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; 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 (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!

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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.

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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 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 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 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

“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

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”

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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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guilt-free Showers? New Solar Technology Makes it Possible

NF Note: Sounds like a great idea to explore. You can start the process off in Peachtree City with the local solar golf cart company who also has some solar panels.

(ARA) - Every time you take a shower, do the laundry or wash the dishes, you’re spending money -- big money. The average household with an electric water heater spends about 25 percent of its home energy costs on heating water, according to the Department of Energy. Many Americans are resigned to this fact, but there is an affordable way to save money and fossil fuels.

Today, affordable, lightweight, all-polymer solar hot water systems can sit on your roof and provide for up to 50 percent of your home's hot water needs. In states like Arizona, Texas, California, Florida and Hawaii, homeowners are reporting up to 100 percent energy savings. Polymer solar systems are replacing the heavy, expensive copper solar collectors of the past.

Homeowner Derek Reidhead, of Phoenix, Ariz., relies on solar thermal energy. “You’re not going to believe this,” he says. “I turned the (electrical) breaker off to install the system and never turned it back on. I had no electricity to the water heater for 30 days!”

Reidhead says his system produces enough hot water for six to seven people to take showers, do their laundry, wash dishes and do all of the normal things a household does.

According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), solar hot water installations have boomed since the 2006 increase in the federal investment tax credit. Recently, the tax credit was extended to the year 2016. The IREC says that rising conventional energy costs have also played a role in homeowners’ search for better efficiency and affordability in solar.

Saving money with this new kind of solar technology is easy. The moment you turn your system on, you start saving energy and costs. You also immediately qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit of up to $2,000. According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, 17 states offer personal tax incentives and 34 states offer state, local and/or utility rebates so there is even more financial incentive.

The lightweight, all-polymer solar hot water systems cost about $4,000 if you have them professionally installed. If you do it yourself, it can cost a little over $2,000. The system works with your existing hot water heater, whether it’s gas, electric or tankless. It weighs just 70 pounds and fits into a single box. FAFCO ( is the oldest and largest solar water heating manufacturer in the United States, and leads the nation in pricing, ease-of-installation, and energy efficiency.

Since 2005, solar hot water installations have quadrupled in the continental states -- with good reason. Leaders have called on citizens to become energy independent and environmentally conscious. And who doesn’t want to take long, hot showers without going bankrupt? Solar thermal technology is here to stay.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Looking for the Fuel of the Future

(ARA) - Throughout the presidential campaign this year, candidates from both parties have spoken of the urgent need to develop alternative fuels. American interest in alternative fuel technologies stems from concerns about the environment and also from this country’s dependence on foreign oil.

With more than 2 billion vehicles expected to be on the roads worldwide by the middle of the century, a little anxiety is understandable. To meet this growing global demand for energy, scientists are developing alternative transport fuels that you may pump into the tank of your car some day.

“Shell has more than 100 years of experience in developing transport fuel technology,” says Dan Little, fuels manager for Shell Oil Products US. “We have technology centers around the world that are driving advancements in fuels. While our research with alternative fuels will have tremendous long-term benefits, it’s also impacting the fuel technology that’s found at Shell retail locations today.”

But what exactly are alternative fuels, and how will new technology affect daily commutes in the decades to come? The future fuels that scientists are working on could come from a variety of sources. They may be blended with conventional gasoline, or could be 100 percent pure. Some offer reductions in CO2 emissions.

To better understand the wide range of different “alternative” fuels that are being developed, here’s an overview of what may some day fill your gas tank:

1. Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) – Made from natural gas, GTL fuel is a cleaner-burning diesel fuel that’s clear, odorless, sulfur-free and compatible with today’s diesel engine. GTL can be used on its own or blended with diesel and has been cited by the California Energy Commission as the most cost-effective “alternative fuel” in reducing tail pipe emissions and our dependence on petroleum.

2. Conventional or “First Generation” Biofuels – Currently, available biofuels are made from food crops (e.g. corn, vegetable oil). Today’s most common biofuel, ethanol, is usually made from sugar cane, corn or wheat. While these biofuels can be blended into gasoline and diesel at low concentrations, high concentrations of biofuels require fuel tank and injection system modifications.

