Born and raised in a busy suburb of New Hampshire, Josh Grant knew early he wanted a career outdoors and away from the bitter cold of winter tundra. Following only half that logic he moved to Vermont to complete his BS degree in Environmental Science from Lyndon State, now Northern Vermont University. A post-graduation internship at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forrest in the White Mountains had Josh falling back in love with his childhood interest of entomology as he trapped and recorded Lepidoptera. This passion led him to the University of Georgia’s Entomology Department where he obtained a MS degree in 2016, finally escaping the sub-zero winter temperatures.
As a graduate student at UGA Josh worked for Dr. Ash Sial. Research with Ash focused on understanding the ecology, and ultimately how to control, the invasive fly commonly referred to as Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii. Due to the zero-tolerance policy in the marketplace for this insect pest, blueberry producers need alternatives to the broad-spectrum insecticide regimes they employ for management of SWD. Here is where Josh learned of Cooperative Extension and became interested in public service as a career.
After graduation Josh entered into UGA Extension by moving from the blueberry world to the watermelon capital of the world, Cordele, GA. Far from being a seasoned agent Josh has, over these past three years, adapted to and continues to learn about the diverse range of commodities grown in Crisp Co. Thank you to all the patient producers, from whom he probably receives more knowledge from than he could give about Ag. Day number one on the job, Josh was walking a watermelon field as it was transplanted not one hour after diagnosing powdery mildew on a homeowner’s dogwoods. The auctioneer spoke quicker than he could register and he learned quick that sneakers didn’t help when a rampaging hog stomps on your toes on day three at the county livestock show. Josh says Extension affords him with no two days being alike and that it humbles him assuredly since the quest for knowledge never ends.
Other than the anecdotal stories of the everyday client inquiries, Josh has taken up the legacy project of watermelon research in Cordele. With a five-acre Watermelon Research Park in the county, Josh collaborates with UGA and Florida specialists annually to assess IPM strategies against the soil-borne fungal pathogen: Fusarium oxysporum sp. f. niveum. Spores from this pest cause Fusarium wilt, a disease which threatens the >$100 million watermelon industry in the state of Georgia annually. Crisp’s ANR agent is responsible for the logistics and maintenance of all trials conducted at the park. Josh has presented this research at the Georgia Association of Agricultural Agents, created posters, won first and second place Oral Presentation awards in Applied Research, and has mentored an ABAC student through a UGA summer internship.
Outside of watermelons – and consultations about cotton, peanuts, small grain, pecans…etc. – Josh never passes up an opportunity to preform educational outreach about insects. In attending Master Gardener classes and events such as the Great Pollinator Census, Josh discusses the importance of insect diversity and pollinators’ ecosystem services.