The University of Georgia's College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences offers us a tour of their Georgia Mountain Research Center, where we interview Dr. Wayne Hanna, one of the foremost turf growers in the world! He’s grown grass for sports complexes as far away as the World Cup Soccer Tournament in South Africa, and as close to home as UGA’s own athletic fields. Teachable Moments center around agriculture, including Photosynthesis, the Nitrogen Cycle, the definition of Hypothesis, and more.
FAST FORWARD: GEORGIA MOUNTAIN RESEARCH AND EDUCATION CENTER
VO: If you could be any kind of plant, fruit, or vegetable, what would you be?
NATALIE: I would be an onion because of the many complex layers and I feel like that's how my personality is.
KATELYN: I would be a cantaloupe because they're sweet & delicious.
AMIRI: I want to be a tree because they're big and tall and the represent life, and I love life.
VO: Welcome back to Fast Forward. Right now we're enjoying the view from Brasstown Bald-the highest point in Georgia, almost 4,800 feet above sea level. So why are we up here? Well, it's close to where we're going, but the truth is we just thought it was really cool to see.
Okay. Time to get to work.
Today we're visiting to the University of Georgia's Mountain Research and Education Center in Blairsville, because if there's any chance that some day you'll want to move out of your parents house and get a job somewhere in Georgia, there's something you should know.
JOE: One out of six jobs are agriculturally related in the state of Georgia.
VO: Come back?
JOE: 1 out of 6 jobs in the state of Georgia have to do with agriculture.
VO: That's Joe Garner, and he knows what he's talking about.
JOE: Can you believe it, yo?
VO: He's the superintendent here, so I'll let him tell you a little more about the place.
JOE: The acreage here at the GA R&E Center is 400 acres. We're part of 7 research and education centers that support the College of Ag & Environmental Sciences throughout the state of Georgia. We have in past times said we do everything from apples to zucchini. We don't do zucchini anymore, but we're one of the most diversified research centers as far as crops and faculty we support across the state of GA.
VO: So basically this is a place where they test hypotheses on the best way grow a wide variety of plants.
On a side note, hypothesis is just a four-dollar word that means a prediction of what will happen in a testable situation.
So Joe and his co-workers help execute a series of tests on the best way to grow plants-to make them more drought resistant, disease resistant, and even make fruits like apples taste better.
JOE: How about them apples?
VO: And because...
JOE: 1 out of 6 jobs in the state of GA have to do with agriculture.
VO: And with that in mind, there's someone I want you to meet.
WAYNE: I'm Wayne Hanna, agricultural rock star. (LAUGHS)
VO: That's actually Doctor Wayne Hanna. And while he's fooling around, the truth is, in the world of agriculture, he really is a big deal, even if he does spend a lot of his days watching the grass grow.
WAYNE: We develop both forage and turf grasses at Tifton, Georgia. The grasses we produce are broadly adapted around the world. They're grown 35/38 degrees north and south of the equator of the earth. So that covers about 80% of the earth.
VO: And there's a pretty good chance you've seen his work.
WAYNE: If you watch soccer, football, baseball, or golf on television, you're watching one of our grasses.
Some of our sports turfs have been used in various places like a North Carolina football field, Auburn's football field, Georgia Tech, and the softball and soccer fields of the University of Georgia. If you go to TIFSport.com you can look at a lot of the places that have it. There's a long list.
VO: See? Agricultural rock star. So he's the perfect guy to answer a question I've always wondered about. Is the grass is really greener on the other side of the fence?
WAYNE: Actually the last grass we developed is greener. It's called TIF Grand. It is greener. It stays greener when the frost comes.
VO: I thought so.
WAYNE: And the grass is always greener above the septic tank.
VO: Excuse me?
WAYNE: The grass is always greener above the septic tank because as the sewage that's going in the septic tank decomposes, it's giving off ammonia, which has nitrogen, and nitrogen is an important component in plant growth. So as the ammonia is coming up, the roots are taking up the ammonia, which has nitrogen in it and gives it the nice green color and improved growth.
VO: Dr. Hanna just explained something called the Nitrogen Cycle. Which reminds me, all of this is possible because of something you've probably heard of, called photosynthesis. And here's how it works:
Plants and some bacteria contain CHLOROPHYLL, which absorbs light energy and breaks water apart. The oxygen from the water is released into our atmosphere. So the oxygen we breathe actually comes out of water molecules. The hydrogen from the water is then combined with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build glucose sugar and other carbohydrates. This sugar is the main food for most cells.
So photosynthesis provides us with both oxygen to breathe, as well as food to eat! Okay, it's great to know agriculture is such an important industry in Georgia. After all...
JOE: One out of 6 jobs in the state of Georgia have to do with agriculture.
VO: I think I'm making my point. But what if I don't exactly see myself as a farmer?
WAYNE: In the past people thought when you talk about agriculture you think about farming, driving a tractor, harvesting crops, and that still is the core of agriculture, but agriculture has gotten very sophisticated. There are all kinds of opportunities. You can be a microbiologist, looking at food-born organisms. You can be an ag-economist. You can be in marketing. There's advertising.
It's an exciting area.
VO: Yeah, I'm starting to get that idea. So what's the future?
WAYNE: The future of agriculture in my opinion is very bright. I think it's going to become more and more sophisticated because we're going to have to provide more food on a similar acreage for more people.
VO: So other than watching the grass grow, what do you like most about being an agricultural rock star?
(ELECTRIC GUITAR SOUND)
WAYNE: The best award a person can get in my area or in any area where you're working is to say the consumer or user of your products says, "it has really made a difference for me." That's the best award that person can get.
VO: No doubt.
Now, before we go, does anyone else want to take a shot at that first question about what kind of plant they'd want to be?
EMIANI: I would be a Catalina flower because it's beautiful and that's how I feel every day.
VO: Okay. It's going to be hard to top that! But we'll try-on the next episode of Fast Forward. See you then!