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No Seeds Please.

first_imgThere’s nothing like a cold slice of watermelon on a hot summerday — if it weren’t for all those seeds.Watermelon lovers must agree. Consumer reports have shown thatshoppers are willing to pay more to get their melonsseedless. And farmers are hearing them loud and clear.More and more growers are adding acres of seedless watermelonsto their crops each year. In fact, of the 35,000 acres of watermelongrown in Georgia this season, 25 percent were seedless melons.Introduced in the 50’sAn estimated 20 percent of the watermelons grown in the UnitedStates are seedless. But seedless melons aren’t new. The firstwere bred in 1951 by Dr. H. Kihara of Kyoto University in Japan.”Seedless watermelons are actually called triploid watermelonsby seed companies and growers,” said John Duval, a horticulture graduate student with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”The name was developed,” he said, “after consumerscomplained because every now and then, a seedless watermelon willhave a seed inside.”A Little Smaller Than Traditional MelonsSeedless watermelons are normally red-fleshed and smaller thantraditional melons. “One of the most popular varieties grownin Georgia is Genesis,” Duval said. “You can tell ifa melon is seedless by looking down it from the stem end. It willhave a slightly triangular shape.”With the popularity of seedless melons on the rise, the acreageof Georgia-grown seedless watermelons is expected to rise to 50percent over the next 20 years.”Most of the seedless watermelons in the United Statesare grown in Georgia, Florida, Texas and California,” Duvalsaid.Duval has spent the past three years researching seedless watermelons.Working at the UGA Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin, Ga.,he developed techniques that could encourage more farmers to growseedless melons.Pricey Seeds, Stubborn SeedsOne reason they shy away from growing them now is the costof seed. The other reason is that the seeds often don’t grow well.”Seeds for seedless melons cost from 15 cents to 25 centseach,” Duval said. “And then, there’s only a 60 percentto 80 percent chance the seeds will produce.”Duval says the high seed price is a direct result of the difficultybreeders have in producing the seeds.”It’s like crossing a horse and a donkey,” said Duval.”You get a mule, but it can’t reproduce. Producing seedlesswatermelon seed is a long, tedious process. One successful crossproduces just a few seeds.”Working on his research thesis, Duval found two methods thatmay help farmers’ success rates with seedless melons.”Seedless watermelon seeds don’t germinate well. But I’vehad success by clipping the seeds before planting,” he said.”You just clip a hole in the round end of the seed. ManyAsian seed companies actually recommend doing this.”The other method Duval has found effective involves presoakingthe seeds in a 1-percent hydrogen peroxide solution. “Thishelps pregerminate the seeds,” he said.Try Growing Your OwnDuval said backyard gardeners can try these techniques at homenext season. “You can grow seedless watermelons at home,”said Duval. “Just remember you need to start them as transplantsbefore you put them in your garden spot.”He also warns backyard gardeners not to over water their seedlessmelon transplants. “They should be lightly watered to improvethe air movement around the seeds until they emerge,” hesaid. “If you water them too much, the seeds can’t breathe.”Duval said seedless watermelon seeds should be available insmall packets at lawn and garden centers. “If you can’t findthem there, you’ll find lots of choices in seed catalogs,”he said.last_img read more

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Sunburned Plants.

