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Farm Bureau gets look at latest research

TIFTON, Ga. -- Georgia Farm Bureau officials recently toured the University of Georgia Tifton campus and got a chance to preview the latest in research coming out of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Joe West

Whether it was Michael Toews talking about stinkbugs, Larry Baldree discussing the latest research in turf grass or Phillip Roberts chatting about the kudzu bug, June 21 was an opportunity for members of the Georgia Farm Bureau to learn more about the advancements scientists are making at the research station.

"This was an opportunity for their membership to take an ag tour together," said Joe West, assistant dean of the UGA Tifton campus. "The thing I like to tell folks is that we can put on a tour like this every week, and for weeks we would never repeat ourselves. We've got that many scientists and that many different programs.

"(The visitors) got a good snapshot of what's going on on the campus."

One of those snapshots involves Toews' study of stinkbugs, dangerous pests that can cripple cotton production if not contained. Stink bugs can feed on cotton bolls and destroy seeds.

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Clint Thompson/UGA CAES

Michael Toews holds a stinkbug.

"The focus of our study is how insects move within crops and when they cross the border, whether that be grass or roadside between two fields, our interest is where they land and how quickly they colonize the neighboring field," said Toews, an associate professor of entomology.

Toews has found stinkbugs move around in the landscape a great deal and rapidly colonize cotton when it gets to the flowering stage. Stinkbugs are not just centralized to cotton. Toews said they have been known to feed on more than 200 host plants.

The tour also stopped at the turf grass plots where Baldree, a research professional, discussed the latest turf varieties being researched.

"Basically, I gave them an overview of what we do here as a breeding program, where it started with Glenn Burton, and how it's progressed with Wayne Hanna and Brian Schwartz," Baldree said.

One variety talked about was shade tolerant Tift Grand bermuda grass, which was released in 2007. UGA turf researchers are hopeful a drought-tolerant variety will be released in 2015.

Other features of the stop in South Georgia included plant pathologist Albert Culbreath talking about peanut disease, graduate student Jason Sarver discussing peanut management research and agricultural research assistant Benji Baldree educating about cotton production.

"(This tour's) very important because those are the people who support us politically. It's important for them to see that the research we're doing applies to what their needs are and the needs of the state," West said. "Then when we need support from Georgia Farm Bureau, which is a very important partner for the UGA College of Ag, we can count on their help. For example, I'm sure they were instrumental in helping us get funding for key scientist positions to address some very important Georgia agricultural issues.

"The partnership with Georgia Farm Bureau is strong. We appreciate that partnership, and we are pleased when we have the opportunity to share our research with their members."

Clint Thompson is public relations coordinator for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Service, Tifton campus.