A few days of sunshine can make a gardener forget El Nino. It’s rained all winter, but spring is here. It’s hard to resist working the garden. A University of Georgia scientist, though, has a word of advice: resist. Don’t be in such a hurry, said Wayne McLaurin, an Extension Service horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. First, be sure it’s not too wet to plow. “If you turn the soil when it’s too wet,” McLaurin said, “you’ll create a lot of hard clods that will take years to get rid of.” That’s especially true with heavier clay soils. “Sandy soils,” he said, “will be a little more forgiving.” Georgia has been inundated with rains this winter. A week into March, McLaurin figured it was “probably too wet to plow anywhere in the state.” So even though the average-last-frost dates are easing by, and spring gardening fever is mounting, don’t start working the garden soil until you’re sure it’s ready. “The soil will compact on you,” McLaurin said. “The implements you use to loosen up the soil will do just the opposite, creating hard-glazed clods that water can’t penetrate.” It’s almost like making rocks. “It will be very hard to break them up later,” he said. You can tell if your garden soil is dry enough to be worked, he said. Just dig down three or four inches with your hand and squeeze a clod of soil the size of a tennis ball. “Then if you tap it with your finger and it breaks up, it’s ready to work,” McLaurin said. “Or you can drop it, and if it shatters, it’s time to begin turning the soil.” If the clod holds together, he said, you’d best peruse those catalogs a little longer before starting this year’s garden.
Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Mulch and stake Make sure your garden gets 1 inch of water per week. (In excessively hot weeks, make that 2 inches.) If you get a half-inch of rain on Tuesday, give the garden a half-inch later in the week. Water early in the day to cut down on evaporation losses and to give your plants plenty of time to dry out, too. Wet foliage overnight may help trigger some diseases. With drip irrigation or soaker hoses, which deliver water right at the soil surface and not on the leaves, you can water almost anytime. Watch the fertilizer! Keep diseases down by placing the plant up on stakes or cages, and mulch around the plant to place a barrier between the plant and the soil. Mulch will also keep the soil moisture more uniform, which helps the tomato plant grow best. Tomatoes need it, but they need it in the right amount and at the right time. You should be side-dressing now, and timing is critical. The fertilizer you put out originally was enough to carry the plant until the first fruits “set” and the little tomatoes are the size of a dime to a nickel. Then, and only then, you should side-dress with more fertilizer. If you put out more fertilizer sooner, the plant will slough off the blossoms. It will grow vegetatively and not reproductively — it won’t produce tomatoes. Mind pests and diseases Wayne J. McLaurin Experts/Sources: Remember how great that first bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich was last year?The bread was toasted just right and slathered with mayonnaise. Then came bacon cookedto perfection, leaf lettuce just picked from the garden and the final crowning of yourfirst homegrown tomato — sliced ceremoniously, piled high with some hanging over the edgeof the sandwich. With a glass of iced tea and chips on the side, it was close to heaven.Well, the makings of that sandwich are within your grasp right now in the garden.Please handle the tomato plants carefully in anticipation of “The Day.”Tomatoes are 95 percent water Keep a lookout for insects and diseases. Check your plants as often as you can — at least two or three times a week. Get down on the bugs’ level and look at the underside of the leaves. This is where the insects hide and do their damage. If you keep these points in mind as you tend your garden, the “Day for That Sandwich” will come.
