By Sam FahmyUniversity of GeorgiaThe University of Georgia gave policymakers in Washington an up-close look at the future of biofuels by demonstrating how raw materials as diverse as algae, chicken fat and wood chips can be turned into fuel.UGA is among 13 institutions nationwide to win “The Grand Challenge,” a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 25x’25 Alliance, a coalition of leaders from the agricultural, forestry and renewable energy communities. The challenge recognizes universities that have taken leadership roles in renewable energy research, teaching and outreach.As winners, UGA scientists were among the 80 exhibitors at the USDA’s Bioenergy Awareness Days June 19-22 in Washington. They demonstrated ways to harness the state’s rich natural resources to create sustainable fuels that benefit the economy as well as the environment.“The Grand Challenge helps focus the nation on the future of renewable energy,” said Craig Kvien, professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and one of several authors of UGA’s winning entry. “Collectively, there are going to be some good ideas presented that can be used to help develop bioenergy policy and to improve research and outreach programs at our institutions. The fact that UGA was recognized says a lot about all of the people across campus working on renewable energy research and outreach.”The UGA exhibits demonstrated how:* Algae can be grown in wastewater and then harvested and processed to create a biofuel.* Waste chicken fat from poultry processing can be refined to oil that can be used in industrial boilers or further refined to biodiesel. * Wood chips and pellets made from timber scraps can be processed into a biofuel. * An autonomous, ethanol-powered tractor can save farmers time and fuel by working around the clock with minimal supervision. K.C. Das, associate professor of engineering and director of UGA’s biorefining and carbon cycling program, pointed out that Georgia currently imports all of its petroleum-based fuel but is rich in plant materials and animal waste – collectively known as biomass. It can be converted into biofuels. In addition to algae, chicken fat and wood chips, UGA engineers are creating biofuels from industrial and municipal wastes, restaurant grease and agricultural products that can’t be sold to supermarkets, such as bruised watermelons and peaches or even outdated cola and juice. UGA scientists are also searching for ways to break down efficiently the tough, fibrous parts of plants so that agricultural wastes such as husks and stems, rather than corn kernels and other edible plants, can be used to create ethanol. Other candidates for ethanol production include fast-growing poplar trees, napier grass and switchgrass, all of which don’t require much water or fertilizer to grow.UGA has more than 80 scientists, engineers and economists working on basic and applied biofuels research. They’re collaborating through the university’s Biofuels, Biopower and Biomaterials Initiative, also known as B3I.“The B3I allows us to synergize the resources at the university for a common goal,” said Joy Doran Peterson, professor of microbiology and B3I director. “And the recent surge in gas prices and ongoing concerns about global warming really underscore the urgency of our work.”The UGA researchers said they’re pursing a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach because there’s no single approach – no silver bullet – that will solve the nation’s energy needs.“The strength of UGA’s approach is that we’re exploring several solutions so that communities can derive energy from the raw materials that are best suited to their circumstances,” Das said. “Just imagine the benefits of diversifying our energy sources.”
It has been called the world’s most colorful shrub, which is certainly not an exaggeration. I have been in love with it ever since I made my first visit to the Caribbean 30 years ago. If you are a gardener, then you probably know the plant I am talking about — the croton.Crotons are known botanically as “Codiaeum variegatum” and are native to Malaysia, Indonesia, northern Australia and western Pacific islands. As far as its family classification, it is a Euphorbiaceae, so it is related to copper plants and our wonderful Christmas plant, the poinsettia.In the Caribbean and in its native habitats, you’ll see this somewhat woody perennial reach heights of more than 6 feet, giving a carnival-like atmosphere to wherever it is being grown. Here in Savannah, Georgia, and the South Carolina low country, I have never seen so many grown as annuals in the summer landscape. With that in mind, gardeners everywhere can do that, too.For the amount of impact they give, crotons are certainly a good buy. Depending on the size you buy, they will reach 2 feet tall and perhaps a little wider. The heat and humidity prevalent in most of Georgia sets up the perfect conditions to allow them to thrive. Wherever I look, whether grown with elephant ears, hibiscus or the Hawaiian ti plant, crotons look festive and tropical.You might be wondering why I’m touting this most amazingly beautiful tropical in September? The answer is