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Summer in Georgia means sweltering heat and widely scattered showers and thunderstorms.Your neighbor could get an inch of rain in their yard, while yours stays bone dry.”These isolated showers are usually just not enough to keep a yard green,”said Kerry Harrison, an engineer with the University of Georgia Extension Service.”Most turfs need an inch to an inch and a half of water every week.”A notable lack of rain lately has had many Georgians dashing to water hoses. But doyour homework first. Timing is everything, Harrison said.When watering lawns, the only water that matters is what makes it to the roots.Applying too little or too much at the wrong time may hurt your lawn while raising thewater bill.So it’scrucial to know how much water gets to the grass roots, Harrison said.”Not knowing your irrigation’s rate of application, whether it’s a sprinkler on a hose or apermanent system, is like driving a car with no speedometer,” Harrison said.Different systems apply water at different rates. Of all of the systems available,sprinkler hose combinations have the most variance in rate and the least uniformity. Useseveral rain gauges spaced evenly in the watering area to learn your system’s applicationrate.No matter what your application rate, when you water affects how much actually reachesthe grass roots, where it’s needed.”We have research, numbers and all the evidence we need to know that you can loseas much as half the water if it’s put out during daylight,” Harrison said.Direct sunlight, high temperatures and a light wind can evaporate or blow water awayfrom both the water stream and from the ground.”That means you have to put out twice as much,” he said. “And your waterbill may be twice as high. But your grass won’t benefit an equal amount.”When should you water your lawn?Nighttime is best, Harrison said.”It’sbetter for the grass, it’s a better use of the water and it’s usually easier to getbetter water pressure,” he said. “The only way it’s not better is for theperson who might have to get up from bed to turn it on or off.”A timer, though, can do that for you.Many permanent systems are on timers. It’s usually fairly easy to change that timing to twice a week, wateringeach time enough to apply about three-quarters of an inch. Many garden centers carrytimers that work just as easily on hose faucets.Watering during the day increases the time the grass is wet and makes disease problemsmore likely. At night, the grass is wet from dew already, so more water won’t hurt.Applying a little water often will keep grass roots close to the soil surface. So theydon’t reach thenutrients and water that are available deeper. A thorough soaking once or twice weeklyhelps roots grow deeper, resulting in healthier grass.Watering twice a week allows another chance for rain to supply the other half of thewater needed each week, Harrison said.
The University of Georgia, Internal Revenue Service and Georgia Department of Revenue will have four Farm and Small Business Income Tax Schools this year. The annual schools focus on helping the people who prepare tax returns for farms and small businesses stay abreast of tax changes. The tax schools are set for four Georgia sites and dates: Macon Nov. 4-5, Tifton Nov. 15-16, Gainesville Nov. 18-19 and Statesboro Nov. 22-23. Each day of classes will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. The fee is $110 if mailed by Oct. 20. After that, it’s $125. To learn more about the tax schools or workshops, or to preregister, call the county Extension Service office. Or call (912) 386-3416.