3. “Second Generation” Biofuels – Made with non-food plant materials, such as wood chips, straw and algae, these fuels have the potential to be produced in high volumes. Currently they are expensive to research and develop and it may be difficult to convince people to pay for their key environmental benefit, CO2 reduction. However, they show real promise as an alternative fuel. For example:

* Cellulosic ethanol – Cellulosic ethanol has the same properties as ethanol that is already being blended with gasoline in many regions of the United States, but is made from non-food crops like wheat straw and corn stalks.

* Biomass-to-Liquid (BTL) – This second generation biofuel takes a woody feedstock, gasifies it and converts the gas into a high quality diesel fuel. The product has potential to be a low-carbon transportation fuel and is produced from a renewable source of energy.

4. Hydrogen – Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. Hydrogen fuel is a new form of transport fuel that can be used in modified combustion engines, but the best results are achieved through the use of “fuel cell vehicles.” These engines generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction that produces just water and heat as by-products. Since hydrogen is not commonly found in its pure form, it must be produced from different energy sources, usually fossil fuels. If the full environmental benefits of hydrogen-powered vehicles are to be realized, a critical challenge is to produce, and make widely available, hydrogen fuel with a low, or potentially zero CO2 footprint.

What are the CO2 benefits of biofuels?

A key advantage of biofuels compared with conventional gasoline and diesel is that they generally produce less CO2 on a life-cycle basis. This is because plants used in biofuels have absorbed CO2 from the air while growing, which is then released when the biofuel is burnt. In theory, this leaves the balance neutral. However, energy is required to grow and harvest the plants, convert them into biofuel and distribute them, and this all produces CO2. Since the amount and sources of energy used in production vary considerably, the CO2 emissions of different fuels need to be compared on a life-cycle basis.

It will take some time to develop “Second Generation” biofuels in significant commercial quantities. Until that time, companies should work to ensure the raw materials and conversion processes used today result in genuinely beneficial, low-carbon biofuels. That means accelerating the pace of international sustainability and CO2 certification systems for the supply chain for “First Generation” biofuels.

To learn more about fuel technology and the development of future fuels, visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Create Your Own Gift Of Beauty

(NAPSI)-Taking the time to create homemade treasures remains one of the most cherished traditions of the holiday season. Flower arrangements leave fresh, fragrant, personal touches that can brighten any room.

"Fresh floral arrangements can range from basic and simple to more creative and elaborate," said flower designer Jill Slater. "Regardless of the design, the charm and allure that a homemade floral arrangement offers will add a warm and inviting feel to any room of the house."

She offers the following festive flower recipe to add elegant and distinctive decoration to your home or to give as a unique present:

Gerbera Daisy Topiary

A holiday-inspired mug is filled with a topiary Christmas tree of red gerbera daisies and tied with a festive holiday ribbon. Cranberries-a holiday tradition-cover the foam for a picture-perfect look.

You will need:

10 red gerbera daisies

One red or green mug

One-half brick floral foam

Flower food/preservative

Two feet holiday ribbon

Fresh cranberries

One rubber band

Step 1: Fill container with floral foam that has been soaked in water treated with flower food/preservative for at least 30 minutes. Gather the flowers in the web of your hand (between thumb and other fingers), holding them just under the bloom. The flowers should tuck neatly into each other. If right-handed, gather the flowers in your left hand. Secure the stems together with the rubber band and bring the rubber band up just under the blooms. This will make the gerberas perky and straight.

Step 2: Hold all the stems of the flowers in a neat bundle and cut off about one inch from the bottom of the stems. Insert the bunch into the center of the floral foam.

Step 3: Cover the floral foam with fresh cranberries. Using your favorite holiday ribbon, tie a bow around the rubber band. For trans-seasonal appeal, change the color of the gerberas or try other flower varieties such as iris, standard and miniature carnations, chrysanthemums, roses and lilies. Be sure to match the container and ribbon to the season.

You can get more flower- arranging tips and ideas from the Flower Promotion Organization Web site,

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Friday, October 10, 2008

UGA Distance Diagnostics System Saves Time, Money

The disease had swept across the homeowner’s yard and was spreading to the nursery next door. Panicked, the nursery owner called the local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office for help.

Carl Varnadoe, the UGA Extension agent in Madison County, answered the call. He immediately visited the nursery, collected plant samples and took pictures. He submitted the pictures through the UGA Distance Diagnostics through Digital Imaging system. Within hours, the disease was identified. Experts with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences recommended fungicides to stop the disease.

“The problem turned out to be associated with their watering schedule,” Varnadoe said. “The sample showed Pythium and Rhizoctonia, or essentially root-rot.”