Photo: Darbie Granberry These greenhouse bell pepper transplants show dramatically the benefit of compost. The transplants on the right were grown with a medium with 20 percent compost. The ones on the left were grown without compost. Why not use the noncomposted organic matter?Weed-free, Pathogen-freeCompost and noncomposted organic materials both contain high levels of organic matter. But only compost is free of weed seed and pathogens.Besides organic matter, manure and products containing manure, such as animal litter, may also contain harmful weed seeds and disease germs that can harm humans, plants and animals.The heat generated during composting kills these weed seeds and germs.Holding NutrientsCompost and noncomposted organic matter both contain essential plant nutrients such as nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus. But compost holds the most nutrients in a leaching-resistant, slow-release form.Many of the water-soluble nutrients in animal manures may quickly move into the soil and supply injurious levels of nutrients to plants, or they may leach down below the root zone and no longer be available to plants.However, most of the nutrients in compost are in a complex organic form and must be mineralized in the soil before they can be leached or become available to plants.For example, only about 10 percent to 15 percent of the total nitrogen in compost is typically available during the first cropping season.Healthy SoilCompost and noncomposted organic matter both contain many microbial species. But the highest numbers and most diverse beneficial microbes are found in compost.Most gardeners are well aware of the old axiom, “Healthy soil is alive.” That can be taken a step farther: “The more alive, the healthier the soil.”An incredible diversity of organisms lives in healthy soil. They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa to the more complex nematodes and earthworms.Soil organisms support plant growth as they decompose organic matter, cycle nutrients, enhance soil structure and compete with or in other ways inhibit the growth of harmful microbes. High-quality compost is literally swarming with beneficial microbes.When? How Much?Eight to 10 weeks before planting, broadcast the compost and incorporate it into the soil. Small amounts are helpful, but for the best results, the first application should be 20 to 30 pounds of compost per 100 square feet of garden soil.After that, annually applying 8 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet should be enough.Best TransplantsMany gardeners grow their own vegetable transplants. Growing their own enables them to have transplants of special varieties they couldn’t get otherwise. And it lets them have the transplants when they need them.Of special interest to those who grow their transplants, recent research compared conventional transplant growing media without compost to media amended with compost (20 percent of the volume).Bell pepper transplants grown in compost-amended media were better transplants. They had larger stems and more roots. And after being transplanted to the field, the transplants grown in the compost-amended media produced 20 percent more peppers (by weight) than the transplants grown in nonamended media. Many gardening activities are still a few months away. But some things need to be done before spring’s sunny days arrive. Compost, an excellent amendment for garden soils, needs to be applied several weeks before seeding or transplanting.Compost is decayed manures, animal litter, leaves and other organic matter. More precisely, it’s the product that results from composting, the process in which microorganisms convert these organic raw materials into organic residues such as humus.Composting transforms the original manure, leaves, etc., into a much more desirable and more valuable soil amendment.Why Apply Compost?Organic matter improves most garden soils because it: Supplies important plant nutrients.Helps soils better retain nutrient.Improves soil aeration.Helps prevent soil compaction.Makes water more able to move into soil and stay longer.Makes soil easier to work.
Grow traditional or Elephant garlicGarlic is easily grown from cloves, or the individual sections of the garlic bulb. You can get these seed cloves from a variety of seed companies, and they may be available at your local feed-and-seed store or garden center.The type that will do well in Georgia is California Early. This is a soft-neck type (it doesn’t form a flower stalk) that matures in late spring. Later varieties don’t do well here because of the hot summers. Elephant garlic is actually more closely related to leeks than to garlic. But it, too, will do well in south Georgia. You can plant it from cloves as well. The bulb, as the name implies, is much larger than the standard garlic. Shallots aren’t baby onionsSow shallots later than onions, in mid-October or later, so they don’t form seed stems, or flower stems, in the spring. Chives also grow in clumps, and that makes it an easy way to reproduce them. Just separate the clumps and replant them to get more plants. You can start them from seeds, too, without a lot of trouble. Leeks don’t produce bulbs at all but instead develop a pseudostem of closely adhering leaves near the base of the plant. They’re grown from seed and should be sown in the fall around the time onions would be sown in plant beds (in September). By George BoyhanUniversity of GeorgiaGeorgia is known all over for its sweet, mild, Vidalia onions. But onions have several cousins, too, that you may want to try in your fall garden. While south Georgia is an ideal place to grow those sweet specialty onions because of its mild winters, abundant water and low-sulfur soils, the state is generally a fine place to grow the onion’s cousins. With leeks, gardeners often throw up soil to cover the base. They do this to blanch the tissue white, which is considered more appealing. Leeks grow from seed Chives are the smallest plants in the onion family. They’re often available in small pots or packs at garden centers. Check where you’d find normally other herb plants, and you may find chives there, too. Gardeners often think of shallots as small onions, but they’re not. They’re actually a species all their own. They grow in clusters and have a mild flavor, somewhere between an onion and garlic. Leeks have a mild flavor, with the white lower stem the best-tasting. The green tops can be eaten as well, but they generally have a stronger taste and more fibrous texture. If you like onions, chances are good that you’ll enjoy one or more of the plant’s cousins. Give some a try in your fall garden this year.
