College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

UGA-Griffin student scores job testing turf at PGA Tour Championship

Posted on
Friday, October 8, 2021

When professional golfer Patrick Cantlay sank the birdie that won him the 2021 PGA TOUR Championship, he did it on turf that had been tested that morning by a student from the University of Georgia’s Griffin campus.

Ethan Barr, a junior and environmental resource science major at UGA-Griffin, scored a job assisting the PGA Tour with its culminating event of the season during the first weekend in September at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Barr's task was simple, but it had a significant impact on the tournament's outcome and reinforced his chosen field of study.

“We would go up early in the mornings to test how firm the greens are with a tool called TruFirm. It has a sensor on the end that you drop on the green and it tests how firm the greens are. You give those results to the person in charge of the golf course, and they make changes in the afternoon to make it firmer or less firm,” Barr said. “The head guy at the golf course said they want to make the greens challenging, but fair and consistent with regard to speed and firmness. We helped with that.”

All the buzz on the third annual Great Georgia Pollinator Census

Posted on
Monday, August 30, 2021

Thousands of Georgians came together on August 20 and 21 to count pollinator insects in their local gardens for the third annual Great Georgia Pollinator Census

Coordinated by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, the Great Georgia Pollinator Census (GGPC) is designed to track the overall health of Georgia’s pollinators. Georgia citizens of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to participate in the count each year, and the census has attracted participation from businesses, school groups and garden groups, as well as families and individuals around the state.  

UGA food scientists get creative with Georgia commodities

Posted on
Friday, August 20, 2021

As farmers across the state swelter in the summer heat tending crops and livestock, food scientists inside a state-of-the-art 14,500-square-foot facility on the University of Georgia campus in Griffin are laboring over a different side of the agricultural equation: How can we get the biggest bang for the buck from Georgia’s food commodities?

UGA’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center is a one-stop shop for food businesses looking to launch a product. FoodPIC, as it’s known, provides support for product feasibility, development, packaging, food safety, consumer acceptance (for example, crickets, even in powdered form, are a tricky food sell) and marketing. The center, part of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, primarily works with Georgia companies and commodities, although it also conducts research and development for entities in other states as well as overseas.

A glance inside a display case near the entrance bears evidence of FoodPIC’s involvement in bringing locally made products to the marketplace: a tub of Proper Pepper pimento cheese, a jar of Classic City Bee Company smoked honey, a bottle of Pecan Ridge Plantation pecan truffle oil, a package of Charleston & Church cheddar rounds.

From food desert to community oasis

Posted on
Thursday, August 12, 2021

Labeled a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Fairmont community in Griffin, Georgia, has historically had slim options for sourcing fresh, nutritious food nearby. But this desert is becoming an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to a group of dedicated agencies and volunteers who have worked hard for nearly 10 years to create a thriving community garden.

The Healthy Life Community Garden — which was established in 2012 — began as a partnership between the city of Griffin, the Fairmont Community, Griffin Housing Authority, the local chapter of the NAACP, Spalding County, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office in Spalding County, and UGA’s Center for Urban Agriculture (CUA). Funding for the project comes from a yearly grant from the Griffin Housing Authority and covers the cost of supplies for operating the garden and a garden manager.

UGA professor earns award from American Phytopathological Society

Posted on
Tuesday, July 27, 2021

It is said that if you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life. For Alfredo Martinez-Espinoza, this has come true through his work as a plant pathologist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. His passion and hard work have been recognized with the American Phytopathological Society’s (APS) 2021 Excellence in Extension award.

The award recognizes an APS member who has made outstanding contributions by creating, developing or implementing extension-related programs or materials or has provided significant leadership in an area of extension of plant pathology.

“I was ecstatic when I got the call from the APS President,” said Martinez-Espinoza. “I couldn’t believe it. There are so many deserving people who put their soul into their work; I am honored and humbled to be selected.”

David Buntin, interim assistant provost and campus director for the UGA Griffin campus, was delighted to learn of the award presented to Martinez-Espinoza.

“We are extremely proud of Dr. Alfredo Martinez-Espinoza and his work,” said Buntin. “His hard work and dedication to plant pathology extension is well known on the UGA Griffin campus and we are thrilled he is now being recognized by the APS. We congratulate Dr. Martinez-Espinoza and are glad to have someone of his caliber at UGA-Griffin.”