opportunity. I don’t know if you have been to a garden center lately, but this time of year, crotons show up as special buys. I love this for a couple of reasons.First, I love using crotons in partnership with Belgian mums to create a colorful fall display. I like them with pumpkins and asters, too. Let your creative genius come alive. There are no rules to follow on how to use tropical crotons, so buy several. Don’t be bashful.As I write this, I am sitting in a large sunroom with a ton of glass and available light, which would be the perfect spot for not just the world’s most colorful shrub, but the world’s most colorful houseplant. In the landscape, croton needs fertile, organic, rich soil with good drainage. As an indoor houseplant, select a good, fluffy, humusy blend that contains controlled-release fertilizer.Indoors, croton needs bright light with a moment or two of direct sun. In the landscape, they thrive anywhere other than pure shade. The sunlight stimulates an incredible display of color. As a houseplant, keep croton amply moist, but never soggy or wet. If your room has low humidity, consider placing the container on a saucer of wet gravel.The croton is cold hardy to zones 10 and 11 and, in these locales, they would be spaced 3 to 4 feet apart. If you are going to use them as annuals, like in my region, mass or cluster them together 18 to 24 inches apart for the showiest display.There are a number of selected varieties and types of leaf shape and size, but you will be buying generically. You have to agree that a plant with large, glossy, waxy leaves and every shade of gold, yellow, green, red and pink is simply too mesmerizing to overlook.I hope you take this opportunity to use croton in your fall décor. And, next spring, their addition to your landscape will shock your neighbors, friends and relatives.Follow me on Twitter @CGBGgardenguru. Learn more about the University of Georgia Coastal Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm at >www.coastalgeorgiabg.org.
Every year, hot summer temperatures lead to life-threatening heatstroke. Adults know to keep themselves hydrated and to get to a cooler place if they begin to feel overheated. Children, however, often don’t know how to protect themselves.Heatstroke in children, particularly those left in vehicles, is very serious.“Heatstroke in vehicles is the leading cause of all non-crash-related fatalities involving children 14 and younger, translating to 61 percent of total non-crash fatalities in this age group,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unfortunately, fatalities from heatstroke are too common.It is important that we understand the anatomy of children as well as what happens to the body during heatstroke. Small children and infants are very sensitive to extreme heat. A child’s body absorbs heat more rapidly than an adult’s, making a child’s core body temperature rise three to five times faster.Bear in mind that, if it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside a vehicle can be over 125 degrees in 20 minutes. The temperature continues to increase as time elapses.When heatstroke occurs, a child sweats and overheats, just like an adult does. Children’s body temperatures continue to rise and they cannot regulate those temperatures. At this point, the child may display symptoms like lack of sweating, dizziness, lethargy and disorientation. If they remain in the extreme heat, they will lose consciousness. Once their internal body temperature reaches 107 degrees, their organs begin to fail and permanent damage or death quickly follows. This is both grotesque and preventable.We must remember that this could happen to anyone. We have all seen the news stories about children dying after being left unattended in a vehicle. We think, “How could they just leave a child in the car?” or “How could they forget?” We like to think it could not happen to us, but I am here to tell you that, once a child falls asleep in the back of the car or you are not in your daily routine, it could happen. I have taken my children halfway to work only to realize I was supposed to drop them off at the childcare center. Infants in rear-facing car seats are more at risk of being forgotten because you don’t see them as you exit the vehicle.University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommends the following tips to avoid heatstroke in children:Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if it is “just for a minute.” Don’t do it!Look twice! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It takes little to no time to glance at the backseat.Put something that you will definitely miss in the backseat with the child. Consider placing your purse, cell phone or, if you are like me, a part of your outfit in the backseat.Install a mirror that allows you to see a child in a rear-facing car seat.Avoid distractions while driving. Cell phones are notorious for attracting our attention.Finally, if you see a child who has been left unattended in a vehicle, call 911. You may feel like you are being nosy or that it is not your concern, but precious children are a concern for all of us. Have a safe and wonderful summer!
