College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

New UGA facility in Griffin will help launch new food products

Posted on
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
University leadership, state and local officials prepare to cut ribbon in front of FoodPIC building

University of Georgia scientists are now better equipped to help businesses launch new food products with the opening of the Food Technology Center, locally known as the FoodPIC building, on the UGA Griffin campus. The facility houses the university’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization, or FoodPIC, Center.

The $7.4 million project was funded through $3.5 million from the state of Georgia and additional funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Griffin-Spalding Development Authority and the University of Georgia.

The state-of-the-art 14,500-square-foot facility was dedicated on Jan. 30 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Speakers at the ceremony included Board of Regents Chairman Dr. C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., state Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), Chairman of the Griffin-Spalding Development Authority Board Charles Copeland, Dean and Director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Sam Pardue, and Pike County STEM Academy student Nikki Dodson, along with UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

“The Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center is an outstanding example of the University of Georgia using its resources to help strengthen our state’s economy,” Morehead said. “We are grateful for the support we have received for the new Food Technology Center, and we are excited to expand the reach of FoodPIC within the global food industry.”

Native prairie grasses bred as colorful landscape plants, wildlife habitats

Posted on
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Carol Robacker and Melanie Harrison with bluestem grasses

Landscapers can soon add a bit of Georgia’s historical Piedmont and native prairies to their designs thanks to the creation of three new little bluestem perennial grasses, released through a University of Georgia and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) partnership.

Little bluestem grasses are native to North America and are a major component of the tallgrass prairie. They typically produce green to blue-green foliage. With names that conjure up thoughts of the ‘70s, the new little bluestem varieties are much more colorful than their traditional parents. ‘Cinnamon Girl’ has a red-burgundy glow, ‘Seasons in the Sun’ has a lavender glow and ‘Good Vibrations’ is a mix of colors: red-purple with green-yellow foliage.

The idea to breed the colorful grasses came from USDA scientist Melanie Harrison. Harrison curates more than 500 different species of grasses and safely cold stores them in the USDA Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit facility on the UGA campus in Griffin, Georgia. Most of these grasses will never be grown in home landscapes, but their genes may be used to breed specific characteristics into new grass varieties.

Looking at little bluestems day after day, Harrison began to notice ornamental characteristics.

“My job is to conserve close to 500 different species of grasses, so there’s a lot of variety,” she said. “I thought they were pretty, but I’m not a plant breeder, so I asked Carol (Robacker) what she thought.”

It’s not too late to plant homegrown tomatoes

Posted on
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Tomato plant with tomatoes in various stages of ripeness.

Bob Westerfield spends his days growing vegetables and watching for problems. As University of Georgia Extension’s consumer vegetable horticulturist, he answers questions from backyard gardeners and Extension agents across the state. In the summer months, most of the questions are about tomatoes.

“I’d say 90 out of 100 vegetable calls I get in the summer are about tomatoes,” said Westerfield. “I’m not a huge fan of eating fresh tomatoes, but those who do say the fresh-grown taste is incredible. I want to love to eat them, but I just don’t like them. But I will eat them cooked, and I love ketchup.”

Plant second crop, or first, now

With Georgia’s long summer growing season, Westerfield says it’s not too late to “grab some transplants and put them in the ground” and enjoy your own homegrown tomato harvest.

“Some folks planted tomatoes early and are pulling tomatoes now. On my farm, we stagger our plantings, so that we have some tomatoes that are almost red and some just in the blooming stage,” he said.

When planting tomatoes, Westerfield says you have to keep your personal preference in mind when selecting a variety. What do you plan to do with the tomatoes? Do you want something easy tomatoes to eat fresh or ones to use for canning?

Young Scholars Program celebrates 25 years, opens applications for summer 2015

Posted on
Thursday, October 30, 2014

For the past 25 summers, high school students from across Georgia have worked side by side with scientists at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences through the Young Scholars Program.

