University of Georgia professor John M. Ruter will receive the prestigious D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Public Service for research Oct. 2 in Athens, Ga.
Ruter is a professor of horticulture and a researcher at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga. In 1990, he began developing applied and basic research programs to support Georgia's container and field nursery industries. He developed a nursery crop production research site which as become a design model for the industry.
The research Ruter has developed in this facility includes a "Pot-In-Pot" production system for container-grown plants that reduces environmental stress on the plants' root system. The system provides an inexpensive insulating layer around the pot containing the root system of the growing plant. As a result, the plant's roots have lower temperatures and use less water, fewer plants are lost to toppling and growers and plants grow faster. The economic impact of the system is estimated at $45 million.
Ruter is a national leader in developing improved fertilization and irrigation strategies for the container nursery industry. The importance of the research is magnified by concerns about nutrient concentrations in runoff water. His research in slow-release fertilizer formulations will save an estimated 30 million pounds of fertilizer use in Georgia alone. His research is helping growers cope with a diminishing water supply and reducing the risk of contaminating groundwater.
Another challenge facing the industry was cutting down on the amount of plastic waste ending up in landfills. Ruter's research investigated using copper hydroxide-impregnated fiber containers and expanded the market of fiber pots. He showed that fiber pots increased plant growth over plastic pots and increased the growers' profits. Ruter's research is a benchmark for sensible scientific effort towards resolving emerging environmental concerns.
D.W. Brooks Awards, Lecture
The annual Brooks awards are presented to UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty who excel in teaching, research, extension and international agriculture. The awards include a framed certificate and a $5,000 cash award. Other honorees this year are: Eddie McGriff, county extension programming; Michael Dirr, teaching; Steve L. Brown, extension; and Manjeet Chinnan, international agriculture.
Before the awards ceremony, William F. Kirk, vice president of DuPont Biosolutions Enterprise, will deliver the D.W. Brooks Lecture: "The 21st Century -- An Agribusiness Odyssey."
The lecture and awards are named for the late D.W. Brooks, founder and chairman emeritus of Gold Kist, Inc., and founder of Cotton States Mutual Insurance Companies. Brooks was an advisor on agriculture and trade issues to seven U.S. presidents.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)