshine n rain.” Point well taken.

ButterflyLadyIn another post we noted the important role native bees, butterflies, moths and other insects and animals play in pollination. We pointed to Native Buzz, a University of Florida citizen science project aimed at learning more about nesting preferences, diversity and distribution of native bees and wasps. Some kind folks are providing homes for such creatures. Fascinating.

Erika approaches; Florida is in the cone of uncertainty

Craig Fugate, head of FEMA and former head of Florida’s emergency preparedness programs, tweeted “It’s Hurricane Season, #Erika may head your way Florida, Got A Plan? This link will take you to a useful set of templates to guide you through the process: http://flgetaplan.com 

Here is a helpful link to the National Hurricane Center.

We also passed along a poster from UF IFAS Solultions that links to tips for disaster prep and planning.

Is agriculture really important?

You bet! Witness this factoid posted by Agribusiness at FAMU: “Agriculture is an essential sector of the U.S. economy. It is the nation’s largest employer, generating more than 23 million jobs, with 17 percent of the civilian workforce involved in some facet of American agriculture.”

Throwback Thursday

This week we harkened back to the days — not so long ago — when Lake County led the state in citrus production. The Citrus Tower at Clermont, one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions, is still in place. Its namesake crop is not. The tower opened in 1956. You can still ascend to the top, but the view no longer includes citrus trees spreading to the horizon.


Dr. Temple Grandin to speak at UF

Our colleagues at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine reminded us that on Sept. 24, renowned farm animal behaviorist and autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will be speaking at 7 p.m. at  the UF Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on “Helping Different Kinds of Minds Be Successful.” Free and open to the public.


The search for Florida’s next great student chef has begun with the start of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Student Chef Cook-Off.”

Division of Plant Industry

Students in 4th through 12th grade can submit snack recipes featuring Florida-grown products for a chance to compete in the regional and state cook-off. The deadline to enter is Sunday, Sept. 13. For more rules and to submit an entry, visit FreshFromFlorida.com/Cookoff.

Entry requirements include:

  • Must be a Florida student in 4th through 12th grade.
  • Must create an original snack recipe and submit with a photo.
  • The recipe must contain one fresh fruit or fresh vegetable grown in Florida.
  • The recipe must have clear directions, provide four snack-size servings and be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
  • Recipe must promote good nutrition and healthy eating habits.

Students in six regions will submit recipes that will first be judged on nutrition, presentation/appeal and originality. The grade categories are 4th through 5th grade, 6th through 8th grade, and 9th through 12th grade. Three qualifying round winners from each grade category will be invited to cook their recipes for a panel of judges at Publix Aprons Cooking Schools in their region.

Finalist rounds will be held:

  • Oct. 3: Tampa — Central/West
  • Oct. 10: Orlando — Central
  • Oct. 17: Sarasota — West
  • Oct. 24: Boca Raton — South
  • Nov. 7: Tallahassee — Northwest
  • Nov. 14: Jacksonville — Northeast

Each regional cook-off recipe will be judged in person on taste, originality, presentation/appeal and technique. Third-place winners will receive a $50 gift card, second-place winners will receive a $75 gift card, and first-place winners will receive a $100 gift card. All winners will also receive a certificate to attend a free Publix Aprons Cooking School class.

First place winners in the 9th through 12th grade will continue to the state finale cook-off at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on Feb. 6, 2016. The winner will receive a $500 gift card and title of the “Fresh for Florida Kids Student Chef” for 2015-16.


DPI Diary

August 21, 2015

Keeping abreast of social media at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry

Keeping it simple

Lest we forget: It’s good to stress basics. We drew “likes” when we posted a link to the DPI section of the FreshFromFlorida website this week, inviting folks to learn about our mission and the invasive pests that threaten Florida agriculture.

savetheguaciconcopySave the Guac: It’s a worthy cause

Our friends at the Florida Farm Bureau Federation posted a promotional poster touting Florida avocados, so naturally we shared it and reminded folks of our “Save the Guac” campaign. The public can help save the guac by not moving firewood when traveling or camping. Invasive pests move with firewood. We are smack in the middle of Florida avocado season and highly recommend the fruits, which are greener, larger — and, we think, tastier — than those produced elsewhere. The FDACS website has an abundance of recipes using Florida avocados.

