While many crops suffer from Georgia’s drought, irrigated muscadinegrapes are actually prospering.”With muscadines, if they have good irrigation systems,growers actually prefer dry conditions during harvest,” saidGerard Krewer, a small fruits scientist with the University ofGeorgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Froma disease standpoint, the plants perform much better in dry weather.”Dry Weather = Cleaner CropKrewer said muscadine growers like slightly dry weather becauseit makes for a “cleaner crop with fewer diseases.”Gary Paulk of Paulk Vineyards in Wray, Ga., agrees. “Whenthe weather is drier,” he said, “the leaves don’t getfoliar diseases, and the result is cleaner vines and more fruit.If it gets too dry, the vines can suffer. But we aren’t seeingthat yet.”Paulk said this year is an above-average year for muscadines.And he should know. His family has grown muscadines for 25 years,and their current vineyard includes 300 acres of grapes.Like the Paulk family, most muscadine growers in Georgia irrigatetheir vineyards. That’s another reason this year’s drought hasn’tcaused them to panic.The More Water, The BetterJust because dry weather cuts down on muscadine diseases doesn’tmean muscadines don’t like water.UGA horticulturist Scott NeSmith is in the final year of athree-year irrigation study. “We’ve applied different levelsof drip irrigation to muscadines,” NeSmith said. “Andso far, the more water you give them, the larger the yield.”The muscadine yields in his research plots have increased by35 percent over a two-year period. “With more water, theplants also set and carry more fruit, and the overall health ofthe plant is much better,” he said.No SweeterThe increase in water doesn’t cause the plant to produce largeror sweeter fruit. “Muscadines aren’t like table grapes,”NeSmith said. “They don’t get sweeter as more water is appliedto the plant.”Paulk says 1999 appears to be a good year economically formuscadine growers. “The price of California grapes is higherthis year, and that’s helping our sales,” he said. “Ifpeople are in the market for grapes, ours are a much better buy.”Paulk said the nutritional value of muscadines also helps withsales.”Muscadines contain high levels of resveratrol, whichis a compound doctors say helps prevent cancer and heart disease,”he said.The muscadine season in Georgia runs from early August throughearly October.(Photo by Sharon Omahen, University of Georgia College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaEnvironmental policymakers say many Georgia streams don’t have enough oxygen. This is an environmental problem that must be fixed. But in some cases, it could be a safe, natural occurrence. Scientists in Tifton, Ga., are working to help policymakers better regulate the health of Georgia streams.Like humans, fish and other aquatic life need oxygen to survive. They get it from dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water around them, said George Vellidis, an engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. DO is also essential for the breakdown of pollutants and organic matter in streams.“If the DO level is too low in a stream or in some other water body,” he said, “the fish and aquatic life can become stressed or die.”The standardThat’s why the Georgia Department of Natural Resources – Environmental Protection Division established a DO standard for Georgia’s streams. If a stream’s DO level drops below 4 milligrams per liter, the stream is considered in violation. The Clean Water Act of 1972 was enacted to control water quality problems like low DO levels in U.S. waters. Until recently, not much was done to address the problem in many parts of the country.Environmental groups are now putting legal pressure on Georgia and other states to create and implement plans to fix DO-challenged streams, Vellidis said.The data on DO levels in Georgia streams in many cases is not current. The most recent data for some streams in south Georgia is several years old. Environmental regulations based on this data could be wrong, Vellidis said.Natural answers He and a team of UGA and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists on the UGA Tifton, Ga., campus discovered that DO levels in streams in south Georgia can rise or fall naturally below the current standard many times throughout a year. And fish are probably well adapted for the changes.DO levels for many streams drop during hot summer months or during times of low water flow like in times of drought, he said. These levels can also be affected by the amount of sunlight hitting the water or by excessive amounts of nutrients like farm fertilizers, he said.(Nutrients encourage algal growth. Algae release oxygen into the water. But algae live a short time. When they die in large quantities, the microorganisms that decompose them use a lot of oxygen and quickly lower the DO level.)Agricultural practices are often blamed for increased nutrient levels and low DO levels in streams and rivers. To bring problem streams into compliance, Vellidis said, some preliminary plans recommend reducing nutrient levels in streams and rivers by as much as 40 percent. This reduction would likely be expected to come primarily from agricultural sources.This would be an economic blow for agricultural regions of Georgia and, possibly, an unnecessary step if it is natural at certain times of the year for a stream to be below the current DO standard, he said.Agricultural fertilizers and chemicals probably do contribute to low DO levels, he said. But there are many other factors that must be considered. Vellidis and the research team are undertaking an extensive DO level study in the Coastal Plain area of Georgia. They are setting up monitoring sites in the Ochlockonee, Suwannee, Satilla and St. Mary’s river basins to take samples and measure factors that contribute to DO levels. Georgia DNR-EPD is funding the three-year project.State environmental policymakers can use this new data to make sound DO standards and avoid creating unnecessary, harmful policies.
