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Monarch butterflies migrating through Georgia

Published on 10/23/19

Monarch butterflies migrating through Georgia now

By Becky Griffin for CAES News

The time of the year has come when Georgians look to the sky to watch for signs of Monarch butterfly migration.

These butterflies are on their way to the Sierra Madre of Mexico to overwinter on the oyamel (or sacred fir) trees of the area. The fir trees provide the perfect habitat, combined with the area’s optimal temperatures and humidity, to ensure that the butterflies survive the winter.

Reports around Georgia are that Monarch populations are high. A poll taken of insect enthusiasts showed that 83% have seen Monarchs heading south this year. Thirty percent of respondents indicated that they are seeing a higher number of Monarchs than last year.

This is terrific news, as Monarch population numbers have been inconsistent over the last several seasons.

To increase the chances of seeing this phenomenon and to assist the butterflies, plant a fall migration garden. Monarchs descend from their high migration path looking for food resources.

Research shows that migrating butterflies respond to tall flowers that are easily accessible. Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) are all proven Monarch attractors.

Several fall-blooming native aster plants (Aster spp.) are perfect for these butterflies as well.  The butterflies do not need milkweed (Ascelpias spp.), their larval host plant, at this time of the year, but be sure to include milkweed in your summer butterfly garden.

To follow the Monarch migration and to report your butterfly sightings, visit Journey North at This organization has tabulated the reports of citizen-scientists for many years and is a great resource for school groups.

Monarch Watch, accessible at, provides online information about these insects and their habitat needs.

It is amazing to realize that this super generation of migrating butterflies endure the hazards of the trip to go to a place that they have never been before. If you miss the fall Monarch migration, spend time getting your garden ready for the Monarchs’ return in the spring. Contact your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office for more information about butterfly gardening and habitat building.

Becky Griffin is an educational program specialist with the University of Georgia Extension in Cobb County.

Digging Dryland Peanuts

Published on 09/25/19

UGA Extension peanut agronomist advises dryland farmers to begin digging crops

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

Georgia’s recent hot, dry weather has dryland peanut farmers making tough decisions about when to dig their crops, according to Scott Monfort, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension peanut agronomist.

Since much of south Georgia has experienced little to no rainfall in the past month and even less is expected over the next few weeks, Monfort is encouraging farmers to move forward with digging their crops.

“We’re still not going to have rain for another month, maybe three weeks. To me, if you’ve got a crop right now, you probably want to get it,” Monfort said. “If your crop is wilting during the day time and not recovering at night, and you don’t have any moisture at all, then I’d probably get it.”

To determine if their crop is mature enough for digging, peanut farmers sample about five areas in the field to acquire a total of 200 peanuts for the maturity analysis. Monfort said dryland producers experienced “split crops” early in this year’s harvest season based on the maturity profile board analysis.

A “split crop” refers to a sample of peanuts where approximately half of the peanuts are near maturity while the other half is very immature. This happens when the peanut plants experience hot, dry temperatures, which typically occurs in dryland fields, or fields without access to irrigation.

Lack of rainfall and extremely hot conditions cause a disruption in the blooming and/or pod set for a period of time.

Then farmers face a tough decision; how do they proceed? With half of their sample close to maturity and half that is not, should a grower risk the peanut pods that are ready with hopes that the rest will eventually mature?

“What farmers have to start doing there is determining, ‘Where’s my money?’ Do they have enough in that front group that’s mature enough to say, ‘That’s my crop’? If those peanuts are good quality, most of the time I would suggest that the farmer go ahead and dig to grab those,” Monfort said. “Especially since the forecast is not calling for much, if any, rain in the near future. It’s too big of a risk to think those immature peanuts will mature up at some point. There’s no guarantee whatsoever. We can make a choice but it’s a hard one. The later it gets, the more risky it gets.”

One positive outcome of the recent dry weather is that it has created perfect conditions for farmers who are in the process of harvesting their peanuts. Peanuts in irrigated fields are drying very quickly after being dug out of the ground. According to Monfort, it usually takes five to seven days for peanuts to dry. That has been reduced to three to four days.

He estimates that 15% to 20% of this year’s crop has already been harvested.

