New species

first_imgHis drinking water smelled like old bait-shrimp, and the Putnam County homeowner wanted Keith Fielder, the local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent, to tell him why. What they found swimming around in his well still hasn’t been identified.Water quality specialists with the UGA Environmental Services Laboratory used a submersible camera to help identify the problem at the waterfront home on Lake Sinclair. “As we lowered the camera, we noticed flashes coming by the lens,” Fielder said. “When we reached the bottom, something swam by the lens, stopped and then swam by again. We all looked at each other like ‘What in the world was that?’ When we looked at the tape later, they were everywhere.”It turns out what they saw back in May 2006 was an unidentified isopod, similar to a small shrimp. They were being chewed up by the well pump, collecting in the filter and causing the smell and concern. A large crack in the well casing was found, too, which allowed water to flow in and maybe the creatures. Wire traps baited with bits of fresh fish were used to catch some of the isopods. Eleven specimens were caught and sent to experts at universities and research facilities across the U.S. Scientists at Penn State University and Texas A&M University at Galveston identified the organism as an asellid isopod. But it didn’t match any known species. George Wilson, a scientist at the Center for Evolutionary Research at the Australian Museum of Natural History, determined the organism didn’t match any specimen in any catalog of known asellid. Both female and male organisms were identified of what was determined to be an unknown species of asellidae and possibly a new genus.Back in Georgia, Fielder and other UGA Extension agents continue to use the camera as a diagnostic tool to solve well mysteries.“We’ve had a lot of fun with this camera and we’ve seen a lot of interesting things,” Fielder said. “It was really neat to find the isopod. The more we use it, the more unusual things we will find.”The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provides access to five cameras stationed across Georgia, one in each of the four UGA Extension districts and another at the AESL in Athens. UGA Extension agents have access to the cameras and the training to operate them. The brainchild of the late Paul Vendrell, a CAES water quality program coordinator, the concept grew from a camera fishermen use for scouting. Similar cameras are also used by professionals in the drilling industries. “Vendrell developed the methodology to use it in an extension environment to help homeowners,” he said. “It is a simple, efficient, practical tool and has become a very real way of helping people.”The camera has an automatic depth-tracking feature, which helps precisely locate problem areas. In addition to isopods, the camera has pinpointed faulty sub-surface geology, well casing failures, surface water intrusion and bad well equipment.“We find all kinds of stuff down in wells,” Fielder said. “We find some pretty well-established bacteria colonies that link and chain up into bio-films. They are almost sponge-like and attach to walls and casings. Folks just don’t want to see that down their wells.” Fish have been found in some wells and tree roots are a common find. Pieces of metal or trash have also been found, along with cell phones, hair dryers and dead rodents. “Most people don’t care to know they have stuff swimming in their drinking water,” Fielder said. “The more wells we drop a camera down, there is no telling what we will find.”last_img read more

Ag Forecast: Peanuts

first_imgUniversity of Georgia agricultural experts will give a forecast of agriculture in the coming year at a series of events set across the state in January. The new year looks bright for Georgia livestock producers, but not for many row crop farmers.Georgia Ag Forecast is an annual seminar series that informs Georgia producers and industry leaders about the market outlooks for different commodities.Economists from the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED) and UGA Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will share their views about future markets for such commodities as cotton, peanuts, corn and livestock.The annual seminar series will be held Jan. 14-23 in Gainesville, Cartersville, Bainbridge, Lyons, Tifton and Macon. Extension livestock economists will present Georgia cattlemen with encouraging news.“I think, in 2015, cattlemen will be looking at pretty similar prices to what they had this past year, depending on when they sold. Last year we started off the year somewhere around $1.80 per pound for a 500-pound calf. That market today is almost $2.75. You’ve seen almost a $1 increase in a year,” said Curt Lacy, the Extension livestock economist based on the UGA campus in Tifton. Farmers who sold their stock in January or February of 2014 are going to receive a much better price this year, he said. Lacy expects prices to remain high, which is good news for cattlemen in Miller, Colquitt and Early counties. Those three south Georgia counties finished in the top 10 in farm gate values for beef cow production in 2013, according to the UGA CAED, joining Morgan, Madison, Carroll, Wilkes, Franklin, Jackson and Coffee counties.“I think, in general, this is about where we’re going to be for the next year or two,” Lacy said.While cattlemen can expect good news at this year’s Ag Forecast events, row crop farmers will get disappointing news. Cotton prices are hovering at 60 cents per pound, peanuts are $400 per ton and corn prices are around $4.10 per bushel. Those are discouraging figures for Georgia farmers who are planning next year’s crops. “It’s not as rosy a forecast for row crops as we’ve had in years past,” said UGA Extension agricultural economist Nathan Smith. For peanut growers, the news is especially grim as prices could fall even more as acreage is expected to increase in 2015, Smith said. “This year is more of a getting-by year, in terms of cash flow. The outlook isn’t as bright for row crops,” he said.Nearly 1,000 business people, producers and community leaders attended the seminars in 2014.“The main objective of the Ag Forecast seminar series is to provide Georgia producers and agribusiness leaders with information on where we think the industry is headed in the upcoming year,” said Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA CAED. “It helps farmers plan what they’re going to plant in the next year, but it’s also good for bankers and others who do business with farmers or who will be impacted by the farm economy.”The Georgia Ag Forecast seminar series is organized by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This series is made possible through the Georgia Farm Bureau Land Grant University Lecture Series Endowment and is supported by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Agribusiness Council.For more information or to register for the 2015 Ag Forecast series, see www.georgiaagforecast.com, follow @UGA_CollegeofAg on Twitter or search for #agforecast on social media.last_img read more

Rio Tinto to close New Zealand smelter, 1,000 jobs to go

first_imgIt said it would wind down operations over the next 14 months.Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said the firm recognized the decision would have a significant impact on employees and the local community.NZAS is a joint venture between Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Chemical Company of Japan that employs around 1,000 people directly and accounts for a further 1,600 indirect jobs in the area. Rio Tinto owns almost 80 percent of the operations while Sumitomo has a 20-percent stake. Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto announced Thursday it will close its New Zealand smelter with the loss of at least 1,000 jobs, saying the operation is no longer economically viable. New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, the largest employer in the southern New Zealand province of Southland, lost NZ$46 million (US$30 million) last year. A strategic review by Rio Tinto found the factory was no longer viable “due to energy costs that are some of the highest in the industry globally, coupled with a challenging short- to medium-term aluminium outlook”, the company said in a statement.  “It is very unfortunate we could not find a solution with our partners to secure a power price reduction aimed at making NZAS a financially viable business,” Barrios said. “We will therefore terminate the power contract and move to close the operation.”The smelter is New Zealand’s largest electricity user, accounting for about 13 percent of the country’s entire output.It has faced difficulties before and received a NZ$30 million ($20 million) government bailout in 2013 in return for Rio guaranteeing it would stay open for another four years.The government has since said it would not offer more financial support.Topics :last_img read more