first_img Sunburned peppers like these can best be prevented by growing a healthy plant with lots of foliage to start with. Those first hot days in the summer outdoors — ah, remember the sunburn? Your garden plants may know the feeling.”Long, sunny days and hot temperatures can lead to sunburn on some vegetable plants,” says Wayne McLaurin, an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.One symptom of sunburn on fruit, he said, is large, white spots, particularly on the southern side of the plant. Most of the Solanaceae family — tomatoes, peppers and eggplants — are especially susceptible.Prevention is the KeyWhen plants are sunburned, you can’t rub a lotion on them and make them all better. The only way to help is to prevent it long before it could happen. And the only sure way to prevent sunburn on plants, McLaurin said, is to grow a strong plant with good leaf coverage.This means growing or getting a good transplant, then planting it right, giving it the proper nutrition to help make sure the foliage provides ample cover for the fruits.Leaves Vital for GrowthLeaves have an even more important function, he said. The plant’s food for growth is manufactured in the leaf area.There’s a critical point, McLaurin said, at which the plant goes into a reproductive mode instead of a vegetative mode of growth. But if it hasn’t made enough vegetative growth, it won’t bear fruit as it should.”In other words,” he said, “you must grow a plant before you can expect fruit from it.” Sunburned tomatoes aren’t a pretty sight. Buy Bloomless TransplantsWhen you buy transplants, he said, don’t buy any plant that has fruit or blooms. If you do, remove them before you plant.Make sure your plants get enough water and fertilizer, too. That keeps them healthy and reduces stress.”With a little care,” McLaurin said, “you can prevent sunburn on your favorite plants and ensure proper growth and fruiting as well.”center_img Photo: Wayne McLaurin Photo: Wayne McLaurinlast_img read more

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02 Important resistance

first_img Volume XXVII Number 1 Page 2 By William Terry Kelley Georgia Extension Service There was a time a gardener could simply plant the same tomato or squash variety year after year with no problem. It usually tasted great, was easy to grow or was an heirloom variety handed down over the generations. Those days are increasingly gone. More and more pesticides are removed from the market every year, and home gardeners have fewer options to control diseases and insects. It seems that more plant diseases become problematic each year. The need for varieties to be resistant gets more important all the time. Unfortunately, those old heirloom varieties and many of the best tasting ones have little or no resistance to plant diseases. But with more disease pressure and fewer pesticide options, using varieties resistant to plant diseases is often the only option the gardener has to turn to.Chief disesase Chief among these diseases is tomato spotted wilt virus. Not a problem in Georgia until just a few years ago, TSWV has become the arch nemesis of the home gardener. This virus is a serious problem for commercial tomato growers. But it’s an even greater curse in the garden. TSWV is transmitted by thrips to the tomato plant. The virus is harbored by so many plant species it doesn’t have trouble being available to attack tomatoes almost anywhere in the state. The commercial grower has some pesticide options to manage thrips, although they are of questionable effectiveness. Famrers can use tools such as reflective plastic mulches, too, to deter thrips invasions. Over large fields, these mulches can confuse thrips and cause them to avoid the tomato fields. However, the home grower almost never has such options. Fortunately, researchers have begun developing some tomato varieties that are resistant to TSWV.Resistant options About the only two gardeners can get now are similar varieties called “BHN 444” and “BHN 555.” Both were developed by BHN Genetics. The 555 variety is primarily for use in a fall or late-summer crop, since it’s a heat-set variety. BHN 444 is more of a shipping-type tomato than a garden variety. It generally won’t have a usual tomato shape until it’s almost mature, and it takes its time getting ripe. It may not have the flavor or texture of your usual “Better Boy” or “Rutgers,” but it may indeed be the only way you can successfully grow fresh tomatoes in the garden. A couple of newer varieties may have better flavor and shape, but don’t look for them this season. Hopefully, continued research will yield more of these resistant varieties.Squash susceptible, too Much the same is true for squash. Four main viruses affect squash. On yellow squash, it’s easily distinguishable by the green coloration in the fruit. Some varieties now have resistance to two, three or even four of these viruses. Some varieties are not resistant, but contain the “precocious gene” which masks the green coloration in yellow squash. They still get the virus, but they don’t show the symptoms. Many of these resistant varieties are on the market today. Gardeners can tell which are resistant or tolerant to virus by reading the variety descriptions in the seed catalogs. Not all seed companies market these varieties, so you may have to shop around. There are other diseases to which varieties may be resistant.Price of resistance Often, the price of having varietal resistance is the loss of some quality or flavor characteristics. However, plant breeders are constantly working to improve quality and include resistance. Varietal resistance will become an ever-increasing part of vegetable gardeners’ weapons against those dreaded disease pests.last_img read more

