Soil Still Dry Rainfall late last week and early this week has brought some temporary relief to drought conditions across Georgia. But the state needs much more rain to break the drought. Total rainfall between June 8 and June 14 in the state’s peanut region ranged from 0.3 inches at Statesboro to 1.98 inches at Tifton. Most stations reported between 0.75 and 1.75 inches. Across the rest of the state, rainfall ranged from 0.1 at Dearing and 0.27 at Eatonton. Some stations had more than 1.5 inches, included Attapulgus and Dixie in southwest; Tifton in south central; Vidalia in southeast; Griffin, Pine Mountain and Williamson in west central; Blairsville in the north Georgia mountains; and Clark Atlanta University in downtown Atlanta. (The rainfall figures are from the University of Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network. Daily updates are available on the Web site.) With last week’s rain, conditions in central Georgia improved from extreme to severe drought, while southwest Georgia improved from severe to moderate drought. Except for the northwest (moderate), the rest of the state is in severe drought. Rainfall needed to end the drought ranges from 4 inches in the northwest to more than 11 inches in the southeast. The eastern two-thirds of the state needs more than 9 inches to end the drought. Drought Still On The Georgia Agricultural Statistical Service reports that soil moisture is very short to short in 70 percent of the state. The topsoil in the central, east central and all of south Georgia is excessively dry, and yield prospects are reduced. West-central Georgia soils are abnormally dry, and prospects are deteriorating. Across the rest of the state, the soil moisture is rated as short. Regional drought and soil moisture conditions are calculated by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center and updated weekly. Agriculture remains stressed across the state. GASS rates almost half of the corn and pastures very poor to poor. Almost a third of the cotton crop is rated very poor to poor. You can find daily updates on the drought at the UGA drought Web site. Or contact your county extension agent.
For a weekend in Wrightsville, Ga., the catfish will be king. Former President Jimmy Carter’s March 24 formal opening of the Catfish INT processing plant will trigger the three-day Catfish Festival and Trade Show. It’s not about straw hats, bare feet and cane poles. Catfish have brought big business to this east-central-Georgia community. Catfish INT expects to process 55,000 pounds of fish per eight-hour shift. It will take at least 3,000 acres of water to keep that much fish coming. The March 24-26 celebration of fun, fins and fenders will include an arts-and-crafts fair, antique farm equipment and antique cars. At the center of it all is a March 25 catfish trade show that spotlights this growing Georgia industry. Trade Show March 25 The trade show will be at the American Legion Fairgrounds on Highway 15 south of Wrightsville. Companies from all over the Southeast will display catfish equipment, feeds and supplies from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a seminar will focus on getting started in the catfish business. University of Georgia scientists Gary Burtle and George Lewis and others will discuss all aspects of building ponds and raising catfish. To learn more about the Catfish Festival and Trade Show, call Mark Crosby (912-864-3373) at the Johnson County office of the UGA Extension Service. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 4-H Pledge I pledgeMy head to clearer thinking,My heart to greater loyalty,My hands to larger service, andMy health to better living,for my club, my community, my country and my world. The choices we make help shape our character. My participation in scouting, music, athletics and academic events has addressed specific areas of development. But my involvement with Georgia 4-H has helped in a myriad of ways to shape me into a contributing and compassionate citizen.Asked why she had encouraged me to be so active, my mom said it was to help me grow into a well-rounded person. She knew intuitively what a 1999 Cornell University study verified: 4-H has a positive impact on kids. It gives them assets that make them less likely to get into drugs and other risky behaviors and more likely to be healthy and successful in school.It wasn’t clear to me at first what 4-H was all about. But my fifth-grade teacher made it attractive, and I was hooked. I was having fun and learning to feel good about myself. Looking back, I can see that the emphasis on developing the “head, heart, hands and health” has helped me build life skills and obtain many of the assets I need to succeed.My HeadIn developing my head, 4-H improved my managing and thinking skills. In competitive events, I’ve set goals for myself and learned to manage my time and resources to achieve them.Of course, the goal is to be the best you can be. Sometimes I’m rewarded by earning a win. At other times, I learn how to be better next time.I first competed in communication as a Cloverleaf. I’ve continued in this project, learning more about the topic and refining my speaking and presentation skills each year.My HeartMy parents say 4-H has helped improve my heart, specifically in building my social skills. Painfully shy in middle school, I signed up to attend Junior 4-H Conference and found I was the only one from my school planning to go. I could have dropped out, but I opted to go, and it was a turning point in my life.I was forced to become acquainted with students from other schools in my county and made friends from other counties, too. That weekend showed me I shouldn’t shy away from events because my friends weren’t there. Since then I’ve made many friends from across the state through 4-H.My HandsWorking and giving involves my hands. Our 4-H leader offers us opportunities for community volunteering each year. Community service projects have always been part of my Girl Scout experience, too.The basis of these projects was giving, either specific items or our time and effort. We had projects to help less fortunate people through the local homeless shelter and emergency food bank.I’ve learned to work together with my peers. We always feel good about ourselves after a job well done.My HealthLearning through the successes and failures of competition, my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses heightened my self-concept. Through social interaction with other 4-H’ers, I gained self-confidence. Through teamwork and community service, I enhanced my feelings of self-worth.These experiences together have helped me build a positive self-esteem, making my health and healthy living better.My family, friends and teachers all say 4-H has been a positive influence for me. I know this to be true.I know how to organize materials for a project now, and I’m comfortable giving oral presentations. This is a great help in my schoolwork.I’ve gained social confidence and am comfortable in many situations. This should help me make wise choices when confronted by peer pressure to participate in risky behavior.While I strive to be the best I can be, 4-H is the vehicle to help “make the best better” every day.