Developing a natural biofilter to cleanse the air of the volatile organic compounds being produced.Finding ways to produce fewer VOCs by modifying the cooking process. Odors and ozoneThe VOCs produced in the rendering process can lead to odors and the formation of ground-level ozone, which may cause respiratory damage in some people. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates these VOCs through the Clean Air Act.The researchers evaluated the gases being produced to find a way to treat the air. This process took about 18 months. Then they could begin working on solutions.”Since July 2001, we’ve been working on evaluating treatment options,” said Das, an agricultural engineer with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Peat moss, compost, bark…Das and Kastner recommended using a biofilter to treat the emissions pumped into the air. A biofilter is a bed of organic material such as peat moss, compost, bark, wood chips, rice hulls or a combination of these. It’s used to biologically remove pollutants from the air stream.One Georgia rendering plant uses a biofilter to treat its air emissions. But many others spend massive amounts of money using chlorine dioxide to bleach the air and neutralize the polluting chemical compounds.”Once we know these compounds and their concentrations, then the designed biofilter can be used in any plant that renders poultry waste,” Das said.Ways to reduce VOCsAt the same time that the scientists started working on the treatment options, he said, they also began researching ways to reduce VOCs in the rendering process.To understand VOCs, think of gasoline. A highly volatile compound, gasoline evaporates quickly. That’s why you can smell it at the pump. Fueling your car at noon differs greatly from filling it up a night, because hotter air causes the gasoline to evaporate faster.The same principle, Das said, can apply to the rendering industry when it comes to cooking temperatures and the gases being released.Higher heat, higher VOC levelsDas believes the high temperatures rendering plants used to process the meat by-products has much to do with the volume of odorous VOCs produced. So he has begun evaluating alternative cooking methods at lower temperatures.He’s trying to find methods that would be environmentally safe while not compromising on the safety or quality of the products and always keeping cost-efficiency in mind.Miniature cooking tanks were created for the experiments. These allow researchers to recreate the environment found inside the plants.Neither angle of the research has been completed. But Das hopes to see results within the next year.”We hope to reach major milestones relating to treatment options by July 2003,” he said. “I suspect that the pollution prevention work will continue longer, probably until July 2004.”The solutions can’t come too soon in north Georgia. Metro Atlanta has been classified an ozone nonattainment zone. That means the air quality there is not up to Clean Air Act standards. Cleaning up rendering-plant emissions would be a small, but helpful piece of the clean-air puzzle. By April ReeseUniversity of GeorgiaPoultry rendering plants recycle the chicken parts you don’t usually see into useful oils and other products. But they also produce an odor. And they give off compounds that are regulated in some Georgia counties.K.C. Das, J.R. Kastner and a team of other researchers with the University of Georgia Bioconversion Center have taken on the plants’ air-related problems. They set out to solve them with two projects:
On the Sept. 28 “Gardening in Georgia,” host Walter Reeves covers several fall chores for your flower beds and landscapes.”Gardening in Georgia” (www.gardeningingeorgia.com) is produced by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and GPTV. It airs twice each Saturday, at noon and 7 p.m.On the Sept. 28 show, Reeves tells the best time and shows the best way to plant pansies to keep them blooming even during cold weather. Don’t forget his advice: thoroughly tilled, heavily amended soil will keep pansies and violas looking great from now until next April.One trick to give a color contrast in a pansy bed is to underplant them with spring-flowering bulbs. Fall is the time to do that. Reeves shows how to plant bulbs in a pansy bed and tells which ones do best.Finally, he walks through the Research and Education Garden on the UGA Griffin campus, highlighting plants that give great fall color without flowers. Reeves shows, too, how ornamental grasses bring dramatic texture and subtle sound to a landscape.