Critiquing eggs and birds4-H poultry teams learn to judge laying hens for egg production,market eggs for interior and exterior quality and ready-to-cookpoultry for quality.”When placing birds, they have to know how to look at the bird,observe it,” Lee said. “Then they have to grade both eggs andchickens.”The team’s coaches teach them by using U.S. Department ofAgriculture guidelines for grading poultry. In real life, USDApoultry graders work in poultry houses.”Our students are probably trained as well as the USDA graders,”he said. “Very few people are skilled in this area. It’s prettyunique, and that’s what often attracts the kids to it.”Lee and the team’s other coaches, Tift County CooperativeExtension agent Brian Tankersley and volunteer Andrea Milton,work with the students several times a week to prepare them forstate and national competitions.”In our state, we have easy access to live birds and fresh eggsthat we can use for practicing,” he said.When judging an egg, the 4-H’er enters a dark room and uses alight to inspect the inside of the egg. “This helps you grade theegg and determine whether it’s edible,” Lee said. “They alsojudge the broken-out egg in a dish and the shell quality.”When judging live birds, the 4-H’er must be able to know whichchicken is the best layer. “Our 4-H’ers can do this by looking atthe characteristics of the bird,” he said. “They can alsodetermine which bird is no longer laying.” More than just chicken knowlegePoultry judging doesn’t just teach the students about poultry.”They have to present a set of oral reasons during thecompetition, so this teaches them defense skills … publicspeaking and decision-making skills,” Lee said.At the nationals, the Georgia team placed first in the productionhen class, second in market eggs and third in ready-to-cook.Leidner was the top individual overall. Tankersley placed 12th,Smith 13th and Suggs placed 15th.The Walton County 4-H poultry judging team — Jacob Brooks,Courtney Brooks, Amy Jamison and Chris Lightfoot — attended thenational conference, too, with their coach, Molly Kimler. Theyplaced fifth in the 14-team national avian bowl contest.”Some of the kids may not want to admit (that they’re poultryjudges) around their peers,” Lee said. “In reality, they’repretty proud of their knowledge. And winning a national title ofany kind is just phenomenal.” Champs againThis was the second time a Tift County team has won the nationaltitle. The local team won in 2003, too. Georgia 4-H is a youthdevelopment program of the University of Georgia.”We’ve had a lot of success over the past few years,” said GeorgeLee, a retired UGA Cooperative Extension agent in Crisp Countyand one of the team’s coaches. “When you win big like this, itencourages other kids to join 4-H and to judge poultry.”Competition in 4-H poultry judging is steep at the state level inGeorgia. “In a poultry state like Georgia, there are a lot of 4-Hpoultry judging teams,” Lee said. “Georgia is the No. 1 poultrystate, but Tift County doesn’t really have a lot of poultry. Soour team really is unique.”The Georgia team competed against 19 state champion teams fromacross the United States. But the real competition came fromstates like Louisiana, Mississippi, California and Arkansas, Leesaid. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaWhen some Tift County 4-H’ers tag along while their parentsgrocery shop, the stores’ meat managers cringe. That’s becausethese kids are national experts when it comes to pointing outhigh-quality poultry and eggs.The Tift County 4-H poultry judging team — Laura Leidner,Samantha Tankersley, Sally Smith and Austin Suggs — won firstplace at the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference inLouisville, Ky., Nov. 16-17.
University of GeorgiaGeorgia’s favorite gardener, Walter Reeves, looks at exotic flowers, turf tips, seeds and weeds on “Gardening in Georgia” Aug. 23 and 25.”Gardening in Georgia” airs on Georgia Public Broadcasting television stations statewide each Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.Reeves travels to Savannah, Ga., to visit with Stephen Garton, superintendent of the University of Georgia’s historic Bamboo Farm and Coastal Gardens. Garton shows the garden’s collection of Asian and native lotuses. These exotic aquatic flowers have been prized for thousands of years.One of the easiest ways to kill a lawn is to mow too low. UGA turf specialist Clint Waltz explains why this is true and shows Reeves the proper mowing height for all of Georgia’s common lawn grasses.Tomato seeds are easy to see in the gooey pulp of the fruit. It would seem easy to collect them for planting next year. But there’s an extra step to saving tomato seeds, Reeves says. You have to ferment them!Finally, Reeves identifies three more weeds that are common in Georgia. To know them may not be to love them, but it surely is handy when you need to control them.”Gardening in Georgia” is coproduced by GPB and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Each show is geared to Georgia soils, climate and growing conditions.The 2007 season is made possible through an underwriting gift from McCorkle Nurseries and support from the Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association. For more on “Gardening in Georgia,” visit www.gardeningingeorgia.com.
