Coronavirus Pandemic Impacting UGA Ag Research

Clint Thompson Georgia, Research

Tim Coolong examining kale research on the UGA Tifton campus in this 2015 file photo. (UGA)

By Clint Thompson

The coronavirus pandemic has cancelled sports, schools and large gatherings for the near future and is impacting agricultural research at the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).

Allen Moore

According to UGA CAES Associate Dean for Research Allen Moore, the plan that’s been implemented for researchers within the college is don’t start any new projects and minimize activity as much as possible.

“We’re trying to have as few people on site as possible so not doing anything that isn’t absolutely essential. At the same, we have to keep animals fed and alive and water plants and make sure things are maintained,” Moore said. “We’ve asked everyone to look at what could be scaled down and we’ve asked the managers and superintendents and farm managers and researchers to find ways not to have to groups of people in the lab or greenhouses together at the same time. We’re looking at maintaining a skeletal operation as best we can.”

This is a critical point in the research calendar since most scientists are planting their crops or preparing to do so. It’s been made even more difficult since the University System of Georgia said all 26 of its colleges and universities will conduct online instruction for the rest of the semester. Since students are not allowed to be on campus, it greatly reduces how many student workers are able to continue employment at UGA and help with Ag-related research.

“It is definitely something we’re worried about and we have to find ways to make sure those duties get performed. If you’re not doing other things, we can pivot people over to take care of some of the maintenance and some of the tasks that the students were doing,” Moore said.

UGA CAES operates three experiment stations and eight research and education centers located in Georgia with research devoted to the state’s No. 1 industry – agriculture. Crops like cotton, peanuts, corn, fruit and vegetables, pecans and turfgrass are all at the forefront of scientific research and will continue to be, just in a reduced capacity.

“That’s certainly the assumption we’re working under is that we don’t know when the end date will be, so we have to just maintain everything. It’s an uncertain time with no student workers and we have a lot of temporary help; really scaling back on all of that,” Moore said. “Everyone’s research is important but not every bit of research has to be done; it can wait.”

About the Author

Clint Thompson

Multimedia Journalist for AgNet Media Inc.