Slate gave a shoutout to “Don’t Pack a Pest”

DPAP postcardThe online publication Slate published a nice piece this week answering the question, “On the U.S. Customs Form, Most People Check ‘No.’ What Happens if you check ‘Yes’?” The answer is usually that Customs and Border Protection agents will ask you some questions, perhaps inspect your luggage and seize materials that cannot be brought into the U.S. We reminded our followers that travelers can discover what is and is not allowed in baggage entering the US at www.DontPackaPest.com and BTW, This video explains what ‪#‎DontPackaPest is about: Protecting agriculture from pests.

GALS go to Dadeland Mall

Miami area residents shopping for back-to-school items at the Dadeland Mall were greeted with signs reminding them that we’re still working to eradicate the giant African land snails from South Florida. We’re encouraging mall-goers to scan the QR codes on the signs to learn about these dangerous invasive pests that threaten crops, landscapes, human and animal health and even buildings. The GALS program is moving into its fifth year, having begun when the snails were discovered in Miami-Dade in August 2011.


Scientists make progress on greening

A grapefruit displays symptoms of citrus greening

A grapefruit displays symptoms of citrus greening

A front-page article in the Thursday edition of the Gainesville Sun discusses some of the research aimed at finding new citrus rootstocks that at least show tolerance for, if not immunity to, citrus greening.  The Florida Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide is now online in a format that lets visitors interact with the guide.


Greening major issue for discussion at Citrus Expo

Citrus Greening and new rootstocks were hot topics this week at Citrus Expo at the Lee Civic Center in North Fort Myers. Josh Magill filled us in with a report from Southeast AgNet. Since it first appeared in Homestead and Florida City crops a decade ago, citrus greening has cost growers in the juice business $7.8 billion since 2006, according to a 2015 report by UF economist Alan Hodges.


TBT: Name the modern tourist mecca that does not appear on this vintage post card.


DPI Diary

August 7, 2015

A quick summary of the week’s social media activities by the FDACS Division of Plant Industry

Get the bad stuff out of your shed

Leaking_Drum_of_2,4,5-T_HerbicideThis week, we remind agricultural producers and others that Florida has an on-going program to help commercial operations safely dispose of cancelled, suspended and unusable pesticides. Operation Cleansweep provides a mobile pesticide collection program that picks up and disposes of such chemicals from farms, groves, greenhouses and nurseries, golf courses and pest control services. For more information, contact Shannon Turner, FDACS, 1-877-851-5285, email: Cleansweep@FreshFromFlorida.com

Get acquainted with our corps of canine inspectors

Kojak-01The department is brightening the dog days of summer by spotlighting our five DPI detector dogs. All of them are rescues, and their mission is to protect Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry. Learn how these dogs’ keen noses, special training and dedication to detecting pests keep invasives from endangering our crops and landscapes. There’s an excellent video included. http://bit.ly/1EdnSlE

USDA: Rural land value is up in Florida

Value of cropland in Florida increased 0.9 percent ($60/acre) in 2015 over 2014, according to a USDA survey in a report that pegs the average value of cropland per acre at $6,560. The United States farm real estate value, a measurement of the value of all land and buildings on farms, averaged $3,020 per acre for 2015, up 2.4 percent from 2014 values. The 2015 summary of land values contains a series of tables summarizing the date by region and state.

Commissioner Adam Punam’s Consumer Tip for August: Protect your children from identity theft

By the end of August most chidlren will be back in school. Commissioner Putnam reminds everyone that each year more than 50,000 children in Florida become victims of identity theft. Thieves target kids because they usually have clean credit histories and years will pass before the thefts are detected.

Ag research is a great investment

What is the value of publicly funded agricultural research? We re-tweeted a link to a guest commentary by UF-IFAS Vice President Jack Payne that cites a 20-to-1 return on investment from such research.