“We were working on thermal property sensors then to measure heat capacity of soil,” said Campbell, now retired from WSU. “Before, people used a sensor with a single needle having a heater and temperature sensor inside, and measuring the change in temperature over time. We made a dual needle device with a heater in one needle and a temperature sensor in the other.”Building on the concept “They expect to find a lot of water in the polar region of Mars, but it’s believed to be in the form of ice,” he said. “When the robot arm scoops away a thin layer of dust, there should be icy soil below. The sensor will make measurements that confirm that it’s icy soil.” So why do we need to know how much moisture is in Mars’ soil? Campbell continued to improve the device. It and other similar models are now developed and sold by Campbell’s company, Decagon, which manufactures measurement devices used by the food and pharmaceutical industries and for agricultural research. “When it lands it plops down in one spot and a little scoop or shovel on the end of a robot arm will take a sample from the soil on Mars,” Campbell said. “Our sensor is mounted on the scoop and the robot arm pokes it into soil for a measurement.” Phoenix is a lander, not a rover. The year was 1987 and Williams was on sabbatical working with a Washington State University research team led by Gaylon Campbell. The Phoenix Mars Mission landed on the Red Planet May 25. In its tool kit is an advanced version of Williams’ moisture probe. Scientists on the Mars mission believe the planet used to be covered with water and are determined to find out where the water went. The device worked for Williams’ peanut research. The research team published their findings. During the American Geophysical Union Meeting in 2004, the sensor device attracted the attention of a scientist working with NASA. “A scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (at the California Institute of Technology) stopped by our exhibit and said ‘That’s exactly what I need to send on the Mars lander,’” Campbell said. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaA device borne from the need to test soil moisture around peanut plants is now being used to help test the soil on Mars. “We designed the device to measure the water content around peanut pods,” said Williams, an agronomist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “At the time, there was no way to measure without disturbing the soil and destroying the pod.” NASA’s version of the moisture probe is called the Thermal and Electrical Conductivity Probe. It will test how heat and electricity move through the soil. Ice in the soil can make a big difference in how well the soil conducts heat. The probe is a humidity sensor, too, when held in the air. And that is where the device is today. Testing icy soil on MarsPhoenix’s mission is to study the history of the water now frozen into the Mars permafrost and to check for carbon-containing chemicals that are essential ingredients for life. For the first time, it will also monitor weather at the plant’s polar region from a surface perspective.
By Stephanie SchupskaUniversity of GeorgiaA recent study by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development reveals that the agribusiness industry has plenty of job openings, but not enough college graduates to fill them.“While the demand for college-educated workers is relatively small for farm producers, the processing of crop and livestock output requires trained employees with degrees in agriculture, conservation programs, secondary education, government and banking,” said CAED economist Marcia Jones.Farm-related activities accounted for 15 percent of the value of agribusiness output in 2006, she said. The processing and manufacturing of agricultural products accounted for 70 percent of the $76 billion in economic activity agriculture provided Georgia that same year.Checking the demandWhen CAED completed the workforce need study in fall 2008, the agribusiness job pool was projected to increase 1.4 percent annually to the year 2014. That was to be 9,320 additional job openings, 1,045 of which would require college-level training. The U.S. economic bust has since shrunk the job market, Jones said. But the need for ag graduates still exists.Georgia’s agribusiness industry will need an additional 1,000 college-trained workers by 2016. The state’s colleges are predicted to produce enough graduates to fill half of those positions, said Jones.The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Fort Valley State University and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College produce the majority of Georgia’s agricultural graduates. Agribusiness-related programs can be found through the university system’s 35 institutions, which offer 151 agriculture-related degree programs, ranging from certificates of less than a year to doctoral degrees.State goalsIn 2006, agribusiness directly accounted for 11 percent of the state’s total economic output and 8 percent of the state’s workforce, or almost 400,000 workers.But indirectly, Jones said, the impact was much more when the industry’s influence on other Georgia businesses is considered.“That total is $119.8 billion and more than 715,000 jobs,” she said. “The $76.3 billion is just the direct impact of ag, whereas the $119.8 billion is the total impact.”Agribusiness also ties directly into Georgia’s future, said Jones. The Commission for a New Georgia, a non-profit corporation appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue and led by CEOs and senior executives from across Georgia, wants the state’s agribusiness sector ranked as one of the nation’s top competitors by 2020. Meeting the needGeorgia’s agribusiness workforce is well prepared technically, said CAED economist Tommie Shepherd. He conducted one-on-one interviews with agribusiness owners as part of the study.