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaRepresentatives of nine African countries toured University of Georgia research facilities and commercial farms April 26-29. They wanted to learn more about Georgia agriculture and investigate potential partnerships in the state.The delegation included the minister of agriculture from Angola and Washington-based ambassadors from Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Mauritius and Mozambique. Tim Williams, a researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, organized the tour.”There was intense interest to come and see what is happening in Georgia,” said Williams, who also coordinates the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program at UGA.Poverty is a problem for many of these countries, he said. For some, as much as 95 percent of the population survives solely on 1 to 2 acres of land. Many live on $2 per day, he said.”You would have to go back to the days of sharecropping in the United States to get an idea of how farming is done in some of these countries,” Williams said.Agricultural tourThe delegation toured an egg processing operation in Jasper County and a broiler facility in Oglethorpe County in northeast Georgia.They visited a UGA broiler microprocessing facility in Athens, Ga. It matches industry standards and provides a place for students to learn all areas of poultry processing. They work to develop new poultry food products there, too.”The delegation wished to see and hear about poultry in Georgia because they knew it was important in the state and that it was an efficient and wholesome protein source that might help the food and nutrition situation in their countries,” said Mike Lacy, head of the CAES poultry science department.The delegation went to the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga., to learn about food science research and about Peanut CRSP projects to combat aflatoxin, a group of potentially deadly toxins produced by fungi. It can appear in peanuts, corn and other crops.”Aflatoxin exposure is a serious problem for many developing countries,” Williams said.In south Georgia, the delegation toured new climate-controlled peanut warehouses in Wilcox County. And on the UGA campus in Tifton, Ga., they learned how peanuts, cotton and vegetables are grown and marketed in Georgia.Productive relationsMozambique Ambassador Armando Panguene wants to develop relationships between his country and learning institutions across the United States. He hopes this will help his country grow. About 80 percent of the population there works on farms.Mozambique farmers, he said, need to learn how to increase their production. But this will depend on developing new markets. “The markets for our production are very limited,” he said.Mozambique has traditionally been linked to Europe, Panguene said. “But now the U.S. is a new market we want to explore.””If we can work and trade with these countries and help them develop,” Williams said, “it would benefit all by making these countries less dependent on food assistance. … And there is much we can learn from them.”UGA, the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service sponsored the diplomats’ visit.
When disaster strikes neighbors, as it did to Georgia’s this month in Louisiana and Mississippi, people naturally want to rush to help. That’s not always the best idea, say disaster experts with the University of Georgia.People who head into a disaster uninvited plague official emergency management teams in every disaster, said Don Hamilton, the homeland security coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “People should only respond under the appropriate authorities,” Hamilton said.An official disaster response is designed to be well coordinated and carefully orchestrated. Having unassigned people and unplanned supplies flood into a disaster area can slow the process.“In many cases, the problem is that individuals just show up and start working without being part of the emergency management agency’s coordinated effort,” Hamilton said. “This can result in a reduction in disaster relief, and even legal problems for those with the best of intentions. People love to show up with chainsaws and get to work, but that’s not always the best response.” It’s one thing to go over and help someone you know remove debris from their yard, he said. But a person shouldn’t start randomly clearing trees that might be tangled in downed power lines.Most people mean well, but some don’t. “In the worst cases,” Hamilton said, “we see groups use disaster to further an agenda such as animal rights, or to raise money falsely under the guise of disaster response.” Training is a must, says Bill Thomas, an agriculture emergency specialist. “One of the things that we found during (Hurricane) Katrina was that the volunteers did not come trained and prepared for the conditions that they had to work in. If they did not have their shots, have sleeping bags, tents, food, etc., then the incident management team had to look after those needs as well as the emergency.”Also, people may do great rescue or disaster work near home, but in a different environment, they may not. For example, during Katrina, he said, the high heat and humidity and 15-hour work days took a toll on many.Preplanning is key to successful recovery. Emergency management can’t preplan for unexpected guests. “In a disaster, there may not be any motel rooms or restaurants open, and there may not be water or sanitation