Tuesday, December 30, 2008

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA): Wind Power Trends to Watch for in 2009

As the wind industry closes out another banner year, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is looking ahead to further progress in 2009. Although the industry is buffeted by the financial crisis and economic downturn, it is also buoyed by a strong strategic position and the prospect of strong policy support from Congress and the new President. Here are some wind energy projections for the New Year:

“The world’s largest operating wind power project” will be a hotly contested designation this year: At least one new project may soon surpass FPL Energy’s 736-megawatt (MW) Horse Hollow wind farm, which has been the world’s largest for three years running. One project under expansion, by E.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) North America, and currently scheduled to go online in mid-2009, would have a total capacity of 781.5 megawatts (MW) when it is completed. The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, located in Taylor and Nolan counties, Texas, claimed the title in 2006. “The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center is an important new source of clean, renewable power for the region that also provides significant economic benefits to the area in the form of taxes, new jobs, lease payments to landowners, and the purchase of local goods and services,” said FPL Energy President Jim Robo at the time of its commissioning. Gigawatt-size projects (in the thousands of megawatts) like the ones proposed by T. Boone Pickens and Shell Wind Energy are also in the pipeline but will take several years to be built.

Wind power: second-largest source of new U.S. power generating capacity for 5th year in a row? Wind is now a mainstream option for new power generation, second only to natural gas plants in new capacity built from 2005 through 2007, and probably again in 2008, pending year-end figures. Measured by market share, wind provided 35% of all new generation added in the U.S. in 2007. And with 7,500 MW of new capacity expected when 2008 figures are released, wind is likely to contribute at least 35% of new capacity added this year. This is one more indicator that wind power is abundant, affordable and available now to contribute a growing portion of our national electricity supply.

Hopes run high for greater federal policy stability: President-elect Obama has outlined a range of policies that would encourage investments in wind and renewables, and these policies are expected to be on the table for serious discussion and possible early action in 2009. The policies would signal a welcome shift for renewable energy technologies, whose deployment has been hampered by the absence of long-term policy stability. New policies include:

- adjusting the federal production tax credit (PTC) to make it more effective in the midst of the current economic downturn and extending it for a longer term (it expires at the end of 2009);

- establishing a national renewable electricity standard (RES) with a target of generating at least 25% of the nation’s electricity from renewables by 2025, and a near-term target of 10% by 2012 (a Washington Post poll in early December found that 84% of Americans support such a standard);

- legislation and initiatives to develop a high-voltage interstate transmission “highway” for renewable energy; and

- strong national climate change legislation.

For a full list and description of the policies, see www.newwindagenda.org.

States will focus on RES, transmission for renewables: Expect one or more states to implement (Indiana) or strengthen (Wisconsin and New York) their Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bringing the number of states with an RES from 28 to perhaps 30. Look also for some states, including some without an RES (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska) to develop a process to facilitate investment in transmission for electricity generated using renewables. Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, and California have already shown the way with pro-active transmission policies for renewable energy.

“Baseload/peaking” is “out” and “smart mix” is “in”: The electric industry faces dramatic transformations as it wrestles with the challenges of the 21st century. The old paradigm that assumed “baseload” power plants were necessary is being replaced by a new paradigm where both demand and supply are managed in tandem, and electricity is supplied by a smart, clean mix including a high level of renewable and flexible technologies. Under its 20% wind by 2030 scenario (www.20percentwind.org), the U.S. Department of Energy found that 20% wind would likely reduce the need for new coal and leave the level of nuclear power unchanged.

More community wind projects in 2009: The fast-growing wind power market is also opening up opportunities for community wind, which are projects owned by farmers, ranchers or other local investors or public entities. Look for more community wind proposals in 2009, and more AWEA education and outreach on the topic over the course of the year.

AWEA business membership will surge past 2,000 by mid-year: More companies see opportunities in the wind energy industry, and the expanding AWEA business membership roll is a measure of that interest. AWEA business membership increased from 200 in 2000, to more than 600 in 2005, and has soared over the 1,800 mark in 2008. If the trend continues, the roll of AWEA member companies could pass 2,000 by mid-2009. Most of the new members are companies in the wind power supply chain.

Industry will finalize guidelines for wind turbine O&M: When an industry becomes mainstream, it needs to put in place a variety of standards and guidelines, and wind power is no exception. AWEA and the wind power industry are working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop safety guidelines for wind turbine technicians and O&M workers at utility-scale wind projects. AWEA will be presenting educational webinars to OSHA personnel in early 2009.

AWEA expects to finalize standards for small wind turbines: Standards for small wind turbines will help ensure qualification for the new small wind turbine federal investment credit that is now available for homeowners and small businesses investing in a small wind system. Manufacturing standards have long been in place for utility-scale wind turbines and continue to evolve with the technology.

Larger incentive for small wind? Homeowners, farmers, and small-business owners now benefit from a federal incentive enacted in late 2008 for the purchase of small wind systems. However, this credit is capped. Owners of small wind systems with 100 kilowatts (kW) of capacity and less can receive a credit for 30% of the total installed cost of the system, not to exceed $4,000. For turbines used for homes, the credit is additionally limited to the lesser of $4,000 or $1,000 per kW of capacity. Look for an effort to remove this limitation, so that consumers can benefit from a credit of a full 30% of the total cost of a small wind turbine purchased for an individual home or business.

Denise Bode takes the helm at AWEA: Denise Bode steps in as the new CEO for the American Wind Energy Association on January 5, succeeding Randall Swisher, who retired in 2008 after leading the association and industry for 19 years. Bode takes over at an exceptional time for the industry. Also new is AWEA’s logo at the top of this page. The logo has been updated to reflect the new era for wind energy in the U.S.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Don't Move Firewood

The Georgia Forestry Commission and Georgia State Parks are sounding the alarm on a camping activity that can cause serious damage to our forests. Campers and park visitors are being asked to not bring any firewood into parks or other natural sites because of the danger of transporting destructive foreign pests.

“Bringing in your own firewood seems like the smart and economical thing to do,” said James Johnson, Forest Health Coordinator for the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC). “In reality, just a few microscopic fungus spores or tiny insects hiding in non-local firewood can wreak havoc on our native environment.”

Johnson explained that local forest ecosystems have complex webs of checks and balances that combat native insect populations and plant diseases. Foreign organisms introduced into this environment are often resistant to these natural controls and can spread unchecked, resulting in much greater harm to our forests than is experienced with native pests. Spread of the gypsy moth and the destructive redbay ambrosia beetle, which causes laurel wilt disease, are suspected to have begun with the movement of firewood into the state. The emerald ash borer and sirex woodwasp are serious threats as well.

“Even a small chip of bark containing invasive insect larvae can fall unnoticed to the ground,” said Johnson. “A sudden rainstorm can wash fungus spores off wood or out of your pickup, so the danger is very real.”

Johnson added that according to Johnson, many species of hardwood and pine trees serve as potential hosts for these non-native pests, so no firewood is considered safe to be moved long distances. He said outdoor enthusiasts should purchase local firewood at the host park or at convenience stores selling firewood grown nearby. If campers have inadvertently brought in outside wood, it should be thoroughly burned onsite or turned over to park officials.

GFC and state park officials have launched an education campaign on the dangers of moving firewood. Georgia state park visitors are now learning about the “Don’t Move Firewood” message from forest health experts, park rangers, posters, printed materials and complimentary refrigerator magnets. Georgia is home to 48 state parks that host 11 million visitors annually.

For more information on the safe use of firewood and Georgia’s forestry resource, visit GaTrees.org. To learn about Georgia’s state parks, visit GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 1-800-864-7275.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
∗ Use local firewood or purchase firewood from the park office
∗ If you brought firewood to camp with you, burn it all on-site before leaving
∗ Don't move firewood outside of the county where it originated
∗ Leave your firewood at home next time you visit Georgia's campgrounds
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Northeast Georgia Residents Honored for Fire Prevention

Two northeast Georgia residents have been recognized for their efforts to prevent fire in their rural neighborhood. John Edwards and Don Wells, who live in the Wildcat Community that straddles Dawson and Pickens Counties, received the 2008 Firewise Leadership Award at a special ceremony in Tampa, Florida.

“Mr. Edwards and Mr. Wells were instrumental in leading their community to recognize its vulnerability to wildfire,” said Carolyn Sweatman, Georgia Forestry Commission’s Dawson/Forsyth Chief Ranger, who nominated the pair. “They implemented specific prevention techniques that earned them designation as a ‘Firewise U.S.A. Community,’ and this national award is the ‘Firewise’ organization’s highest honor.”

