College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

African scientist working at UGA to improve food safety at home

Posted on
Monday, May 15, 2017

Daniel Mwalwayo has spent most of his professional career working to ensure a safe food supply in his home country of Malawi.

This spring, he’s spending three months focused on that goal while training at the University of Georgia through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. The program, which is administered at UGA by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Global Programs, promotes food security and economic growth by providing training and collaborative research opportunities to researchers and policymakers from developing or middle-income countries.

After nearly a decade working for the national food inspection program in Malawi, Mwalwayo wanted to study how to minimize aflatoxin in processed peanuts, a problem he sees firsthand at home. The Borlaug program matched him with Koushik Adhikari, a UGA food science professor who is an expert in sensory analysis and is working with Mwalwayo on how to survey consumers on peanut consumption and aflatoxin-related issues. Mwalwayo also spent time in the lab of Jia-Sheng Wang, the head of the Environmental Health Science Department at UGA, to learn more about aflatoxin testing techniques.

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences names Moore to lead research programs

Posted on
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) has tapped Allen Moore, currently serving as the department head of the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Department of Genetics, to lead the college's research efforts as the CAES associate dean for research.

CAES Dean Sam Pardue announced the decision this week following a months-long national search.

“Dr. Moore brings a diverse background in genetics, ecology and entomology to our college research program,” Pardue said. “Adding his breadth of experience and perspective to our stellar faculty of researchers will help us continue on our trajectory of strong growth.”

Moore, a UGA Distinguished Research Professor, is an expert in evolutionary biology and behavior genetics; molecular and quantitative genetic studies of complex traits, especially social traits; and the development of behavior. He held various research and administrative positions in the biological sciences at the University of Manchester and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, and in entomology at the University of Kentucky.

High school students complete one-year mentorship program at UGA-Griffin

Posted on
Friday, April 28, 2017

Last summer, seven seniors from Pike County High School (PCHS) in Zebulon, Georgia, with an aptitude for science made a commitment to work alongside University of Georgia Griffin campus scientists three days a week for the entire school year. This month, they will complete their yearlong partnership.

The students, Courtney Bagwell, Dylan Blohm, Abigail Chasteen, Nikki Dodson, Megan Pitts, Taylor Thomas and Talisa Watts, are the first group to take part in the off-campus internship. 

"The beauty and the flexibility of the (Pike County STEM) Academy is that we have a lot of standards, but we can pick and choose the ones that fit with science and math, and then add in the technology and the engineering through agriculture," said Greg Waits, the program's coordinator and the agriculture education teacher at the high school. 

Students are selected for the program based on their test scores in math and science. Then they take advanced classes in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas during their freshman, sophomore and junior years before participating in the off-campus experience at UGA-Griffin. 

Formally, the students earn Advanced Placement science credits for participating. They also gain a wealth of information and personal experience. 

Weeklong tour teaches UGA CAES students about diversity of agriculture

Posted on
Friday, March 10, 2017

Agriculture is Georgia’s top industry, and students from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are learning about the diversity of agriculture during a weeklong tour across the state.

Thirty-three students are spending their spring break immersing themselves in learning more about poultry, Vidalia onions, peanuts, turfgrass and many other commodities that make agriculture an almost $14 billion industry in Georgia.

“This is an amazing tour that allows students to see Georgia agriculture up close and personal. Students learn about the complexity and sophistication of Georgia agriculture,” said Josef Broder, CAES associate dean for academic affairs. “They gain a perspective and appreciation for agriculture that better prepares them for careers in and outside of agriculture.”

The tour began on Monday in north Georgia with stops to learn about apples at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia; wine at Wolf Mountain Vineyards in Dahlonega, Georgia; poultry production at the Georgia Poultry Laboratory in Gainesville, Georgia; and nursery production at James Greenhouses, a family-owned and -operated perennial plug operation in Colbert, Georgia.

New UGA facility in Griffin will help launch new food products

Posted on
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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.