available,” Thomas said. “Basically, you only need the volunteers that you can support. There were situations in Katrina where people were trying to cook the meals of the day on a small grill for a large group of people.”A team is typically requested, not individuals. A team can be more easily tracked by emergency managers. “Tracking individuals can be a major distraction,” Thomas said.Training also keeps people focused on the mission. “One of the main goals in animal sheltering is to reunite the animals with their owners,” Thomas said. “Sometimes, people are willing to supply temporary shelters (foster homes) for animals but then they grow attached and didn’t want to give them up. That is another distraction for emergency management to deal with.” People should only volunteer as part of a group recognized and requested by emergency management authorities, Hamilton said. Those who want to give money or supplies should do it through well-known relief agencies like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or local churches. By Faith PeppersUniversity of Georgia
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaCharlie Brummer believes there is room for improvement – at least when it comes to plants.“I’m a plant breeder, which means my job is to develop new plant varieties with improved traits,” said Brummer, a crop and soil sciences professor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Whether creating better crops to fuel the United States in the future, ones to help farmers make more money – or just one with a prettier bloom, plant breeding is basically a simple concept, he said. Man’s been doing it for 10,000 years. “What we do, and what those early humans did, is to select among a population of plants for the ones that have the traits we want – large seed size, green leaves, big red flowers, etc.,” he said. “We look for good plants, cross them together and get even better plants.”Brummer started his career as an undergraduate potato breeder at Penn State in 1985. As the director of the UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, he now breeds alfalfa, white and red clover, tall fescue, orchard grass and perennial ryegrass. He is also part of some major grants award to UGA to develop bioenergy crops such as switch grass.Biofuel is a political topic that’s tough to predict, he said. When or whether the alternative energy industry strengthens in the U.S. depends on what kinds of programs are put in place now and in the future.“We can manipulate plants in various ways just through breeding to make better feedstock for whatever biofuel platform ultimately develops,” he said.From his perspective as a breeder, it’s hard to select for one trait one year and another trait the next. The process takes time and needs consistent goals or targets to work.“I don’t think breeding will be the deciding factor, though, in whether a biofuel industry develops or not,” he said. “Breeding can certainly tailor better biofuels to that industry, but some combination of government and private enterprise nurturing the industry as it gets going has to occur for us so that growing biofuels in the first place is economically feasible. Once that happens, we (the breeders) can work our magic and further increase the productivity and profitability of the sector.”Plant breeding has undergone huge changes since the early part of the 20th century when it was formalized as a discipline, he said. Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin crossed plants to produce new varieties. But the later application of genetic principles to the plant breeding process opened up the discipline’s possibilities and helped the breeder predict what could be.“More recently, the application of biotechnolgy and genomics has given plant breeders a much more precise understanding of the crops or plants they work with and presents opportunities to manipulate traits more efficiently and effectively,” he said. “The use of these tools is rapidly expanding, and together with more sophisticated statistical tools, really opens up many possibilities to develop superior plant varieties in the future.”One thing hasn’t changed, though. A good plant breeder still has to be a kind of Jack-of-all-trades, so to speak, he said. From pathology, entomology and agronomy to biology and statistics, he has many tools to use in the toolbox. “We apply all this different technology to the actual plants that people grow.”
By April SorrowUniversity of GeorgiaFire ants can ruin picnics and football games year-round. Treating fire ant colonies in the fall can help edge out future colonies, lessening the likelihood they’ll steal your chips or nip at your toes. “Fire ant colonies have been growing through the summer and have reached their peak size,” said Dan Suiter, a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Attacking those colonies now will help next spring when they start to swarm again.” Fire ants are easier to kill in the fall, he said, for four main reasons.First, they’re more active. That makes it easier to treat them with fire ant baits.”You can use fire ant baits any time of the year,” Suiter said. “But they’re most effective when the ants are actively foraging for food.”Fire ants are most active in spring and fall, when daytime temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees, he said. Actively foraging ants will pick up bait and carry it into the nest within the first hour or two. If the ants are inactive, the bait may not appeal to the ants by the