College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

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.

Hur named scholarship recipient

Posted on
Monday, April 5, 2021

Minji Hur has been named the recipient of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES) Student Scholarship. 

“This award recognizes students who distinguish themselves through outstanding academic achievement. We are very pleased that a graduate student from the Griffin campus is the recipient of this year’s scholarship, and that this scholarship will help Ms. Hur achieve her academic goals at the University of Georgia,” said David Buntin, Interim Assistant Provost and Griffin Campus Director. 

Hur is a doctoral student in the Center for Food Safety located at UGA Griffin under its Director, Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez. 

“Minji has recently joined our research group as a Ph.D. student and we are very proud that she has received this award. This honor is a deserving recognition of her academic accomplishments,” said Diez-Gonzalez. 

Hur, who is a native of Seoul, South Korea, completed her bachelor’s degree in food science and biotechnology at Gachon University. 

During her senior year, she obtained an internship at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She said this research experience with Dr. Dumitru Macarisin and Dr. Yi Chen inspired her to continue her education. 

When her internship was complete, she enrolled at UGA where she completed her master’s in food science and technology before subsequently moving into the doctoral program in January of this year. 

CFS Annual Meeting continues for 28th year

Posted on
Monday, April 5, 2021

The University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety (CFS) held its Annual Meeting in early March. This invitation-only event provides CFS members and scientists from other organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FDA, USDA and others to summarize the latest information on food safety research.

 “I am very proud that this is the 28th year in a row that we have been organizing this event as the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia,” CFS Director Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez said in his opening remarks.

Typically held in Atlanta, Georgia, this was the first time in the meeting’s 28 year history that it was held virtually. Though some of the traditional conference format was lost -- such as student poster presentations and networking opportunities -- the overwhelming response from participants was positive and attendance was on track with previous, in-person meetings.

Diez-Gonzalez noted in his introduction that the 2020 Annual Meeting was one of the last times many of the attendees gathered in public. It was held March 3-4 and COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic on March 11.

“Many of you were there and remember the unique mood that transpired because of the imminent pandemic,” he said. “For many of us, it was probably the last time that we sat in a room with over 150 people without wearing a mask.”

Grant boosts development of novel food ingredients from jellyfish

Posted on
Monday, February 15, 2021

The University of Georgia Department of Food Science and Technology’s Kevin Mis Solval and his team of researchers have secured a nearly half-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to aid in creating safe food ingredients from cannonball jellyfish.

Harvested on the southeast coast of the U.S., cannonball jellyfish, commonly called jellyballs, have become a prominent catch for fisheries located within the region, and a way for shrimpers to diversify their catch during the off-season for shrimp. But history has shown that there has never been a domestically sustainable market for jellyfish food products.

“Large amounts of jellyfish are harvested on the coast of Georgia,” said Mis Solval, a food process engineer specializing in developing novel food ingredients in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “But what is harvested is sold almost entirely to Asian markets. A big challenge in creating a more domestic industry will be building the demand by creating a product that people can use in their everyday lives.”

UGA’s wheat breeding program releases three new wheat varieties for 2020

Posted on
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Three new wheat varieties released this year by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ wheat breeding program are the product of more than a dozen years of work by breeders on the UGA Griffin campus.

When it comes to cultivating new varieties of wheat, patience is key, as it takes an average of 10 to 14 years to breed a new variety of the grain that has been around as long as mankind. Researchers put in many years of work to see the fruits of their labor, and this year Mohamed Mergoum, the Georgia Seed Development-UGA Foundation Professor in Wheat Breeding and Genetics at the Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, and his research team are seeing the results of work begun in 2005 by wheat breeder and Professor Emeritus Jerry Johnson.

The three varieties being released this year — known as '17E8', '17E11' and '17LE16' — are all soft, red winter wheat and will be used to make flour for crackers and cookies. To determine what each wheat variety is best used for, researchers test the flour by making baked goods such as cookies or bread during the breeding process. This also allows for the product to be better marketed to both the farmers who grow the wheat and the milling and baking companies that purchase it.