The butterfly garden at former President Jimmy Carter’s home in Plains, Georgia, has received a much-needed restoration thanks to a group of University of Georgia-trained volunteers.Earlier this spring, representatives for former first lady Rosalynn Carter sought help from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. UGA Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, who are trained to help UGA Extension staff deliver research-based information about gardening and related topics to the public, began work on the project.Dougherty County Extension Coordinator James Morgan, who coordinates the Master Gardener program closest to the Carters, worked with Master Gardeners in Sumter County to put in the sweat equity needed to add to the existing butterfly garden, part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.“We came in and enhanced the butterfly garden at the Carter home by adding more plants and doing some maintenance work,” Morgan said. “It was really like a restoration project.”After an initial meeting in April with Rosalynn Carter and representatives from the National Park Service to discuss plans, exchange ideas and visit the site, the Master Gardeners began redesigning the garden.The volunteers have conducted maintenance work on the garden, including weeding, laying pine straw, pruning and removing some plants. They have now restored native and butterfly-attracting plants and established many plants with color, including Knock Out roses.The installation process is still ongoing, Morgan said, and upkeep of the butterfly garden will gradually be turned over to the grounds maintenance crew at the Carter home.“The Master Gardeners did a superb job of restoring our butterfly garden, and I am deeply grateful to them,” Rosalynn Carter said.The Master Gardeners and Morgan were honored to be asked to work on the project.“It was pretty exciting from the standpoint that we were asked to do it and got the opportunity to go onto the site and meet and interact with the former first lady,” Morgan said. “I considered it to be an honor to work on this project for them.”For those interested in learning more about the Master Gardener program, see caes2.caes.uga.edu/mastergardener/.
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension will host two free workshops in March to show Georgia and Florida cotton and peanut growers how to increase yield and profitability through technology-driven irrigation tools.Attendees will learn about how to use irrigation scheduling techniques such as UGA’s checkbook method and the SmartIrrigation Cotton app and IrrigatorPro app.“Farmers will have an opportunity, independent of the county meetings this winter, to get together and learn about what advanced irrigation scheduling tools and techniques there are out there and how they can apply them on their farms,” said Wes Porter, UGA Extension irrigation specialist.Adam Rabinowitz, UGA Extension agricultural economist, will discuss the capital costs associated with adopting these irrigation tools, the projected return on investment, the annual operating costs of equipment and any associated management expenses.“There’s certainly a need for workshops like these. There’s a need to get farmers familiar with these methods, including the different technologies and apps and soil moisture sensors that are available to them,” Rabinowitz said. “We’re trying to keep the farmers profitable but also help them increase their crop per drop and be good stewards of the water here in Georgia.”The workshops will be held March 18 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Georgia, and March 25 at the Nessmith-Lane Center at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. The conferences will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.There will also be a discussion about Georgia’s climate, including a look back at 2018 which was highlighted by a wet three-week period in May and Hurricane Michael in October. A representative from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will also be in attendance to discuss regulations and planning regarding the use of water for agricultural purposes. Additionally, there will be a talk focused on irrigating in Florida, including regulatory impacts for agriculture.The workshops were intentionally scheduled before Georgia cotton and peanut farmers plant this year’s crops. Peanuts are mostly planted in April and May once the threat of late spring freezes has passed. The majority of the state’s cotton crop is planted in May, although some acreage is planted in April, weather permitting.“We tried to set the timing just before the farmers start getting their crops in the ground. The information they will learn at these workshops will be fresh on their minds. They’ll understand what they need to do when they get ready to start irrigating,” Porter said.The workshops are being offered as part of a broader UGA Extension multidisciplinary project focused on increasing agricultural water-use efficiency in Georgia. Support for the workshops is provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Southern Extension Risk Management Education Center.The workshops are free and a networking lunch will be provided, but those who are interested should pre-register at http://bit.ly/ugairrigation. For more information or to register by phone, please call (229) 386-3512.