time they find it.Second, in the cooler weather of fall, fire ants aren’t too deep in the ground. That makes them easier to kill with a mound-drench, granular, dust or aerosol contact insecticide. When you use those products, Suiter said, it’s critical to treat when the queen and brood are close to the surface.Third, in the fall, you’re treating when many fire ant colonies are very young. Fire ants mate all year long, but they’re most actively mating in the spring, he said. Mated queens fly away and establish new colonies. By fall, these colonies are well-established but still fairly small.”Quite often, you don’t even know they’re there,” he said. “But if you don’t treat them, they’ll become the big mounds you see next year.”How do you treat for fire ants if you don’t know where they are? Broadcasting fire ant bait is the first step in the ongoing program Suiter recommends. Use fresh bait, he said, and apply it using the label directions. Never apply bait using a speader that’s been used to spread fertilizer. Fertilizer can contaminate the smell of the bait. Use only a new spreader, dedicated only to the use of spreading fire ant bait. Treat individual problem mounds with an approved contact product. Be sure to follow directions carefully. Misuse of pesticides, like fire ant control products, is a violation of federal law. “A lot of misuse comes from homeowners who think that what they put out isn’t strong enough to kill the ants,” he said. “But many of the chemicals are pretty much the same as professional chemicals.” Homeowner misuse of insecticides has resulted in some active ingredients, like bifenthrin, showing up at unacceptable levels in lakes and streams. “It’s a granular insecticide put on people’s yards,” Suiter said. “With overuse, particularly by homeowners who think more is better, it’s winding up in lakes and streams.”Fourth, and the one thing that makes fall the single best time to treat fire ants, Suiter said, is that it’s followed by winter. Extreme cold is tough on fire ants. This makes baits even more effective in the fall. Baits take a long time to work. They weaken colonies and make them less able to respond to the challenges of winter weather.Young colonies are especially vulnerable, Suiter said, because they don’t have many workers. So they can’t respond very quickly to the need to escape freezing temperatures.The networked tunnels of a fire ant mound are constantly collapsing, Suiter said. Moving deeper into the ground requires a lot of work. Anything you can do to reduce the number of ants available to gather food and maintain the mound structure makes the colony less able to survive winter weather.”Winter is an ally in controlling fire ants,” Suiter said. “Reducing their numbers in the fall can help push them over the edge in the winter.”(April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
“It takes individual, family and community action to change these practices,” Gibson said. “Each person taking baby steps will add up. If every parent waiting in line to pick up their children turns their car off, it helps.” For more information on EPA’s National Idle-Reduction Campaign, visit their website at http://epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/antiidling.htm .To calculate the savings from not idling, check out the calculator at www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/idle_fuel_calc.htm . Schools can take simple steps to reduce risks and save money. “Today’s bus engines don’t need to be warmed up for long periods of time,” Turner said. “They should be warmed for less than five minutes.”Idling wastes fuelAccording to an idling calculator on the EPA website, reducing idling to just 10 minutes a year saves 300 gallons of gas. Turner estimates reducing the warm-up time for just 20 buses will save more than $1,200 per year.Changing policies isn’t easy, Gibson said. But, she offers these suggestions to get the discussion going at local schools.Look at the EPA’s National Idle-Reduction Campaign website and learn the facts. “Once people know the facts, they can start a movement in the community or the school’s parent organizations to show the risks and benefits if the practices are changed,” she said. Take the ‘walking bus’Start a “walking school bus” in your neighborhood. “If your neighborhood has adequate sidewalks to the school, a walking school bus is an excellent idea,” Gibson said. The idea is to arrange a group of parents who walk to school and pick children up along the route. “The kids are escorted to school safely by adults,” she said. “They benefit from the exercise, no fuel is used and no emissions are put into the air.”Gibson also said this concept builds community among parents and children.Some parents say they choose carpooling over buses because they are concerned about bus safety or enjoy the extra time with their children. “They get both of those benefits in the walking bus, too,” she said.Make these changesAmerican school buses travel more than 4 billion miles a year. While EPA agrees that school buses are the safest way to transport children to and from school, the agency offers these suggestions to school systems to reduce the impact of buses on the environment: The sign in front of Fulton Science Academy Middle School is clear: “No Idling. Little lungs at work.”As cars line up to drop children off at the Alpharetta, Ga., school, the rule is strictly enforced. Monitors walk along the carpool line and tap on windows to remind drivers to turn off their