For decades, University of Georgia scientists have conducted state-of-the-art turfgrass research. Today’s researchers still work in the same labs where modern turfgrass science started in the 1950s. Those legacy labs and greenhouses will soon get much-needed renovations.
Georgia’s FY015 budget includes $11.5 million for the improvement of the University of Georgia’s turfgrass teaching, research and Extension facilities across the state.
The funds will be used to build new greenhouses and research facilities on the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ campuses in Athens, Griffin and Tifton.
Georgia’s turfgrass and related industries contribute more than $7.8 billion annually to the economy and provide 87,000 full- and part-time jobs. Turfgrass is one of Georgia’s top crops and provides 17 percent of the state's farm gate value ($117 million).
“The urban ag industry has been a longtime supporter of Georgia’s turfgrass and horticulture education and research programs — and now Georgia’s legislators recognize the economic value that these industries bring to Georgia,” said Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director of the Georgia Urban Ag Council.
UGA Extension turfgrass specialist Clint Waltz credits the funding to the support of the council and UGA’s other green industry partners.
“World-renowned research and testing is accomplished at these UGA facilities and in the laboratories — and all are woefully outdated,” Woodworth said. “In order to continue to attract the best and brightest researchers and experts, we need state-of-the-art educational and research facilities. This funding will provide what we need to not only attract, but retain world-class turfgrass and horticulture experts.”
On the main UGA campus in Athens, the funding will be used to complete construction of an indoor and outdoor research laboratory that includes, a greenhouse, classrooms and new research field plots. Collectively, these new additions will become the college’s Athens Turfgrass Research and Education Center.
On the UGA Griffin Campus, the funds will go to construct a complex that includes a turfgrass research and education building, greenhouses and associated support offices and workspace.
“This project will continue the Griffin Campus’ tradition of cutting edge turfgrass research, attracting world class researchers and educators, graduate students, cooperators and industry. The UGA Turf Team is humbled by the industry’s support of our programs and appreciates all their efforts to garner funding for these facilities enhancements," said Waltz who is based in Griffin.
The Tifton campus will see a new greenhouse complex.
"The necessity for new greenhouse facilities has become more critical during the past few years so that the level of research and development which has come to be expected from UGA's Tifton Campus Turfgrass Breeding Program can continue,” said UGA turfgrass researcher Brian Schwartz who currently works in greenhouses built more than 50 years ago.
For more on turfgrass teaching, research and Extension programs at UGA, see the website www.GeorgiaTurf.com and follow on Twitter @GeorgiaTurf.
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)