Farmers who might face a delayed planting season can thank El Nino for Georgia’s exceedingly wet winter, according to Pam Knox, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agricultural climatologist.Row crop and vegetable producers usually begin planting their crops in late March through May, but excessive rainfall and cloudy conditions in January and February have left many fields soaked and soggy. El Nino, a recurring climate pattern involving changes in the temperature of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, directly affects rainfall distribution in the tropics and can have a strong influence on weather across the U.S. and other parts of the world, according to the National Weather Service.“For some, if they have fields that are prone to flooding, I think they’re going to have to consider delaying their plantings there,” Knox said.Georgia’s peanut farmers only have to look back to last year to recall another planting season delayed by weather. Three straight weeks of rain in May 2018 forced peanut producers to wait until June to get their crop in the ground.According to UGA Extension peanut agronomist Scott Monfort, planting season is still a month away, so there’s plenty of time left for fields to dry out.“It is in the back of our minds that we do have a lot of work that needs to be done which should have already been done by now. But, because of rain, the farmers just haven’t been able to do it yet,” Monfort said.North Georgia has received the most rainfall of late. According to the UGA Weather Network, Gainesville, Georgia, received 16.19 inches of rain from January 1 to March 6, compared to 12.5 inches over the same period in 2018. In Rome, Georgia, 19.31 inches of rain were recorded from January 1 to March 6, compared to 10.12 inches in the same period in 2018.“We’re in an El Nino winter, so you expect it to be wet. Even so, there are some places in the northern part of the state that are setting records for how much rain they’ve received,” Knox said.Southwest Georgia has received its share of rain as well. During that same time frame, Tifton, Georgia, received 8.08 inches, compared to 6.77 inches last year. In Moultrie, Georgia, 9.08 inches were recorded, compared to 5.62 inches in 2018.Rain isn’t the only weather condition affecting farmers. The threat of another late-spring freeze is also a concern for peach and blueberry farmers. Temperatures in Georgia dipped to below freezing March 6 and 7, just weeks after many peach trees and blueberry bushes started to bloom. The budding trees and bushes remain vulnerable to the freezing temperatures, which have the potential to damage a crop in its earliest stages of growth.“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. I think we’re at the point where the chance of another deep freeze is going to be rarer and rarer,” Knox said. “If you look at temperatures for Alma (Georgia) and places like that, it got right around the freezing mark during those couple of days. Some fields got dinged a little, but some got in there a little above freezing.”Here are some characteristics of an El Nino:Warm ocean waters lead to increased tropical rain and thunderstorms.Atmospheric pressure increases near Indonesia and in the western Pacific and decreases in the eastern Pacific.Pressure changes lead to the subtropical jet stream moving into Florida, southern Georgia and Alabama, steering cloudy, rainy systems into the region during winter.Because of changes in the strength of the jet stream, hurricanes are less likely.El Nino, which occurs about every three to seven years, usually lasts for just one year.The likelihood of tornadoes and severe weather increases in the Florida peninsula during an El Nino year.For more information about Georgia weather, see http://www.georgiaweather.net.
Researchers from three research institutions are using a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fight whiteflies on vegetable crops.Scientists from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Fort Valley State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in Charleston, S.C., will combine their expertise to collaborate on finding short- and long-term solutions to fight the pest.UGA’s team plans to use an integrated approach to solve Georgia’s whitefly problem in vegetables.“We have seen significant buildup in the last two to three weeks, mostly in the Tift County and Colquitt County region, but I have had reports of isolated problems outside of the area as well,” said UGA vegetable entomologist Stormy Sparks. “The scientists that are part of this grant are studying all aspects of whitefly biology and management to try to find weaknesses that can be exploited for management.”Sparks is one of the researchers on the UGA team, which includes entomologists, plant pathologists, virologists, breeders and vegetable specialists.The scientists will rely on one another’s specialties for the duration of the five-year grant.“My role involves finding resistance to the whitefly-transmitted virus complex in snap bean germplasm, advancing breeding lines and conducting research to find the genetic basis of resistance,” said Bhabesh Dutta, a UGA Cooperative Extension plant pathologist on the Tifton campus and member of the research team. “We’ll then give that information to the breeder so that they can introgress resistance into elite varieties.”Whiteflies are responsible for transmitting multiple viruses, including cucurbit leaf crumple virus and cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus. According to UGA crop loss estimates for fall 2017, these viruses caused between 30% and 50% crop loss in squash and cucumbers and nearly 80% crop loss in snap beans that year.“This project gives us an opportunity to think long term. It’s not going to be a quick fix. We’ll take baby steps to understand the system, understand the problem, and then try to solve it,” Dutta said.UGA entomologist Babu Srinivasan will focus on studying virus transmission by whiteflies and management.“We’re trying to look at how these viruses interact with their host, how they interact with their vectors, and how they’re transmitted,” said Srinivasan, who’s based on the UGA Griffin campus. “Once we understand that, it will help us get closer to management.”The severity, distribution and timing of whiteflies vary from year to year, but they remain a persistent problem for Georgia’s vegetable growers. They are especially problematic in the Tift and Colquitt County region where vegetables are produced year-round.