“In general, they were saying that students know the subjects well, but they need more training in communications and leadership qualities and the knowledge of how all of business hangs together, including sales, business and marketing,” he said.According to a mailed survey, Jones said, employers also want more students with problem-solving skills, critical thinking, initiative, hands-on training, customer service and work ethic.She also said the many businesses were asking that college agricultural programs teach students the theories of agriculture and then how to apply them. For example, they should teach ways to dispose of poultry in an environmentally friendly way with little cost. Or, teach farm labor laws and regulations and how to use them to find legal workers to harvest crops.Students, Jones said, can do more on their own to build resume and job chances by participating in internships and getting as much hands-on experiences as possible.(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Butterflies, bugs and beetles will invade the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Saturday, Sept. 24 in Athens, Ga., for the annual Insect-ival.The event opens at the visitor’s center at 9:30 a.m. and event stations will remain open until 12:30 p.m. Families can enjoy discovery stations, roach and beetle races, an insect café, puppet shows and lots of live insects. Children can complete a series of activities to receive a special insect prize. Dozens of native butterflies will be released on the lawn of the International Garden at 11 a.m. Admission is $5 per person, or a maximum of $20 per family. Children under age 2 are free. The Insect-ival is sponsored by the botanical garden, the UGA Lund Club, the UGA department of entomology and the Georgia Museum of Natural History. For directions or more information, call (706) 542-6156 or go to the website www.uga.edu/botgarden.
“The Campus Sustainability Grants program provides students valuable experience in grant-writing and an opportunity for hands-on implementation of sustainable practices,” he said. “We enjoy working with students to take their ideas from concept to completion.” Twenty-one grant proposals were submitted in December and evaluated by a selection committee composed of UGA students, faculty and staff. Each winning proposal addressed priorities outlined in UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan to conserve resources, educate the campus community about environmental issues and provide research to further sustainability at the university.JoHannah Biang, a master’s student in horticulture, will construct a living wall planted with seasonal herbs and vegetables. The project will research and demonstrate the effectiveness of vertical gardening. The wall will be installed at UGArden, UGA’s campus community garden, in Athens and will be maintained by student volunteers. The produce will be harvested by Campus Kitchens and distributed at the Northeast Georgia Food Bank. Kevin Kirsche, director of the UGA Office of Sustainability, said the grant program is a great way for students to get involved and make a real, noticeable difference on campus. Three University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences students are among six whom were recently awarded grants from the UGA Office of Sustainability. The grants, which come from the student-paid green fee, will fund projects aimed at advancing campus sustainability. Katie Shepard, a master’s student in the department of crop and soil sciences in Athens, will monitor the effectiveness of a UGA East Campus rain garden at filtering pollutants from storm water runoff. Shepard will take soil moisture and water quality measurements to determine how well the rain garden does its job. Her findings will help ensure that other current and future rain gardens on campus continue to act as effective storm water filters. The project will be monitored by students in CAES, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Environment and Design. For more information on the UGA Office of Sustainability, visit the website www.sustainability.uga.edu/. Brandi Bishop, a senior agricultural education major at the UGA campus in Tifton, Ga., will develop a recycling program at the extended campus. She plans to install 60 waste reduction stations in 15 of the busiest buildings on the campus. The stations will make it easier and more convenient to recycle, and will save items from landfills. Bishop will also implement a public relations campaign to encourage university and community members to reduce waste.
Learn the basics of composting on April 19 at Rock Eagle 4-H Center’s Saturday at the Rock event.Clarke County University of Georgia Extension agent Amanda Tedrow will explain the ingredients that make up successful composting while demonstrating different methods ranging from vermicomposting (composting with worms) to simple backyard compost piles. Participants learn the steps from beginning to end, trash to treasure, through hands-on demonstrations and information on building up, watering and turning piles. The session will also cover how to turn kitchen and yard scraps into nutrient-rich soil for home gardens and landscape beds. The class is appropriate for all ages and costs $5 per person. The program begins at 9:30 a.m. and concludes at 11:30 a.m. and includes an optional visit to Rock Eagle’s Diane Davies Natural History Museum following the composting lesson. Advanced registration is required. For more information or to register, contact Laura Kent at (706) 484-2881 or email@example.com. Saturday at the Rock programs are held each month, excluding December. A complete list of sessions may be found online at www.rockeagle4h.org/ee/community/SaturdayattheRock.html.