TifGrand was developed by Wayne Hanna, professor of plant breeding and genetics in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.“Although TifGrand produces a beautiful turf in full sun, its major contribution will be the production of nice turf in areas with reduced light — up to 60 percent less light than is normally required for healthy Bermuda grass growth,” Hanna said. Hanna is a world-renowned plant breeder. During his 37-year career, Hanna has developed winter-hardy, pest-resistant Bermuda grasses able to handle high traffic. These grasses now grow on golf courses around the world and in major sports stadiums. Hanna has spearheaded the screening of Bermuda grass for hybrids that naturally deter mole crickets, the No. 1 lawn and turf pest in the Southeast. He and his research team have been awarded seven patents. New Concept Turf, a Georgia-based company specializing in marketing new turfgrasses, has contracted The Turfgrass Group of Ft. Valley, Ga., to exclusively handle licensing of TifGrand for sod production. TifGrand will be licensed to a selected number of growers beginning in summer 2009. It is expected to be available in the general market in 2010. For more information on TifGrand and licensing opportunities, contact Bill Carraway, vice president of marketing for The Turfgrass Group, 770/207-1500, or visit www.theturfgrassgroup.com. By Terry HastingsUniversity of GeorgiaAn internationally recognized turfgrass researcher from the University of Georgia has developed a new Bermuda grass that thrives in sun and produces healthy turf in areas with less than half the light normally required for other Bermuda grass.The new grass, licensed by the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., to New Concept Turf, will soon be available to homeowners for planting lawns; to developers for recreational facilities, sports complexes and golf courses; and to urban area landscapers.
Farmers have used scarecrows to keep birds away from field crops for more than 3,000 years.He’s not a farmer, but University of Georgia blueberry scientist Scott NeSmith still has to keep birds away from his blueberry crop so he can research and breed new varieties for Georgia growers. His latest trick — using a “dancing man,” or a dancing, inflatable tube man, to scare the birds — may lead passersby to believe the UGA Griffin campus is selling cars.“We cover smaller plots of plants with netting to keep the birds out, but you can’t do that in larger areas,” said Ellis Moncrief, NeSmith’s research coordinator. He cares for the UGA blueberry plants on a daily basis.NeSmith must have berries for his research. He evaluates their size, taste and durability, among other traits, to determine which plants he will include as parent plants in his breeding program.“It is so important to control the birds because we have only a handful of fruit to evaluate from a single, small plant. If we let birds help themselves, it means we may not be able to evaluate a potential new variety,” NeSmith said. “We only get one chance per year to decide what to keep or throw out from our new plant material.”It is essential to keep the birds away from the blueberries on the earliest ripening plants. At this time in the blueberry season, there are often more birds than fruit.Moncrief came up with the idea to use the dancing man, like those often seen at car dealerships, and NeSmith was up to trying it. The blueberry research field is also equipped with an automatically firing carbide air cannon to help keep the birds away from the berries. The cannon produces a thunderclap-like sound to deter birds and other wildlife and is among the tactics used at airports to scare birds away from aircraft.At the UGA blueberry research plots, the goal is to keep the birds away from the plants until all of the varieties begin to ripen.“Once they all start producing fruit, it doesn’t really matter because then there are enough berries for our program and the birds,” Moncrief said.To date, NeSmith has released more than 20 blueberry varieties created specifically for Georgia farmers. Soon, he will release five new blueberry varieties bred with homeowners in mind.For more information on Georgia blueberries, go to https://t.uga.edu/4i3.