“It was a devastating event for us in 2017 and we certainly don’t need that again,” said Bill Brim, co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia. “We need the university to work real hard on it and, hopefully, we’ll get some more funding next year for it as well.”Whiteflies built up significant populations as early as May 2017. A warm winter that season did not help diminish the whitefly population. The pest normally becomes a problem in August or September, but the earlier they occur, the worse they become, according to Sparks.“We cannot successfully manage this pest as simply a pest of fall vegetables. We have to look at the entire cycle and realize that what happens in one area impacts the others,” Sparks said. “Because this pest attacks so many different crops across the agro-ecosystem and cycles from crop to crop throughout the year, we have to understand how it survives and builds in our environment to determine the best strategies for control.”Where and how whiteflies overwinter leads to populations in spring vegetables. This can have an effect on summer crops, which then impacts fall vegetables.Following the 2017 epidemic, UGA formed a whitefly team on the Tifton campus. Those researchers are included in this grant project, along with researchers in Griffin, Athens, Fort Valley and Charleston.“We might be able to fix the problem today, but how do we make sure it’s fixed to where it lasts through next year and the year after — and something even more permanent?” asked Allen Moore, UGA associate dean for research and principal investigator for the grant. “With sufficient resources that the federal government is providing, we ought to be able to do all of that. Rather than take 10 years to come up with something, we’re doing it a lot faster because we’re doing it all at once.”The grant designates $560,000 to Fort Valley State University with the remaining money divided among the researchers at CAES and UDSA-ARS in Charleston.Listed are the participating scientists and the areas of whitefly research in which they are involved:Plant resistant traits: Babu Srinivasan (UGA), Bhabesh Dutta (UGA), Andre da Silva (UGA), Cecilia McGregor (UGA) and Somashekhar Punnuri (Fort Valley State).Ecology, biocontrol, cultural practice: Phillip Roberts (UGA), Alton Sparks (UGA), Andre de Silva (UGA), Paul Severns (UGA), Jason Schmidt (UGA), Mike Toews (UGA), George Mbata (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).Viruses/transmission dynamics: Babu Srinivasan (UGA), Sadeep Bag (UGA), Paul Severns (UGA), Somashekhar Punnuri (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).Molecular tools/biotech: Trish Moore (UGA), Bhabesh Dutta (UGA), Cecilia McGregor (UGA), Somashekhar Punnuri (Fort Valley State), George Mbata (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).Insecticide resistance/biorational control products: David Riley (UGA), Jason Schmidt (UGA), Alton Sparks (UGA), Phillip Roberts (UGA), George Mbata (Fort Valley State) and Alvin Simmons (ARS).
Do you have a small landscape, but want to add shrubs that will not overgrow the space? It is important to select plants that are suitable for the space and visually appealing.Plants are primarily selected for their aesthetic beauty, such as outstanding foliage, attractive flowers, unique bark, brightly colored fruit, plant form or branching habit. Plants can be also selected for their ability to attract wildlife and support pollinators. Fragrant flowers, flowers with particular color and shape combinations, edible fruit and dense branching for nesting sites are likely considerations to attract birds, bees and butterflies.When selecting plants for your space, take your time to fully evaluate the space and select plants that will both thrive and provide you with powerful visual stimuli.Finding space and placeBefore selecting plants, evaluate the space for environmental conditions and soil fertility. You will need to know whether you are looking for plants that will do well in full sun or shade. You may have a space that stays wet or dry. Ensuring that you have the proper environmental conditions for new plantings will increase plant survival and reduce plant problems. It would also be wise to get a soil test completed to make sure that, nutritionally speaking, plants will have the opportunity to thrive in your space.Evergreen shrubs provide full foliage throughout the year and are useful for defining spaces and providing a background for other features and plants. Small- and intermediate-sized evergreens can be used as ornaments, as single specimens or as groups of plants. They are frequently used as foundation plantings, adorning the front of the house and concealing foundation lines.Small evergreens can be used near the house or a path where they can be observed up close. These plants accent areas near steps, garden gates or patio entrances to soften harsh edges and provide a welcoming atmosphere. Small shrubs with contrasting or variegated foliage or showy flowers show up beautifully against a background of green foliage plants (foundation plantings) for many buildings and homes. Many small shrubs are planted in attractive pots and combined with other plants for spectacular accents.Deciduous shrubs — those that lose their leaves in the fall — provide the garden with vivid reflections of the seasons. They have a sequence of flowers, foliage, fruit and often vibrant fall colors. Their overall appearance changes dramatically from one season to the next. The continual progression ensures constant change and continuing interest in the landscape.Finding plants that provide visual appeal without overgrowing available space is important. Otherwise, frequent pruning is required to keep plants within bounds and to prevent