Many of these students credit this first taste of life in a laboratory and on a university campus with launching their careers in science. Currently, 12 former Young Scholars are pursuing undergraduate degrees at CAES and more are pursuing other fields of study at UGA or working toward graduate degrees at other universities.

“For six weeks I was given the opportunity to work with actual professors, who are elites in their fields of study. I presented all the research that I did with my professor and competed to win first place at the competition. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this amazing program?” Ayodele Dare, a current UGA biological science major, said.

The Young Scholars Program is one of the most successful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) mentoring programs in the nation, said Scott Angle, dean and director of CAES.

Squash vine borers on gardeners’ hit list

Posted on
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Squash vine borer larvae inside a plant stem.

Backyard squash growers may not agree on which variety is best, but they do agree on one thing – squash vine borers are the enemy.

The small larvae burrow through squash plant stems, wilting and eventually killing what appear to be lush, healthy plants. Since they are hidden inside the plant, most home gardeners have no idea the pests are there until the plants wither and die.

 

Squash vine borers overwinter in the soil, usually where squash or zucchini plants were planted the previous season. When the adults emerge from the soil, they lay eggs on the base of the stems of susceptible plants.

They love squash, too

The tiny destructive pests love to lay their eggs on summer squash, zucchini, winter squash and pumpkin plants but seldom attack cucumber and melons. After about a week, a pale larvae hatches and eats its way into the plant stems near soil-level. As water flow is cut off, the plant wilts and literally collapses.

There is no tried and true successful method to control the pest, but University of Georgia experts do offer tips for gardeners who choose to put up a fight.

To stay ahead of the pests, plant squash as early as possible so the plants are producing before the 6 to 8 summer weeks vine borers are active.

Planting fall vegetables in lawns opens door to homegrown food in the city

Posted on
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Ellen Bauske with her test plot

A team of University of Georgia researchers is studying the use of home lawns as garden plots. If successful, suburbanites with warm-season lawns could plant fall vegetables on top of their turfgrass lawns.

“Enthusiasm for local food production and self-sufficiency has generated an increased interest in home vegetable gardens. But, many urban dwellers have small outdoor spaces and often lawns occupy the only full sun areas in the landscape,” said Ellen Bauske, a program coordinator at the Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and leader of the project.

A happy medium

Many would-be urban gardeners love their lawns too much to replace them with a vegetable garden, according to Bauske.

“They enjoy spending their summers on the lawn, watching the kids play while admiring their well-manicured lawn,” she said. “Tearing up the lawn and putting in a traditional garden may not be the best option. Gardens are a lot more work to maintain than lawns and have an unconventional look. Your neighbors may not be pleased to see a working garden in your front lawn.”

At UGA, Bauske’s goal is to find a happy medium—a way to successfully grow vegetables without destroying turfgrass. She, along with horticulturist Sheri Dorn and turfgrass specialist Clint Waltz, all with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, are recording the effects of planting fall vegetable crops into warm-season hybrid bermudagrass.

University of Georgia mobile app helps DOT control roadside weeds

Posted on
Monday, May 18, 2015
Screenshot of Patrick McCullough's Georgia Roadside Management app

In addition to building and maintaining roads, the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) mows grass and kills weeds that obstruct drivers’ views. A University of Georgia scientist has created an app to help DOT agronomists kill weeds quicker, using less chemicals.

Patrick McCullough, a weed scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, decided to create the Georgia Roadside Management app after Georgia DOT officials approached him for help.

“The biggest problem they have is fighting invasive weed species, like broomsedge, vaseygrass and Johnsongrass. They are major species, and they are spreading, increasing maintenance costs and, more importantly, reducing safety for motorists,” said McCullough, a UGA researcher based on the campus in Griffin, Georgia.

Ray Dorsey, Georgia DOT agronomist manager, says tall weeds, like Johnsongrass, and invasive weeds, like kudzu, create “sight and distance problems,” especially at driveways and intersections.

