As we celebrate National Agriculture Week 2019, many in the Southeast are still struggling to recover from hurricanes, tornadoes, whitefly outbreaks and record-breaking rainfall. Nature is both the nemesis and nurturer of agriculture - the ultimate “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” dilemma.
But what lies ahead is a bright future, along with emerging and complex problems. As a college, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences seeks solutions to those problems every day in our research labs and fields. We share our discoveries with our students in the classroom, with the farm community through Extension education programs and with the industry through the new products we launch into the marketplace.
This year, the University of Georgia was ranked No.1 among all U.S. universities in getting new products on the market. A substantial portion of those products is new plant varieties developed by scientists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
We will continue our commitment to get agricultural discoveries and education to the people of Georgia, the U.S. and the world as we strive over the coming year to strengthen our focus in poultry science, plant science and precision agriculture.
If Georgia were a country, we would be the seventh largest poultry-producing country in the world. Much of that $22.9 billion industry is located within 60 miles of Athens. Along with our close partners at the USDA Poultry Research Center and our counter parts in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, we want to make Athens, Georgia, the epicenter of poultry science for the world. We are working hard to raise funds to build new facilities that will allow us to grow our research programs, develop new educational opportunities for our students, and provide a transparent center for the public to come and learn more about how their food is safely and sustainably provided.
Our college is known around the world as a leader in plant breeding, plant genetics and genomics. Our plant varieties in turfgrass, blueberries, peanuts and more are grown on every continent except Antarctica. CAES has some of the best scientists in the world working to improve our research program in plant sciences. They are working in partnership with the CAES scientists in entomology, the seventh leading entomology department in the world, to develop more sustainable food systems.
As food research and production continues to focus more on controlled environment processes, we hope to lead the way in this area. Georgia is already home to several large controlled-environment companies and the sector is ripe for growth.
When I visit farms today, they are very different from farms of even a decade ago. They are still run by family farmers and many are on land that has been cultivated by the same family for generations. But today, computers are used to open gates and drive tractors. Soil moisture sensors on irrigation systems make it possible to carefully target water applications to conserve every single drop possible. Drones scout fields for disease and insect problems. And, it’s all managed from a smartphone app.
New and more technologies like these will help farmers be more productive, while protecting our natural resources. They will help solve critical problems with skilled labor shortages. And, they will help farmers be more profitable and keep family-owned farms in business.
When I came to Georgia three years ago, I set out on a new adventure, away from my roots in North Carolina. What I have found in Georgia is a robust agricultural economy, a strong agriculture industry, a culture of commitment and a highly-ranked, ever-growing land-grant college to support it. I’m proud to work with you to build on that strong tradition, keep the momentum going and propel Georgia to the top in agriculture worldwide.
As we celebrate National Agriculture Week, take a moment this week to thank the farmers who continue to provide our food, clothing and shelter.