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Out of context

first_imgBy Wayne McLaurinUniversity of GeorgiaThe “Plant Society for the Uninformed” could become the largest plant society in the world. It encompasses all of us. Well intentioned, we’re always growing plants without thinking about their environmental context.We try to grow plants that look good in the mall, plants that come from all over the world. We don’t pay attention to their original environment but are sure we can make them grow in our backyards.Some of us want to grow only “native” plants. As I hike Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina (yes, there are beautiful places within 40 miles of Clemson), I see all types of native plants growing along the ridges and beside creeks.They’re natives, but can I grow them in my drought-stricken backyard when they grow along streams in the wild? I wish I could. Not a chance! Even though they’re natives, their particular growing conditions must be met.I visit the great Northwest and see all of the wonderful plant types and say to myself, “Maybe it will grow if I give it special attention.” But Georgia has neither the rainfall nor the temperature of the Northwest.Moreover, if I brought it home, there would probably be one of those giant banana slugs attached, a pest that in our milder climate might multiply and start an epidemic. We do not need more pests!Colleges of agriculture in each state test plants’ growth under that state’s growing conditions and recommend the plants that grow best. Tests are done on all plants — vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, cotton, corn, peanuts, soybeans, turf grasses.It’s important to find out which plant will do best in a particular place. If a plant doesn’t make the grade, it’s tossed off of the recommended list.If the plant you want to grow isn’t on the recommended list, you have alternatives. One of the best sources of information is to ask gardeners in your area. I’ve found very few growers who weren’t overjoyed to share growing experiences and be honest in their recommendations.The only warning I have is to make sure you have enough time to listen to other stories — you know, “the giant pumpkin,” or, “Remember the time my picture was in the ‘Market Bulletin’ with the 6-pound sweet potato?”If you want information on growing plants in Georgia, visit the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Extension Service Web site at www.ces.uga.edu and click on “Publications.” Click on alphabetical or subject listings and follow the instructions.My own garden stories? Maybe I’ll write a book when I retire and have time. No, I’ll be too busy working with that New Zealand plant I just know will grow back there by the fence near the compost pile.last_img read more

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Prime time muscadines

first_imgBy Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaIf you want your backyard muscadines to grow lots of grapes and not become a jungle, a University of Georgia scientist says it’s time to help them out.”Muscadines grow so vigorously every season the vines can get very congested if they go unpruned,” said UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist Gerard Krewer.Late January and February, Krewer said, are prime time for muscadine pruning.”You can prune muscadines anytime they’re dormant,” he said. “But in late winter the vines are less likely to be cold-damaged after you prune.”Muscadines, Krewer said, produce fruit on the shoots that develop this year from the basal buds of last year’s shoots.Knowing that about muscadines tells you how to prune your vines. The part of the vine that grew after those first two to four buds of last year is unneeded growth. Cut that off.How to do itStart at the tip of each shoot, Krewer said, and follow it back to the first raised bump on the stem, the “collar” that marks where last year’s growth began. That should be anywhere from 6 inches to 5 feet from the tip.When you come to the “collar” where the 2006 growth begins, back up to the second to fourth bud and make your pruning cut. The vines may “bleed,” or ooze sap, Krewer said, but that won’t harm the plants.Besides keeping your vines from getting unmanageably tangled over the years, pruning will also assure you of more reliable crops of grapes.”If you let muscadines go unpruned,” Krewer said, “they tend to produce too heavily, which leads into alternate bearing seasons. That becomes a feast-or-famine kind of production.”A jungle already?If you’ve let your muscadines go unpruned long enough that they’re a tangled mess already, consider cutting them back to the original arm running down the wire.If you do that, though, you won’t have grapes next year, since next year’s grapes will grow only on shoots that emerge from last year’s buds.”Unless you’re willing to forgo a crop next year,” Krewer said, “I would suggest pruning one side back to the original cane and the other side back to the bottom two to four buds of 2006 growth.””Then next winter you can do the reverse,” he said, “severely pruning the other side. In that way, you’ll have grapes each year and still be able to clean up your vines by next winter.”On overgrown arbors, where you have seven or eight major branches, “you might want to take out one or two large arms each year,” he said. “That way, you can completely renovate the arbor in a few years.”Each year, he said, “be sure to cut the previous season’s growth back to two to four buds to keep the arbor from becoming overgrown again.”(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img read more