By Mike IsbellUniversity of Georgia”But it’s a caterpillar,” my daughter Jordan said as we lookedover the muscadine vine in our yard. “And it’s cute.”Cute, my foot.That caterpillar was a tomato hornworm. It can eat my muscadinevine faster than my friend Willie can eat a pot of turnip greens.And it’s got plenty of help — Japanese beetles. They’re munchingaway on my vine and the little developing fruit, too.I’m killing every one of them.Earlier in the season, as the vine began to put on new leaves, Ibattled a horde of small, leaf-eating caterpillars called Easterngrape-leaf skeletonizers and hundreds of sap-sucking aphids.Protecting grapesBut I got rid of all those little pests. Now if I can keep theseinsects at bay, I should have a good crop of muscadines.Insects are among the oldest, most numerous and most successfulanimals on earth. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 specieslive in North America. In your backyard and mine there areprobably 1,000 insect species at any time.It’s lucky for us that only 3 percent of all insects are pests.Those 3 percent can cause trouble enough, sometimes reachingastonishing proportions. Some bite us, sting us and act asdisease vectors. Some destroy stored foods and other products.And some eat our crops, like my muscadines.Insects eat their food in a variety of ways. Some are chewingbugs like the tomato hornworms and Japanese beetles I’m dealingwith now. Another group, which includes aphids, feed on growingplants by piercing the plant tissue and sucking sap from thecells.Inside jobA third group feeds from inside the plant. How do they get there?Well, their mamas can put them in there, where they hatch — orthey can hatch first and then eat their way inside.Sounds like a Stephen King monster movie to me.Thankfully, not all insects are bad.Some aid in the production of fruits, seeds, vegetables andflowers by pollinating the blossoms.Parasitic and predator insects destroy the ones that harm ourcrops, while other insects destroy various weeds the same waysome injure crop plants.Insects improve the physical condition and fertility of our soilsby burrowing throughout the surface layer.And just think what this place would be like if insects didn’tact as scavengers and devour the bodies of dead animals andplants. And what if they didn’t bury carcasses and dung?But that’s another story. For now, I’m getting rid of tomatohornworms and those darned Japanese beetles.(Mike Isbell is the Heard County Extension Coordinator withthe University of Georgia College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences.)
