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
By partnering with local schools to do after-school workshops on the school premises, Toombs County 4-H staff have eliminated many barriers that would have otherwise prevented students from participating in the workshops, such as costs and transportation. Through an online survey of 55 youth who had participated in Cloverleaf District Project Achievement in Fall 2018, students expressed that they had gained important life skills. Ninety-three percent agreed that they learned about a topic they were interested in. Ninety-three percent agreed that they learned about a topic they were interested in. Eighty-nine percent of students agreed that they were more confident speaking in front of groups. Ninety-two percent of students agreed that they were better at preparing a presentation. Ninety-six percent also agreed that they wanted to do more 4-H events in the future. Ninety-two percent of students indicated that they were more confident in themselves. In addition, numerous parents expressed their gratitude to the Extension staff for working with the students after school. One parent said, “I want to thank you for the work you have done with my son. He is in several other clubs at school and none of them spend the amount of time and effort helping the students as you do with 4-H.” A local elementary school teacher said, “The Extension staff has helped teach the students to work hard for what they want. They worked tirelessly to help the students prepare for the competition and a majority of the students at our school placed as a result of their hard work as well as the support they received from the Extension staff.”
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Downy Mildew (Pernospora destructor) attacks onions in many parts of the world including the United States. In the U.S., this disease is more prevalent in long-day onions, which are grown in summer. Short-day onions like Vidalia sweet onions in Georgia are grown in spring and are also susceptible to Downy Mildew; however, the disease is sporadic. Under favorable conditions, Downy Mildew can spread very rapidly and cause severe yield loss in the field. Once established, this disease has been historically difficult to suppress using fungicide sprays. In the last Downy Mildew outbreak in 2012, this disease negatively affected the yield of more than 30% of the Vidalia onion crop.
Because of the sporadic nature and the rapid spread and destruction this pathogen causes, research opportunities have been difficult to come by. In 2019, the Toombs county agent and a local grower discovered an area of his field affected by the disease. The Toombs County agent designed an experiment testing two fungicide programs against the grower’s previously recommended standard. The agent found in the research trials that both fungicide programs performed significantly better than the historically recommended grower’s standard percentage. Given the possibility of another Downy Mildew outbreak year like 2012 where the Vidalia Onion producers lost 30% or more of their crop, onion producers could minimize their potential crop loss by using either one of these programs, saving approximately $10.5 million dollars based on current Vidalia onion farm gate value of $140.6 million.