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Water wise plants

first_imgBy Faith PeppersUniversity of Georgia Georgia’s drought can be instructive when you’re picking plants for your landscape. If a plant is looking good now, it’s a winner.”There are some plants you just cannot kill, no matter how hard you try,” said University of Georgia horticulturist David Berle.”I dug up some day lilies, hostas and liriope from a bed one time and set them on the driveway to await the construction of a wall,” he said. “The stone for the wall took four weeks to arrive. And all that time, the plants set on the driveway with almost no water at all. They looked a little droopy, but we didn’t loose a single plant.”Plants with bulbs, corms or otherwise bulbous roots are amazingly tough and survive anything, he said.In his home landscape, Berle has seen that with no watering, these plants are looking good: Hydrangea macrophylla, Spirea japonica, Camellia sasanqua, Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez,’ Iris ensata, Verbena bonariensis, Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam,’ Loropetalum chinensis and Vitex agnus-castus.He notes that they were well established before the drought. “Plants that have taken it pretty hard in my yard,” he said, “are Hydrangea quercifolia, pittosporums, Fothergilla ‘ Mt. Airy,’ Itea virginica, gardenia and, of course, the dogwoods.”All across north Georgia, homeowners report losing dogwoods. “I lost several older dogwoods this year,” Berle said. “They were already looking poorly over the past several years. But this year finished them off.”Signs of damaged dogwoods include dead limbs and decay. “I think this summer was just too much,” he said. “I like dogwoods, though, and fully intend to replant.””Start with some very small trees, 3- to 5-gallon size,” he said, “and plant as soon as they go dormant. There will be no transpiration and thus little drought stress on them. Smaller trees tend to adapt more quickly and require less water during their early years than larger specimen trees.”Some traditional rules for landscape care don’t apply this year. “Cut back all perennials now,” Berle said. “Normally I wait until just about the end of winter. But for those plants suffering already, I think cutting them back will at least hold the line on stress.”At this point, he said, plants can’t benefit much from being left intact. “Normally, I’d say leave the green as long as possible to let the plant send energy from photosynthesis to the roots,” he said. “But my guess is that little photosynthesis is going on, and plants are drying out and dying. I cut back lots of perennials as soon as it looked like water was going to be cut off. They look tidier, too.”Tim Smalley, a UGA horticulturist, usually saves transplanting for between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. “I always felt that it gave the plants time to better establish some roots before spring,” he said.Stepping up winter chores isn’t keeping him from planning to plant. “I still plan to plant some things this fall,” he said. “I’m using collected water, collecting water from the start of my shower to water these plants. I’ll water only until they lose their leaves in late fall, or until about Nov. 15 to first frost.”Water shortages have forced Georgians to think more seriously about conservation measures. Smalley says we should always think about conservation.”Many homeowners water their lawns more than once per week,” Smalley said. “A lawn or annual bed looks better with more frequent irrigation, but I don’t think that we have the water resources to sustain that use level. I water my plants for only one year after planting. And except for hydrangeas, I have had good success. I never water my lawn or established landscape.”last_img read more