them from crowding other plantings. Many species have multiple cultivars available that offer a variety of mature heights and widths. When making plant purchases, choose plants that are properly labeled with genus, species and cultivar. Remember that variation in size, form and color can be observed in plants of the same genus and species. A cultivar can make all the difference in whether or not a plant is appropriate for your site.A healthy startRegardless of plants selected, start with healthy plants to encourage rapid establishment. A typical landscape shrub is available in a 3-gallon plant pot, though it is not uncommon to see 1-gallon or 5-gallon sizes. A soilless growing media is used in place of mineral soil, making the plants easy to handle and transport. Great selections of container-grown plants are available year round and can be added to your space at any time.Young plants should exhibit vigorous growth, dark green foliage and stout twigs. Plants should be free of mechanical injuries, like broken branches, crushed foliage or scarred stems. Select plants that are well-branched and have maintained their lower branches.When selecting plants, check the roots to make sure that they are not diseased. A healthy root system is important on young plants as it provides the primary means for rapid establishment and good plant growth at the new site. The root system should have active white root tips and be large enough to support the plant top. Make sure plants are not pot-bound — roots should be well dispersed in the container with room to grow. Pot-bound plants have roots that are matted thickly and which circle the pot. These are more difficult to establish and may develop girdling roots that will shorten the life of the plant.Keep the roots moist when installing plants. Until the plant roots in and establishes itself, the soilless media in containers can dry quickly and the plant can wilt even though the surrounding soil is still moist. Once plants become established, they can withstand some periods of drought but may need supplemental water in prolonged hot and dry weather.Some plants will need supplemental water several times a week during the summer. Having a small percentage of these plants and clustering them together closer to the house or water source is an example of water-smart landscaping. For more information, be sure to read University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Bulletin 1444, Water-wise Landscape Guide for the Georgia Piedmont at extension.uga.edu/publications.Variety recommendationsChoosing healthy young plants for the landscape completes the plant selection process. Small shrubs are typically 5 feet or less in height and width. To assist with decisions, the following list offers a few suggestions for small shrubs:Kaleidiscope abelia (Abelia ‘Kaleidiscope’) is 3 feet in height and width and requires full sun. This semi-evergreen, rounded shrub has yellow-gold foliage and is sun and heat-tolerant. White flowers appear all summer.Spreading plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia) ‘Prostrata’ is 2- to 4-feet high and wide and needs shade to part sun. This dark-green, needle-like evergreen is attractive planted under trees.Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) ‘Globosa Nana’ is 4- to 5-feet in height and width and requires full sun. This shrub naturally keeps its rounded shape without any pruning. In dry spells, supplement with water to avoid plant damage.Mt. Airy fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia) ‘Mt. Airy’ is 4- to 5-feet in height and width and needs sun to part shade. This deciduous shrub has many small, white, bottlebrush-like flowers in the spring and excellent foliage color in the fall.Creeping gardenia (Gardenia augusta) ‘Radicans’ is 18- to 24-inches in height and 4 inches in width, requiring sun to part shade. If you like gardenia fragrance, but need a low-spreading plant, this selection is for you! White, double flowers are 1 to 2 inches in diameter.Dwarf Chinese Fringeflower (Loropetalum chinense) ‘Purple Pixie’ stands 1- to 2-feet high and 2-to 4-feet wide. It needs full sun. This is a small version of the full-sized, popular burgundy-leaved fringe flower. It can be grown in containers or in flower beds.Dwarf Southern waxmyrtle (Myrica cerifera) ‘Don’s Dwarf’ stands 3- to 5-feet high and wide and requires sun to part shade. This selection of native waxmyrtle is low-growing and tolerates infertile soils. Its leaves and plant shape can be damaged by low temperatures and snow load.David viburnum (Viburnum davidii) is 3- to 5-feet high and wide and needs full sun. Its foliage is a dark, blue-green color and has flower buds that emerge pink and turn to white.For more information on which plants may be best suited to your site and needs, please check out University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Bulletin 625, Landscape Plants for Georgia, at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Commercial and agricultural development projects totaling $38.5 million throughout the state will receive more than $17 million in financing assistance from the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA). Included in this round of approvals is more than $2 million in low-interest agricultural stimulus financing to Vermont farmers seeking immediate assistance. The Authority is making investments in projects that will add jobs in almost all sectors of Vermont s economy, said Jo Bradley, VEDA s Chief Executive Officer. As announced by Governor James Douglas and approved by the Vermont General Assembly last month, this special low-interest agricultural stimulus financing is part of up to $6 million VEDA has available for a limited time to help eligible farmers, said Bradley. The Authority was able to buy down interest rates with $1 million in federal economic stimulus funds from Vermont