For more information about Georgia’s peanut production, see

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Wilted Leaves Not Always a Sign Plants Need Water

Published on 09/19/19

Wilted leaves aren’t always a sign that the plant needs water

By Paul Pugliese for CAES News

As summer slowly melts into fall, temperatures are still reaching the high 90s and many plants wilt in the afternoon sun.

Plants with big leaves, such as hydrangeas and angel trumpets, are often the first to get a little droopy in the hotter part of the day. It’s very tempting to water plants that are wilted at the end of the day, but late afternoon is not the best time of day to determine whether your landscape plants need water.

There are two problems with watering in the afternoon. First, water that remains on the leaves of plants throughout the evening is more likely to invite disease problems. For example, hydrangeas and roses are highly susceptible to leaf spot diseases such as Cercospora, anthracnose or black spot.

Watering in the morning as the sun rises allows leaves to dry more quickly and minimizes these disease problems. It is even better to avoid wetting the leaves at all and just water the roots with a drip irrigation system. If you hand-water your plants, invest in a watering wand with a water breaker nozzle that can be used to apply water directly to the roots. Remember, don’t water the leaves.

The second problem with watering in the afternoon is that people have a tendency to water plants that don’t actually need watering. Although many plants appear wilted in the afternoon, that doesn’t always mean they need water.

Wilting is an adaption that many plants use to reduce water loss during the hottest part of the day. A wilted leaf has less surface area exposed to sunlight and therefore will not lose water as quickly.

Plants that are wilted in the afternoon will often perk back up at night and look perfectly happy by morning. If the plants’ leaves do not appear stressed in the morning, they can probably go another day or two before needing water.

In some situations, plants that are watered every afternoon may get too much water from their well-intentioned caretaker. Georgia red clay soil can hold water for several days after a good soaking rain.  One inch of rain or irrigation will soak clay soil several inches deep. Established landscape plants and mature trees can extract this water and maintain their water needs without needing any additional rain or irrigation for seven to 10 days.

Newly planted trees and shrubs may need supplemental water more often for the first couple of years until their roots grow deep enough to seek out water in the subsoil. Let the plants tell you when they need water.

Even new trees and shrubs can go a couple of days without being watered. When you do water, soak the soil deeply to encourage deeper rooting — this will pay off in the long run as the plant acclimates to its new environment and is able to take care of itself for extended periods of time without rain.

Adding a few inches of mulch around trees and shrubs will conserve soil moisture and help reduce extreme temperatures and drying of surface roots.

Permanent wilt may happen if plants remain wilted even after you water them. There are certain soilborne diseases — such as Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilt, and Phytophthora — that can infect the stems or roots of plants and literally stop the flow of water. This is a common problem in vegetables like tomatoes and certain landscape plants such as rhododendrons. The plants might start out with one or two branches that wilt and then eventually the entire plant wilts. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatment options for plants infected with one of these permanent wilt diseases.

Ironically, infected plants often wilt more dramatically in the early stages of the disease, especially in the afternoon. This causes people to water them more often. Excessive watering actually helps these diseases spread. To remove the fungal disease, dead or dying plants, along with the soil around the roots, should be completely removed. The spores of these diseases can survive in the soil for many years and infect the next plants you try to grow there.

Sometimes, these diseases hitchhike on infected plants bought from nurseries. It’s always a good idea to inspect the roots before you buy a plant.

Gently slip the plant out of the nursery pot and examine the roots all the way to the bottom. A healthy plant will have white, healthy roots throughout the soil. An unhealthy plant will often have black or brown roots on the lower third of the root ball. This could indicate the plant was overwatered at the nursery or may already be infected with a root disease.

For more information on growing healthy plants and other agriculture topics, see the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension publications at

Paul Pugliese is the agriculture & natural resources agent for the University of Georgia Extension office in Bartow County.

Lego Forage Specialist

Published on 09/19/19

‘Lego Forage Specialist’ helping spread forage news across Georgia

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Forage Agronomist Lisa Baxter is using her social media savvy and love for Legos to share timely information with Georgia farmers.

When Baxter joined the UGA Tifton campus in March, she set out to find a way to reach as many people as possible with information in her field.