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Georgia Guard trains at UGA

first_img“Assalamu alaikum,” or “peace be upon you,” will soon be a common greeting for a team of Georgia National Guardsmen as they learn to speak Pashto. The group will deploy to Afghanistan this May on a special mission to revitalize the war-torn country’s agriculture industry. University of Georgia agricultural experts helped arm them with the knowledge to do it. In February, 21 members of the National Guard’s 201st Agribusiness Development Team visited the UGA campus in Athens to get hands-on training from specialists with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The guardsmen learned about irrigation, crop production, pest management, soils assessment, livestock management and food storage. “This not a typical training session for us, but when the Georgia National Guard asked for help, we wanted to do all we could,” said Steve Brown, assistant dean for UGA Cooperative Extension. “While our scientists may not be experts in Afghan agriculture, the basics are the same worldwide.”Essential SkillsExperts also taught the guardsmen how to hold and care for chickens, care for a beehive, prune fruit trees and milk cows. These are essential skills for a country whose agriculture industry is decades behind those of developed countries. “Milk is a big carrier of diseases like salmonella, tuberculosis, listeria and E. coli,” said Steve Nickerson, UGA dairy scientist. “We are teaching them how to collect the milk in sanitary ways to limit the transmission of disease. They use open systems in Afghanistan to collect milk; if you handle it wrong, you could be killing kids.” The handpicked guard unit is based at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., but members hail from across the state. The team consists of engineers, teachers, pesticide applicators, veterinarians, marketing experts and farmers. It also includes four UGA grads: Gary Church, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources; Carmen Benson, CAES; George McCommon, CAES and College of Veterinary Medicine; and Catherine Tait, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “UGA provides the technical expertise and the experience for this education,” said Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski, media relations officer for the Georgia National Guard. “Afghans are using farming methods that are hundreds of years old in a soil that is depleted of all nutrients. The talent, expertise and knowledge shared with us at UGA will help us to perform this important mission.”The Mission“This is a very different mission for us,” Baldowski said. “While Georgia Guardsmen have been deployed to Afghanistan for more than 10 years, now we are arriving with technology and agricultural know-how to share with the Afghan farmers. We hope these methods and insights will help them to produce crops to feed their families and possibly to create a viable agricultural export product.” More than 80 percent of Afghanistan residents are farmers but lack the knowledge to produce viable crops and productive yields. “Afghanistan may be a high-tech battlefield,” said Col. Williams, who commands Augusta’s 201st Regional Support Group, “but its agricultural practices are like those of America’s during the 1900s, or in some cases the 1800s. And the income of its people, especially the farmers, is in terrible shape.” Thirty years of war and prolonged drought have set Afghan farmers way back, said Williams, who will lead the first of three ADT teams to Afghanistan this spring. Georgia is the 13th state to send a specialized ADT team to Afghanistan. The 201st will replace a group from Nevada when they arrive in May. “Our job will be to help the Afghans change their practices through education, mentorship and ‘easy-to-train, easy-to-sustain’ crop, livestock, water and land-management projects that fit their culture and environment,” Williams said. RebuildingPotatoes, apples, apricots, wheat and eggplant are staples for Afghan farmers. Obstacles like watershed management, lack of refrigeration, limited access to markets and quality seed sources, and transportation hurdles make rebuilding the Afghanistan agriculture industry difficult. “Our goal is to assist the government in administering these programs by mentoring them so that the government can run them,” Williams said. “Assisting the farmers and villages in creating markets for their food so they can be more self-sufficient and not dependent on foreign imports is a key component to our mission.” “Assalamu alaikum” is usually uttered with one hand over the heart to show sincerity. Although the National Guard team is being deployed, they all volunteered to be a part of this team. A sincere desire to help the Afghan people improve their farming practices and better their lives – and the future of their country – is at the heart of their mission.“Even though we are in some dangerous territory, they are good people and that is what is rewarding,” Williams said. “They are no different than us. The way things get done is through relationships. Loyalty and commitment is very important to them, as it is to us.”last_img read more

