Published on 12/23/14

UGA CAES to offer advanced agriscience and environmental systems courses

By Clint Thompson

The addition of specialized agriscience and environmental systems courses — precision agriculture, sustainable agriculture and plant breeding/genetics — is expected to bolster already strong academic programs at the University of Georgia's agriculture college.

Beginning fall 2015, the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) campuses in Athens and Tifton will offer advanced classes in precision agriculture, sustainable agriculture or plant breeding/genetics. The courses are designed to strengthen students' knowledge in these areas, a need the college administration has noted in the industry.

“The agricultural industry is demanding a higher level of specialization because generalized degrees and generalized knowledge can be farmed out to lower wage earners. In precision ag, they (employers) need someone who knows the intimate details of how precision ag works; not only how to install the equipment, but how to troubleshoot it, how the global positioning system works, how the programs work and how to fix problems when they go wrong,” Peake said.

“The addition of these areas of emphasis will provide focus areas for students who want to specialize in some areas of agriculture that are in demand. These students can more readily demonstrate to potential employers unique skill sets not available from other higher education institutions in Georgia,” said William Vencill, a professor and undergraduate coordinator of teaching programs in the college’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

These areas of emphasis will allow students to specialize within a major. In the precision agriculture courses, students will learn about remote sensing by drones, yield monitoring and smart irrigation techniques, such as variable rate irrigation.

“This is where having a land-grant institution, with research, Extension and teaching, all together really has a big impact. Dr. Vellidis isn’t a guy who uses a really good textbook, he’s the guy who writes the textbook. That’s the guy you want teaching these classes.” said Jason Peake, director of academic programs at UGA Tifton. Peake is referring to George Vellidis, a UGA ag engineer and precision agriculture expert, who will teach the precision agriculture courses.

For more information about the UGA CAES academic program, go to

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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