UGA Weather Network celebrates 30 years of service to agriculture in Georgia

Posted on
Thursday, June 3, 2021

On June 1, 1991, the first agricultural weather station operated by the University of Georgia began transmitting data from Griffin, Georgia. Since then, the UGA Weather Network has grown to include 87 stations scattered across the state, providing weather data to a variety of users. On June 1 this year, this 30-year record of continuous weather data makes the UGA Weather Network one of the oldest state weather networks in the country.

The network, originally known as the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network, was the brainchild of Gerrit Hoogenboom, an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the UGA College of Engineering. He placed the first four stations at UGA facilities around the state  — in Griffin, Tifton, Midville and Watkinsville — and directed the network until 2010. He was followed by Ian Flitcroft, who retired in 2018. Hoogenboom, now a professor and preeminent scholar at the University of Florida, still uses the UGA weather data as inputs in his ongoing Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) training classes that are offered each summer on the Griffin campus.

Giant invasive bees could threaten native pollinators

Posted on
Friday, May 28, 2021

University of Georgia entomologists are seeking citizen help to document the presence of the sculptured resin bee — also known as the giant resin bee — an invasive bee that could threaten the native carpenter bee population.

The sculptured resin bee is native to Japan and China and was first found in the U.S. in North Carolina in 1994. While they are not aggressive to people, these bees have the potential to create problems for native carpenter bees by taking over their nests, where they then lay their own eggs. Sculptured resin bees take advantage of the cavities created in wood by carpenter bees because they do not have the mandible strength to bore into the wood on their own.

Dan Suiter, a professor in the Department of Entomology on the UGA Griffin campus, added that although he doesn't see resin bees frequently, they are known to be a good pollinator of some plant species.

“We don’t see this bee very often,” said Suiter, noting that he is occasionally sent a sample of a resin bee to identify. “But we know that it’s invasive and uses kudzu as a food source.”

Irrigation benefits both newly planted and established peach trees in UGA study

Posted on
Tuesday, April 27, 2021

While peach orchards are a common sight throughout middle and south Georgia — helping the Peach State live up to its name — peach producers need more than just the title to ensure that both long-established groves and newly planted fields are successful.

Dario Chavez and his research team in the Department of Horticulture on the University of Georgia Griffin campus are working to answer that question. Beginning in 2014, Chavez, along with then-graduate student Bruno Casamali, began working on improving Irrigation and fertilization management practices for young peach trees in the Southeastern U.S. after finding there was no up-to-date information available. Traditionally, irrigation management relied solely on rainfall, which is not always predictable.

“People always think the Southeast gets a lot of rain, but the rain we do get is very variable,” said Chavez. “Sometimes you have a lot of rain and other times you go for long periods without it.”

Insecticide residue in the soil harms wild bees

Posted on
Monday, April 12, 2021

New research funded by the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and conducted at the University of Georgia shows that imidacloprid residue harms wild bees.

In a first-of-its-kind study, Christine Fortuin, now a postdoctorate researcher at UGA, developed a more accurate understanding of the lethal and sublethal effects of neonicotinoid exposure on blue orchard mason bees by studying multiple pathways of imidacloprid exposure.

“Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid, which is a group of pesticides that are highly toxic to bees. It has several common uses but my research was focused on the soil-drench application method. This is when it is applied directly to the soil and soaked up through the roots of the tree to prevent beetles and other pests,” explained Fortuin.

She worked with Kamal Gandhi, a UGA professor of forest entomology, to conduct the research through Southern SARE’s Graduate Student Grant program.

Blue orchard mason bees are one of the few bees native to North America that can be a managed pollinator for orchard crops like apples, cherries and blueberries. Mason bees are members of the Osmia bee family and are considered a wild and solitary species. They have no queens or worker bees and while this dark, metallic blue pollinator may be similar in size to a honey bee, both its lifecycle and interactions with the environment are very different.

Your lawn could help save the bees

Posted on
Monday, April 12, 2021

Over the past few decades, pollinators have been in decline worldwide, which is concerning because 70% of crops used for human food depend on pollinators. Turfgrasses – used for most residential lawns – often take some of the blame for pollinator decline as they are known to be wind-pollinated and were thought not to serve as a pollinator food source, until now.

University of Georgia and U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers identified bees that were collecting pollen from the flowers of a turfgrass called centipedegrass. The researchers have been looking for ways to reverse the decline of pollinator populations by examining centipedegrass as a food source for pollinators, with hopes of normalizing low-maintenance, bee-friendly lawns. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Entomological Science and Insects.

The study was led by College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty Shimat Joseph and David Jespersen on the UGA Griffin campus alongside USDA researcher Karen Harris-Shultz in Tifton.