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Optimizing irrigation use

first_imgSoil moisture sensors are an efficient tool farmers use to optimize their irrigation water use.George Vellidis, a professor on the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Tifton campus, noted in a 2012 research study that water is often what limits a crop’s production. He added that as competition intensifies for this natural resource, there’s an increasing likelihood that water availability for agricultural use in the future will decrease.In hopes of providing farmers a better way to irrigate, Vellidis is researching soil moisture sensors and their impact on variable rate irrigation systems. The goal is to help farmers maximize the efficiency of their irrigation systems; thereby increasing the potential yields for various crops.“Increasing competition for water resources will likely result in less water available for agricultural production,” said Vellidis. “Precision irrigation promises to optimize the use of this precious resource.”While soil moisture sensors are not uncommon, what is unique to Vellidis’ research is the use of web-based user systems that are at farmers’ fingertips. With Vellidis’ work, sensors measure soil moisture, transmit that data back to an Internet site where the farmer analyzes the information and takes appropriate actions after determining what’s transpiring in his field. The farmer can do this from his home computer or smart phone. “Our next step is to take that information, produce specific recommendations for the producers and tell them their soil condition is such; if you irrigate, add half an inch to this part of the field, add an inch to this part of the field, add three-fourths of an inch to this part of the field so you bring all the soils up to field capacity without adding extra water so it drains out,” Vellidis said.Two different kinds of sensors are typically used for measuring soil moisture. The most commonly used type is called capacitance, which indicates how much water is available to use. However, since the volume of available water in the soil is related to the soil’s texture, every time a sensor is installed, it must be calibrated which can be a time-consuming process. Vellidis prefers a tensiometric soil moisture sensor. This type of sensor determines the soil moisture that’s available and measures how much energy a plant must exert to extract moisture from the soil. It can be installed in any soil type without calibration. For the sensors to be effective agricultural tools, they have to be strategically placed throughout a field to provide accurate readings of the soil in each farmer’s field. Before installing the sensors, Vellidis divides a field into zones. For example, a 100-acre field would be divided into 3 to 5 zones with two sensors employed for each zone. He prefers to use more than one sensor in case one goes down due to a lightning strike or is otherwise damaged. The sensors in the different zones provide accurate information about the soil moisture in those zones. This allows farmers to apply water more accurately and efficiently. “If you have the soil moisture sensors in the soil, you know exactly what your condition is. If you know something about the life cycle of your plant, you know when it’s critical for the plant to have water and when the plant can sustain some stress,” Vellidis said. For example, the critical soil moisture period for cotton is when the plant is flowering and the bolls are filling, he said. Before then, Vellidis added, farmers can wait until the soil profile is fairly dry before they irrigate, if water is limited or if they want to save energy costs.Vellidis has two goals with this project, one short term and the other long term.“I think the proper strategy for irrigation scheduling will be for consultants to get this information, be able to interpret the results and provide irrigation recommendations to the farmers in the short term,” he said.“In the long term, when we have the process better refined and the data can go straight into the pivot controller and the pivot controller can start irrigating, we can really eliminate a lot of this — I need to look at the data, scratch my head and figure out what’s going on. We’ll be able to automate that process.”last_img read more

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Your Extension Stories

first_imgToday, Extension in Georgia is a cooperative effort by federal, state and local government partners administered by UGA and known as UGA Extension. For more information about UGA Extension, see extension.uga.edu or call 1-800-Ask-UGA1. University of Georgia Extension invites Georgians to help celebrate 100 years of working together to build a better Georgia by chronicling their Extension stories. The history of UGA Extension is comprised of thousands of stories of Georgians who spent their youth at 4-H summer camps, organized home demonstration clubs or relied on their local county agent for canning, gardening or farming advice. As it celebrates its official centennial, the organization wants to hear and share these stories. Anyone who feels UGA Extension has affected their life should visit 100years.extension.uga.edu and submit their story in the online form. Selected stories will be compiled as part of this historical website celebrating the Georgia Extension’s centennial. The dynamic website will share the history of UGA Extension through articles, historic photographs, videos, timelines and personal anecdotes. It will be available to help the public explore the history of UGA Extension and the impact it’s had on the state’s history. Who should submit a story? Farmers, homemakers, Extension agents, retired agents, former 4-H Club members, parents, business owners, grandparents, grandchildren and anyone else who’s been influenced by UGA Extension. What constitutes a good story? For the 100years.extension.uga.edu website, UGA Extension is looking for both specific anecdotes about personal involvement with UGA Extension and general impressions of the organization’s impact on the state. The stories can be funny, heartfelt, personal or general. Here are some tips for jogging memories and sharing stories: Browse some of the stories on the 100years.extension.uga.edu website. Do you have any similar experiences? Get together with friends and colleagues from your time with UGA Extension or Georgia 4-H.Flip through old photo albums. Think about your childhood. Do you remember a time when you or your family turned to UGA Extension for help or advice. Think about special people. Is there a farm friend who always attends field days with you or an Extension agent who went out of his or her way to help you or your family with a problem? What are some of the things you remember about them?Remember turning points, both good and bad. Are their farm years when drought or bumper yields made a lasting impression on your memory? Do you remember a time when you came up against a challenge and overcame it? Think about milestones. Whether it’s the year you went to 4-H National Conference or the year you put up new broiler houses, it’s a big event in your life. Did UGA Extension play a part? It may also be fun for children to interview their parents or grandparents to elicit stories and memories from their younger years. Those stories can be written down and later entered into the 100years.extension.uga.edu website.UGA Extension was founded in 1914 through the Smith-Lever Act, a federal law that established and funded a state-by-state national network of educators to bring university-based research and practical knowledge to the public. last_img read more