The market demand for organic chicken, beef and pork has been on the rise for several years, so most farmers were prepared for the new restrictions on antibiotics in animal feed that went into effect on Jan. 1.The Food and Drug Administration rule change – the veterinary feed directive – prohibits farmers from including medically important antibiotics in livestock feed without veterinary oversight. The change will likely have a positive economic impact on farmers who don’t currently use these classes of antimicrobials in their animals’ feed, said Brent Credille, assistant professor of beef production medicine at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.In addition to seeking guidance from a veterinarian before introducing medically important antibiotics into livestock feed, the rule change prohibits the inclusion of medically important antibiotics in feed for the purpose of promoting growth.Credille explained the new rules to more than 150 farmers and agribusiness leaders gathered at the UGA Center for Continuing Education for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ 2017 Georgia Ag Forecast seminar.These new FDA regulations are a move toward a greater antibiotic stewardship push meant to deter the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Credille said. About 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and about 23,000 die from those infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The FDA already has firm waiting period regulations to allow antibiotics to clear animals’ bodies before they can be sent for slaughter to minimize any residue in the meat you buy. However, the use of antibiotics and the evolutionary pressure they put on bacterial communities has led to resistance. Antibiotic resistance has been driven by the overuse of antibiotic drugs in humans and in animals. Studies have shown that about 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed to human patients are unwarranted, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.U.S. Department of Agriculture economists project that the small number of livestock producers using antibiotics for growth promotion in 2016 will see their production costs go up by 1 to 3 percent and will see the wholesale prices they receive for their animals go up by 1 percent.Farmers who don’t use antibiotics for growth promotion will see increased revenues.“If you’re not using these drugs for production purposes, (you’ll) see an increase in production and higher revenues in response to (these changes),” Credille said. “So if we’re not using these things, we’re going to be OK.”Credille does believe that the FDA will soon expand the regulations to require farmers to receive some guidance from a veterinarian before administering antibiotics to their animals orally or by injection. “We do think that more restrictive regulations are coming,” Credille said. “We’ve got to look at different strategies to maximize animal health … We’ve got to focus on biosecurity. We’ve got to focus on vaccinations, deworming and preconditioning. It has to become a priority for us to make sure that we have access to the markets we need to have access to.”The majority of antibiotics used in feed on cow-calf production today are used to prevent respiratory infections in young calves. Antibiotics are also used to prevent respiratory infections in poultry and swine. They’re administered on a case-by-case basis for problems like pink eye and respiratory tract infections — the same reasons they’re often prescribed to humans.Credille told the farmers in the crowd at the Ag Forecast to develop a relationship with a veterinarian who can approve treatment plans for livestock if the need arises. Farmers don’t want to be mired in red tape when their animals are sick, so it’s important to develop a relationship with a veterinarian before illness strikes, he said.“We need to focus on antimicrobial stewardship,” Credille said. “Is there something that’s not antibiotic that would work just as well? Could we use something to prevent the disease instead of just treating cattle all the time?“Antimicrobial stewardship means preventing disease, and when we do have sickness, that we diagnose it quickly and accurately.”The new regulations will also mean that Georgia will need more large animal veterinarians in agricultural regions to help farmers develop treatment and health plans for their herds or flocks.The Georgia Department of Agriculture launched a program this year to offer student loan repayment programs for veterinarians who agree to serve in one of the more than 100 Georgia counties that is currently underserved. The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Science and the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine also offer very generous scholarship for students who want to work as food animal veterinarians. For more information about those programs visit http://students.caes.uga.edu/undergraduate/pre-professional/favip.html.For more information on other topics discussed at UGA’s 2017 Georgia Ag Forecast, visit tinyurl.com/2017AgForecast. For more information about the FDA’s veterinary feed directive, visit FDA.gov.