Inspired by a Facebook advertisement for custom Legos, Baxter customized her own Lego minifigure to create the “Lego Forage Specialist” or “Lego Lisa.” Several times a week, Baxter photographs her “mini-me” at work in the field or in the office. Then she adds captions to the photos, including useful tidbits of information for audiences on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

To date, Lego Lisa has about 250 followers on social media where she tells jokes, advises Georgia producers about upcoming state meetings, and cautions growers about problems that could affect their crops.

“It’s a different way of getting a message across than just listening to a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation or reading another email,” Baxter said. “If we see armyworms that have been reported, we’ll do a picture with a sweep net saying, ‘You need to scout for armyworms.’ We had some herbicide damage in some Bermuda grass plots, so we took a picture of that and said, ‘If you’re pursuing summer weed control options, be aware of potential stunting.’”

Using her affinity for Legos, Baxter customizes the minifigure’s attire and accessories based on the message.

When she’s working outside, the weather conditions generally determine how Lego Lisa is dressed. In most photos, Baxter holds the figure’s feet and keeps her hand out of the picture and to keep the little Lego from blowing away in strong winds.

For National Forage Week in June, Baxter ordered several costumes, including a lab coat, for her Lego sidekick. Her clients have joined in on the fun and one UGA Extension county agent brought in a few of her child’s Lego accessories for Lego Lisa because the child was worried she didn’t have any toys to play with.

Many industry representatives even request the Lego’s presence for events and their own social media efforts. Even though she is tiny, Lego Lisa is bridging the gap between industry and Extension.

Baxter feels that having Lego Lisa appear on her social media pages rather than her own image is a novel way to bring attention to the information she shares.

“We have a lot of new Extension agents. When I was at winter conference, they asked how many agents have five years or fewer experience and about half the room shot their hand up. (I created) Lego Lisa to reach that clientele. They’ll see things scrolling through their phone and she does provide a chuckle,” Baxter said.

David Allen, communications coordinator for the UGA CAES Office of Communications and Creative Services, believes Baxter’s creativity will serve her and UGA Extension well in relaying messages via social media.

“We love to see faculty embracing social media and finding creative ways to connect with constituents through the web. It will be fun to see the Lego Forage Specialist build its following and see the engagement generated across multiple platforms,” Allen said.

To see where Lego Lisa has been lately, follow her at, or

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Whitefly Research Management

Published on 09/13/19

UGA CAES part of extensive research study aimed at whitefly management

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

Researchers from three research institutions are using a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fight whiteflies on vegetable crops.

Scientists from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Fort Valley State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in Charleston, S.C., will combine their expertise to collaborate on finding short- and long-term solutions to fight the pest.

UGA’s team plans to use an integrated approach to solve Georgia’s whitefly problem in vegetables.

“We have seen significant buildup in the last two to three weeks, mostly in the Tift County and Colquitt County region, but I have had reports of isolated problems outside of the area as well,” said UGA vegetable entomologist Stormy Sparks. “The scientists that are part of this grant are studying all aspects of whitefly biology and management to try to find weaknesses that can be exploited for management.”

Sparks is one of the researchers on the UGA team, which includes entomologists, plant pathologists, virologists, breeders and vegetable specialists.

The scientists will rely on one another’s specialties for the duration of the five-year grant.

“My role involves finding resistance to the whitefly-transmitted virus complex in snap bean germplasm, advancing breeding lines and conducting research to find the genetic basis of resistance,” said Bhabesh Dutta, a UGA Cooperative Extension plant pathologist on the Tifton campus and member of the research team. “We’ll then give that information to the breeder so that they can introgress resistance into elite varieties.”

Whiteflies are responsible for transmitting multiple viruses, including cucurbit leaf crumple virus and cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus. According to UGA crop loss estimates for fall 2017, these viruses caused between 30% and 50% crop loss in squash and cucumbers and nearly 80% crop loss in snap beans that year.

“This project gives us an opportunity to think long term. It’s not going to be a quick fix. We’ll take baby steps to understand the system, understand the problem, and then try to solve it,” Dutta said.