Sweatman explained that the Wildcat Community includes eight subdivisions totaling more than 2,000 homes on 10,000 acres. The community stretches across Sassafras Mountain, Monument Falls, and the Big Canoe area, and contains rugged, remote terrain that is not easily accessible for firefighting efforts.

In 2004, Edwards and Wells took action to institute proven fire prevention methods that resulted in the neighborhood’s official recognition as a ‘Firewise U.S.A. Community’ in 2007, she said. Those methods included coordination with local county commissioners and fire chiefs, the construction of a large water storage tank and lake, andtargeted public communication efforts.

“Mr. Wells’ and Mr. Edwards’ efforts to help protect their neighbors from the ravages of wildfire are exemplary,” said Sweatman. “They are true stewards of the environment and are richly deserving of this honor.”

There are 354 Firewise Communities in 37 states, including seven in Georgia. The Georgia Forestry Commission assists with implementation of the program statewide. For more information, contact your local GFC office or visit the Georgia Forestry Commission website at GaTrees.org.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tax Credit "Window Of Opportunity" Reopens In 2009

(NAPSI)-Between 25 and 50 percent of energy used in a home goes right out the window--literally. That's because, in most homes, windows provide the biggest openings between ambient indoor air and the elements outside--and the biggest opportunity for valuable energy to escape.

Heat always moves toward cooler air and windows are often a home's only protection against unwanted heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. As many homeowners are seeking ways to save on energy bills and reduce their impact on the environment, windows have become a primary focal point.

With nearly 40 percent of home remodeling incorporating sustainable, green materials, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Fenestration Rating Council have established a new, stricter set of criteria for windows carrying the ENERGY STAR label, which will take effect in 2010.

"These changes to ENERGY STAR will help homeowners distinguish between the quality of different window systems," said Tracy Rogers, window expert and technical director for Ohio-based Edgetech I.G. "Only windows with the best materials, such as all-foam, dual-seal spacers, will qualify for the ENERGY STAR label."

Additionally, the federal tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows is once again available for improvements made from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009. More information can be found at www.sustainaview.com or www.energystar.gov.

Superefficient Windows

The green movement and ENERGY STAR enhancements have resulted in a climate change among window manufacturers who are now designing and building what some call "superefficient" windows--triple-pane rather than double-pane.

Triple-pane windows are most effective when constructed with high-performance materials, such as nonconductive dual-seal foam spacer systems, low-emissivity (low-e) coatings and argon or krypton gas filling. According to Rogers, the spacer system is a key element to promoting sustainability in window systems because it provides the seal between the indoor and outdoor air.

"Properly constructed 'superefficient' windows will stand the test of time," Rogers concluded. "Regardless of the climate, these windows are sure to cut energy costs and reduce carbon emissions from the home for many years to come."

For more information on where to buy superefficient windows with sustainable components, visit www.sustainaview.com.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Nature, Undisturbed

NF Note: This article was originally seen on the Fayette Front Page in our exclusive The Barefoot Photographer blog. It's naturally Fayette!

A juried photography exhibition is born!

A couple months ago, I was approached by the Southern Conservation Trust asking if I would like to have a photo show to benefit the trust. Of course I would. Then I thought for a moment and asked what if we had a photo show involving the whole photo club? Then I thought another moment and asked -- what if we went bigger? I always think big.

My thoughts were of Slow Exposures in Pike Country -- the feeling and atmosphere of the show -- and the fact that it benefits the local historic society. We could do something like that in Fayette County......More


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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Grillin' And Chillin': Tips For Winter Grilling

NF Note: Even though Fayette County citizens have been shivering over the past couple of weeks, we know there will be plenty of opportunities to step outside and grill over the winter months.

(NAPSI)-Even when it's chilly outside, you don't have to compromise your taste buds. If you don't want to give up the wonderful flavor of grilled food during the colder months, you're not alone. In fact, according to the 19th Annual Weber GrillWatch Survey, more than half of American grill owners are grilling year-round and 37 percent grill when the temperature dips below freezing.

If you're ready to join in on the grilling fun:

• Do your warm-ups. While you're clearing a path through the snow to your grill, remember to brush the white stuff off of it as well. Snow will lower the temperature inside the grill, ultimately adding to your cooking time. Also, in below-freezing temperatures, plan on taking almost twice the time to preheat your barbecue as it takes in the summer.

• Use your head. Don't cut corners by grilling inside your garage or under an overhang that could catch fire. Grilling in an enclosed space can trap deadly carbon monoxide and grills should be at least five feet away from combustible materials.

• Charcoal lovers take note. Cold temperatures will affect the heat inside a charcoal grill, actually raising the temperature due to the added oxygen feeding the fire. To compensate, close the dampers on the grill's bowl slightly, slowing down the burn. However, always keep the lid vents wide open.

• Put the pedal to the metal. In cold weather, oftentimes you may have to kick a recipe's recommended grilling temperature up a notch to generate enough heat to properly cook your food--usually around 20 percent higher. Monitor the grill's internal temperature to maintain a constant cooking temperature.

• Hunker down. For gas grills, position the grill so the wind is perpendicular to the gas flow and not blowing the flame down the burner tubes.

• Keep it simple. The best bets for cold-weather grilling are foods that don't require much attention. Steaks, burgers or fish that need only one quick flip or large meats that can cook unattended without repeated basting will work well. Not only do you eliminate multiple trips outside to the grill, but you won't be opening and closing the lid repeatedly, which will add to your cooking time, as precious heat escapes each time the lid is lifted.

• Be patient. Generally, it will take a little bit longer to grill when the temperature dips. To ensure that food is cooked properly, use a meat thermometer.

• While you're out there...Try your hand at an easy side dish or even dessert on the grill. There are few things like good old-fashioned comfort food to help raise your spirits. Grilling year-round fruits, such as bananas, and hearty, in-season vegetables, such as acorn squash or sweet potatoes, is a tasty way to round out your meal.

For more tips and recipes, visit www.weber.com or call the Weber Grill-Line at 1-800-GRILL-OUT (open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CT every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas).

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Fresh Trees Liven Up the Holiday Season

Charlie Brown trees and brown needles don’t have to haunt you this holiday season. With the help of a few tips and tricks from the University of Georgia, your Christmas tree will be fresh long after the celebrating is over.

Before picking out a tree, decide the size, species and how much you want to spend. Then, select a fresh tree that has been properly maintained and cared for while still on the lot.

“Taking really good care of a tree at home after you purchase it does not reverse the abuse it can get waiting on the lot,” said Don Gardner, the UGA Cooperative Extension coordinator in Glynn County.

Picking the freshest tree

Look for trees displayed in the shade or under a tent and in tree stands with water in them. The sun and wind pull water out of the tree, so good growers will keep their trees out of the sun.

To find the perfect tree, look for one with uniform distribution of branches and no holes in the needle canopy. Also make sure it smells fresh.

“The more water stress the tree is under, the less fragrance it emits,” Gardner said. “Fresh trees smell better.”

Test freshness by gently pulling several of the branch ends through your hand to see how many needles fall off.

“Don’t try to strip the needles off the branch,” said Gardner. “Stroke it as if it were a cat’s tail -- a cat you like. All cut trees will lose some needles, but the fewer the better.”

From the farm

Although there is little difference between buying a tree from a local tree farm or from a commercial retailer, buying from a farm is great for making family memories and helps keep local farmers in business, Gardner said.

“Loading everybody into the truck to pick out a tree at a farm is a fun day itself,” Gardner said, “and the more family members involved in picking out the tree, the more eyes there are making sure the tree stays watered.”

Many Georgia tree farms also hold family events and offer refreshments during farm visits.

“Buying local helps keep your friendly neighborhood Christmas tree grower in business and keeps good farmland in production,” Gardner said. “Buying from a local tree farm is definitely the ‘green’ thing to do.”

Taking it home

To get your Christmas tree home safely, have the seller tie it up and put the tree inside your vehicle if possible. If you put the tree on your vehicle rooftop, bring a few large plastic bags and put the tree in the bags stump end first. Then face the stump end forward on your rooftop. This will reduce wind blow-drying effects and water loss.

Many sellers will offer to trim off the stump end of the tree, Gardner said. Instead, wait until you get home to do so.

At home, trim low limbs and cut the tree stump at an angle with a sharp saw. Gardner advises running water over the stump while cutting it.

“While making the cut, have a helper hold a running hose over the cut so you are virtually making the cut under water. This is the difference between a tree that lasts two weeks and a tree that lasts two months,” Gardner said.

Then, quickly move the tree into your house and into its stand. Immediately add water until the tree stand is about two-thirds full. Then secure the tree into the stand.

After your tree is in place, keep it watered. Be sure the trunk’s cut surface is never exposed to the air.

