Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
4-H Youth Development
Jackson County 4-H responded to the closure of public schools and the cancellation of in-person programming caused by COVID-19 by partnering with the teachers to continue 4-H programming in google classrooms and
creating virtual programming for 1st through 12th grade students across the state. COVID-19 halted in-person programming in Jackson County suddenly mid-March 2020. On March 13, all Jackson County, City of Jefferson, and City of Commerce schools closed due to COVID-19 and ultimately remained closed for the remainder of the school year. Jackson County 4-H staff saw a need to maintain engagement with the 4-Her's in the community to continue promoting education and positive mental health throughout the crisis.
Jackson County 4-H staff began developing virtual programming to maintain engagement with the youth in the community. Utilizing online Google classrooms, we were able to continue providing 4-H programming in partnership with the classroom teachers to 386 5th graders. Many fun and engaging virtual programs were developed, including virtual scavenger hunts, healthy living virtual classrooms, interactive virtual escape rooms, and Google forms promoting Georgia 4-H Friends magazine lessons. In addition to providing 5th-grade programming remotely, and fun activities, 4-H staff, developed a digital “Teen Leadership” curriculum for middle and high school students. The leadership curriculum had seven modules, including understanding leadership, conflict management, goal setting, communication, appreciating differences, decision making, and community mapping, which were developed in partnership with the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at UGA. The program provided middle and high school students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and continued engagement throughout the summer.
The leadership program initially designed for Jackson County grew in success to include students from ten other counties throughout the state of Georgia. The “Digital Leadership” module on appreciating differences provided an opportunity for youth to discuss topics of importance to today’s youth. One student remarked, “I would like to talk more about inclusion when we discuss the appreciating differences lesson.” Since mid-March, Jackson County 4-H has reached 511 youth through our virtual programming efforts.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Jackson County ranks in the top 10 counties of hay production in Georgia according to the 2019 Farmgate report. In 2020, several Jackson County producers noted production decreases and changes in leaf pigment in alfalfa stands over the 2020 production season. The UGA Jackson County Extension Agent worked with these producers over the spring/summer of 2020 to improve soil fertility and weed control in alfalfa hayfields. Proper fertilization according to soil and plant tissue analyses, the use of pre/post emergent herbicides, and the competition of other seasonal forages were explained to the producers. Sustainability and productivity of their alfalfa hayfield was their number one objective.
Alfalfa hay producers were looking forward to the opportunity to take production and quality to higher levels. Multiple producers contacted the UGA Jackson County Extension Agent with concerns of lower production and leaf pigment concerns that can point to nutrient deficiencies. Research shows that white spots on leaf margins followed by yellowing of leaves indicates potassium deficiencies.
The UGA Jackson County Extension Agent provided one-on-one education on 20 farm visits, assistance with more than a dozen samples including soil samples and plant tissue samples, and consultations from other alfalfa experts. The Extension Agent also supplied producers with published Extension bulletins specific to alfalfa. These communications were an opportunity to introduce producers to the UGA Georgia Forages website that provides research-based information to the most common forage questions in Georgia.
One Jackson County producer had a field that experienced yellowing leaves in March. This field had a pH above 7 (recommended to be 6.5-7 for alfalfa production) and needed 160 pounds of potash per acre. The producer applied the recommended potash, and no additional leaf chlorosis was noted on his 2020 alfalfa harvests.
Another producer had a field with a pH of 6.2 with a recommendation of 1.75 tons of limestone per acre to adjust the pH towards the goal of a pH of 7. The same field needed 190 pounds of potash according to the soil sample results. Plant tissue sample results did not show deficiencies but was used as another tool in checking the health of the alfalfa. Leaf pigmentation returned to normal following proper fertilization and pH adjustments.
Crop sustainability, production, and quality was increased by producing a weed free nutritious hay harvest approximately every 28 days factoring in weather conditions. Alfalfa hay sample results all had above 150 Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) rankings and protein levels exceeding 21 percent. According to UGA forage quality guidelines, any RFQ ranking above 140 with protein levels exceeding 12 percent will exceed the recommended nutritional needs of production livestock.