News

  • Research
  • Horticulture
  • USDA
  • College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
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Carol Robacker and Melanie Harrison with bluestem grasses

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.”

  • College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • FoodPIC
  • Griffin Campus
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University leadership, state and local officials prepare to cut ribbon in front of FoodPIC building

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.”

  • Young Scholars Program
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A student participant of the Young Scholars Program uses a microscope in a lab at UGA's main campus

The University of Georgia is looking for high school students, ages 16 and older, who are looking for hands-on research experience. The UGA Young Scholars Program (YSP) is a paid, six-week summer research internship in agricultural, food and environmental sciences.

Organized by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, selected students work 30 hours a week on the UGA Athens, Griffin or Tifton Campus and are actively engaged in research.

The online application for the program closes Tuesday, Jan. 31, and in-person interviews for finalists will follow. Selected interns will be notified by April 1, and the program will run from June 5 to July 14.

Alexandria Maddox, now a first-year student at UGA studying biological science, participated in the program and conducted research under Associate Professor Kerry Oliver in the UGA entomology department. She plans to attend medical school and become a gynecologist.

“This was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Maddox said. “I didn’t know that even the smallest things on earth can have such a large effect on our environment. Biology is an amazing subject.”

Young Scholars averages about 75 internship slots each summer.

The program began on the UGA Griffin Campus in 1989 and was originally intended to provide a collegiate experience to students who were not planning to attend college.

  • Retirees
  • Griffin Campus
  • Athens Campus
  • Cooperative Extension
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Seventeen UGA employees retired Dec. 1. Retirees, their job classification, department and years of service are: 

  • Alumni
  • Community
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Bulldog 100 Class of 2016

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has released the 2017 Bulldog 100. This annual program recognizes the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni. More than 500 nominations were submitted for the 2017 list.

The 2017 Bulldog 100 includes businesses of all sizes and from industries such as veterinary medicine, IT consulting and pest control. Several areas of the country are represented, including companies from as far north as New York and as far west as California. Of the 100 businesses, 79 are located within Georgia, and only one business has made the list all eight years: Vino Venue/Atlanta Wine School.

The Atlanta office of Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors verified the information submitted by each company and ranked the businesses based on a compounded annual growth rate during a three-year period.

  • Cooperative Extension
  • Turfgrass and Weed Science
  • Master Gardener
  • Community
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Map of drought conditions in Georgia as of November 1, 2016

After months of abnormally dry and warm conditions, 52 north Georgia counties are now facing water use restrictions in accordance with Gov. Nathan Deal’s Level 2 drought response designation. Fifty-eight other counties are being required to implement Level 1 drought responses.

Homeowners and businesses in the affected counties must limit their landscape irrigation to two days a week. Even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. Odd-numbered addresses may water Thursdays and Sundays, also between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.

The Level 2 drought response also calls for homeowners and business owners to refrain from washing hard surfaces, such as streets and sidewalks; washing cars at home or for fundraisers; noncommercial pressure washing; using fountains or water features; and using fire hydrants for any reason except for firefighting and public safety.

Irrigation of newly installed turf or landscape plants or vegetable gardens; irrigation at commercial nurseries, parks, sports fields and golf courses; hand-watering; and irrigation with drip or soaker hoses are exempt from these regulations, as these are considered agricultural water uses.

  • Cooperative Extension
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Satellite view of the region affected by smoke from the wildfires

If you’ve walked outside during the last week, you’ve probably noticed the smell of smoke in the air. The current exceptional drought covering much of northern Georgia and surrounding states has created perfect conditions for the growth of wildfires, which can be caused by careless trash burning, sparks from chains dragging behind trailers, or in a few cases, arson. 

The smoke from the fires can be carried a long way downwind, and winds from the north this week have directed a lot of the smoke right at Athens and Atlanta. Because of high atmospheric pressure,which acts like a lid on the smoke plumes, the smoke is concentrated near the ground. As the wind shifts around with the weather patterns, areas may see exceptionally heavy smoke or may experience clearer conditions. 

Air quality conditions can be tracked at the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website at airnow.gov. A web page devoted to the fires and plumes can be found at www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=topics.smoke_wildfires. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division of Air Quality also provides a map of current conditions at amp.georgiaair.org.

  • Retirees
  • Griffin Campus
  • Athens Campus
  • Cooperative Extension
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Seventeen UGA employees retired Oct. 1. Retirees, their job classification, department and years of service are:

  • College of Engineering
  • Archway Partnership
  • Community
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Jason Christian, Mariana Ozier, Mitchell Massengill, and Alec Trexler

University of Georgia senior Mariana Ozier looked like a professional engineer, scribbling notes as she walked a site pegged for redevelopment in Griffin.

She and Spalding County Community Development Director Chad Jacobs discussed zoning, building plans and possible locations for a storm water detention pond. It was exciting, Ozier said, to be part of a group that was working on a real project, not just something from a textbook.

"Just getting to see how we can help make it happen and how our work is going to impact what they want to do is pretty cool," she said. "I do feel like a professional engineer."

Ozier, along with UGA College of Engineering classmates Mitchell Massengill and Alec Trexler, were in Griffin as part of their capstone senior design course.

They are assisting with a project on a possible mixed-use development and aquatics center. The students' job will be to help determine the infrastructure needs for the development and their estimated costs.

Engineering expertise is one of many university resources that the UGA Archway Partnership offers to communities across the state.

Archway's collaborations with the College of Engineering have led to many opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to get hands-on experience before they join the workforce.

  • Food Science and Technology
  • Peanut Mycotoxin and Innovation Lab
  • College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
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Esther Akoto working with composting barrels

For millennia, farmers used compost to return nutrients to depleted soil. Now researchers are searching for a way composting can help battle aflatoxin.

Ghana native Esther Yeboah Akoto, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in food science and technology at the University of Georgia, is working to help farmers diminish aflatoxin contamination in their soil by composting field waste.

“We know that composting has been around for a very long time. It’s a technique that growers have used for thousands of years,” said Akoto, who is conducting her research in conjunction with U.S. Feed the Future's Peanut Mycotoxin and Innovation Lab at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“More recently, we know about aflatoxin and its effect on health. Could composting provide a way to remove aflatoxin-contaminated produce from the food supply?”

Researchers around the world are working to minimize naturally occurring molds that can grow on peanuts, maize and other crops. Those molds diminish the quality of peanut crops and generate mycotoxins such as aflatoxin, a dangerous compound that can cause physical and mental stunting in children, cause cancer and, in high doses, even kill. Obviously, the most effective intervention is to minimize mold growth in the field and in storage, but farmers may never completely get rid of something as ubiquitous as mold.