A quick response stopped the disease from spreading and prevented possible devastating plant losses.

“We saved the nursery a lot of money. In the nursery owner’s mind, we were heroes,” Varnadoe said. “Whether it is a commercial nursery like this one or someone’s heirloom roses, a fast, correct diagnosis is important.”

From bed bugs and aphids to root-rot and air potatoes, Varnadoe said he uses the system often to diagnose problems.

In 10 years, UGA Extension agents have submitted more than 23,000 samples through the system to quickly diagnose insect and disease problems. Almost every county in Georgia is equipped with a DDDI system, which includes a dissecting scope, a compound microscope, a camera that mounts on either microscope, a digital camera for use in the field, a computer, software and a printer.

Close to a 100 UGA diagnosticians log in to help solve problems across the state in aquaculture, biological and agricultural engineering, crop and soil science, entomology, forestry, horticulture and plant pathology.

The system was initially developed to serve as a biosecurity tool for early detection of exotic or introduced organisms. The UGA Consortium for Internet Imaging and Database Systems has developed and currently hosts DDDI systems for 12 other land-grant universities. Honduras became its first international client in 2005.

“DDDI digital samples mitigate the danger of spreading the threat posed by transporting physical samples from point source to diagnostic labs,” said Jennifer Gose, CIIDS project coordinator.

Time savings can be significant, she said. If each sample had to be packaged and shipped, it would take at least four or five days to reach the diagnostic laboratory.

“The entire process, from taking the image to a specialist responding to the problem, can take place in just a few minutes,” Gose said. “Time is of the essence when dealing with biological agents that are easily spread, highly infectious, rapidly multiply and can have high economic consequences.”

DDDI helps diagnose and recommend treatment for a problem before it gets out of control. Farmers can save a lot of time and money when a disease or pest problem is found early.

Last year, Laura Griffeth, a UGA Extension agent in Webster County, used the DDDI system to diagnose a problem plaguing snap bean farmers in the area. Diagnosticians determined soil temperatures were still too hot to nurture the budding beans and recommended postponing planting until soil temperatures cooled. The decision saved two farmers $22,000 in seed cost alone.

The system doesn’t just help with plant loss. A few years ago, a child in Ben Hill County ate some berries from an unidentified plant. Pictures of the plant were sent through DDDI. Seven minutes later the plant was identified as the poisonous American nightshade. The child needed immediate medical attention and got it in time.

Incidents associated with snakes, mushrooms, spiders and others things have been resolved using the system, too.

For more information on the DDDI visit Or contact your local UGA Extension office by calling 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

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

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fall Home Decor Trends: One Part Nature with a Twist

NF Note: The leaves are beginning to float gently to the ground. The morning air is beginning to have a crisp, fresh feel. The Halloween decorations are starting to adorn the lawns of many Fayette County homes. It's the perfect time to take the inspiration nature provides and bring it inside.

(ARA) – As Mother Nature wows us with fantastic fall colors and scenery, the latest trends in fall decorating and entertaining bring the beauty of the great outdoors inside. Give your home some fall-time flare by adding nature-inspired decor with unexpected crafty details.

“This fall, decorating trends are inspired by nature, but the key is to use these elements in new and exciting ways. Interesting themes, new colors and surprising details are making fall 2008 distinctive,” says Susan Atchison, manager of trend development for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

Here are some decorating ideas and trends that you can try in your home:

1) Make pumpkins fun.
Pumpkins are the quintessential symbol of fall, but why not put a new twist on a classic? When ordinary pumpkins just won’t do, paint a collection of pumpkins and decorate them with scrollwork designs for instant I-did-it-myself appeal.

“Try painting artificial pumpkins, called Fun-Kins, a variety of colors. Rich blues and reds will provide a classic look. Then decorate with dimensional copper paint or iridescent brown paint,” says Atchison. “For a fun, brighter look, get inspiration from traditional prints by painting argyles, dots, checks, plaids and stripes in exciting color combinations for a fun mix-and-match pumpkin grouping that can be used year after year.”

2) Make it a crafty Halloween.
Halloween is a frightfully fun time, and with the holiday landing on a Friday this year, there’s bound to be a little extra celebration. Consider using inexpensive or leftover craft items to create frightfully fun Halloween decorations for little cost.