s share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and make these special loans through our agricultural financing program, the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation.Projects approved for VEDA financing are:John and Karel Underwood, Montpelier Approval of $800,000 in financing will help John and Karel Underwood purchase the Inn at Montpelier. The Inn property consists of a 19-room bed and breakfast, 10-unit apartment building, and two detached garages located on 1.2 acres in downtown Montpelier. The Underwoods, previous owners and operators of several restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio, plan to develop the function and group business side of the Inn s business. Employment at the Inn currently numbers 3.5 positions, and is expected to grow to 8 positions within three years of the $3 million project.Thetford Academy, Thetford Final approval was given for issuance of $6 million in tax-exempt industrial revenue bond financing to support a $10.8 million construction,renovation and refinance project at Thetford Academy. The project had received approval by VEDA in May, 2008, but due to subsequent changes in project scope that necessitated additional permit review, closing was delayed until this spring. Mascoma Savings and Laconia Savings Banks have agreed to participate in the project financing, which will add a new gymnasium and make major renovations of the current gym into a theater and cafeteria. The Academy s science and agriculture building also will be significantly renovated and updated. Established in 1819, Thetford Academy is Vermont s oldest continuously operating secondary school, serving students from Thetford and surrounding towns.Preci-Manufacturing, Inc., Winooski – Financing of $640,000 was approved for Preci-Manufacturing, Inc. (PMI) as part of a $1.7 million project to expand the company s manufacturing operations through construction of a 19,000 square foot addition. Located in the Highland Industrial Park in Winooski, PMI manufactures precision-machined metal components for use primarily in the defense and aerospace industries. PMI employs 103 persons, a number expected to grow to 115 within three years of the project.Durasol Awnings, Inc., Middlebury Financing of $794,000 was approved to assist Durasol Awnings, Inc. in their plans to purchase the 54,000 square foot commercial building on 18 acres where they currently lease space in Middlebury. The purchase and leasehold improvement renovations to the Geiger building on Pond Lane will help improve Durasol s efficiency in manufacturing and distribution. The Middlebury National Bank of Middlebury is also participating in the project. Durasol s Middlebury, Vermont facility, originally begun in 1976 as Otter Creek Awnings, employs 21 persons, and manufactures commercial awning products, distributing them to commercial contractors around the United States and Canada.Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc., Brattleboro – Preliminary approval was given for issuance of $2,853,000 in tax-exempt industrial revenue bond financing the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. to help the school make extensive energy conservation upgrades at the Brattleboro campus, and refinance existing debt from prior renovations. Originally established in 1904 as the Austine School, the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. now provides comprehensive educational and support services through several programs to deaf and hard of hearing children, adults, and families throughout Vermont and surrounding states. The school s campus consists of multiple school and dormitory buildings on approximately 174 acres of land. The school employs 201 persons, a number expected to grow to 229 within three years of the project, should final approval for project financing be secured.SBE, Inc., Barre VEDA direct financing of $1.3 million to SBE, Inc. of Barre was approved contingent on award of an $8 million Department of Energy (DOE) matching grant for which SBE, Inc. has applied. The DOE grant is associated with the Economic Recovery Act for its Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative. SBE, Inc. is a designer and manufacturer of film/foil and metalized capacitors for DC and AC applications. SBE s traditional line of capacitors, which store electricity or electrical energy, are used in virtually every electronic and electrical device made, including cellular phones, televisions, power supply and power generation units, household appliances and industrial machinery. SBE, Inc. currently employs 43 persons, a number that could grow to 176 if the DOE grant is awarded. If the grant is awarded, SBE would undertake a significant $12.3 million manufacturing expansion, involving the construction and equipping of a new 50,000 square foot facility to be located in Wilson Industrial Park in Barre.The Authority also approved:An additional $433,000 in Direct Loans to several Vermont businesses and manufacturers;A total of $3.6 million in farm ownership and operating loans through the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation;$343,500 for several small business development projects through the Vermont Small Business Loan Program;$197,385 through the Vermont Business Energy Conservation Loan Program to help small businesses make energy efficiency and conservation improvements; and$159,450 to finance the construction of water systems through the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund.VEDA s mission is to promote economic prosperity in Vermont by providing financial assistance to eligible businesses, including manufacturing, agricultural, and travel and tourism enterprises. Since its inception in 1974, VEDA has made financing commitments totaling over $1.4 billion. For more information about VEDA, visit www.veda.org(link is external) or call 802-828-5627.