“A new tree may surprise you at how much water it will suck up and how quickly it will do it,” Gardner said. “A 10-foot tree can use over a quart of water in the first three hours.”

Water your tree at least three times a day during the first few days and twice a day thereafter.

By Allie Byrd
University of Georgia

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Properly Winterize Trees to Keep Them Strong

As winter approaches it’s time to winterize pipes, cars and homes. Have you winterized your trees yet?

Trees stand in the face of cold, drying winds, ice storms and deicing salts. Food reserves must be carefully conserved for the coming needs of spring. Water continues to escape trees. Any creature needing a winter meal nibbles on resting buds and twigs.

Trees stand alone against all circumstances that winter can generate.

Winter also is a time of serious change and reorganization within a tree. Many trees won’t survive to grow in another spring. You can do little things to make trees more effective and efficient at surviving a hard winter. A few small investments now can pay off in a large way, yielding a healthy, structurally sound tree.

The "Big 8 List" of things to do to winterize your tree:

1. Remove or correct structural branch faults and deadwood that are clearly visible. Make small pruning cuts that minimize any exposure of the central heartwood core.

2. Properly prune off branches that will touch the ground when loaded with rain and snow. Foliage and branches that are in contact with soil can invite pests and problems.

3. Remove damaged and declining twigs, branches and bark. Don’t leave pests food and shelter for the winter.

4. Remove new sprouts growing at the tree base or along stems and branches. Don’t over-prune green tissues. Pruning should conserve as many living branches as possible with only a few selective cuts.

5. Spread a thin layer of composted organic mulch to blanket the soil. Cover an area at least as large as the branch spread. Mulch is nature's way of recycling valuable materials, but be careful of pests hitching a ride.

6. Aerate soils if they’re compacted and poorly drained. It’s critical not to damage tree roots living in the soil. Saturated and dense soils suffocate roots and help root diseases.

7. Conservatively fertilize with any essential element which is in short supply within the soil. Nitrogen should be used sparingly, especially under large, mature trees and around newly planted trees. Use very slow release fertilizers.

8. Watering may be needed where soils are cool but not frozen, and there has been little precipitation. Winter droughts need treatment with water the same as summer droughts, except it’s much easier to overwater in winter.

Trees sense changing seasons by temperature, by a dormancy timer in the leaves and buds and by the amount of light they receive. Old leaves, buds and inner bark all have pigment sensors which read the seasons. As days shorten in fall, one pigment called phytochrome sends a message across the tree to shut down for winter.

Getting ready for winter in an organized way is called senescence. Senescence in trees is an ordered shutting down of summer growth and the conservation of valuable resources. Senescence brings both fall colors and renewed spring growth.

Many materials collected or manufactured by a tree during the growing season are withdrawn from soon-to-be-shed and dead leaves. Tree waste materials are left behind. The last bit of tree food is stockpiled in the living cells of the outer annual growth rings. Twigs, branches and roots become collection sites and warehouses of materials needed for another season to come.

Within the tree, biological doors and windows are being closed and locked. From the moment last spring's green leaves expanded and began to make food, winter dormancy has been the designed end. The process of spring and summer growth reset and started a dormancy timer that hurries tree preparations for winter.

A tree-filled landscape in late fall and winter can be mistakenly thought to be asleep. Fall and winter trees are not sleeping, but are simply still -- truly counting the days until spring.

Most of the growing points in the tree are protected inside overcoats called buds. Each growing point waits for a correct message to signal a new season of growth. Only then will it be apparent whether a tree has put aside and saved enough resources to respond to the new season of growth.

Trees are investments that require a small amount of care. For the sake of your tree's quality of life and your own, take a few minutes to winterize your tree. For trees, wonderful springs come from well-tended fall and winter.

For more information about tree health care, contact a professional arborist or community forester.

By Kim Coder
University of Georgia

Kim D. Coder is a professor of tree biology and health care with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cold Snaps Landscapes

Recent freezing temperatures have taken a toll on some Georgia landscapes. If you were too slow to mulch or to cover tender plants, you may now see wilted, dark leaves dotting your flower beds. A University of Georgia expert has advice on how to handle the damage and to avoid it.
“On these first several frosts you are going to see obvious frost damage because many plants haven’t dropped their leaves,” said Bob Westerfield, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “The damage will usually appear as brown tips on leaves that will then turn black. Just go a couple of inches below the damage and prune it out.”

If you have planted wisely, the damage should only be temporary.

“Most plants that are established and have been in the landscape a year or two will survive these cold snaps,” he said. “You might have to prune out the damage, but they will make it through.”

If leaf burn is severe and unsightly, go ahead and cut it back. The plants won’t produce more leaves now. But since this is only the first cold snap and not the last, he said, you can wait to prune “because we will get hit again, and you can prune it back harder in December or January.”

Feed and water

Plants still need plenty of moisture now, he said. “Plants need that pressure within their stems to withstand the cold. If you don’t have them fully moist they can’t withstand the cold and will get cell damage. Now is the time to wet them down really well before a cold night.”
Most winter annuals will survive fine with proper care. “Most annuals like mums and pansies are very tenacious,” he said. “They might look bad right after the cold, but they will come right out of it.”

Good nutrition helps, too. “Give them some liquid or light granular fertilizer once a month and water well throughout the season,” he said. “They have limited root systems, so they need plenty of food and water.”

Protect plants

Annuals and shrubs need some protection against the cold.

“Some really sensitive plants like hydrangeas or young fig trees need heavy mulch as a blanket of insulation against cold,” he said. “You can get a wire basket, fill it up with leaves and cover the plant to protect it.”

He also recommends making a windscreen from a cardboard box or plastic. But don’t let the plastic touch the plant. It will make the plant colder. If you use plastic, make a tent with it over the plant.

For more tips on protecting landscape plants in winter, call your local UGA Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or look online at www.ugaextension.com .

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

Faith Peppers is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Soybean Grant Gives Researchers Tools to Unravel Better Bean

For millennia, people have grown soybeans and turned them into many useful products. But when it comes to understanding why a soybean grows, blooms or produces like it does, researchers are left with unanswered questions.

University of Georgia professor Wayne Parrott aims to find the answers with a three-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and a jumping gene in rice found by a UGA colleague.

"I'm convinced that soybeans would be so much more useful and flexible if we knew what genes we need to be working with," said Parrott, a crop and soil sciences professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The soybean's genome was sequenced, or mapped, earlier this year. Now Parrott and his colleagues from the universities of Nebraska, Missouri-Columbia and Minnesota are taking soybean's genetic map and translating it so that soybean breeders can use it to produce a better bean.

Parrott is using a jumping rice gene for his part of the research. His counterparts are using radiation.

UGA plant biology professor Sue Wessler found the jumping gene in rice. Her discovery is unique. The gene is one of only a few with the ability to cut themselves out of and move to another location in the genome, altering it, Parrott said.

She shared the technology. Parrott's lab will insert the jumping rice gene into soybean plants. When something changes in a plant with the added jumping gene - such as how fast it flowers - they will then search the plant genetically. When they find the jumping gene - presumably in a new location in the genome - they can identify the modified gene there and, in this example, know what caused the plant to bloom faster.

The more genes they identify using the jumping gene technique, the more they'll know about the soybean and what they can do to improve it. The soybean has a few issues that could stand modifying, Parrott said.

On grocery store shelves, soybeans may seem like the perfect plant. It can be made into tofu and its synthetic meat products. However, the bean's protein is not balanced to the 21 amino acids humans need for a healthy diet. In addition, soybean oil contains trans fats after it's processed.

On the agricultural side, an improved soybean variety would allow farmers to plant a crop that produces more soybeans using the same amount of land. And with soybean plants that are disease and insect resistant, farmers wouldn't have to apply as much money - draining pesticides.

Farmers could also grow varieties that produce more oil or more protein.

"Genome sequencing and gene discovery is starting to open a new, exciting era for us," Parrott said.

It's a good time for soybeans. Since 1982, the U.S. has had a 15 percent increase in total soybean production.

"Acreage-wise, soybeans are among the top three crops in the United States," Parrott said. "It's the No. 1 source of vegetable oil and vegetable protein. In that regard, it's the most important of the crops."

Soybeans are used for adhesives, alternative fuels, disinfectants, plastics, salad dressings, particleboard, candy, cookies and swine feed, to name a few. "It just boggles the mind that it lends itself to so many different uses," Parrott said. "It's even in furniture care products."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

McIntosh Choral Students “Plant a Promise”


Members of the freshmen Treble Chorus plant a Crepe Myrtle tree in the courtyard of McIntosh High as part of their "Planting a Promise" ceremony where students promised to live abuse free lives.

