Published on 09/01/22

CAES leaders cut ribbon on new irrigation demonstration site at UGA-Griffin

By Ashley N Biles
A group of leaders at CAES and UGA-Griffin prepare to cut the ribbon at the Irrigation Demonstration Site at UGA-Griffin. CAES Dean Nick Place holds the oversized pair of red scissors.
From left, Rolando Orellana, UGA Extension urban water management agent for the Center for Urban Agriculture; Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for Extension; Dan Suiter, chair of the Urban Agriculture Commission; Nick Place, CAES dean and director; David Buntin, interim assistant provost and campus director for UGA-Griffin; and Jule-Lynne Macie, interim director of the Center for Urban Agriculture, cut the ribbon for the Irrigation Demonstration Site at UGA-Griffin on Aug. 5. The site is the first of its kind in the Southeast.

The new irrigation demonstration site on the University of Georgia Griffin campus opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially launch the site, which will be used for training, research and education on the latest irrigation technologies for industry professionals, homeowners and researchers.

“We are very proud to have the irrigation demonstration site on the Griffin campus and we appreciate all of the hard work that has gone into the project,” said David Buntin, interim assistant provost and campus director for UGA-Griffin, in his welcoming remarks for the Aug. 5 ceremony.

The project is the brainchild of Rolando Orellana, urban water management agent with UGA Cooperative Extension in the Center for Urban Agriculture. Orellana developed the idea after a conversation with Reid Garner of Hunter Industries about exploring ways to improve the irrigation and green industries, leading to the creation of a sustainable program that can be used by Extension, industry and the public.

The site consists of four 30-by-30-foot plots for use in training, research and education. Three of the plots are designated for investing companies to showcase their latest products and technology and the fourth plot will be used for research by faculty and graduate students at UGA-Griffin. The project is the first of its kind to involve researchers and students as well as the public.

Orellana, who has been working on the project for more than three years, was glad to see it come to fruition. He secured 90% of the funding for the project through sponsor donations – both monetary and in-kind – from the industries involved, with the remaining funding provided by UGA Extension.

“It is a great day because we are finally seeing the idea that started three-and-a-half or four years ago,” said Orellana at the ceremony. “Getting the support was key — we are here today because of the great collaboration between industry and Extension.”

The demonstration site will allow Extension staff and faculty to demonstrate more efficient options for those interested in sustainable water use.  

“We are planning to host landscapers, agricultural agents, homeowners and Master Gardeners who have an interest in water efficiency programs,” said Orellana. “It will allow us to show how to troubleshoot issues that may arise and how to achieve water efficiency.”

Nick Place, dean and director of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, spoke about the importance of educating the community on water efficiency at the ceremony, noting that the irrigation demonstration site will be a great asset for the entire state.

“This newly installed irrigation system enables Extension agents across Georgia to develop educational programs on water management that are tailored and relevant for their communities,” said Place. “Specifically, this site creates a wonderful opportunity to research water management in turfgrasses most common in the urban areas around Georgia. As the only site of its kind in the Southeastern United States, we believe that we’re going to greatly enhance our research in water management and technology here and beyond.”

Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson said the Center for Urban Agriculture and its work is a priority for UGA Extension, and the site will help agents serve their constituents by tailoring information to specific areas.

“I am just so excited to have the site open because I feel this is really something we need,” said Johnson, adding that the demonstration site would lend itself as a place to train county Extension agents, exposing them to UGA-Griffin research that will benefit constituents throughout the state.

At the ceremony, Orellana gave credit to those who stewarded the project, including Dan Suiter, chair of the Urban Agriculture Commission, UGA-Griffin Field Research Services and UGA-Griffin Facilities Management Division, as well as industry partners including the Georgia Arborist Association, Georgia Certified Landscape Professionals, Hunter Industries, McCorkle Nurseries, Moreno Landscape, Monrovia, North Georgia Turf, Rain Bird, Rainmaker Irrigation, Ruppert Landscape, SiteOne Landscape Supply, Songbird Landcare, UGA Structural Pest Management Program, Super-Sod, Georgia Green Industry Association, Torro/Irritol, Unique Environmental Landscapes and the Georgia Urban Ag Council.

Ashley Biles is an administrative associate at the UGA Griffin campus.