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Research by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences could help Georgia’s watermelon growers produce sweeter results.UGA vegetable horticulturalist Tim Coolong conducts variety trial testing on watermelons as part of his work on the UGA Tifton Campus. He is researching the productivity and quality of multiple watermelon varieties tested at different locations and in various conditions statewide. Georgia farmers transport the bulk of the state’s watermelon crop in bin containers, so they rely on Coolong’s research to tell them how different varieties stack up. If a sweeter, more productive melon is developed that also meets farmers’ demands, they’ll be more likely to embrace Coolong’s research.Last year’s seedless watermelon varieties trials yielded promising results, Coolong said. The seedless melons produced excess fruit with decent size, very good quality and little hollow heart, which can downgrade a watermelon’s marketability. “We really like to see how the varieties break down as far as 36-count, 45-count. Size of the 36-count melons is usually about 18 pounds to about 21 pounds on average. A lot of our growers really need that information if their contract is primarily for 36-count fruit,” he said. “If a farmer’s contract is for 45-count fruit, they need to know if this variety will produce a majority percent of the fruit in the 45-count range.”Strengthened by an almost $144 million farm gate value in 2013, according to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, Georgia’s watermelon crop tops the state’s list of most productive vegetables. Watermelons accounted for 14.4 percent of the state’s vegetable crop, topping bell peppers, sweet corn and onions. Georgia’s top 10 watermelon-producing counties by value are Berrien, Colquitt, Cook, Crisp, Dooly, Telfair, Tift, Turner, Wilcox and Worth, all of which are located in south Georgia.Coolong credits south Georgia watermelon farmers for the rise in the crop. “If you could pick one vegetable that’s grown over a wide area in south Georgia, it would be watermelon. It’s grown in Dooly County, down to Lowndes County, over to Wheeler and into Toombs County,” Coolong said. “We have a lot of acres.”Georgia’s watermelon farmers will hear more about Coolong’s research and will receive updates about the watermelon industry at this week’s Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. Coolong is one of multiple UGA scientists and Extension agents who will speak at the event, set for Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 8-10.“This is the largest produce-related trade show and educational program in the Southeastern United States. It allows growers to network with colleagues, see new products and step in to any number of educational programs. Because of the diversity of programming at the conference, it allows growers to get updated on what they are already growing as well as attend sessions on different crops to see if they might want to grow something new,” Coolong said. read more
Copyright: NRL Photos.Broncos halfback Ben Hunt. The Brisbane utility will link with Paul McGregor’s men in 2018 after signing with the Red V in January but for now he has unfinished business with the Broncos – starting with Friday’s clash against the desperate Dragons. It is a strange scenario for Hunt, with a loss for the ninth-placed St George-Illawarra set to all but end their top-eight hopes. But the 27-year-old is firmly focused on securing a Broncos victory that would almost guarantee Brisbane a top-four finish. “I’m approaching it the same as I would approach any game. We’ve had one training session already and we trained really hard. I’m not doing anything different. I’m just going to go out and prepare as well as I can,” Hunt said. “[I’m not expecting] extra scrutiny. It’s the same game for me. I’m preparing like I do every other week and trying to play the best possible game for the Broncos. I’m a Bronco for the rest of the year.”Hunt may be a Bronco until the end of the season, but he admits to keeping one eye on the form of the side he will play for next year. His five-year deal with the Dragons is one of the richest in the NRL and he was full of praise when asked about the form of the club that rates him so highly. “I’ve watched a few of their games this year and I think they’ve got a quality side,” he said.”I don’t know if they are too wobbly. I know they are fighting to stay inside the top eight. I definitely think they have a quality side looking into the future.”The Dragons are sure to have their work cut out for them when they travel to Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, with Hunt leading a rejuvenated Broncos attack that has stacked on the points in recent weeks.Hunt has been a revelation since moving to hooker, adding another attacking dimension to the Broncos as they look to end their 11-year premiership drought. It is no coincidence that Brisbane have scored 86 points in the two weeks that Hunt has been in the No.9 jersey, with the Queensland Maroons representative doing a stellar job after taking over from the injured Andrew McCullough. A halfback at heart, Hunt is sacrificing his preferred position for the team and he hopes to be able to play 80 minutes at hooker in the near future. “Honestly I’d still rather be in the halves but I am enjoying it. Having two big wins makes it a bit easier,” Hunt said.”[The workload] is definitely a lot more, but in the two games I’ve played there’s been a lot of stoppages so I don’t think I’ve been tested too much. “In a couple of games I think I’ll be in a position where I can [play 80 minutes]. I’d like to have a crack at it.” read more