A living reminder of a promise to lead an alcohol and drug free life is with students every day at McIntosh High.

Red Ribbon Week is long gone but its significance lives on in the school’s courtyard where members of the Treble Chorus planted a tree as a daily reminder to students to aspire higher and make the most of their lives.

The all female, freshman chorus came up with the idea of having a ceremony called Planting a Promise to help remind current and future students about the importance of keeping their promises to stay away from drugs and alcohol. The ceremony also honored alumni who had lost their lives to substance abuse or violence.

As part of the ceremony, the choral students cited poetry or shared their memories of a family member or friend they had personally lost due to some type of abuse. They sang an original a cappella arrangement of Amazing Grace and gave a red rose to audience members as a “thank you” for their participation and as a reminder that life is fragile, just like the petals of the flower.

“I’m very proud of these girls and their idea to have this lasting reminder at our school about the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices that will allow them to grow just like the tree they planted that day,” says Terri Finlinson, assistant choral director at McIntosh.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gifts for the Gardener on Your List

Avid gardener Charlie Christian says people like him enjoy getting gardening-related gifts for Christmas. But if you have gardeners on your shopping list, whatever you do, don’t give them cheap tools. Give them something they’ll remember.

“I speak for a lot of gardeners when I say please don’t give your gardening friends low-quality tools,” said Christian, 73, a retired dentist from Madison, Ga. “I’d much rather receive one high-quality garden tool than a bunch of cheap ones that won’t last a year. And please don’t give an adult a set of child-size tools.”

Christian has been gardening since his father helped him plant a Victory Garden in 1942. He’s also one of state’s 2,500 active Master Gardeners, individuals who have completed the 11-week Master Gardener program provided by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Gardeners' list of best gifts

He recently polled the Master Gardeners in his area for their opinions on holiday gifts. The high-end choice gifts were labelers, four-wheel carts and truckloads of garden amendments.
They also wanted Santa to deliver nice hand pruners, lopper pruners, ratchet pruners, garden gloves or garden hoses.

“A sprinkler with a timer would be a great gift, too,” he said. “And a container of Roundup will always be appreciated and put to good use.”

Plants top the list

Among his gardening friends, the most requested gift was plants.

“Everyone wants pass-a-long plants and rooted cuttings,” he said. “I toured a lovely garden recently, and the owner told me it consisted mainly of plants she had received from friends or grew from cuttings.”

Low-light house plants are also great. Gardeners typically like indoor plants, too, he said.
“A plant that can be later planted outside in the garden can serve as a reminder of the gift-giver for years,” Christian said.

Krissy Slagle, the Master Gardener program assistant coordinator, has put a lot of thought into the gifts she’d like to receive.

Hats, gloves and pants

“I’d really like a pair of gardening gloves with hooks on them so you can fasten them on your belt,” she said. “I’m always laying my gloves down, and then I have no idea where they are.”
For the same reason, Slagle wants a sheath or an apron with pockets to keep her gardening tools close at hand. “I’ve even thought of attaching a keychain with a cord to my pruners.”

Clothes are nice, she said, like a hat for sun protection or pants with reinforced knees. Camouflaged pants from hunting supply stores are flexible and hold up well over time.
Give a membership to a botanical garden, she said, or gift certificate from a seed supply company.

Cordless, low-emission power tools

Don’t forget cordless gardening tools, she said. They’re great for small jobs.

“The new cordless tools have lower emissions. So, they are better for the environment, too,” she said. “A cordless saw-all pruner is on the top of my wish list this year.”

She also suggests giving interactive CDs, garden design software or reference books. Her favorite insect book right now is “Garden Insects of North America” written by Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw. Any books from CAES horticulturists Michael Dirr or Alan Armitage would be good, too.

Dream gifts, thrifty gifts

Slagle’s pie-in-the-sky dream gift is a Dingo. “It’s a self-propelled compact utility loader with attachments. It’s the all-time, ultimate gardening gift,” she said.

If your pockets aren’t deep enough for a Dingo, most gardeners would be thrilled to get a small tiller, she said.

If your funds are low, though, give a bag of manure, compost or potting soil. Or, build your gardener a compost bin.

“Better yet,” said Christian, “offer to till their garden for them in March. That would truly be a dream gift.”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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

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How To Make Holiday Poinsettias Last Beyond The Season

(StatePoint) Choosing a healthy plant and taking good care will keep your flowers blooming until Valentine's Day.

"Poinsettias tend to be the most vigorous plants with proper care, lasting in some cases through the summer months," says Richard Cowhig, assistant professor of ornamental horticulture at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania.

Look for large, well expanded bracts -- the colorful blossom-like leaves of the plant. "The yellow centers are the true flowers," he says. "They should be showing a faint trace of pollen. Too much pollen is a sign of an old plant."

"Choose a plant with strong, sturdy branching of secondary shoots," adds Cowhig. "There should be leaves down to the soil line, with no leaf yellowing, which can be caused by diseases or poor nutrition."

Keep your poinsettia warm -- above 55 degrees Fahrenheit -- and in its sleeve until you get it home. Plants will be happiest in a home that's between 60 and 68 degrees, away from heat and drafts.

Give them as much light as possible, turning the plant around several times a week. Water uniformly so that a little water runs out the bottom of the pot.

"Plant breeders have worked on plant quality," says Cowhig. "Your poinsettia should hold leaves and bracts for a long time. With the right care, you can enjoy its festive foliage into the New Year."

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Handmade Gifts Make a Holiday Comeback

(ARA) – Instead of battling crowded shopping malls and rising prices, Kim Jacobson is spending time in her garage, building holiday gifts in her home woodshop.

For several years, the Minnesota-based occupational therapist has been handcrafting holiday presents as part of her husband Gary's family's unusual -- and refreshing -- annual gift exchange.

"There's only one rule," Gary explains. "Everything has to be homemade. You draw a name at Christmas and have the next year to make that person a present."

It's a tradition Kim says cuts through the commercialism surrounding the holidays, to the core of what the season is all about.

"A lot of love goes into what you make," she says.

It's also part of an emerging trend, according to Ann Rockler Jackson, chief executive officer of Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, one of the nation's largest suppliers of woodworking tools and equipment.

Jackson has seen her company's gift-related supply sales increase steadily over the past five years and believes more consumers are seeking a back-to-the-basics approach to gifts.

"People are getting tired of the shopping-mall mentality surrounding holiday gifts," she says. "Building your own can be so much more personal. There are a lot of creative people out there making incredible, meaningful gifts they couldn't buy at a store. And that do-it-yourself population is growing.

"Plus, it's a nice way to save money," she says. "When you have the skills and ability to eliminate labor costs by doing something yourself, it pays dividends -- particularly in a tough economy."

As the number of people building gifts increases, so does the flow of ideas. Rockler has organized an extensive handmade gift list on its Web site, www.rockler.com/handmade.

Some of the more popular projects on the list are relatively simple to build -- things like small jewelry or keepsake boxes. Dominoes, cribbage boards and wooden Sudoku sets are among the many options for beginners. And for those with wood lathes, hardware kits for hand-turned pens, Christmas ornaments and even ice-cream scoops bring the quality of homemade gifts up to -- or beyond -- the store-bought level.

For the Jacobsons, high-quality homemade gifts are nothing new. With several accomplished woodworkers in the family, they have seen some amazing creations over the years.

"Probably the most impressive was a dining room table my cousin made for his sister-in-law," Gary says. "That will be an heirloom, for sure."

Still, the beauty of the Jacobson's tradition -- and one of the driving forces behind home gift-building's burgeoning popularity -- has as much to do with fellowship as it does with craftsmanship.

"It's definitely brought us all closer together," Kim says.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pink Hibiscus Mealybug Found in North Georgia

Pink hibiscus mealybugs were recently found north of Atlanta in suburban Forsyth County, experts with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension report. The newcomer to the state is a very destructive insect pest of hibiscus and 300 other plants.

The discovery was the result of an alert home gardener who was curious about a difficult to control mealybug infestation. The insects were feeding on a tropical hibiscus in her landscape. She brought a sample to her UGA Extension agent who shared her suspicion that the culprit might be pink hibiscus mealybugs.

Identified and verified

Electronic images were relayed to the UGA Homeowner IPM Insect Diagnostic Clinic in Griffin, Ga. where a technician confirmed the identification. University of Florida entomologists, who have worked extensively with this pest, also quickly confirmed the specimens were indeed the pink hibiscus mealybug.

Pink hibiscus mealybug is native to Southeast Asia but is now well established in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The pest likely came to north Georgia as a very low-level infestation on tropical hibiscus from south Florida.

Pink and destructive

Pink hibiscus mealybugs look similar to other Georgia mealybugs, but are pinkish in color. Thus, their name. The insect has relatively little of the white wax that adorns the bodies of most mealybugs.