Atchison suggests making Jack-O-Lantern Illusions, which are made out of a quilt hoop that is painted orange with a fun jack-o’-lantern face hanging in the center with clear thread. They’re quick and easy and look fabulous hanging from the ceiling indoors or on trees outside.

3) A table aplenty.
Showcase the essence of fall’s natural beauty with a sparkling centerpiece everyone will adore. Fill jars and bowls with decorative fruits like apples and grapes, but add pizzazz with nontraditional fruits such as pomegranates or mangos.

“Put your own creative spin on the project by adding things you’ve purchased or found on a nature walk like pinecones, dried flowers or feathers,” says Atchison.

Add a special touch for your next dinner gathering by creating personalized handcrafted harvest place settings. Choose a decorative foam or plastic fruit and use copper paint to inscribe the guest’s name. Add a feather or other decorative detail and you have a tasteful place setting that turns into a fun take-home party favor once guests are ready to go.

4) Accents around the home.
Adding a touch of color throughout the home can transform it into an autumn environment in no time. Utilize colors to bring the feeling of the season into any room, from bathroom to kitchen to porch. Gorgeous golds and oranges, rich burgundies and browns, plus touches of teal and sage vividly reveal fall’s splendor.

Add a splash of color with a wine-toned table runner or visual appeal with a simple bunch of dried fall flowers filling the air with the pleasant aroma of the season.

“This fall, decor with a natural essence is popular, but be creative. Adding unique details to traditional items or utilizing colors in new and exciting ways can really make your house stand out,” concludes Atchison.

For more information and to get supplies for creating the perfect fall decor for your home visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fayette County Students Inventors Win $10,000 MIT Grant

NF Note: Congratulations to the Whitewater High School students who will be working on this grant to purify water. We'll be anxious to hear the results next spring!

A group of high school students might have the solution to end the world’s shortage of clean drinking water. So impressed with their idea was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that it awarded them a $10,000 grant to develop a prototype.

Five students who make up the InvenTeam at Whitewater High are one of only 16 teams throughout the US and Canada to receive a Lemelson-MIT grant for the 2008-2009 school year. The students are Kavita Singh, Chris Sandwich, Jacob Cotton, Andrew Barth and Hendri deBeer.

InvenTeams are composed of high school students, teachers and mentors who collaboratively identify a problem that they want to solve, research the problem and then develop a prototype invention as an in-class or extracurricular project.

The Whitewater team decided to create a combination dehydrator and condenser that will preserve food while purifying the water that results from the dehydration process.

This team is the first in Fayette to win a grant. InvenTeam is expected to release a final list of grant winners later this month, but so far only one other Georgia team has won a grant since the program began in 2003.

Whitewater submitted an initial application for the grant last spring and received an Excite Award, an invitation to complete a final, more detailed application of the idea. The selection of the finalist teams is based on the inventiveness and feasibility of the proposed idea. A panel of MIT professors, staff and alumni, inventors, researchers, entrepreneurs and high school educators assess the applications.

The team will use the grant money to purchase materials and supplies needed to develop a prototype of their invention. They will have all school year to complete the prototype. The team will display and discuss their invention at the MIT EurekaFest this spring.

Whitewater teachers working with the InvenTeam students are Carolyn Smith, engineering and technology, and Dr. Ted Wansley, science.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Going Green for the Holidays

BUSINESS WIRE)--As economic conditions continue to tighten this year, consumers have a great “green” option for turning old electronic products in their closets into new holiday gifts: by participating in Office Depot, Sam’s Club or NEXCOM electronics trade-in programs powered by ecoNEW®.

For consumers who are looking for smart, efficient, and responsible ways to ease the burden of holiday spending, the ecoNEW program is an environmentally friendly, free, and convenient way to trade-in older, unwanted, small- to medium- size electronics and receive money back in the form of gift cards that can be used for holiday gift purchases at participating retailers. Items that do not qualify for trade-in value will be accepted for recycling.

The ecoNEW program is an innovative, online electronics trade-in service operated by N.E.W. Customer Service Companies, Inc. to support its retail partners. With a “zero export, zero landfill” policy, ecoNEW takes electronic equipment from consumers and ensures it will either be reconditioned or recycled. Some items may be sold into the secondary or used marketplace in whole machine form or disassembled and sold off as usable service parts in accordance with the highest industry standards for eco-friendly recycling. Electronics equipment and parts will then be broken down into raw material and used to produce new materials. Reusable parts and reconditioned equipment may be used to feed NEW’s extensive service repair network that supports more than 150 million customers across the U.S. NEW is the nation’s leading provider of extended service plans and buyer protection programs for consumer products.