“When we do road building, the contractors are required to replace the grass. Our permanent grasses of choice are bahiagrass and bermudagrass because they can help choke out weeds,” he said.

Unmanned drone cameras help UGA scientists document research results

Posted on
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Clay Bennett “pilots” an aerial drone over turfgrass research plots

Georgia House Resolution 744 created a committee to study the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in the state. Created as a result of public concern, the committee will look at the uses of these remote-controlled, airplane-like devices, equipped with cameras and used by law enforcement agencies and other government authorities, to determine whether they invade privacy.

University of Georgia scientist Clint Waltz in Griffin, Georgia, has been using an aerial drone to reduce the amount of time he and his technician spend documenting data in fields. They also use the drone to gather supplemental data through bird’s-eye-view photographs of research plots.

Waltz is uncovering how his research benefits from the use of his drone, or what looks like a miniature helicopter with a camera mounted underneath it.

“Photo documentation is essential to our research, and the drone can take aerial photos of the effects of different fertilizer and pesticide treatments on various grasses,” said Waltz, UGA Extension’s turfgrass specialist. “It can go up 50 or 60 feet and take a photo, which helps us measure treatment effects.”

The drone Waltz uses on the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences campus in Griffin is lightweight, weighing under 5 pounds.

UGA apps bring expert lawn-care advice to mobile devices

Posted on
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Screenshot of Patrick McCullough's Turfgrass Management app

Summertime is synonymous with cooking outdoors, taking a dip in the pool and cranking up the lawn mower to begin the arduous task of caring for your home lawn. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has made the task a little easier through a few mobile apps for Georgia homeowners and green industry professionals alike.

“More and more people rely heavily on their smartphones and mobile devices, so experts in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences created mobile apps based on agricultural topics,” said Patrick McCullough, a UGA Extension weed scientist and developer of several turfgrass-related mobile apps.

McCullough developed a series of turf management apps that include photos of turfgrass varieties, pests, weeds and diseases. There are three versions: Turfgrass Management – Lite; Turfgrass Management – Subscription; and Turfgrass Management Lite (Spanish). The lite and Spanish versions are free. The subscription version costs $19.99 per year and includes the lite version, plus information on pest control applications and a pesticide database.

For the more serious home gardener, the Turfgrass Management Calculator app covers all types of applications, pesticide rates, fertilizer requirements, topdressing sand requirements, and calibration of sprayers and spreaders. It also converts units from standard to metric, includes more than 16,000 pre-programmed calculations and costs just $5.99.

Visiting scientist conducts research on peanut pathogen at UGA Griffin

Posted on
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Maxwell Lamptey with his experiment on solar drying peanuts

Maxwell Lamptey is visiting America, specifically Griffin, Georgia, in the hopes of learning new methods to fight aflatoxin — a carcinogen produced by soil fungus that can grow on peanuts — in his home country of Ghana. Lamptey is participating in a short-term training program, from March to September, supported by the Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab (PMIL), housed at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

A senior technical officer studying legumes at the Crops Research Institute, Lamptey has been working on the university’s campus in Griffin, Georgia, alongside food scientist and PMIL collaborator Jinru Chen.

Research is nothing new to Lamptey, but his work normally focuses on ways to increase yields.

“In Ghana, I am involved in conducting a lot of trials, evaluations and cross hybridizations of all kinds of legumes, but mainly cowpeas and groundnuts (peanuts),” he said.

On the UGA Griffin Campus, he is studying the use of solar drying to control aflatoxin contamination in peanuts. He is comparing solar drying to normal drying.

Normal drying involves exposing the peanuts directly to sunlight on the ground or on concrete. Solar drying does not expose the peanuts directly to sunlight or rain. Instead, a dryer captures the heat from the sun and an enclosed structure around the nuts conducts the heat, Lamptey said.