Initially, pink hibiscus mealybug injury may be hard to see, but they can reproduce rapidly with five to six generations a year in north Georgia. As populations grow, injury becomes strikingly evident. Infested plants are severely stunted and malformed, as if treated with an herbicide.

The disfigured foliage is often covered with sticky liquid waste from the mealybug feeding. This also supports growth of a black sooty mold fungus.

Infestations will often be noticeable from afar due to the numerous snow white egg sacs which look much like clusters of small Q-tips on plant stems and foliage.

Could harm peanuts and cotton

The pest may not survive north Georgia winters. Pink hibiscus mealybug is a truly nasty pest -- one that gardeners, landscape professionals and nurseries hope can be eradicated from Georgia.
“We can’t afford to have this imported pest damaging two of our major crops, peanuts and cotton; nor can we afford the potential losses to our horticulture industry as well as the damage it can inflict in home gardens,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin. “We must all work to keep this pest from becoming established in Georgia.”

What to do if you find them

If homeowners find mealybugs in their landscape, they should contact their local UGA Extension office. Nursery owners should contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Office at (800) 282-5852.

A sample, including the white egg sacks and small pink mealybugs, should be cut from the infested plant. Immature mealybugs move on wind currents so it is important to place samples in sealed plastic bags. For this reason, samples should not be transported in the back of open trucks.

Plant destruction and replacement is often the best approach to take when controlling pink hibiscus mealybugs in home landscapes. Cut and double-bag infested plants or, where feasible, burn infested plant materials.

By Dan Horton
University of Georgia

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shifts In Soil Bacteria Linked to Wetland Restoration Success

A new study led by Duke University researchers finds that restoring degraded wetlands -- especially those that had been converted into farm fields -- actually decreases their soil bacterial diversity.

But that’s a good thing, say the study’s authors, because it marks a return to the wetland soils’ natural conditions.

“It sounds counter-intuitive, but our study shows that in restored wetlands, decreased soil bacterial diversity represents a return to biological health,” said Wyatt H. Hartman, a Ph.D. candidate in wetlands and environmental microbiology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“Our findings are novel because they are the opposite of the response seen in terrestrial ecosystems, where restoration improves conditions from a more barren, degraded state,” said Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center and professor of resource ecology at the Nicholas School. Richardson is Hartman’s faculty adviser.

Their report on the study will be published online this week by Friday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Soils in undisturbed wetlands present harsh conditions, with elevated acidity and low oxygen and nutrient availability in which fewer bacterial groups can survive and grow, they explained. In comparison, former wetlands that have been drained, limed and fertilized for farming host greater soil bacterial diversity because they present conditions more suitable for bacterial growth.

“The bacterial communities in these fields almost resemble those found in wastewater treatment plants,” Hartman noted.

Soil bacteria are essential to wetland functions that are critical to environmental quality, such as filtering nutrients and storing carbon. “The mixture of bacterial groups in wetland soils can reflect the status of wetland functioning, and the composition of these populations is as telling as their diversity,” Richardson said.

Measuring whether the right mix of bacteria is returning to a restored wetland can be a valuable biological indicator scientists can use to evaluate restoration success, he added.

“We found that one of the simplest and most promising indicators of restoration success was the ratio of Proteobacteria, which have the highest affinity for nutrient-rich environments, to Acidobacteria, which have the highest tolerance for poor conditions,” Hartman said.

The researchers determined soil bacterial composition and diversity within restored wetlands, agricultural fields and undisturbed wetlands across North Carolina's coastal plain. They sampled these paired land-use categories across three distinct types of wetlands: pocosin bogs, floodplain swamps and backwater swamps that were not connected to streams.

Samples were also taken from sections of the Everglades, the largest wetland in the United States, where a $10.9 billion effort is now underway to remediate the effects of agricultural runoff.

“We identified bacterial groups by their evolutionary relationships, which were determined by sequencing DNA extracted from soils,” Hartman said. “This approach allowed us to capture a much greater diversity of bacteria than would be possible using conventional laboratory culturing, which works for only a small fraction of the 10,000 to 1 million species of bacteria that can be found in a single cubic centimeter of soil.”

Previously, researchers have used genetic techniques to target known organisms or bacterial groups in wetland soils, he said. “But this study is unique in that we used these methods to capture the full range of bacterial groups present, and determine how their composition shifts with land-use changes and restoration.”

“These types of findings can only be obtained in studies done on sites that have been restored and studied over a number of years and assessed with these modern techniques,” Richardson said.

Wetlands filter and reduce nutrients and pollutants from agricultural and urban runoff as well as improve water quality and store around 25 percent of the world’s soil carbon, while covering only 4 to 6 percent of its land mass.

More than half of original wetland acreage in the U.S. has been destroyed or degraded, but some has been restored in recent decades under the federal government’s “no net loss” policy.

“Re-establishment of microbial communities indicates a restoration of the biological functions of soils. This study across a wide range of wetlands is the first to establish that shifts in soil bacteria populations may be a key marker of restoration success,” Richardson said.

Rytas Vilgalys, professor of biology at Duke, and Gregory L. Bruland, assistant professor of soil and water conservation at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, were co-authors on the report. Bruland received his Ph.D. from the Nicholas School in 2004; Richardson was his faculty adviser.

The study was funded by a Duke University Wetland Center Case Studies Endowment and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Alligator Chili: A Treat For Curious Eaters

NF Note: Alligators in chili? That's not common around these parts. However, we know there are scores of Fayette County citizens who have their roots down in the bayou.

(NAPSI)-It's time to set the record straight on an often misunderstood Louisiana delicacy.

Those who are leery of trying Louisiana alligator meat often fear that the flavor will be too exotic, but Chef John Folse, a Louisiana restaurateur, knows otherwise. "Alligator is one of those swamp floor pantry ingredients that adapt so well to all of the cooking techniques in Southern cooking," said Folse. "So whether served in a classic fashion or smothered in a sauce piquante, the flavor of alligator is excellent."

Folse introduces curious eaters to alligator meat at his restaurant, Lafitte's Landing at Bittersweet Plantation in Donaldsonville, La. It is here that Chef Folse serves alligator sausage as an appetizer. The meat's leanness and versatility have put its popularity on the rise, and alligator meat is appearing in kitchens just as notable as Chef John Folse's around the country. This recipe is from his cookbook:

Alligator Chili

Prep Time: 1.5 Hours

Yields: 6 Servings

3 pounds alligator meat, diced

½ cup vegetable oil

2 cups diced onions

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced bell peppers

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons diced jalapeño peppers

1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans

3 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Granulated garlic to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add alligator and sauté 20 minutes to render juices. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, minced garlic and jalapeño peppers and sauté 3−5 minutes or until wilted. Add pinto beans, tomato sauce and chicken stock. Bring to a low boil, then reduce to simmer. Stir in chili powder and cumin and cook approximately 1 hour or until alligator is tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste using salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Serve over spaghetti, if desired.

For more great recipes, visit www.LouisianaSeafood.com.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Cooking with Kids

For many families, holidays mean hours spent in the kitchen preparing meals. Make it a family affair by including children in food preparation.

“You can accomplish something and spend time together,” said Connie Crawley, health and nutrition specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. “You will create memories with children so they don’t just associate the holidays with opening gifts.”

Save time with boxed mixes

Decorating cookies and frosting cakes are fun, creative ways to spend time with children. They can be positive experiences for adults, too, as they reconnect with childhood memories or experience them for the first time. Refrigerated cookie dough or boxed cake mixes can cut down on the prep time without lessening the experience, Crawley said.

Families can also start traditions cooking together. Children who may not have the opportunity to spend time with grandparents throughout the year can spend time cooking together during the holidays. Parents can talk about family recipes as they cook together.

“It’s a fun time for families to spend together,” said Ted Futris, child and family development specialist with UGA Cooperative Extension. “Spending that time together is valuable for building bonds.”

Let kids pour, stir and measure

Younger children can stir and measure. They can also help make decisions about what to eat if given choices with limits.

“When cooking with kids, parents need to set the agenda, but provide children the opportunity for choice,” Futris said. Develop age-appropriate tasks children can handle.

“Preschoolers can definitely help with measuring and pouring. Elementary school children can read simple recipes and can even help cut ingredients with assistance,” Crawley said. “By age 11, most children are capable of preparing recipes on their own.”

Educational as well as yummy

Cooking with children also teaches math, reading and science skills.

“Children learn when they follow a recipe,” said Diane Bales, a UGA Extension human development specialist. “They learn to follow directions and perform tasks in sequence. They also learn about science when they see that you can’t always undo changes, or turn a cake back into flour and sugar.”

