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Frost monitor

first_imgIn Georgia, you can pretty much count on cold weather from October to March. People can protect themselves by staying indoors or wearing warm clothes. It’s not as easy for crops. Accurate temperatures and weather observations are vital to farmers. Cold temperatures in fall, winter or late spring can threaten row crops, fruit trees and horticultural plants. Exposure to freezing temperatures can result in significant damage or even total crop loss. To get the weather data they need, hundreds of thousands turn to the University of Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network, a collection of 75 weather stations located across the state. There is a station in South Carolina and one in the middle of Lake Seminole too. “The potential for frost damage depends on local conditions,” said Joel Paz, UGA Cooperative Extension agrometeorologist. “Monitoring can prevent and/or minimize frost damage.” Frost damage causes more economic damage, he said, than any other weather-related phenomenon. North Georgia vineyards need frost data to protect grapes, said Greg Sheppard, a UGA Extension agent in Lumpkin County. “People with commercial fruit operations watch temperatures and anticipate upcoming weather,” Sheppard said. “Grapes are sensitive to a late frost. The critical time is in the spring when they begin to bud out. When they start to swell, they become susceptible to frost.” A new prediction model on the weather stations provides hourly air temperature predictions up to 12 hours ahead. “The information can be used in decision making when localized future air temperatures is an important factor, like in frost protection for fruits, vegetables and ornamentals,” said Gerrit Hoogenboom, a professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences who started the network in 1991. In south Georgia, blueberry farmers watch frost predictions carefully so they can protect their early-blooming Southern highbush variety. “Frost protection is important for blueberries,” said Bob Boland, the UGA Extension coordinator in Brantley County. “We use the weather information to tell us when to turn on the irrigation system to protect the berries. Our growers are using the forecasting tool to help us hone in on when to utilize the irrigation system to prevent frost damage.” Each weather station monitors air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, soil temperature, soil moisture and barometric pressure. It’s updated every 15 minutes and is posted to the Web site www.Georgiaweather.net. Users can obtain average temperature, total rainfall, average soil temperature and calculate chilling hours and degree-days for a selected period.“We have used the site a lot to monitor rainfall and report on the drought,” Sheppard said. “Commercial landscapers use the information to determine the optimum time to apply pre-emergent crabgrass killers.” Boland said hay and peanut farmers use the network, too. “We are fortunate to have this tool in Georgia. It is a vital tool,” he said. The weather data isn’t just for farmers. “Our network is the densest network across the state and the largest network in the Southeast,” Hoogenboom said. “The National Weather Service uses our data for reporting.”The National Agriculture Statistics Service uses the data for weekly crop-progress reports. The Georgia Forestry Commission uses the information to issue daily fire predictions. One weather station was recently installed on UGA’s Costa Rican campus, funded through a donation. “It is a very unique site, high in the mountains and next to a wildlife reserve,” Hoogenboom said. “The weather station could help with organic coffee growing nearby, and it could help with pest management.”Additional weather information can be found at www.georgiaweather.net.last_img read more

Govt sole sources substandard ware-“house” for drugs

first_imgPharmaceutical farce…conducted own evaluation; pays $150M annuallyTransparency and Accountability – or rather the lack thereof – was on full display on Monday as Government sought to defend almost $1 billion it had advanced from the Contingencies Fund to meet “unforeseen” expenditures.Public Health Minister, Dr George NortonHealth Minister Dr George Norton was prodded to provide answers to the Members of Parliament in relation to a new company with which the Public Health Ministry has contracted to store pharmaceuticals.The MPs were told that Ministry of Public Health engaged a company named Linden Holdings Company.Secret contract onpharmaceuticalsThat company has its registered office as 176 Middle Street, Cummingsburg—the same address as the Sidewalk Café, owned by Telecommunications Minister Catherine Hughes.The bond for Linden Holdings Company is said to be located in Sussex Street, Charlestown, and the company’s principal listed as Larry Singh.The House was told that a three-year contract has been entered with the company for rental at some $12.5 million a month, only began in March of this year; and as such was not catered for in the original budget, hence the advance from the Contingencies  Fund.Dr Norton told the House that the resort to have another facility for use to store government pharmaceuticalOpposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeirawas since the NEW GPC Inc was asking an exorbitant fee.He did confirm to the House that NEW GPC has in fact only this year began receiving payment for the storage of drugs and medical supplies for government.The NEW GPC storage warehouse facility of 30,000 square feet had been provided free of cost to the GHPC and the Min of Health for a decade-and-a-half. It has the necessary equipment, staff, IT, security, certification and sanitation to comply with WHO/PAHO standards. The facility also has three separate temperature control zones for the storage of temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals in addition to a separate area for the storage of controlled substances. It also has testing facilities.The Government claimed that it would store all its pharmaceuticals at its Diamond Warehouse facility which was built at a cost of $100 million.Grilled on the suitability of the new storage facility being used by the Public Health Ministry and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Dr Norton said it was built to PAHO/WHO standards but when asked to produce a certificate to this effect, the Health Minister was unable to do so.In fact, he said that it was the Ministry which evaluated the company’s facility and decided on its suitability.People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament Dr Frank Anthony drew the House’s attention to the fact that under the PEPFAR arrangement, there is a requirement for the facilities to meet international standards.On the matter of whether there was any public tendering in the selection of Linden Holdings Company, Dr Norton said this did not obtain since the facility was required on an emergency basis.Acknowledging that government is looking to end all such arrangements with private facilities, Dr Norton said the initial contract is for three years but could not give a definitive answer as to when government is looking to end using private facilities.Dr Norton was also asked to make a copy of the contract between the Ministry and Linden Holdings Company and its terms and conditions available to the House, but according to the Public Health Minister, he would be unable to do so until both parties (Govt and Linden Holdings Company) agreed to have the document made publicly available.He said the arrangement with Linden Holdings Company was done through sole sourcing with the approval of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board, in addition to a No-Objection offered by Cabinet.The matter was subsequently raised in the House, since in addition to the allocations from the Contingency Fund, the Ministry of Public Health sought an additional $62.5 million for the storage of pharmaceutical to be met from the Consolidated Fund.Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira at this time vehemently objected to the use of the facility since according to the Former Health Minister, the building was unsuitable for the storage of pharmaceuticals for the people of this country.Teixeira told the House that not only is the building not appropriate, it is a private residence with garbage strewn at its entrance in addition to a lack of security and basic amenities such as windows.Opposition speakers objected in vain to the allocation since the new arrangement entered into by Government is for the monthly payments of $12.5 million when NEW GPC had previously offered the same service to Government free of cost.“This is a building costing $12.5 million a month when we were getting NEW GPC free for four years…We have a right to ask about the quality of this building.”last_img read more

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