As of Jan. 5, farmers in south Georgia’s top blueberry-producing counties have seen a record low number of chill hours for the 2016 growing season: around one-half to one-third of the chill hours they usually see. A lack of chill hours can cause erratic fruiting and blooming, which can make it hard for farmers to organize their harvest and also decrease yields. Blueberries are Georgia’s most valuable fruit crop, with an annual production valued at about $335 million. Peaches While south Georgia farmers are worried about their blueberry crops, the warm snap and heavy rains have middle Georgia farmers worried about their peach crops. Peaches also need chill hours, and most varieties in middle Georgia need between 700 and 1,000 hours. Most large peach-producing counties have seen less than half of what they would usually have by this point, said Jeff Cook, UGA Extension agent for Taylor and Peach counties. Peaches in his area have not started to bud or bloom, but the lack of chill hours could translate into a late or diminished crop, he said. “If you look at the fact that there are only 1,000 or so more hours between now and (mid-February), we are most likely going to be short on chill hours,” Cook said. “How short and how that translates into delayed bloom or reduced bloom is yet to be determined.” “We are concerned, but I don’t like to worry about stuff that I cannot control, so I will just stay concerned along with all of the growers and hope for colder weather throughout the remainder of this winter,” he said. Another problem is flooded peach orchards. Water-logged soil can lay the groundwork for disease problems in the spring, he said. Pecans While the warm, wet weather did not impact pecan production this year, it did seem to hinder harvests, which usually take place in November and December. “Harvest conditions have been horrible. Pretty much that whole second half of December was (made up of) terrible conditions,” said Lenny Wells, UGA Cooperative Extension pecan specialist. “The warmer and wetter it is, the faster that crop is going to deteriorate.” With temperatures in the 70s and 80s in south Georgia and weeks of rain, pecans were rotting before they could be harvested. Despite the less-than-ideal harvesting conditions, Wells was optimistic about Georgia’s pecan crop. “I talked to some producers over the holidays about the crop that they were still bringing in. There was some rot in the (pecans), which there has been throughout the harvest season with the conditions we’ve had. The late-season stuff may not have been great, but it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was going to be,” Wells said. “I would have really thought that the weather we had over the holidays was going to deteriorate the rest of what’s out there, but it wasn’t quite that bad and there’s still some (pecans) being picked,” he said. For more information about how Georgia’s climate impacts agriculture, visit blog.extension.uga.edu/climate/. After ending 2015 with some record-breaking warm and wet weather, Georgia’s fruit and tree nut farmers are concerned that the lack of chill hours and soggy soil could damage their crops. Most of December averaged about 10 degrees above normal temperatures across the state, and many parts of Georgia saw 8 to 10 inches more rainfall than normal, according to the National Weather Service. While a mild winter can slow or derail the development of blueberries and peaches and soggy soils can damage the trees and bushes, farmers are hopeful that a return to relatively normal winter temperatures will help them finish out the growing season successfully. Blueberries With December weather in the 70s — and even into the 80s in some parts of south Georgia — some blueberry growers are already seeing buds, flowers and scattered “blue fruit” on their bushes, said Renee Allen, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s commercial blueberry agent. Early blooming and fruiting is not uncommon in south Georgia, but to see buds and fruit in December is extreme. Farmers worry that if enough buds emerge early and are damaged by frost in January, February and March, there could be a severe decrease in harvest. “We’re optimistic that things will be OK, but we do have some concerns about the crop since we are seeing buds, and even fruit, on some bushes,” Allen said. “There’s nothing you can do about it, so we’ve just got to wait and see. Hopefully with the return of the cooler weather, the development of some of these plants will be slowed.” In addition to the extreme warm snap, there may be a problem with the general mildness of Georgia’s winter so far. All blueberry plants need a set number of chill hours — hours spent below 45 degrees Fahrenheit — between October and February for the plants to successfully produce fruit in the summer. The exact number of hours needed depends on the variety, but many south Georgia berries haven’t had the chill they need this winter.