“Respected academics estimate a 20-to-1 return on investment in publicly funded agricultural research,” Payne observes in a Naples Daily News op ed hailing expansion of a lab at the UF-IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. That is part, he said, of a statewide strengthening of IFAS. #AgResearch!

(Incidentially, we recently began following Dr. Payne on Twitter, drawing this shout-out from him to our director, Dr. Trevor Smith: “Thanks for the follow, neighbor. Glad to see a Gator appointed head of the division in May.”)

Keep in mind our initiatives to protect Florida agriculture:

  • DPAP postcardBack-to-school shopping may mean Miami residents will visit the Dadeland Mall, and when they do they will come face-to-face with the giant African land snail on six-foot-tall display signs. It’s part of our continuing efforts to focus attention on the invasive snail, which our dedicated teams have been working to eradicate for the past four years. Watch for it! Report it! If you see a suspect, call the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.
  • Planning to travel internationally? Check www.DontPackaPest.com to make sure you are not packing illegal materials in your luggage.
  • savetheguaciconcopyEnjoy Florida avocados, but if you camp, don’t move firewood. Moving firewood can also transport invasive pests that threaten agriculture, including Florida avocados, as well as the environment and public health. Learn more at www.savetheguac.com


DPI Diary

July 24, 2015

Twiggy gets a new skin

Twiggy4Spiders make some folks want to jump out of their skins. Today, our office tarantula crawled out of hers. Maybe we were prescient when, Monday, we linked to a time-lapse video potsed by Purdue University that showed one of their tarantulas molting. In case you missed it, read our blog entry here.

Time to update your wildfire action plan

With more than 30 active wildfires burning in Florida, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is encouraging all Floridians to adopt a year-round wildfire action plan. This has been a dry year in much of the state and the drought in Southeast Florida seems to be worsening.

Tour by Alachua County Extension and IFAS teaches residents about water resources

Kudos to Alachua County Extension office and UF-IFAS. They invited interested residents to participate in a three-day tour focusing on water resources this week. Thursday focused on agriculture and efforts to control runoff and the tour visited a commercial Nursery and an adjoining UF-IFAS cattle facility, both of which lie along a tributary to the Santa Fe River.

Giant African land snails invade Keys in new novel

GALS Billboard2Last weekend a member of our social media team picked up author Tom Dorsey’s newest book, Shark Skin Suite, and on the first page of the first chapter encountered the giant African land snail. Read the blog that resulted, here. wp.me/pVBiK-1m6 Watch for the giant snails and if you see a suspect, detain it without touching it, and call the Helpline, 1-888-397-1517 to get action from our GALS response teams.



Twiggy Molts

July 24, 2015

Twiggy molted today.

The tarantula that graces the FDACS-DPI Technical Assistance office has been off her feed for a few days and this morning we found her flat on her back on the webbing bed she had created before the big event. After completing the shedding, which took a little over an hour, she lay for a while on her back  Now, she has flipped from the supine position. She is tired.


Twiggy, after molting. Her skin will be tender until it hardens up. That may take three days.

Spiders’ molting is a natural process of renewal. They are much like snakes in that way. Right now, her skin is soft and will be susceptible to injury for a few days until it has hardened. By Monday, she should be as good as new. In fact, a good part of her will be brand new! We’ll collect her old skin as a conversation piece.

We’ve seen this happen before, but it always spurs interest around the office. Arachnophobia does not run rife in a workplace that is  heavily populated with entomologists. And with internationally known spider expert Dr. G.B. Edwards working just down the hall, Twiggy is assured the best of care.


Too many legs! Twiggy, crawling out of her old skin on the bed she made of webbing.

By the way, Dr. Edwards is the author of one of the most-visited Pest Alerts on the FDACS web site, “Venomous Spiders of Florida.” We find it reassuring that only two types of venomous spiders occur in Florida.

Editor’s Note: Twiggy is one of several tarantulas keeping employees at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry company during work hours. Tarantulas are not native to Florida. Anyone planning to import spiders should be aware that importing or moving exotic organisms including spiders, insects or scorpions from any other state or country requires a permit. Learn more here.





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