The ecoNEW electronics trade-in program is easy to use:

1) Access online – at the retailer’s website or at

2) Enter product information – use an online form to enter information about the electronic item, including condition and presence of cords, accessories, and original packaging. The proprietary ecoNEW Value Calculator provides an on-screen estimated trade-in value. If there is no trade-in value, ecoNEW gives the customer the option to send in the product for recycling only.

3) Enter contact information.

4) Print a free shipping label and ship product – the ecoNEW system will generate a prepaid UPS shipping label that consumers can print out and affix to a mailing box for return to ecoNEW.

5) Receive gift card – once ecoNEW receives the item and verifies the information submitted, a retail gift card is mailed to the consumer.

The first ecoNEW program was launched in mid-April for Sam’s Club, a national retailer with more than 47 million members. In early September, the program was launched with Office Depot, which serves customers through 1,680 retail stores worldwide, to support their Tech Trade-In program. The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), consisting of 100 locations worldwide, is the newest retailer to launch ecoNEW, in mid-September 2008. All participating retailers accept LCD monitors, digital cameras, Apple and PC desktops and laptops, gaming systems, MP3 players, camcorders, and printers. In addition to these items, Office Depot and NEXCOM also accept LCD TVs and Smartphones/PDAs.

“We are thrilled to see the ecoNEW program grow and expand through more retailers,” said Tony Nader, president and CEO of NEW. “It’s very rewarding to be part of program that not only works to better the environment but also provides consumers with some extra cash that may help their family’s enjoyment of the holiday season.”

EcoNEW is being offered to retailers as a value-added customer care solution, making NEW the first of its industry to offer a green service in its product and service portfolio.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Native Plants Need Right Location, Too

Have you ever driven along a Georgia country road or visited a state park and a beautiful blooming shrub or tree caught your eye? Chances are you were looking at one of the thousands of plants native to Georgia.

As a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist, I am constantly amazed by the low number of native plants available for sale. Have no fear though, if you know where to look you can find some amazing native species for your landscape.

Native plants often get a bad reputation for one reason: gardeners assume they can be planted anywhere because they are native. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just like other plants, native plants have specific light and water requirements. They are no different than non-native species sold at retail garden centers.

Before planting any plant, remember this golden rule: right plant in the right place.

For example, if you plant the non-native lace cap hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) in a dry and sunny location, you are not going to be impressed with its performance. Likewise, if you plant a native oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) in a dry and sunny location, you will not be impressed with its performance either. The native can, however, withstand drier soils than its non-native cousin.

Here are a few native suggestions for shady sites that don’t get too dry: native azaleas (there are hundreds of cultivars), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), redbud (Cercis canadensis) and anise (Illicium floridatum).

Here are a few suggestions for those sunny, dry locations: wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), fringe tree (Chiocanthus virginicus) and beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).

Did you know that our state flower, the Cherokee Rose, is not a Georgia native? It was named the state flower in 1916. This just points to a century-old trend of using non-natives in our landscape.

While there is nothing wrong with using non-natives, you may want to step back in time to the pre-antebellum days when landscapes were predominantly filled with native plants. There are native species that will fit any growing environment.

If you’ve never planted a native plant, you may want to start with the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). It was named plant of the year by the Georgia Native Plant Society. To learn more about it and other native plants, go to the Web site

For those of you who love the outdoors and love to get your hands dirty, GNPS hosts plant rescues on development sites across Georgia. I can’t think of a better way to get to know natives and meet fellow gardeners.

For more help on native plants, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

By Matthew Chappell
University of Georgia

Matthew Chappell is a Cooperative Extension nursery production specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

UGA Odum School Researcher Creates Tool Demonstrating Profitability of Organic Farming

Research at the Agroecology Laboratory at the UGA Odum School of Ecology has led to the creation of organic farming enterprise budgets. Prior to this development, the economic decision-making tool used to estimate profitability was not widely available for organic production.

“Centuries of extensive tillage to produce crops like tobacco and cotton have caused much of our native topsoil to be washed into rivers,” said Krista Jacobsen, a recent Odum School Ph.D. graduate. “Many farmers in the Southeast inherit these degraded soils and it is important to develop and study farming practices that can restore soil and allow it to be farmed profitably at the same time. That’s where enterprise budgets come in.”