With Mississippi as the highest and Vermont the third lowest, the TransUnion Credit Risk Index, a statistic developed to measure the changes in average consumer credit risk within various geographies, increased 1.98 percent from 124.79 in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 127.26 in the first quarter of 2009. On a year-over-year basis, the Credit Risk Index increased 7.10 percent (from 118.83 in the first quarter of 2008), the largest increase for that time period in this decade. The Credit Risk Index is defined as the weighted average probability of 90-day delinquency or worse among consumers in a given region relative to the nation as a whole.On a state basis, Mississippi ranks as the riskiest state in the nation with a Credit Risk Index of 166.45. It is followed closely by Texas (162.59), Nevada (158.97), South Carolina (158.76) and Louisiana (153.84). The least risky states include: North Dakota (82.02), Minnesota (88.53), Vermont (91.82), South Dakota (94.75) and Iowa (95.26).The states that experienced the largest quarterly changes included Nevada (4.25 percent increase), Arizona (4.06 percent increase) and California (3.98 percent increase). Though Louisiana’s Credit Risk Index is the fifth highest in the nation, it is the only state that experienced a drop on a quarterly basis of .03 percent. Arkansas experienced a minimal 0.01 percent gain while Vermont increased 0.52 percent.On a year-over-year basis, Arizona (14.82 percent increase), Nevada (14.38 percent) and California (13.82 percent) had the highest percentage increases. The three states with the lowest yearly percent increases included, Alaska (1.51 percent increase), Vermont (2.17 percent increase) and Kentucky (2.85 percent increase).”The Credit Risk Index is a true barometer of today’s economy, and the first quarter of 2009 indicates that the inherent level of credit risk within the U.S. is now 27.26 percent higher than the level reflected in TransUnion’s consumer credit database at the conclusion of 1998,” said Chet Wiermanski, global chief scientist at TransUnion. “Credit Risk Index data suggest that the growth in consumer credit risk has slowed during the past quarter, a positive note. However, the index remains at an all-time historical high, indicating that delinquencies and foreclosures will continue to rise in the coming months.””It is apparent that many of the states experiencing the highest increases in credit risk are the same when looking at the Credit Risk Index statistic on both a quarterly and yearly basis,” said Wiermanski. “This leads TransUnion to believe that consumers in these states will experience prolonged systemic difficulties in both in their ability to satisfactorily repay their existing credit obligations and in their ability to acquire new credit.”While an individual credit score can be quite powerful and accurate in predicting the probability of delinquency for an individual, the average credit score for a specific geography or customer segment does not accurately portray the level of risk existing within that footprint or segment to the same degree as TransUnion’s Credit Risk Index. This is because most credit scores are built on a non-linear scale, so averaging scores does not yield the correct measure of underlying probability of default. Credit Risk Index is a great instrument for gaining insight into the potential impact of external factors on the credit risk and rate of default within a given region, or for a given population segment, precisely because it accounts for the non-linearity of the underlying credit score,” continued Wiermanski.The Credit Risk Index uses the fourth quarter of 1998 as a baseline for comparison. Therefore it measures changes in consumer credit score distributions relative to the national distribution and delinquency rates as a whole at the end of 1998. This is considered by TransUnion as a representative year of credit performance within the usual dynamic of the historical credit cycle. A value of more than 100 represents a higher level of relative risk.TransUnion’s Credit Risk Index reflects the distribution of consumer credit risk as measured by TransUnion’s TransRisk Account Management Credit Risk Model and is a key metric within TransUnion’s Trend Data database. For comparison purposes, the Credit Risk Index in recent years has generally ranged between 110 and 120, experiencing a one- or two-point shift between quarters.TransUnion’s Trend Data databaseThe source of the underlying data used for this analysis is TransUnion’s Trend Data, a one-of-a-kind database consisting of 27 million anonymous consumer records randomly sampled every quarter from TransUnion’s national consumer credit database. Each record contains more than 200 credit variables that illustrate consumer credit usage and performance. Since 1992, TransUnion has been aggregating this information at the county, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), state and national levels.www.transunion.com/trenddata(link is external)About TransUnionAs a global leader in credit and information management, TransUnion creates advantages for millions of people around the world by gathering, analyzing and delivering information. For businesses, TransUnion helps improve efficiency, manage risk, reduce costs and increase revenue by delivering comprehensive data and advanced analytics and decisioning. For consumers, TransUnion provides the tools, resources and education to help manage their credit health and achieve their financial goals. Through these and other efforts, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies worldwide. Founded in 1968 and headquartered in Chicago, TransUnion employs associates in more than 25 countries on five continents. www.transunion.com/business(link is external)Website: http://www.transunion.com(link is external) Source: TransUnion. CHICAGO, July 9, 2009 /PRNewswire/ —