engines. Dispelling the myth“You can sit and idle in a carpool line for 30 minutes,” said Sharon Gibson, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the Children, Youth and Families at Risk – Sustainable Communities Project. “There is a myth out there that it’s cheaper to keep your car running and it’s better for your car. It’s a total myth.”According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, idling uses more gas than turning your engine off and restarting it. “Idling your car for 30 minutes in a carpool line causes more wear-and-tear on your engine that driving the same amount of time at low speed,” Gibson said.Saves money and the environmentThere are even bigger savings when it comes to school buses. The EPA warns that idling buses increase air pollution, cause wear-and-tear in bus engines and waste gas and money. “A line of idling school buses doesn’t just pollute the air around the buses,” said Pamela Turner, a UGA Extension housing specialist. “They also pollute the air in the bus and can emit particulates that can enter the school, reducing the air quality inside, too.” Asthmatic children suffer mostAccording to Gibson and Turner, pollution from idling buses is particularly problematic for children with chronic respiratory problems like asthma.“Diesel exhaust has particulate matter that can cause health risks,” Turner said. “Thousands of them can fit on the period at the end of this sentence. They easily pass through the nose and cause real problems for children.”Most at risk, they said, are those who have existing heart, lung or respiratory problems. The particulates are most dangerous to children and the elderly. Polluted air drifts into schools“And, where do we idle?” Gibson asked. “In front of schools.”The particles can even contribute to creating more haze. “Idling buses aren’t just a health risk, they’re an environmental risk and can cause long-term damage,” she said. Use cleaner fuels.Upgrade bus engines to reduce emissions.Replace older buses with less polluting buses.
The back of a juice bottle contains all kinds of information about your favorite breakfast beverage: calorie content, grams of sugar and the amount of antioxidants in the mix. But what you don’t see on the nutrition label is how your body processes those nutrients-how much of the juice’s sugar and vitamin content is absorbed by your digestive system. Fanbin Kong, a researcher in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Food Science Technology, has spent his career working to understand how the human body reacts to different kinds of food. “We want to know the ingredients and the structure of the food,” Kong said. “How this will affect the digestion and also the absorption of the nutrients, and how that relates to your health.” Kong has spent the past several years developing models of the human stomach that realistically demonstrate the way the food breakdown in the stomach is affected by contraction forces from peristaltic movement of stomach walls. “We’re not talking about a set of beakers here,” he said. The model stomach crushes, churns and provides the same steady stream of digestive enzymes and acids that are present in the human stomach. Working with the UGA Instrument Shop, he is creating a novel model for an artificial intestine. He also is designing a new, more advanced artificial stomach model. The models are a way to test the efficacy of functional foods and develop foods that help solve some health concerns people face today. “One of the things that I’ve done is studied how food is digested from an engineering perspective because, basically, I’m a food engineer,” Kong said. “So we look at food as a material. How does food’s microstructure affect its digestion? How will hydrodynamic and mechanical forces present in the gastrointestinal tract affect food breakdown and nutrient release? “This information is very useful in the way we design foods, especially functional foods,” Kong also said. “You can see nothing from their labels. You can see the content, but you don’t know how it’s going to be absorbed by your body.” Functional foods are products like energy bars, vitamin-fortified juices, nourishment shakes for the elderly and children or milk for people who are lactose intolerant. Currently, Kong is focused on how the body extracts phytochemicals-like tannin-from food and how these chemicals affect the way the body absorbs other nutrients. One project involves tannic acid, one type of tannin. The acids have antioxidant properties that are good for humans, but they also affect the way the body absorbs sugar. Tannic acid inhibits the enzyme that allows the body to absorb sugar. “We are eating tannins every day, but it doesn’t work like we would like it to because the concentrations are low,” Kong said. “Second, when the tannins go through your stomach and intestines, you don’t know how much is released. And third, even when the tannin is released in your stomach, it reacts with the proteins and the enzymes there and you lose that action.” Kong has developed a way to create tiny beads of tannic acid that can be incorporated into breads and carbohydrate-rich foods. The beads are designed to dissolve in the neutral pH environment of the intestine where 80 to 90 percent of the digestion of carbohydrates takes place. The tannic acid will inhibit some digestion, so that less simple sugars are produced for absorption, allowing people on sugar-restricted diets to eat carbohydrates without having their blood sugar spike.