UGA entomologist Babu Srinivasan will focus on studying virus transmission by whiteflies and management.

“We’re trying to look at how these viruses interact with their host, how they interact with their vectors, and how they’re transmitted,” said Srinivasan, who’s based on the UGA Griffin campus. “Once we understand that, it will help us get closer to management.”

The severity, distribution and timing of whiteflies vary from year to year, but they remain a persistent problem for Georgia’s vegetable growers. They are especially problematic in the Tift and Colquitt County region where vegetables are produced year-round.

“It was a devastating event for us in 2017 and we certainly don’t need that again,” said Bill Brim, co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia. “We need the university to work real hard on it and, hopefully, we’ll get some more funding next year for it as well.”

Whiteflies built up significant populations as early as May 2017. A warm winter that season did not help diminish the whitefly population. The pest normally becomes a problem in August or September, but the earlier they occur, the worse they become, according to Sparks.

“We cannot successfully manage this pest as simply a pest of fall vegetables. We have to look at the entire cycle and realize that what happens in one area impacts the others,” Sparks said. “Because this pest attacks so many different crops across the agro-ecosystem and cycles from crop to crop throughout the year, we have to understand how it survives and builds in our environment to determine the best strategies for control.”

Where and how whiteflies overwinter leads to populations in spring vegetables. This can have an effect on summer crops, which then impacts fall vegetables.

Following the 2017 epidemic, UGA formed a whitefly team on the Tifton campus. Those researchers are included in this grant project, along with researchers in Griffin, Athens, Fort Valley and Charleston.

“We might be able to fix the problem today, but how do we make sure it’s fixed to where it lasts through next year and the year after — and something even more permanent?” asked Allen Moore, UGA associate dean for research and principal investigator for the grant. “With sufficient resources that the federal government is providing, we ought to be able to do all of that. Rather than take 10 years to come up with something, we’re doing it a lot faster because we’re doing it all at once.”

The grant designates $560,000 to Fort Valley State University with the remaining money divided among the researchers at CAES and UDSA-ARS in Charleston.

Listed are the participating scientists and the areas of whitefly research in which they are involved:

Plant resistant traits: Babu Srinivasan (UGA), Bhabesh Dutta (UGA), Andre da Silva (UGA), Cecilia McGregor (UGA) and Somashekhar Punnuri (Fort Valley State).

Ecology, biocontrol, cultural practice: Phillip Roberts (UGA), Alton Sparks (UGA), Andre de Silva (UGA), Paul Severns (UGA), Jason Schmidt (UGA), Mike Toews (UGA), George Mbata (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).

Viruses/transmission dynamics: Babu Srinivasan (UGA), Sadeep Bag (UGA), Paul Severns (UGA), Somashekhar Punnuri (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).

Molecular tools/biotech: Trish Moore (UGA), Bhabesh Dutta (UGA), Cecilia McGregor (UGA), Somashekhar Punnuri (Fort Valley State), George Mbata (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).

Insecticide resistance/biorational control products: David Riley (UGA), Jason Schmidt (UGA), Alton Sparks (UGA), Phillip Roberts (UGA), George Mbata (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Hurricane Dorian

Published on 08/29/19

Prepare now for Hurricane Dorian’s arrival, UGA climatologist says

By Pam Knox, Sharon Dowdy for CAES News

Hurricane Dorian may bring power outages, downed trees, heavy rain and possibly brief tornadoes to Georgia this weekend and well into next week, according to Pam Knox, director of the University of Georgia Weather Network and an agricultural climatologist.

“Dorian’s path has been farther east than originally forecast, which means that its circulation has avoided the mountainous terrain of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. That means it was less disrupted than expected, and now is forecast to approach the east coast of Florida as a potentially major hurricane by Monday,” Knox said.

The storm is expected to affect all of the Georgia coast, but Dorian’s path is likely to change significantly over the coming days, Knox said.

“The more eastward path has also added time before the projected landfall, so that gives us a little extra time to prepare. There is also a slight chance the storm will recurve to the northeast before it hits the coast — in that case, breathe a sigh of relief and think of this as preparation for the next storm,” she said.

