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Gray Simpson Named Horticulture Department Outstanding Senior

Gray Simpson has been chosen by the faculty to be the departmental Outstanding Senior. Gray has distinguished himself by receiving several noteworthy awards: Greenhouse Product News Intern of the Year,  American Floral Endowment Vic and Margaret Ball Internship at Metrolina Greenhouses, Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship, and the most prestigious scholarship offered by the Garden Club of Georgia. He is the Horticulture Vice President and has efficiently grown plants for sale and coordinated the efforts of numerous student to hold a very successful Plant Sale.  He also was the Production Coordinator for the Pi Alpha Xi Poinsettia sale.  Congratulations Gray, and Well done!


Hort Faculty Recognized For Teaching Efforts




Several Horticulture Department faculty were recently recognized for their teaching efforts at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences here at UGA.  Dr. Doug Bailey, our Department Head, along with Dr. Marc van Iersel, were recognized by students and received the CTL “Thank a Teacher Award.” Professor Marc van Iersel was recognized for receiving the prestigious 2016 American Society for Horticultural Science Outstanding Graduate Educator Award, and Tim Smalley was recognized for receiving the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship, our highest University level teaching award. Rounding out the evening. Dr. David Berle, Dr. Matthew Chappell, Dr. Tim Smalley, Dr. Bodie Pennisi, and Dr. Paul Thomas received recognition for their classes being cited by students as “My Favorite Class” in the 2015 “Thank a Professor Week” activities. Given how small our department is compared to many in the college, we represented well. Special thanks to the anonymous Horticulture students who said so many nice things about our faculty! (Pictures are faculty able to attend the banquet: From the left Dr. Marc van Iersel, Dr. Bodie Pennisi, Dr. Tim Smalley and Dr. Paul Thomas. Not present but appreciated are Dr. Doug Bailey, Dr. David Berle and Dr. Matt Chappell.

Horticulture graduate students win awards at the 61st SNA Research Conference

SNA winners, 2016

The happy winners from the 2016 SNA research Conference included Zhitong Li (2nd from left, 3rd place, MS competition), David Gianino (middle, 1st place MS competition) Geoffrey Weaver, third from right, 2nd place PhD competition) and Shuyang Zhen (right, 1st place PhD competition). Great students doing good work!

The 61st Annual Southern Nursery Association Research Conference was held in Athens, GA on August 30 and 31, 2016. The highlight of the first day was the annual student competition, with separate competitions for BS, MS, and PhD students. The horticulture department was well represented in the competition, with David Gianino and Zhitong Li in the MS division, while Shuyang Zhen and Geoffrey Weaver were part of the PhD competition. Our students gave outstanding talks and clearly impressed the judges. David Gianino won the MS competition with his presentation titled ‘Adaptive LED Lighting Can Benefit Greenhouse Production’. He discussed the benefits of the adaptive LED lights developed by him and Dr. Marc van Iersel. Zhitong Li, who works in Dr. John Ruter’s lab placed third in the MS competition for her talk titled ‘Induction of Tetraploid Hibiscus moscheutos through Seedling Soaking’. She discussed her ongoing breeding work on Hibiscus. Shuyang Zhen won the PhD competition for her presentation on ‘Modeling Daily Water Use of Bedding Plants Based on Environmental Factors and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index’, discussing the use of remote sensing to estimate canopy size. that information can then be used for predicting crop water needs. Geoffrey Weaver placed second with his talk on ‘Screening Photosynthetic Performance of Bedding Plants Using Chlorophyll Fluorescence’. his worked is focused on determining how efficiently different crops can use light (and how that depends on light intensity). Both Shuyang Zhen and Geoffrey Weaver work with Dr. Marc van Iersel in the Horticultural Physiology Lab. We are very proud of the outstanding work that is being done by our graduate students!

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.

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!