UGA Horticulture Department

Horticultural Physiology lab members win Alex Laurie Award

Diagram of the irrigation controller

Rhuanito Ferrarezi, a former post-doc in the Horticultural Physiology Lab, Sue Dove, and Marc van Iersel recently received the Alex Laurie award from AmericanHort. AmericanHort is a national trade organization representing the ornamental horticulture industry. The Alex Laurie Award is presented to the author(s) of the most significant applied floriculture research paper published in any of the three refereed American Society for Horticultural Science publications during a calendar year. This award was established in honor of the late Alex Laurie (1892-1982), renowned floriculture teacher and researcher at The Ohio State University and a founder of the Ohio Florists’ Association.

Rhuanito, Sue and Marc received the award for their paper titled ‘An Automated System for Monitoring Soil Moisture and Controlling Irrigation Using Low-cost Open-source Microcontrollers’, which was published in HortTechnology in February 2015. The papers describes a low-cost irrigation controller that people can easily build and program themselves. The controller is based on an Arduino microcontroller and uses a capacitance sensor to measure soil moisture content. The control can automatically open an irrigation valve when the soil moisture level drops below a user-defined threshold. You can find the paper here. For more information about different irrigation controllers, you can check out Dr. van Iersel’s lab’s web page on this topic.

UGA Hort Alum Accepts Position at Purdue University


CongPicture1ratulations to UGA Hort Ph.D Alum Krishna Nemali who has accepted a faculty position at Purdue University as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Nemali, who studied under Dr. Marc van Iersel, has responsibility for extension and research activities related to controlled environment agriculture which includes ornamentals and vegetables grown under protected culture. He also teaches courses related to controlled environment agriculture production and technology. He has a B.S. in Agriculture from the Andhra Pradesh Agriculture University, India. His M.S. and Ph.D. programs at the University of Georgia focused on development of plant-uptake based automated irrigation technique using sensors and understanding the physiological responses of greenhouse crops to varying input (light, water and nutrients) levels during production. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis he studied physiological mechanisms that render tolerance to drought in Arabidopsis ecotypes.  Prior to joining Purdue, he worked at Monsanto company, USA for nearly 9 years as a controlled environment crop physiologist. His research at Monsanto significantly contributed to the commercialization of the first biotechnology-derived drought tolerant maize. He aims to train students with sustainable production practices that are complemented with state-of-the-art technologies in controlled environments to become next generation growers and researchers.A primary goal of his program at Purdue is to develop new and affordable technologies that improve sustainability (i.e., reduce input waste, minimize environmental impact, and increase profits) in controlled environment agriculture and make them easily available to growers. He aims to train students with sustainable production practices that are complemented with state-of-the-art technologies in controlled environments to become next generation growers and researchers.


Here is his contact information:

Krishna Nemali, Ph.D.  Assistant Professor

Controlled Environment Agriculture Extension & Research

Dept. Horticulture & Landscape Architecture Purdue University

Horticulture Building, Room 109B

625 Agricultural Mall Drive

West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010

Tel: (765) 494-8179






David Gianino and Shuyang Zhen excel in student competition at 2016 ASHS meeting

David Gianino and Shuyang Zhen, graduate students in Dr. Marc van Iersel’s horticultural physiology lab, participated in the student competition organized by the Controlled Environment working group. The competition was held as part of the 2016 Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science in Atlanta, GA. David and Shuyang placed first and second in the competition. We are very proud of their excellent research and presentations!

David Gianino

David Gianino won the student competition for his presentation on adaptive greenhouse lighting systems.

David Gianino, an MS student, presented his work on ‘adaptive’ greenhouse lighting systems using LEDs. The adaptive lighting system automatically adjusts to changes in sun light. The more sun light is present, the less supplemental light will be provided by the LED lights. This novel approach to supplemental lighting has the potential to annually save greenhouse growers ten of thousands of dollars per acre. David won first place for his work!




Shuyang Zhen

Shuyang Zhen presented her work on the importance of far-red light for efficient photosynthesis and placed 2nd in the student competition.

Shuyang Zhen, a PhD student, presented her work on the importance of far-red light for efficient photosynthesis. Her work shows that most commercially-available LED grow lights do not provide enough far-red for efficient photosynthesis. Her work questions some of our basic understanding of the light reactions of photosynthesis. At the same time, her results have direct practical applications and can be used to design better grow lights. Shuyang placed 2nd in the Controlled Environment student competition.

Congratulations to both for their outstanding performance!

Marc van Iersel named ASHS graduate educator of the year

Dr. Marc van Iersel

The American Society for Horticultural Science announced that Dr. Marc van Iersel was named the 2016 graduate educator of the year. He will receive the award at the 2016 ASHS conference in Atlanta. Here is the ASHS announcement:

Dr. Marc van Iersel started as an assistant professor at Griffin Campus of the University of Georgia in 1995. He started a floriculture research program, where he used physiological principles to develop sustainable production practices for floriculture producers. In 2002, Marc transferred to the Athens Campus of the University of Georgia, where he started to teach in addition to his research. In 2006, he was promoted to full professor and became graduate coordinator.