Southeastern Georgians should be prepared for tropical storm-force winds to hit as early as Sunday morning. As in any event with potentially heavy flooding, Knox urges Georgians to move equipment and livestock out of low-lying areas before the storm arrives and stock up on fuel and the capacity to provide power for milking, drying of crops, etc. Any outdoor items that could be dislodged by heavy winds and become a projectile should be secured.

Knox says the weather should remain dry through Saturday, but after that the chances for rain go up.

“Along the coast, onshore flow coupled with the already higher-than-normal tides will increase the chances of flooding, and that will only be made worse by the tropical rainfall,” she said. “Spiral bands ahead of the storm could produce brief tornadoes in isolated thunderstorm cells. Power outages are likely due to the combination of wet soil and strong winds blowing trees over.”

With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael just over a month away, Knox urges southwestern Georgia to not let their guard down.

“A number of computer models indicate that the storm could cross the Florida peninsula and enter the Gulf of Mexico, where sea surface temperatures are above normal. A recurve to the north into Georgia is a possibility and, even if the storm weakens as you might expect, heavy rain and brief tornadoes could occur in that situation,” she said.

If Dorian crosses Florida, the storm’s timing would move to early next week, she said.

Georgians in central and northern Georgia have more time to watch the storm develop. Knox says this valuable time should be used to prepare for potential tropical storm-force winds and heavy rain likely Tuesday through Thursday.

“That could change depending on where Dorian actually goes and how fast it is moving,” she said. “The Labor Day holiday weekend means that there will be extra people on the road and in hotels, so don’t wait until the last minute to get gasoline, cash and whatever else you might need in case of power outages and road closures.”

Knox recommends Georgians get current information from reliable sources like the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service and local emergency managers. Stock an emergency radio with fresh batteries to stay informed should a power outage occur in your area.

For the latest information from UGA agricultural climatologist Pam Knox, follow her on Twitter at @SE_AgClimate, on Facebook at SEAgClimate and on her blog at

For more storm preparation resources from UGA Extension,

Pam Knox serves as University of Georgia Agricultural Climatologist with UGA Department of Crop and Soil Science.
Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Cotton Defoliation Timing

Published on 08/29/19

Proper timing of defoliation is important decision for cotton growers

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

With harvest season less than a month away for some Georgia cotton farmers, knowing when to defoliate is an important decision all growers have to make, according to Mark Freeman, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension cotton agronomist.

Before cotton can be harvested, the plant’s leaves must be removed through a process called defoliation, which helps speed up the plant’s maturity. Farmers apply a chemical treatment and, approximately two weeks later, the crop is ready for harvest.

“The way cotton grows, bolls are going to open up in the bottom first because those are the oldest bolls. As you move up the plant, the bolls are younger,” Freeman said. “We have to take all of the leaves off of the plant to try to open up those younger bolls. We try to do it at the best time to optimize yield and quality. We want all the bolls on the plant open and ready for harvest at the same time.”

If farmers apply a defoliant too early, they could lose yield because of a lack of maturity. If defoliant is applied too late, losses from boll rot and weather can occur.

Freeman offers farmers three recommendations for how to determine if a crop is ready to be defoliated.

  1. Percentage of open bolls: Typically in Georgia, when a crop has about 70% open bolls, it’s safe to defoliate. If the crop is uniform without fruiting gaps, it is likely mature enough.
  2. Number of nodes above cracked bolls: With this method, farmers find the highest cracked boll and then count the number of nodes up the plant to the uppermost harvestable boll. If there are four or less nodes between the two, it is likely safe to defoliate.
  3. Sharp knife method: The safest method is to cut representative bolls open at a cross section. Check the seed for a fully-developed dark seed coat and lint that strings out.

“The (sharp knife method) is really the best indicator of maturity, but we want to use all three methods in conjunction to make the best decision that we can,” Freeman said.

Due to weather-related issues, Georgia’s cotton crop looks sporadic across the state, Freeman said. Areas that have had rainfall look promising, while other areas have struggled due to inadequate rainfall in July and August.

“The irrigated crop looks good. I wouldn’t say it’s excellent, but there’s going to be good yields from the irrigated part. Dryland, on the other hand — some areas look good, but more areas do not look so good,” Freeman said.