Cooking teaches children the importance of following directions, helps them practice paying attention and reinforces reading skills.

“Children may be more willing to read a recipe because they are motivated by getting to make something,” Bales said.

Children’s cookbooks are available at libraries. Or give cookbooks and aprons as gifts to budding chefs.

Make sure you have enough time scheduled to complete a cooking task, and try not to step in.

Let older kids do more

“Let them do as much as possible,” Bales said. “Let them have the experience of cutting, measuring and mixing. The more they can get involved the better.”

As children grow older, Bales suggests giving them a leadership role, like reading the recipe and assigning tasks. “Anything fun that adults and children do together is very important,” Bales said. “It’s a chance for good casual conversation and language building.”

Kids may also enjoy making food gifts, like specialty breads and decorated cookies.

“They will learn the value of making gifts, that small gifts are just as meaningful and your effort is part of the gift,” Crawley said.

Cooking with kids is a primetime to start teaching about food safety, too.

Children should be taught to wash hands and told not to cross-contaminate foods by touching raw meats and then raw produce. Tasting any dough or batter that contains raw eggs is also off limits, that includes all boxed mixes, she said.

“Children are curious, but they are more susceptible to foodborne illness than adults and no one wants to spend the holiday with Salmonella,” Crawley said.

Kids can help by setting the table, too. Putting out plates, napkins and silverware sets the stage for the family meal.

They are also eager to help cleanup. Pitching in to wash dishes, clean countertops and sweep the floor teaches them teamwork and responsibility.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April R. Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Americans Ready to Spend More Green on the Home

48 percent of homeowners would spend $2,500 or more on greening up a home for resale according to the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate “Living Green” Consumer Survey

A survey conducted at home shows in 15 cities across the country gauging consumer environmental practices suggests that many Americans are going green when it comes to their homes. Despite “cost” being singled out by 36 percent of respondents as the greatest impediment to going green, half of those surveyed have paid more money for an energy efficient product in the past 12 months and one in three homeowners (30%) claim they would be willing to spend $5,000 or more on green improvements to increase a home’s appeal to potential buyers. The findings are the result of the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Living Green Consumer Survey which looked at responses from over 2,300 consumers and is considered accurate to within +/- 2.2%.

These and other national survey results are being announced as a part of the Better Homes and Gardens and Green Works Living GreenTM Tour finale - the culmination of an eight-month, 15-city tour promoting healthy and environmentally friendly living. Launched in February 2008 by Better Homes and Gardens magazine and Green Works Natural Cleaners, the tour featured a 2,500 square foot Living Green Home, which showcased how small changes can impact the energy efficiency of everyday homes.

“As their environmental awareness grows, American homeowners are beginning to take action on green issues and are willing to spend their money accordingly,” explained Sherry Chris, president and CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. “These survey results confirm homeowners are identifying greater value in green and when the time comes to sell their homes, they will look to convert high consumer awareness levels on the green issue into a market differentiator.”

Additional survey findings revealed that 82 percent of respondents believe they are informed when it comes to issues pertaining to the environment. When preparing to buy or sell a home, more than half of those surveyed (51%) believe in the importance of working with a green certified real estate agent ― professionals who can assist in the identification and marketing of homes with high green quotient. This would include knowledge in regards to housing materials and construction, energy efficient appliances and systems, as well as the impact of landscaping on a home’s environmental footprint. In the cities of Hartford, Conn., Greenville, S.C., and San Francisco, two out of three respondents indicated that working with a green agent would be important.

“This tour provided us with an outstanding opportunity to extend our green coverage beyond our magazine pages and Web site,” said Gayle Butler, editor in chief, Better Homes and Gardens magazine. “The exhibit offered consumers a hands-on opportunity to learn realistic steps to save money and energy while minimizing their impact on the environment. The added benefits of the survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate gives us qualitative insights into the mindset of consumers regarding the green issue.”

Some of the other factors keeping survey respondents from being greener included convenience (22%), lack of knowledge on how to (18%) and lack of time (17%). However, many consumers reported engaging in “eco-friendly” or “green” acts in the past six months, including recycling (73%), replacing incandescent lights with CFLs (69%), conserving water (57%), adjusting the thermostat (51%) and purchasing energy efficient appliances (30%).

The Living Green Tour and Exhibit included stops in Hartford, Conn.; Greenville, S.C., San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Miami, Nashville, Tenn., Boston, Washington, D.C., Jacksonville, Fla., Atlanta, and New York. More details on the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Living Green Consumer Survey, including an executive summary and presentation, are available upon request.
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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Decorative Projects for the Holidays

NF Note: Tis almost the season to start decorating Fayette County for the holidays. One of our favorite outings is to look at all the houses wearing showcasing their holiday finery.

(ARA) – The weather is changing and the days are getting shorter, which means the holiday season is just around the corner. As you prepare to host family and friends, now is the time to dust off those old decorations and to consider some simple ideas to add a festive feel to your home this year.

“The holiday season is a special time for families,” says Ashleigh Sala, Dremel associate product manager. “Whether baking cookies, wrapping gifts or decorating our homes, the holidays seem to bring out the creative spirit in all of us.”

If you have a busy schedule or a small budget, you can still find inspiration to decorate for the holidays. By following a few simple instructions, these inexpensive, decorative projects can add a special touch to your home:

Wreath
Decorating a wreath is an easy at-home project that will highlight your front door for the holidays. To create a unique wreath, you will need to gather your materials, including a fresh pine bough wreath, garland, ribbon, pinecones and berries. The first step is to wrap ribbon around the wreath gluing every four inches to secure. Try the Dremel Glue Gun to prevent drips and to keep your work area clean. Next, wrap garland around the wreath gluing every four inches to secure. Then, glue a variety of pinecones and berries in place around the frame to give it a festive look. The final step is to attach a wire loop on the back of the wreath using picture wire. Once this is done, adorn your front door with your new masterpiece.

Mantle
During the holidays, your fireplace mantle is the perfect place to add festive decorations. It is the one area in your home that will get a lot of attention. Most people decorate their mantle with garland, but consider adding lights and bows to brighten it up. In addition to decorative garland, include eye catching ornaments or even candles. Remember, your mantle is the centerpiece of your room, so choose colors that complement your decor for a fresh look.

Centerpiece
Making a holiday centerpiece is a fun activity that can help spruce up your table with little effort. Start with a wicker basket and glue pine branches or garland in the bottom of the basket, lining the basket. Then, arrange an assortment of artificial fruit or holiday ornaments over the pine branches or garland. Once you have the look that you want, lift each piece of fruit or holiday ball carefully and glue back in to position. After the fruit or ornaments are in place, add accents such as candy canes, berries or even small pinecones to liven it up. Finish the centerpiece by tying a ribbon into a bow and gluing it to the front of the basket. Your table will be ready for a joyful holiday meal.

Coffee Table
To highlight your coffee table, gather a decorative tray, tiny holiday ornaments, holiday ribbon and various sized pillar candles. Arrange the candles on the tray in an asymmetrical pattern. Fill the spaces with the ornaments, weave the ribbon among the tray and light the candles for a soft and portable ambiance.

Candy Dish
Candy plays a central role in most holiday celebrations, so embrace it by making a large, decorative, candy dish to put on display in your home. First, glue candy canes, side-by-side to the outside of a terra cotta pot. For extra sparkle, add other decorations such as beads or ornaments. Then, wrap a ribbon around the pot and tie in a bow. After the candy canes are in position and the ribbon is secure, fill the pot with an assortment of wrapped candy for guests to enjoy. Remember, you may have to refill the dish on several occasions.

For more creative at-home projects, visit www.dremel.com or call the Dremel Experts at (800) 437-3635.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fall Colors at Lake Peachtree on Election Day


Make sure to participate in your civic duty today! Vote for the candidate of your choice. Early reports in Peachtree City had lines of about one half hour at 8 am.

After voting, take a moment and enjoy the fall colors over Lake Peachtree.

Photo © A S Eldredge 2008. Used with permission.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Blueberry Grant Focuses Research on Significant Georgia Fruit

Blueberries are becoming big business in Georgia. University of Georgia experts plan to use a $1.7 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant to lead an effort to make the Southeast the leading producer of the fruit.

The U.S. has 75,000 acres of cultivated blueberries. A third of that is grown in the South. The region is on track to become the hub of U.S. blueberry production within the next five years, said Harald Scherm, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

A spring freeze severely damaged Georgia’s blueberry crop in 2007. But the 2006 crop was worth $75.8 million. The berry has the potential to add millions of dollars more to rural economies, said Gerard Krewer, a UGA Cooperative Extension fruit crop horticulturalist.