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Corn Maze

first_imgIn a southeast Georgia corn field, University of Georgia students helped to design a corn maze in honor of Mark Richt, UGA Bulldogs head football coach, using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. As part of a precision agriculture class taught on the UGA Tifton Campus, students are learning the benefits of this technology while preparing for future agricultural careers. George Vellidis, a UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences crop and soil sciences professor, gave his precision agriculture students the opportunity to experience GPS technology firsthand by having them develop a corn maze at Rutland Farms in Tifton, Georgia.“I’ve been teaching precision agriculture at the UGA Tifton Campus since 2003. We’ve been teaching GPS from day one because GPS is a critical part of precision agriculture. Everything we do with precision agriculture has coordinates, so we can collect our data through GPS,” Vellidis said. “It’s a great experience for the students to go out and help with the corn maze. They get to do a fun activity while learning how to use GPS.”Ryan Rutland, a UGA CAES alumnus, and his wife, Meredith, designed the corn maze. In its fifth year, this year’s maze was created in Richt’s likeness. Covering 6.1 acres, the maze is the biggest ever constructed at Rutland Farms and is the most publicized. In September, ESPN ran a story about the maze on espn.go.com. Ryan says this was probably the most difficult maze ever built at Rutland Farms and gives all credit to Vellidis and his students.“Dr. Vellidis has partnered with us since we started in 2011. His class helps us by taking a perimeter of the field where we’ve planted the corn, putting an image on paper, then they transfer that image into the GPS,” he said. “They help us trace the lines and mow everything. They pretty much help us with the maze from start to finish.”Students have been impressed by how easy the technology is to use and how beneficial it can be to farmers. “I’ve used it to go back after we’ve already installed moisture sensors earlier in the season and I’ve used it to find the sensors much later in the season,” said Sydni Barwick, Vellidis’ student and student worker in irrigation for UGA Cooperative Extension. “When, for example, a corn crop is 8 feet high, you can’t see across that field, so there’s no way to find the sensors without GPS. Using the (GPS) system is great for things like that because it has an accuracy of about 3 feet,” she said.As far as precision agriculture, GPS allows farmers and researchers to make maps of data collected from fields. “The maps are then used to make decisions about how to vary the amount of crop inputs applied to different areas of the field,” Vellidis said. Like most other technology, there is a chance that students can experience trouble with GPS. Vellidis prepares his students to face possible technical difficulties.“The main thing is for them to understand all the problems they’ll run into, to understand how the technology works, to understand how to solve the problems associated with GPS. For example, cables might be disconnected or the electronics might not be speaking to each other,” he said. “So, I just want to get them familiar with how everything works.”UGA student Randall Stratton used the GPS technology for the first time in Vellidis’ precision agriculture class.“I found the GPS lab very interesting because it showed us how to work the GPS equipment, first off, and then it was important to know the uses of this in case future jobs involved GPS like what we had in class,” Stratton said.For now, Vellidis’ class is basking in the recognition that comes from creating a one-of-a-kind maze. “It was interesting; you have pride there for sure,” said Evan Hill, a junior agriscience student in Vellidis’ class.(Tatyana Phelps is an intern on the UGA Tifton Campus.)last_img read more

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