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaGeorgia has had plenty of rain in the past month. But there’s no guarantee it will be plentiful all summer. And just two weeks without rain can be enough to hurt most grasses.Your lawn doesn’t have to suffer, said Kerry Harrison, an irrigation specialist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. But you don’t want to just turn on the sprinklers anytime you feel the lawn needs a drink. This could waste water and damage lawns. It could get you in trouble, too.The guidelinesGeorgia has no mandatory watering restrictions statewide now, he said. But there are some guidelines.If your street address is an odd number, you’re asked to water on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. If it is an even number, you’re asked to do it on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. “There’s no outside watering on Friday,” he said.New automated irrigation systems, Harrison said, must be equipped with rainfall sensors to stop them when it rains. Watering guidelines are enforced by local authorities.But homeowners can easily supply their lawns with needed water and still follow the guidelines, he said.Know the systemIt doesn’t matter if you use a permanent system or a sprinkler attached to a hose. The first thing you need to know is how much water you’re applying and how fast.”Not knowing your water application rate is like driving a car with no speedometer,” he said.Different systems apply water at different rates. Hose-sprinkler systems vary the most. Space three rain gauges within the watering area of your system. Look at your watch. After an hour has passed, check your gauges to see how much water your system puts out in that time.Good timingMost lawns grow best when they get 1 inch of water a week, either from rain, irrigation or combination of the two. And they prefer long soakings. In dry weather, water only once or twice a week to get that 1 inch of water.Light, frequent watering can cause turf grasses to develop shallow roots. This can lead to many problems, including disease and insect damage and discoloring from poor fertility.The grass at the very end of a sprinkler’s trajectory may not get as much water as the grass closer to the sprinkler. Permanent systems should be set for overlap in sprinkler patterns to adjust for this. Remember this when you move your hose-sprinkler system. You want your lawn to be uniformly wet.Water at the right times, too: early morning or late at night, Harrison said. If you don’t, you could just waste time and water.”We have research and evidence to show that you can lose as much as half the water if it’s applied during peak daylight hours,” he said.High temperatures and high winds can evaporate water or blow it off-target, too, he said.Watering during the day, too, increases the time grass is wet. This can cause disease. Watering at night won’t hurt grass that’s already wet from dew. The turf gets the water it wants and is drier during the day.Georgia should have a typical, humid summer with temperatures in the mid-80s and 90s and spikes around 100, said state climatologist David Stooksbury, a professor of engineering with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The heat should generate hit-or-miss afternoon thunderstorms.An above-average tropical weather season is forecast for the Atlantic Ocean. But fewer storms than in 2004 will likely make landfall.
By David Emory StooksburyUniversity ofGeorgiaThe very wet summer of 2005 has caused the risk of flooding to beusually high across Georgia.Soil moisture and stream flows are already very high for themiddle of August. Most reservoirs and ponds are at or near thesummer full pool.Heavy rainfall can lead to rapid flooding, as there is minimalstorage capacity left in the soils, rivers and reservoirs.A special concern is the potential impact of a widespread rainevent associated with tropical weather. Localized floodingassociated with individual thunderstorm complexes is also morelikely this summer.The elevated flood risk is expected to remain for the foreseeablefuture.InsuranceMost insurance policies for homes and businesses don’t coverlosses caused by flooding. An additional policy is required.Information about the federal National Flood Insurance Programmay be found at www.fema.gov/fima/nfip.shtm.It takes 30 days fora new policy to start, so it’s important to start the programbefore flooding is forecast.Another problem associated with wet soils is falling trees. Treeswith poor roots due to disease, damage or poor growth are morelikely to fall over. Trees will rotten trunks and limbs are alsomore like to cause damage.Since it’s very hard to determine the health of a tree’s roots,trunk and branches by simple inspection, it’s best to have acertified arborist inspect trees.Soaked soilsSoil moisture is extremely high for August. It’s at the 99thpercentile north and west of a Valdosta-to-Macon-to-Lincolntonline and south and east of a Columbus-to-Carrolton-to-Blairsvilleline. This means that in 99 of 100 years, we would expect soilsto be drier than they are now.For the remainder of the state, soil moisture is generallygreater than the 90th percentile, except in the extreme northwestcorner. At the 90th percentile, we would expect the soils to bedrier in 90 of 100 years than they are now.Streams and rivers across Georgia are extremely high for August.On Aug. 10, daily record flows were recorded on the Oconee Rivernear Athens, Apalachee River near Bostwick, Broad River nearBell, Little River near Washington, Alcovy River near Covington,Ocmulgee River from Jackson to Macon and Spring Creek near IronCity.Most of the other major rivers in the state are at or above the90th percentile in flow for the middle of August.Tropical threatsBecause of the increased threat of flooding, Georgians need tomonitor the development of tropical systems over the next severalmonths.The best way to keep updated about weather conditions and weatherwarnings is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationweather radio. NOAA weather radios are available at most storesthat sell electronics.Recent rainfall information is available from the GeorgiaAutomated Environmental Monitoring Network (www.georgiaweather.net)of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences.More information on preparing for a flood and recovery can befound at http://interests.caes.uga.edu/disaster/preparation/articles.htmand http://interests.caes.uga.edu/disaster/recovery/articles.htm.(David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and aprofessor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)