“Blueberries are grown in rural areas, areas that really need economic boosting,” Krewer said. “Blueberries are becoming a major horticultural commodity in southeast Georgia.”

Scherm will lead a team that includes Krewer and CAES horticulturists Dan MacLean and Anish Malladi, plant pathologist Phil Brannen, food scientist Rob Shewfelt and engineer Changying Li. The team will collaborate with colleagues in Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia and Mississippi.

The grant will be used to develop a way to harvest the berries mechanically while not damaging or dropping a majority of the fruit. The research team will also use the grant funds to genetically improve fruit quality and to fight diseases that are just starting to plague blueberry bushes.

Georgia producers predominately grow two types of blueberries – rabbiteye and southern highbush.

Rabbiteye – the variety traditionally grown in Georgia – has a thicker skin and is generally harvested in June and July. The development of the southern highbush variety allows growers to start harvesting blueberries in April and May, a period when berries are in short supply and prices are much higher.

But with the extra profits came new problems. The southern highbush has thin skin and bruises easily. Because of this, most are currently harvested by hand. Competition for farm workers and tighter immigration restrictions could cause the cost of harvesting to skyrocket for the crop in coming years. Hand-harvesting now cost farmers as much as 70 cents per pound.

Farmers now need machines that better harvest their crop. Current harvesting machinery drops too many blueberries – as much as 25 percent of the crop and can bruise delicate berries. Damaged berries are only good for the frozen market, and producers get much lower prices for frozen berries than they do for fresh.

Besides coming up with a better harvesting method, another way to deal with the thin skins of southern highbush is to breed new varieties with thicker skins, or with a crispy flesh.

Crispy flesh varieties are currently being developed by university breeding programs in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia. After narrowing down the varieties, UGA food scientists will use taste panels to determine which type of new southern highbush blueberry consumers would most likely buy.

“With so much blueberry acreage going in the last few years, there’s not been enough new plants to go around,” Scherm said.

New plants are propagated through cuttings, and he thinks this may help spread debilitating diseases not seen before. These diseases include blueberry red ringspot virus, bacterial leaf scorch and Botryosphaeria stem blight. Leaf scorch and stem blight have killed many southern highbush blueberry plantings in recent years.

Bacterial leaf scorch was first documented in 2006. Very little is known about how to control it. Scherm hopes to find answers to these questions primarily by studying disease epidemiology, transmission modes and cultivar resistance.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wanted: Avid Photographers And Nature Lovers

(NAPSI)-From stargazing to alligator spotting, from touring Civil War sites to witnessing a blizzard of snow geese, America's federal lands offer a variety of fun and picturesque fall and winter activities. And by capturing some of these moments on film, an amateur shutterbug may be able to share his/her personal perspective with the whole world.

As part of the 2008 Share the Experience Photo Contest, photographers are encouraged to visit such awesome sites as San Rafael Swell in Utah, Joshua Tree National Park in California and the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, to appreciate, explore and capture the majestic beauty.

The contest runs through December 31, 2008 and is designed to showcase the more than 500 million acres of federal lands, drawing entries from all across the United States.

The Grand Prize winner will earn the international honor of having the winning image grace the 2010 Annual Federal Recreation Lands Pass, an annual pass that provides access to all participating Federal Land Management Agency sites where an entrance fee is charged. Additionally, the Grand Prize winner will receive an Olympus E-3 DSLR digital camera kit and a five-day, four-night trip to a Federal Recreation Land of his/her choice.

This year's official contest is sponsored by the National Park Foundation and Olympus Imaging America Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Citizens and legal residents of the United States who are at least 18 years of age can enter by submitting up to three entries online at www.sharetheexperience.org; or via mail in a hand written, stamped envelope to Share the Experience Official Federal Recreation Lands Photo Contest, c/o ePrize, LLC, P.O. Box 8070, Royal Oak, MI 48068.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Farmers Forced to Leave Tomatoes in Fields

When it comes to food, perceived danger can be as harmful as a real one, especially to a farmer’s wallet. Georgia tomato growers learned that lesson firsthand when consumers stopped buying fresh tomatoes during this summer’s Salmonella scare linked to fresh tomatoes.

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide warning regarding a Salmonella risk on varieties of raw red plum, red Roma and round red tomatoes.

“The disease wasn’t found on Georgia tomatoes, but the general public’s perception was that all tomatoes were affected,” said Archie Flanders, an economist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The scare cost Georgia farmers $13.9 million. Georgia grows about 3,000 acres of tomatoes, worth between $60 million and $80 million annually.

As president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Bill Brim tried to tell consumers through media interviews that Georgia tomatoes were safe. He ate tomatoes straight from his field on television.

“I was interviewed by (all the major Atlanta television media), and I tried my best to persuade people that Georgia tomatoes are safe,” Brim said. “The national news media really put us under by telling people not to eat any tomatoes unless they have the vine attached. What was so sad was that it wasn’t true.”

Georgia growers weren’t the only ones. “Growers in Tennessee, north Florida, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, and of course California, were all hit hard, too,” he said.

Brim grows 80-acres of tomatoes in Tifton, Ga. The summer scare cost him $1.2 million. “This was a very significant loss for small- and large-scale farmers,” he said.

Tomatoes are one of Brim’s most expensive crops to grow. An acre of tomatoes costs him $12,000. Bell pepper costs $8,000 per acre. Squash costs him $2,500 per acre, he said.

Georgia tomato growers lost $1.6 million from harvested tomatoes that were picked but not sold. Much of the state’s tomato crop wasn’t harvested because there wasn’t a market for them, Flanders said.

“When wholesalers aren’t buying produce, growers know the market is lost,” Flanders said.
To determine the total impact of the scare, Flanders led a survey conducted by the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

Most Georgia tomatoes are grown in nine southwestern counties and one county in northeast Georgia. Farmers there were surveyed by UGA Cooperative Extension agents.

The survey revealed that 32 percent of Georgia’s tomato acreage was left in the field due to decrease demand caused by the scare, Flanders said. Another 9 percent was lost to discarded harvested and packed tomatoes due to decreased demand.

Before the scare, Brim’s tomatoes were bringing $19 a box. Three days after the FDA warning, the same tomatoes dropped to $4 a box. A box costs him $8 to grow. That doesn’t include the packing cost.

“All the food chains and grocery chains quit taking them,” he said. “I dumped 30 percent of our crop and left 30 percent in the field. It was heartbreaking. … You do an excellent job growing it, and then you don’t have a market to sell it. You just have to leave it to rot.”

Each year, Georgia has two tomato crops, one harvested in summer and one in fall.

Brim is now harvesting 40 acres. Prices are still.

“I think there are going to be more and more people getting out of the tomato business because the market was just declined,” Brim said. “We just hope the market will turn around and consumers will get the confidence back. I stand behind the fact that Georgia-grown produce is the safest food in the world.”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Only One Week Remains to Vote for Line Creek!

Your vote online can direct $5,000 for new trail signs and trail maintenance at the Line Creek Nature Area!

Line Creek is a 70 acre hidden treasure on the border of Fayette and Coweta Counties that offers something for everyone who loves the outdoors: a fishing dock over a placid pond . . . a picnic gazebo . . . both easy and challenging hiking trails that lead you through a majestic hardwood forest, over rock outcroppings, and down to rushing Line Creek . . . see the historic Mule Rock carving and ruins of an old stone bridge . . .

The Line Creek trails project is one of 20 finalists chosen from 70 applicants across the nation to be featured in the "Save the Trails" online contest sponsored by the American Hiking Society and Nature Valley granola bars.

Vote for Line Creek at www.wheresyours.com/SaveTheTrailsVote.aspx. (It's 2/3 of the way down the page.)

You can help improve this popular nature preserve without spending a dime and make Line Creek an even better place to visit!

The deadline to vote is Friday, October 31st.The Line Creek preserve is located on Hwy 54 on the border of Fayette and Coweta County.

Make a lasting difference in your own community -- vote for Line Creek Nature Area today!

www.wheresyours.com/SaveTheTrailsVote.aspx

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Spooky Legend of the Peachtree City Fire Department Lives on October 24 and 25


Don't accept these ladies' offer to sit down as did this brave young man! Look closely at the chair, fondly known as Mr. Sparky... Wander through the woods on the Haunted Trail at the Peachtree City Fire Department's fundraiser and see other visions of horror!

Every year at the beginning of October, a strange and mysterious event happens at the Peachtree City Fire Department. The brave men and women who are charged with rescuing us and fighting fires morph into ghouls, chainsaw toting wild men and, well, just general spirits of the night.