Although he has maintained a productive research program, his biggest impact may be through advising graduate students. He has served as (co-)advisor of ten Master’s and eight PhD students. His advising philosophy is simple: to provide opportunities for growth and professional development, while encouraging students to do the best job they possibly can. His students conduct high quality research, while building a strong CV. The success of this approach is clear:

His students have published approximately 40 peer-reviewed papers as lead authors, while Marc has co-authored an additional 15 papers with other students as lead author. They have won numerous awards, including in competitions organized by ASHS, ISHS, the Southern Nursery Association, and other scientific and grower meetings. Marc’s students have gone on to successful careers, with seven of them employed as faculty members or instructors at universities in the US and South Korea. Others have gone on to careers in industry. Because of Marc’s strong background in plant physiology, instrumentation, measurement techniques, and automation, he has served on 41 graduate student committees, including those for students at Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Marc has developed three new graduate courses: advanced plant nutrition, measurement and control in plant and soil science, and advanced plant physiology, which he co-teaches. He has also taught our graduate seminar class and two split-level undergraduate/graduate courses. Marc consistently gets outstanding teaching evaluations and his teaching has had a direct impact on many students. That is perhaps most evident from his measurement and control course, where students build complex measurement and control systems to automate data collection and environmental control tasks. Most students who take this course subsequently apply these techniques in their own research. His courses combine basic science with practical applications.

Marc has been graduate coordinator since 2006. He assists departmental faculty with recruiting and helps our faculty handle difficult situations with students. Although his primary responsibility as graduate coordinator is to the graduate program as a whole, he has also become an ombudsman, counselor, and friend of many of our graduate students. Our students feel comfortable discussing professional and personal problems with Marc. His willingness to listen to, and if needed advise, our graduate students has helped to create an atmosphere of trust, respect, and collegiality. As a result, he has had a very positive impact on the graduate program of the Department of Horticulture of the University of Georgia.

The Durham Horticulture Farm Featured in Banner Herald News!


Organic Horticulture was in the spotlight last week! Here is an excerpt from Lee Shearer, an editor for the Athens Banner Herald. “A light but steady stream of visitors came out to the University of Georgia’s Organic Twilight Tour in Oconee County last week to see and hear about what’s new in organic agriculture.  The fifth annual “Organic Twilight Tour” at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’Durham Horticulture Farm drew visitors from all over Georgia as well as surrounding states.  As they walked among the rows of vegetable and fruit plants at the farm off Hog Mountain Road near Watkinsville, they got to talk to UGA researchers about their latest organic agriculture research. They also got to sample three kinds of watermelon grown at the farm, and could pick up some tips useful for both full-scale organic farmers and gardeners tending a vegetable patch in a corner of their yards.  In one display, visitors could see close-up pieces of equipment that could help on a small organic farm, including a tined weeder, a no-till seed drill and a rotary spader that readies soil for planting”   From this description, one can tell it was a great tour and something that should be planned for next year!  For more information, here is the link to that article!

Photo Credit: Athens Banner Herald Staff Photographer

13 Horticulture Students Receive CAES Scholarships!


More Good News!   Every year the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences awards our outstanding students with a number of undergraduate student scholarship awards.  The 2016 cycle was a banner year for the Horticulture Department.  13 of our students received these scholarships this month!  Jana Hamilton received the Harold and Celestia Loden Scholarship, Will Hempill and Chelsea McMahan received the Lawrence G and Mary Katherine B Burk Scholarship.  John Presley received the Henry L. Reeves Scholarship, David Miler received the Elmo C Hester Jr. Scholarship, and Sarah Houtsma received the E.G. Dawson Scholarship.  Annie Vogel and Mary Lewis were selected for the GA Burson Scholarships, and Savannah White, Taylor Strickland, Ruqayah Bhuiyan, Jeana Hansel and Annika Kohler were recipients of the Cordelia Anne Ellis Scholarship!  Way to go Hort Dawgs!

5th Annual Organic Farming Twilight Tour (July 14th, 6-8pm)

Organic and sustainable agriculture experts with the University of Georgia will host their 5th annual Organic Twilight Tour. The open house will be a chance for farmers and gardeners to learn about organic research trials being conducted at the Horticulture Research Farm located in Watkinsville. Researchers and students will give mini-talks, describe demonstration plots, and be available to discuss your questions about the latest organic practices. FREE event, no registration required.

Stations Include:
High Tunnels
Squash Disease
Cover Crops
Organic Watermelon Production
Small Farm Irrigation Equipment
Apple Management
Nitrogen from Organic Fertilizers

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

UGA Horticulture Farm
1221 Hog Mountain Rd.
Watkinsville, GA 30677

INFORMATION: or contact Jessica Cudnik at or

16 New Postions Paying $40,000.00+ Opening Up!


UGA Horticulture Alumni and Current Students!  We currently have eleven positions posted across the state with at least five more opening up very soon.  Any interested alumni and student who are graduating Summer or Fall should apply now.  Starting salary with MS degree is $40,400 with a UGA benefit package.

I encourage you to share this information with anyone interested.  The following links contain information about our jobs and a current listing of openings. We are looking for recent or upcoming CAES graduates to join our Cooperative Extension team. Our county agricultural agents are UGA faculty positions that require a master’s degree.  However, we can hire BS students under a provisional status with a timeline to complete a MS degree (eligible for employee Tuition Assistance Program).  If interested, please contact Mr Greg Price, CAES Director of County Operations, 706-542-1060.

Athens Farmers Market Assists Student Research Efforts on Local Vegetable Production

Do you ever shop at the Athens Farmers Market? If so, you may have been recently approached by TC Jayalath, a current Horticulture Graduate student, and asked to participate in a consumer survey about locally-grown, organic lettuce. More than 125 shoppers shared information about their buying habits, taste preferences and the visual appeal of lettuce grown at the UGA Horticulture Research Farm this spring. We would like to thank the farmers market, the shoppers and S-SARE (funding agency) for making this effort a fun and great success!

Athens Farmers Market Customers Volunteer to Talk about and Eat Lettuce on a Sat. morning!

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