By Matthew ChappellUniversity of GeorgiaYou just moved to Georgia and purchased a fantastic home with a not-so-fantastic landscape. You immediately ask two questions: “Where do I start?” and “What about the drought do I need to know?”Have no fear. With a little bit of time and energy, you will be well on your way to a beautiful landscape that can withstand a lack of water. Before you plant a peony or lay a finger on a shovel, you should test the soil. A soil test is an easy and inexpensive means of identifying if the soil will require adjustments to the pH or nutrient levels. If you plant in poor soil, plants will grow poorly or slowly die.The local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office provides instructions on how to do a test, read the results and on ways to adjust the soil for optimal plant growth. Most plants require pH between 5.2 and 6.5 to grow well. However, it is not uncommon in northern Georgia for new home sites or unmaintained landscapes to have soil pH in the range of 4-5 with nutrients below levels needed for most landscape plants and turf to grow well. Once you have adjusted the soil, you are on the road to a healthy landscape. The next step should be amending the soil. Organic soil amendments will improve the water-holding capacity of native soil, provide plants with a better rooting environment and allow water to infiltrate the soil surface faster, reducing runoff. These three factors will prepare your soil and plants for drought conditions and will virtually eliminate the need to irrigate your landscape. Typically, you will not need to amend the soil more than 25 percent to observe a significant benefit. To achieve this, for example, you would place 2.5 inches of amendment on the soil surface and then till to a depth of 10 inches. A variety of soil amendments can be used including household compost, composted yard waste and composted livestock waste. The key is to use a composted material. A non-composted amendment can rob soil of the valuable nitrogen plants need to flourish. Now that your soil is prepared, it is time to determine what you want to plant. For those who move to Georgia from northern states, this will be a time of great excitement. Georgia gives gardeners a cold enough winter to grow many northern favorites and a not-too-cold winter and lengthy summer that allows some tropical plants to thrive. Some examples of plants that you often won’t find in northern gardens but grow well in all but extreme northern Georgia include windmill palm, cabbage or palmetto palm, needle palm, agave, lemon bottlebrush, camellia, winter daphne, Japanese fatsia, cape jasmine, Japanese pittosporum and some cultivars of oleander. These are just a few selections. Beyond plants, the most exciting aspect of horticulture in Georgia is the supporting cast of individuals, activities and public gardens available in this state. Take advantage of opportunities in local garden clubs and UGA’s Master Gardener program to increase your understanding of horticulture and trade plants. There are an abundance of flower and horticulture trade shows to expand your horizons and find the next fabulous plant. In Georgia, horticulture seems to be around every corner. Join the party and enjoy transforming your landscape into your small paradise.
Through Cooperative Extension offices in almost every county, the University of Georgia helps Georgians become healthier, more financially independent and more environmentally responsible. Whether you’d like to build a safer environment for your children, deal with the stresses of daily school life, teach your children to avoid chronic diseases like diabetes with healthy food or train food handlers in your cafeteria, Extension is the place to start. Congress established the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914 to deliver information from land-grant colleges and universities to all Americans. Extension continues to fulfill that basic mission, and one of the most important parts is helping our schools improve student achievement. Cooperative Extension is an educational network that combines the expertise and resources of federal, state and local governments to improve people’s lives. We extend the reach of the University of Georgia to connect you with knowledge, research and resources in the areas of youth, family and agricultural needs. We provide answers to the public with the research of the University of Georgia to back us up. In this day and time of information overload and the easy access to the Internet, you should always remember to fact-check sources. As UGA Extension professionals, we are required to base our solutions to client issues on research, not home remedies and hearsay. Whether recommending the safest method possible to control fire ants, or showing homeowners how to test their home for radon, you can trust that our information is research based. And when it comes to your child, the Georgia 4-H program is the place to go to find caring adults to help your child develop his or her leadership potential within.