For more information about herb production, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1170, “Herbs in Southern Gardens,” at extension.uga.edu/publications. Humans have used herbs since early times for medicinal purposes, for flavoring food and for fragrance. Their magical properties are entwined in the lore of many cultures and their flavor has added distinctive character to numerous regional dishes.Many modern medicines include plant parts from herbs in either a natural or synthesized state. And there is a growing field of research in pharmacognosy, as scientists look again at herbal remedies.Regardless of how you decide to use them, herbs can make an exciting addition to any landscape. They can be used formally in an herb garden or informally mixed into beds of annuals, perennials or shrubs. Herb flowers and foliage provide a beautiful palette of color and variation in texture and form. Herbs also lend themselves well to small containers such as window boxes or whisky barrels.If you’re going to grow herbs, choose a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. A soil pH range of 6 to 7.5 is fine for most herbs, although some, such as rosemary or lavender, prefer the pH slightly higher, in the 7.5 range. Herbs do well in average soil but prefer, as most plants do, well-drained, loamy or sandy conditions. It’s important to test your soil prior to planting to determine the actual pH and then add the appropriate amount of dolomitic lime to adjust it. Most herbs are not heavy feeders, and a moderate amount of fertilizer will provide all the nutrition they need. Some herbs, such as basil, chives and parsley, may require additional fertilizer since they are often heavily harvested.When preparing the herb bed, work generous amounts of compost or rotted manure into the native soil to a depth of 12 inches.It is a great idea to plant in raised beds, especially if drainage is a concern. Raised beds can be constructed of rocks, landscape timbers, railroad ties, old tires or other materials.Pine straw or bark mulch around your herb plants will help maintain even moisture around the root system. It also helps to discourage weeds and provides a layer of protection from extreme temperatures.Most herbs are fairly drought tolerant and require water only during drier periods. Herbs grown in containers and raised planters will require more irrigation than those grown directly in the ground.Herbs can be grown from seeds, cuttings or plant divisions. If you are new to gardening, you may want to skip the propagation step altogether and just buy container plants from a local nursery. Later, you may wish to start new plants from seeds or cuttings.Herbs grown for foliage may be harvested at any time, though the essential oils are most concentrated just prior to blooming. The seed heads of herbs grown for their seeds, such as fennel and dill, may be collected soon after seeds have reached maturity. Herbs are best collected in the late morning, rinsed quickly and air dried. Drying or freezing will preserve them.While there are many herbs that can be planted, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers the following list for beginning gardeners. These seven herbs do well in the Southern U.S. and are easy to grow. As you gain confidence as an herb gardener, other varieties can be added.Basil is an annual that prefers sun and moderate moisture. Clip the flowers to encourage bushiness and prolong the life of the plant. The leaves can be used in tomato sauce and pesto.Mint is a perennial that prefers sun or partial shade and semimoist soil. Plant in a container to keep it from spreading. Mint can be used in desserts, teas and as a garnish.Yarrow is a perennial that prefers sun and moderate moisture. It may need staking. A nonculinary herb, it can be used fresh or dried in arrangements.Scented geranium is a perennial, nonculinary herb that prefers sun or partial shade and moderate moisture. It should be moved indoors for the winter and can be used in potpourri.Oregano is a perennial that prefers sun and moderate moisture. The leaves can be used in preparing meats and vegetables.Sage is a perennial that prefers sun and moderate moisture. Trim the plant to promote bushiness. The leaves can be used in preparing meat and in cheese and potpourri.Chives are a perennial that prefer sun or partial shade and moderate moisture. They can be used in preparing eggs, meats and vegetables.
While all industries have been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, food and agriculture have been among the hardest hit segments of the U.S. economy. The primary reason lies in the composition of household food expenditures.The impacts of the pandemic appear to vary by commodity based on two critical issues: perishability and labor use. Perishables like fruits, vegetables and milk are among the hardest hit. Many of these industries also depend on labor for growing and harvesting.There is no immediate shortage of food in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), however the current demand for items such as grocery-size products and on-demand delivery is greater than what is in abundant supply: bulk, large-sized products and processed shipments to restaurants that remain open.This demand-supply mismatch appears to mimic anecdotal evidence of price spikes and empty store shelves on the consumer side and the collapse of demand and dumping of food on the farm side, with a range of linked effects in the middle.Wholesale food demand reduced, supply chain shiftsHouseholds spent $1.7 trillion on food in 2018, 54% of which was spent on food away from home at restaurants, bars, sports venues and other establishments, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. A dramatic drop in foot traffic at all types of restaurants began in the second week of March.Supermarkets and grocery outlets have also experienced a significant reduction in foot traffic, but delivery and on-demand services have been strained by the sudden surge in demand from people under stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, which includes nearly 90% of the U.S. population.With the drastic fall in food demand away from home, multiple forces were unleashed rapidly, causing ripples that stretched farther into every food and agricultural commodity.First, the supply chain serving food