It was also a component in the bomb behind the 1995 Oklahoma City attack.In agriculture, ammonium nitrate fertilizer is applied in granule form and quickly dissolves under moisture, allowing nitrogen — which is key to plant growth — to be released into the soil.Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a Beirut portside warehouse had blown up, killing dozens of people and causing unprecedented damage to the Lebanese capital.However, under normal storage conditions and without very high heat, it is difficult to ignite ammonium nitrate, Jimmie Oxley, a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island, told AFP. Ammonium nitrate, which Lebanese authorities have said was the cause of the Beirut blast, is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades. These include notably at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013 that killed 15 and was ruled deliberate, and another at a chemical plant in Toulouse, France in 2001 that killed 31 people but was accidental.When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives. “If you look at the video [of the Beirut explosion], you saw the black smoke, you saw the red smoke, that was an incomplete reaction,” she said. “I am assuming that there was a small explosion that instigated the reaction of the ammonium nitrate — whether that small explosion was an accident or something on purpose I haven’t heard yet.”That’s because ammonium nitrate is an oxidizer — it intensifies combustion and allows other substances to ignite more readily, but is not itself very combustible.For these reasons, there are generally very strict rules about where it can be stored: for example, it must be kept away from fuels and sources of heat.In fact, many countries in the European Union require that calcium carbonate to be added to ammonium nitrate to create calcium ammonium nitrate, which is safer.In the United States, regulations were tightened significantly after the Oklahoma City attack. Under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, for example, facilities that store more than 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of ammonium nitrate are subject to inspections.Despite its dangers, Oxley said legitimate uses of ammonium nitrate in agriculture and construction has made it indispensable.”We wouldn’t have this modern world without explosives, and we wouldn’t feed the population we have today without ammonium nitrate fertilizer,” she said.”We need ammonium nitrate, we just need to pay good attention to what we’re doing with it.”Topics :
Stuff co.nz 29 January 2015Millions of dollars are being “sucked” from the community through a “blight” of pokie machines and new legislation is doing little to correct the problem, local advocates say.The Mangere Community Law Centre is supporting the Problem Gambling Foundation in encouraging people to have their say on the upcoming Gambling Amendment Bill (No 3) which is open for submissions until tomorrow.Law centre advocate Justin Latif said it’s a good opportunity for people to raise concerns around the harm of gambling.“The gaming machines in Mangere are sucking tens of millions of dollars every year out of the community, robbing families and the wider society of money that could be better spent on helping people live healthier, more prosperous and happy lives,” he said.The bill is making changes to increase “transparency” and reduce “conflicts of interest” between gambling operators, venues and grant recipients.http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/manukau-courier/65502006/Gambling-bill-needs-hardening-up
Batesville Girls Swimming wins 7, finish third, Boys finish fourth.Women’s Team Scores: North Harrison – 350; Madison – 252; Batesville – 245; Silver Creek – 214Men’s Team Scores: Madison – 308; North Harrison – 176; Batesville – 160Both teams fought hard competing at the Madison Small School invitational on Saturday morning with the ladies winning seven total events including the 200 Medley Relay (Ashley Daulton, Audra Brewer, Halle Renck, Gwen Martin; 200 IM, Renck; 50 Free, Sonja Gaulin; 100 Free, Daulton; 100 Back, Daulton; 100 Breast, A Brewer; 400 Free Relay (Hannah Simpson, Martin, Gaulin, Daulton).Other top finishes for the women included Martin (3rd, 200 Free); A. Brewer (3rd, 50 Free); H. Simpson (5th, 50 Free; 2, 100 Back); Gaulin (3rd, 100 Free); 200 Free Relay (2nd, Simpson, A. Brewer, Gaulin, Martin).The gentleman finished in fourth despite having extremely strong swims throughout the morning. Top finishes were: Ethan Brewer (5th, 200 Free; 3rd, 100 Free); Skylar Simpson (7th, 200 Free; 5th, 100 Back); Grant Meyers (6th, 50 Free); Mason Enneking (7th, 50 Free; 8th, 100 Free); Adam Hollowell (6th, 100 Free; 7th 100 Breast); Rasnick (6th, 500 Free; 8th 100 Breast); 200 Free Relay (4th, Enneking, Meyers, Rasnick, S. Simpson); 400 Free Relay (2nd, Enneking, Meyers, Hollowell, Brewer).Coach McMullen had this to say about the meet: “We may not have had our full team at this meet, but you couldn’t tell. Both teams worked extremely hard and we’re proud of what we accomplished today. A number of swimmers achieved season best times today and I’m excited about their progression. They’re swimming their races and performing, I couldn’t be prouder of the teams.”