The associate professor’s ability to inspire students and instill a new social consciousness has made her classes popular with students across the UGA campus and has won her national recognition. Students taking Maria Navarro’s classes are likely to come away with more than just knowledge of international agriculture. They tend to have a new concern about the health and wellbeing of the world’s population. She uses her experience to build a curriculum for her courses that invites students to look critically at their own worldviews and see how their lives affect people around the world, Akin wrote in his nomination letter for his former teacher. She recently accepted the New Teacher Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the National Awards Program for Excellence in College and University Teaching in Food and Agricultural Sciences. She was one of two early career agriculture professors to receive the award at a meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in Denver, Colo. Before coming to the UGA as an assistant professor in 2005, Navarro worked on agricultural development projects in North Africa. “As an international affairs major, I had never really considered the importance of agriculture in global issues,” wrote 2012 UGA graduate Jeremy Akin, a former Fulbright Research Fellow to Uganda who took Navarro’s international agricultural development course in 2008. “Uncovering the link between rural agricultural development and violent conflict in Dr. Navarro’s class has undeniably influenced my academic and professional career. … I honestly doubt if I would have ever considered (much less come to value) the crucial role of agriculture in a community’s sense of security without Dr. Navarro’s skill in daring students to connect the dots.” “Dr. Navarro brings a social conscience to her classes that has changed the way her students view the world,” said J. Scott Angle, dean and director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “She has been a champion for promoting diversity and globalization among our students. Dr. Navarro stands apart as a junior faculty member in that her impact on teaching has been campus-wide.” Navarro’s courses, including one entitled “Reflections on Fighting Hunger and International Agriculture Development,” have attracted students from many disciplines across UGA to think differently about agriculture. The USDA New Teacher Award recognizes undergraduate professors who demonstrate “sustained, meritorious and exceptional teaching” and who have been teaching for less than seven consecutive years. In her tenure at UGA, Navarro has been recognized by the UGA Student Government Association as an outstanding teacher and by UGA President Michael F. Adams with UGA’s Fulfilling the Dream Award that honors Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to justice and equality.
About 500 farmers and 130 market managers in Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina have been trained in the curriculum. Other states, including Alabama and Tennessee, have also started using the curriculum.“What we’ve found is that almost 40 percent of the farmers on small farms in our surveys selling [at farmers markets] in these three states – Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina – have been farming three years or less,” Harrison said. “They don’t have a lot of experience farming and, in many cases, are just getting started.” Some of the “best practices” Harrison recommends for farmers include bacteria testing for irrigation water and water used for washing produce; properly composting manure; and providing sanitation training for farm workers, among others.Harrison recommends that market managers ask farmers and vendors how products have been grown and handled as well as about the use of manure on food crops, and that they have a food safety plan or food safety specifications for their market.“I think everybody needs to see it,” said Cheryl Brady, market manager for the Monroe Farmers Market, who was trained in the curriculum in 2012. “It definitely brought some issues to our attention.”The curriculum also includes a DVD that features interviews with farmers and market managers who already use “best practices,” and presentations that provide details about food safety issues such as foodborne illnesses, like E. coli, that can trigger significant health and economic concerns.Harrison said the next step is to convert the curriculum into online self-study modules that will be available on the UGA Extension website.“Safe production and marketing of local produce can help protect consumers from foodborne illnesses, reduce medical costs associated with these illnesses and prevent devastating losses to farmers,” Harrison said. “It can also help local agricultural markets flourish, because it’s a way to keep money in the pockets of local farmers.” Shoppers expect food from local farmers markets to be healthier and safer than comparable items in the grocery store. A group of Southern university scientists are training farmers and market managers to help make that assumption a reality.A 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted a 400-percent increase in the number of local farmers markets since the early 1990s, according to Judy Harrison, a University of Georgia Extension food safety specialist.Since 2009, Harrison has led a multi-state project, funded by the USDA, to study food-safety practices on farms and in markets and to create a food-safety curriculum for farmers and market managers. She said the influx of beginning farmers selling at markets emphasizes the need for increased education about food safety.The project, “Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce,” recently won the first place Food Safety Award from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.USDA-backed initiatives, such as the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” and “Farm to School” programs, have helped to create a demand for local produce, Harrison said, giving the curriculum even more relevance.“If you look at the people who shop at farmers markets, it’s people who think that the food they get there is going to be healthier and safer for them than food from the grocery store,” Harrison said. “We just need to make sure that it is.”The curriculum includes checklists and fact sheets that cover basic food safety issues for both farmers and market managers. Harrison along with UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences sustainable agriculture coordinator Julia Gaskin, faculty from the UGA Food Science and Technology Department, and faculty from Virginia Tech and Clemson University developed the curriculum.Farmers and managers who have implemented the program agree the curriculum is having a positive impact. Between 18 percent and 64 percent of farmers and market managers, depending on the practice, indicated they changed as many as 16 different practices to improve produce safety, according to program evaluation forms.