It's the time of year where the Peachtree City Fire Department gets fired up about fall. They sponsor their two largest fundraisers of the year during this time. The first event, is the pumpkin sale. The other event is their annual Haunted House and Haunted Trail. While the Haunted House is designed by the firefighters, the Haunted Trail is designed by the Explorer Post, a group of ghouls, er, firefighters in training.

We stopped in to check on the progress of the haunted house preparations and were welcomed by smiling firefighters into their burn house. The burn house, normally used for training, is magically transformed into a 10 room haunted house over a three week period and about 200 hours of labor. Each room has a different theme and is created by different teams. These teams delve deep into their imaginations to bring each room to life for a maximum scare factor.

The firefighters are quick to point out this is not for the faint of heart. While they would not give us the details of the theme rooms, they did tell us there would be numerous exits and firefighters in everyday clothing to quickly remove their hysterical guests. Our tour guide, Stephanie Furey, grinned as she said, "Oh yeah" when asked about different ghouls and goblins being present in the house.

During the four nights the Haunted House and Trail are open, the Fire Department anticipates close to 1000 victims, ummm, "guests" to tour their creations.

In order to answer the burning question in my mind about these seemingly mild mannered protectors of our community, I must first ask "Whatever happened to the volunteers?" Do I dare find out? Do you?

Hours of Operation
7:00 pm-11:00pm
20-30 min for the tour
Expect 30 min wait at peak times

Oct 24 and 25

Student $8
Adults $10

Not recommended for children under 11 or for anyone who scares easily. There is a moonwalk for the younger set.

Fayette Front Page Staff Report

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wicked Goes "Green" to Celebrate "Wicked Day" in Atlanta's Renaissance Park, Sunday, October 26th

(Backstage Fayette) The National Touring Company of the Broadway musical WICKED will celebrate WICKED Day - the musical’s fifth anniversary - on Sunday, October 26. WICKED Day is a national initiative with events involving the WICKED Company to lend support to the environment and to help educate others on living a greener lifestyle. WICKED Day takes place in various cities where the musical is currently playing, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and London... More

Georgia's Forest Industry Contributions Recognized

Governor Sonny Perdue has proclaimed October 19-25 National Forest Products Week,
highlighting the Georgia Forestry industry’s $28.5 billion impact on the state in 2007. According to statistics released by The Georgia Institute of Technology, the Forestry industry also provided
employment for more than 141,000 Georgians and compensation of $6.7 billion to employees and proprietors.

“Our state is one of the nation’s leading pulp and paper producers,” said Nathan McClure, Forest
Marketing Director for the Georgia Forestry Commission. “While the building products industry is being affected by downturns in real estate, the outlook is for positive future growth in relation to bioenergy.”

According to the report, the “Manufactured housing” economic impact sector posted the greatest
loss between 2006 and 2007 at 14.7%. “Pulp and Paper” and “Packaging” were two sectors that
experienced gains during 2007, reflecting increases in wood products exports.

Georgia ships more than $16 billion of forest products, such as lumber, paper, paperboard and
allied products every year. The report shows local economies of 37 Georgia counties are “very” or
“critically” dependant on the forest manufacturing industry. The Forest Industry ranks second in Georgia behind food processing when considering compensation to employees and proprietors. Forestry ranks third behind textiles and food processing when considering number of employees.

“Construction is continuing on the state’s first commercial scale pine-to-ethanol production plant in Soperton,” said McClure. “Plans have also been announced to build five pine-to-electricity plants in the state. Our rural forestry economy can be expected to improve as more investments are made in Georgia’s Bioenergy Corridor.”

The complete 2007 Economic Impact of Forest Products Manufacturing in Georgia report can be
viewed at GaTrees.org/Forest Marketing/Doing Business in Georgia.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Line Creek Nature Area is Finalist for Save the Trails™ Funding

Southern Conservation Trust invites local residents to vote at www.wheresyours.com before October 31st.

Southern Conservation Trust is pleased to announce that the Line Creek Nature Area is among 20 finalists in a competition for Save the Trails™ funding through Nature Valley® and the American Hiking Society. Line Creek was selected from a competitive pool of 160 trail projects located throughout the nation.

“We’re honored to be a finalist for Save the Trails funding,” said Abby Jordan, the Trust’s Executive Director. “This money would help us improve the trails at Line Creek, our most popular of three preserves the Trust manages. I hope that outdoor enthusiasts will log on to www.wheresyours.com by October 31st and support us with your vote.”

Save the Trails, in cooperation with the National Trails Fund, will award $5,000 to each of the top 10 finalists, based on online votes, to restore and revitalize hiking trails in their communities. Voting is open to the public now through Oct. 31, 2008, at www.wheresyours.com.

“Hiking trails are gateways to nature’s greatest experiences, but they need regular maintenance to ensure their longevity and safety,” said Gregory A. Miller, president of American Hiking Society. “The National Trails Fund is dedicated to preserving America’s hiking trails, and Nature Valley’s generous donation has doubled the size of this year’s fund. All area outdoor enthusiasts will benefit from the funding if Line Creek is selected by online voters.”

Southern Conservation Trust, the only land trust protecting greenspace in the Southern Crescent, applied for the American Hiking Society National Trails Fund earlier this fall to repair hiking trails at the Line Creek Nature Area, located on Hwy 54 between Peachtree City and Newnan. Funds will be used to upgrade the trail surface and install trail signs. More information on the Trust and its preserves may be found at sctlandtrust.org.

Nature Valley launched Save the Trails in June 2008 with a $50,000 contribution to the National Trails Fund. The annual fund’s sole purpose is to preserve our nation’s trails. Save the Trails funding recipients will be announced in April 2009; all funds are to be used towards trail restoration during summer 2009.

“National Trails Fund finalists were selected from a competitive pool, which was a record number topping 160 applications,” said Martin Abrams, Nature Valley marketing. “We’re grateful to be working with the American Hiking Society and truly excited to see how the National Trails Fund is piquing interest in hiking trails in local communities across the country. We are committed to helping make hiking trails enjoyable and accessible while protecting and preserving nature. Support your favorite trail at www.wheresyours.com.”

Since its inception in 1998, the National Trails Fund has granted nearly $340,000 to 89 different trail projects across the United States. Community preservation efforts include land acquisition, constituency building campaigns and a variety of trail work projects. With more than 200,000 miles of trails in the United States, the National Trails Fund is the only national private grants program that helps trail-maintaining organizations build and improve hiking trails and galvanize volunteers to ensure long-term trail sustainability.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Today's Pumpkins Not Just Basketballs

Whether you’re planning to carve a Halloween pumpkin or create a fall decoration, chances are pumpkin shopping is on your to-do list.

“The traditional, basketball-sized, orange fruit is still out there, but neither size nor color is an obstacle anymore,” said Terry Kelley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “While orange is still the norm, the market offers white, bluish-gray, buff or even red pumpkins, too.”

If you’re a traditionalist, Kelley recommends the deep burnt orange color of a Magic Lantern or the light orange of an Old Zeb's. If your goal is to carve a jack-o'-lantern, stay in the 8- to 20-pound range.

If you like trying something new and thinking outside the box, why not try a white or blue pumpkin?

The traditional Lumina variety is the standard white pumpkin that grows from 5 to 12 pounds. Cotton Candy is another of similar size.

If you're looking for a mini, Baby Boo is a small, white pumpkin. If you want to go toward the giant side, try Full Moon, one of the newest pumpkins on the market. It is a white-skinned variety that can easily grow to 80 pounds.

Jarrahdale is a grayish blue pumpkin that's deeply ribbed and somewhat flat. Despite its unique outside color, it's just as orange as any jack-o'-lantern on the inside. Most of the white varieties are orange on the inside, too.

Fairytale and Cinderella are flat, scalloped varieties with glossy skin in buckskin and deep orange. Red Eye is almost red and has veins of white running through the red background. One Too Many has the opposite color scheme.

“If you want a behemoth, pick from one of the giant varieties like Dill's Atlantic Giant,” Kelley said. “Finding these fruits from 300 to 600 pounds is not uncommon. The world record is around 1,200 pounds.”

You don't have to stick with orange giants, either. White pumpkins and other varieties range in size from a bushel basket to a small automobile, he said.

For decorating, a plethora of miniature types come in all colors, too, from orange to white to mixed. Kelley says true miniature pumpkins weigh a pound or less.

Gold Dust and Jack-Be-Little are just two of the many miniature varieties that come in orange. Cannonball, Ironman and Li'l Ironsides grow in the 2- to 5-pound range.

There are still more varieties to choose from like the striped minis Li'l Pump-Ke-Mon and Hooligan.

By the time you pick the perfect pumpkin for decorating, it will be time to pick the perfect variety for holiday pie making.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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

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