Until Jacobsen’s innovation, only one set of budgets for a limited number of organic crops had been developed for the Southeastern U.S. Now, budgets for okra, hot peppers and a corn/winter squash mix are available – providing organic farmers with one of the only organic conservation tillage budgets in the country.

“Conservation tillage is the practice of reducing tillage on farming systems and leaving at least 30 percent of crop residues on the soil surface,” explained Jacobsen. “My research demonstrates that using this practice outperforms a conventional system that uses regular tillage and chemical fertilizers in degraded soils like those of the Georgia Piedmont.”

According to Jacobsen’s advisor Carl Jordan, there is overwhelming evidence that organic agriculture is more sustainable than industrial agriculture. Organic agriculture improves the soil, reduces pollution from fertilizers and helps agriculture-friendly insects. The big question, therefore, is determining if organic agriculture can be economically competitive.

“Krista’s research at Spring Valley EcoFarms in Athens has shown that while yield from organically managed fields often is slightly less than from industrial cropland, energy-intensive inputs such as nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides and tractor fuel is much less,” said Jordan, senior research associate at the Odum School of Ecology. “As a result, input costs are less and profit margins can be higher. Low energy costs are especially important in these days of surging petroleum prices.”

For more information on Spring Valley EcoFarms, see

With roots that date back to the 1950s, the UGA Odum School of Ecology offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a certification program. Founder Eugene P. Odum is recognized internationally as a pioneer of ecosystem ecology. The school is ranked tenth by U.S. News and World Report for its graduate program. The Odum School is the first standalone school of ecology in the world. For more information, see

By Anisa S. Jimenez
University of Georgia

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Go Green for Halloween

(ARA) - Halloween is the season of dress-up, make-believe and fun. Great preparation goes into buying costumes that transform young children, teens, college students and even adults into an array of characters including ghosts, goblins, witches, devils, superheroes and storybook characters. It’s a time when it’s okay to be something or someone other than yourself for a day.

This year some thrill seekers may want to consider Halloween alternatives to provide a new twist on an age-old event. During this season of green witches, slime and other spooky characters, going green for Halloween can extend the positive theme of protecting the environment even during this season of dress-up and make believe.

“Halloween is a perfect time to demonstrate commitment and concern for the environment,” says Dr. Debra Huntley, program chair of the BA Psychology Program at the Argosy University Twin Cities Campus. “Protecting our environment is a year-round effort that is getting increasing attention from people from all age groups.”

While the traditional ritual of trick or treat has its place, going green for Halloween is an opportunity to host a costume party and serve treats without food coloring or preservatives. Guests can enjoy healthier snacks like popcorn balls with salt and butter substitutes or caramel apples and fudge with sugar substitutes. The host can serve juice drinks, flavored water and apple cider instead of sugary soft drinks that are loaded with calories and caffeine. By preparing treats, money and the environment are also protected by not using extra packaging and wrappers. And with fall harvests, it’s a great time to shop at a local farmer’s market for nutritious, local snacks. Buying locally is not only a healthy choice, but patronizes vendors that are nearby as opposed to those that require resources to transport.

Going green for Halloween can also mean deciding not to drive that evening or identifying activities and events closer to home to reduce driving time and air pollutants from vehicles.

Dr. Huntley explains some youth or college-age groups may want to share the green Halloween spirit while lifting the spirits of senior living and nursing home residents. They can visit residents and share wholesome snacks, play music and lead a ghoulish and festive dance around the facility. In addition to enjoying the costumes, the residents can enjoy healthful snacks and the afternoon with friendly little ghosts and characters.

For those partaking in traditional trick or treat activities, Dr. Huntley encourages everyone to remember it is important to maintain safety and caution to ensure this is a fun and safe experience for young trick or treaters. Children should be accompanied by a parent, guardian or responsible older sibling. Costumes should not be too tight or obscure vision. Children must be encouraged to cross streets carefully and always with a traffic light when present. Trick or treat in familiar neighborhoods or at homes with whom you are acquainted. Many malls and shopping centers enjoy hosting trick or treaters as a fun community service initiative. Often schools help promote safety by encouraging teachers to let students trick or treat at various classrooms in the building. Some schools host a costume parade in the building or a fun assembly.

Whatever you decide, make this Halloween season a fun, safe, nutritious and tasty experience for all participants.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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