service industries did not have many buyers. A case in point is cheese, where the major supplier, Wisconsin, found two-thirds of its demand fall to near zero within a week or two.Second, social distancing guidelines and shuttered non-essential businesses affected supply chains serving both food services and retail grocers.The results include a significant slowdown in the operations of processing and distribution, shortage of workers at farm, processing and distribution (trucking) facilities, and a shortage of cleaning and sanitizing supplies. Compounding these effects are the resources spent in contact tracing and quarantine if/when a worker tested positive for COVID-19.Third is the urgent need to transition products run through food services into those that consumers need at the grocery store. For example, restaurants usually bought diced vegetables, like onions, in 60-pound bags, but consumers at grocery stores usually buy 3- to 5-pound bags of unpeeled onions. Also, large cheese blocks sold to food services, which generally have sizable storage space, cannot be chopped overnight into packs of ounces and pounds to sell at grocery stores.Trade and other factorsImports of food have declined due to reduction in air and shipping traffic between countries and regionally within countries. Nearly 13% of food consumed in the U.S. comes from other countries — primarily horticultural products, livestock and edible oils.Preliminary data shows that the countries first affected by COVID-19 exported and imported less food in January and February 2020 relative to the corresponding period in 2019, according to recent reports by SafetyChain, a food and beverage management system.In addition, all of the above happened in the aftermath of several natural disasters and a trade war over the last two years.Potential solutionsWhat can be done by private and public sectors, hopefully in a partnership, to offset these challenges? An obvious option is storage where applicable to mitigate price spikes, avoid empty store shelves and prevent collapse of demand. However, not all commodities are storable.Some experts have recommended government purchases of perishables and transfer to regions and segments of the population where they are most needed. It is not clear that the logistics of such an operation can be pulled off within the short time period needed to accommodate farms and markets.The stimulus measures to keep businesses in operation — including loans, grants, unemployment insurance and SNAP benefits — alleviate the problem to some extent, but their durability has already been questioned. Policy and other measures will be an ongoing discussion.Also, government regulations are somewhat eased to help in the transition of demand from food service to grocery outlets. Nonetheless, the food and agriculture sectors need more attention, especially the most vulnerable segments, likely in the form of a combination of the above tools employed in greater intensity.(The author is a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Chen Zhen, associate professor in the department of agricultural and applied economics, contributed to this story.)
The Vermont Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce its plans to host the inaugural Vermont Hospitality EXPO on Monday, November 6, at the Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center in Burlington. The show will provide owners, managers, buyers, innkeepers and chefs at Vermont’s lodging and restaurant properties with a forum to meet and network and find resources for their businesses.This show has been designed to replace the former Vermont Lodging & Restaurant Showcase with new energy, fresh focus and expanded industry opportunities. The Vermont Hospitality EXPO Tradeshow is open from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday, November 6, and will feature more than 60 exhibitors representing hundreds of new products and services designed specifically for lodging and restaurant properties.Kicking off the event is a free keynote presentation by Steve Anderson, President of the National Restaurant Association. Other special, free events throughout the day include ice carving demonstrations and professional and student chef competitions. A networking and awards reception will wrap up the evening and the following industry awards will be presented: Restauranteur of the Year, Innkeeper of the Year, Bed & Breakfast Operator of the Year and Allied Member of the Year.A variety of seminars will provide educational opportunities for attendees. Topics of focus include customer service, legal issues, energy efficiency, as well as employing individuals of ‘Generation Y.’Entrance into the tradeshow and events taking place in the Exhibition Hall are free for those who pre-register online at www.vtchamber.com/services/vhe.html(link is external). A $10 tradeshow admission fee will be charged at the door to those who do not pre-register. Educational seminars are $25 each.For more information about any of the events surrounding the Vermont Hospitality EXPO or to reserve a booth, contact Erin Hitchcock at 802-223-0603 or firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail).
Mary Powell, incoming CEO of Green Mountain Power, announced on Monday the company’s plan to aggressively develop renewable resources to diversify the portfolio of energy sources.GMP’s strategy is to establish “green energy zones,” wherein Vermont companies will have priority in developing renewable energy sources, and to lessen Vermont’s dependence on Vermont Yankee nuclear power while “ramping up” in-state renewable generation. Powell said a key component is geo-political negotiations with Hydro Quebec, a provider of hydropower to GMP. Also important is the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee, whose contract will expire in 2012, so that state can develop solid infrastructure to support other sources of renewable energy instead of going cold turkey.The plan phases out dependence on oil/gas and system contracts, while increasing the role that biomass, hydro and wind power have in the energy resource mix. By 2032, Powell hopes, hydropower will have increased from 48 to 63 percent, biomass from 4 to 10 percent, and wind from zero to 8 percent. The plan estimates that nuclear energy will decrease from 38 percent to 17 percent by 2032.