Tim Coolong, an associate Extension professor at the University of Kentucky for the past six years, is the new vegetable horticulturist for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“The fresh vegetable industry in Georgia is ranked third nationally so there’s a tremendous opportunity to have an impact and work with some really good people,” said Coolong, who will be located on the UGA campus in Tifton, Ga., the center of the state’s growing vegetable industry.

Coolong, who started July 1, will work with all vegetables, but the bulk of his time will be spent on vegetables with the most acreage in the state: watermelons, sweet corn, peppers, beans, cucumbers and onions, on which Coolong did his graduate work.

“I’m going to try to develop more variety trials to get some needed information to growers in Georgia and also look at some fertility [issues],” he said. “I think based on the way some other states have gone with an emphasis on run-off with water quality, I think having updated fertility data for crops would be helpful.”

Vegetables generated more than $781 million in revenue for the state, according to the 2011 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report. Of all Georgia-grown vegetables, onions generated the most revenue in Georgia in 2011 with $159 million or 20.36 percent of production. Watermelons were second at 12.6 percent and bell peppers were third at 9.9 percent.

“Certainly in Kentucky, a lot of people got their livelihoods from farms in terms of sheer acreage. The growers in Georgia are up there as far as national leaders. This is a huge responsibility to be able to be there to support them with good applied research,” Coolong said. “It’s something I’m not taking lightly, that’s for sure.”