For more information about cotton production in Georgia, see the Georgia Cotton News website.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Blue-Green Algae in Ponds

Published on 08/15/19

UGA Extension urges Georgians to keep animals away from ponds that may contain toxin-producing algae

By Sharon Dowdy, Merritt Melancon for CAES News

The sudden and unexpected death of a Marietta, Georgia, couple’s beloved dog after swimming with its owners in Lake Allatoona has filled social media feeds since the incident on Aug. 10. The incident brings to light the dangers of toxic algae growth. In neighboring North Carolina, another couple lost three dogs in one day after an afternoon swim in a pond.

The cause has been identified as the blue-green algae species Microcystis aeruginosa, a cyanobacteria that produces a potent liver toxin.

Algae often grows in ponds and lakes during abnormally dry conditions such as those Georgia is currently experiencing. Toxin-producing algae can be lethal to livestock who use farm ponds as their water source, but common toxins like microcystins can also impact larger bodies of water, said Gary Burtle, University of Georgia water quality and fisheries expert.

While Georgia isn’t officially in a drought, areas of the state have been hotter and drier than normal, Burtle said.

Conditions like these can cause more algae to grow and bloom in bodies of water as a result of the increased nutrient load in ponds and lakes, he said. In ponds used to water cattle and horses, this might lead to problems with toxic algae and unsightly water.

Color changes in a pond can be a clue that algae are blooming. Blooms of algae and cyanobacteria often look like green, blue-green or reddish-brown paint floating on the surface of small bodies of water, usually near the shoreline. This scum formed by algae is an indicator that the pond may be unsafe, Burtle said.

“Humans should not swim in this water and animals should not be allowed access to it until the bloom returns to normal by dilution from rainfall or treatment with algaecide,” said Burtle, who has fielded numerous calls from UGA Cooperative Extension agents this week as questions have poured in from the public. “You know a pond is headed for trouble when the algae bloom is so thick that visibility is less than 12 inches into the water column.”

In 2012, Georgia experienced serious drought conditions and some Gwinnett County cattle died as a result of a cyanobacteria bloom. Animals affected often appear weak, exhibit muscle tremors and convulsions, and have bloody diarrhea.

Farm animals should be kept away from the water source and provided with an alternative source of clean water until the pond has been tested and is declared free of toxins, Burtle said.

“If you have a fear about the water, move your animals to a safe water source,” Burtle said. “Install a water tank and fill it up every day or so. And use common sense. If there’s a scum on the pond and you think there might be a problem, exclude your animals and have the water tested.”

UGA Extension agents can help Georgians test their pond or lake water for the presence of toxins from algae blooms through UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences laboratories.

Cyanobacteria blooms in ponds and lakes are difficult to control, Burtle said. Using chemicals releases more toxins into the pond, rendering it useless as a water source for weeks or months. High daytime temperatures can also force the cyanobacteria blooms to the bottom of the pond, where toxins are released.

Harmful algal blooms need nutrients, sunlight, and warm, stagnant water to develop.

To help prevent blooms, UGA Extension urges pond owners to leave vegetated buffers around ponds, to limit livestock access and to avoid over-fertilizing surrounding areas. Pond owners who would like to learn more about controlling algae should read UGA Extension Bulletin 1445, “Managing Algal Blooms and the Potential for Algal Toxins in Pond Water.”

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Southeastren Hay Contest

Published on 08/19/19

UGA Extension forage agronomist encourages producers to submit hay samples

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

During the Southeastern Hay Contest at the 2019 Sunbelt Ag Expo, Georgia hay producers have a chance to compare the quality of their hay and win cash prizes.

Any producer in Georgia and other Southeastern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma (east of I-35), South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (east of I-35) and Virginia can submit a sample, but entries must be submitted by the farm where the forage was grown.

Those interested in submitting an entry can download the rules and entry form at Southeastern Hay Contest website. The deadline to enter is Thursday, Sept. 19.

The entries are divided into seven categories with a $150 prize for first place, $100 for second place and $75 for third in each category. The categories are warm season perennial grass hay; cool season perennial grass hay; perennial peanut hay; alfalfa hay; mixed annual grass or other hay; legume baleage; and grass baleage.

