After eating that delicious lunch, I was ready to walk off the pounds during the afternoon tour. It was getting hotter outside that our tour guide decided for our group to seek refuge in the USDA Seed Storage Building. When we got there we were greeted by Dr. Melanie Harrison-Dunn a Geneticist of the Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit. Dr. Harrison-Dunn explained about her current research priorities are focused on the acquisition of native warm season grass germplasm; germsplasm characterization including genotyping, nutritional analysis, and salt tolerance; and ornamental grass breeding. Also, in the USDA Seed Storage Building there were more than 90,000 plant samples are part for the Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit (PGRCU). These diverse collections represent over 250 genera and 1,500 species from almost every country.
The next part of the tour was meeting with Dr. Clint Waltz on the Turfgrass shade research. Dr. Waltz is actively researching on evaluating various turfgrass species to the environmental stresses of the Southeastern United States. These evaluations allow sod producers, golf course superintendents, athletics field managers, other turf professionals and houseowners to make informed decisions about the adaptability of these cultivars. The plots were developed for low maintenance, low water usage and pesticide input.
The last part of the tour hearing a quick discussion on ornamental plant breeding process by Dr. Carol Robacker. Dr. Robacker is the Associate Professor and REI Coordinator of Horticulture. Dr. Robacker is doing two research projects on breed landscape plants that are adapted to the heat and drought stress of the urban conditions and develop cultivars of native plants. She also show us her projects include breeding for azalea lace bug resistance in native azalea, and developing improved cultivars of little bluestem, spigelia, abelia, vitex and pearl bush.
I truly had a great day at the University of Georgia – Griffin Campus and had learn so much about the research agriculture. I am so glad that this wonderful place only less than 2 hours away and I will make sure to visit it in the future.
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