A grand prize winner of $1,000 and the use of a Massey Ferguson RK Series rotary rake or a new Massey Ferguson DM Series Professional disc mower for the 2020 hay production season will also be announced.

“From an Extension point of view, the purpose of the contest is to encourage producers to test their hay samples. Regardless of whether they win or not, that’s going to help them to know how they need to feed that hay in the winter,” said Lisa Baxter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension forage agronomist. “It can save them money down the road.”

Entries will be judged by the UGA Feed and Environmental Water Lab using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIR) testing procedures. The sample with the highest relative forage quality (RFQ) score wins. The RFQ score rates the forage quality based on protein, energy and fiber digestibility.

For those farmers interested in learning more about taking a hay or baleage sample, see this Massey Ferguson instructional video.

While all farmers should regularly test their hay, Baxter admits that not all do. This contest provides added incentive for all hay producers.

“It does cost to submit a sample to a UGA lab or other labs and to enter the contest, but when you consider what that could save you this winte,r and knowing how you need to feed that hay, it generally pays for itself. This is especially true in a year like this where we run a risk of high-nitrate or low-quality forage. That $20 hay sample is a lot cheaper than what it would cost to replace an animal,” Baxter said.

Nitrates refers to nitrate ions in the forage, which can kill forage animals. This happens when farmers apply too much nitrogen in anticipation of rain, which would promote regrowth and lower nitrate levels. However, rains were sparse this summer and nitrate levels will peak immediately following a rain event. Although producers may be tempted to turn animals onto the forage or cut hay/baleage, they should wait a minimum of seven days from application to allow the nitrates concentrations to decrease, Baxter said.

“What’s going to throw a lot of people out this year are the nitrates. You could have the best sample in the world, but if it’s more than 5,000 (parts per million nitrate-to-nitrogen), you’re immediately disqualified,” Baxter said.

Also at stake this year is a cash prize for the Extension agent responsible for submitting the most samples.

The winners of this year’s hay contest will be announced at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.

Cotton and Peanut Research Field Day

Published on 08/21/19

UGA Extension to showcase cotton, peanut research during field day

By Clint Thompson for CAES News

Cotton and peanut farmers and industry personnel are invited to the University of Georgia Cotton and Peanut Research Field Day on Wednesday, Sept. 4, on the UGA Tifton campus.

Members of the UGA cotton and peanut teams will talk about ongoing research at two UGA research farms, providing insight for growers on what they can expect for the next growing season.

The field day will start at 8 a.m. at the UGA Lang Farm at 276 Rigdon Aultman Road in Tifton, Georgia. Field day attendees will also visit the UGA Gibbs Farm at 226 William Gibbs Road in Tifton, Georgia, before returning to the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center for lunch and a short program.

The field day is a free event, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP to Jeannie Evans at 229-386-3006 or to provide an accurate count for lunch.

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences cotton and peanut specialists, including physiologists, plant pathologists, entomologists, agronomists, irrigation experts and plant breeders, conduct research aimed at improving Georgia’s top two row crops at UGA-Tifton. Cotton and peanuts account for nearly two-thirds of Georgia’s row crop production. The UGA specialists will present their latest research findings at the field day.

“This field day gives us an opportunity to share with producers in the industry some of the newest research that we’re doing with cotton and peanuts. It allows us to get into a field setting and actually put our hands on certain things, see what’s happening and talk about it together,” said Jared Whitaker, UGA Cooperative Extension cotton agronomist.

Georgia’s cotton farmers hope this year’s crop will rebound after being decimated by Hurricane Michael in early October 2018. According to estimates from UGA Extension agents and agricultural economists, there were between $550 million and $600 million in direct losses, along with an additional $74 million in agriculture sector losses.

Georgia’s peanut crop fared better, suffering between $10 million and $20 million in direct losses.

“The cotton and peanut research field day provides a perfect opportunity for growers to provide feedback on future research projects based on issues they are having on their farms,” UGA Extension peanut agronomist Scott Monfort said.

For more information about cotton, see the Georgia Cotton News website.

Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.