Sweet Potatoes or Yams for the Holidays? Both are Yummy!


By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

As the holidays draw near, we begin planning what to serve at special dinners. For those of us who are
middle-aged and raised in the South, some of our most precious holiday memories center on food and
good smells coming from the kitchen. One question comes up every year, “what is the difference
between a sweet potato and a yam?” Sweet potatoes were and still are dependable crops that can be
stored and used throughout the winter. For some folks, the smell of baked sweet potatoes, luscious pies
(baked or fried) and candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, remind us of the importance of
family and holiday traditions.

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), a New World crop from tropical America, were around in prehistoric
times. Yams (Dioscorea alata L.) are from West Africa and have been cultivated for about 50,000 years.
The African word nyami, referring to the starchy, edible root of the Dioscorea plants, was adopted in its
English form, yam. What many in the United States call yams are actually sweet potatoes. Although the
terms are generally used interchangeably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that the
label "yam" always be accompanied by “sweet potato”, however there is a difference between the two.
Yams are rough, scaly tubers with white-flesh that is dry and tastes very starchy. They must be boiled
first to remove alkaloids before you cook them. Sweet potatoes are smooth-skinned, moist and sweeter
tasting. They have one of the highest Vitamin A contents of any food and can be prepared a variety of
ways, but not all sweet potatoes are the same. There are several types of sweet potatoes. One type is
white-fleshed, somewhat drier tasting and preferred by some over the moist, yellow-fleshed ones. The
Jersey type is also yellow-fleshed, but is drier tasting than the normal moist yellow-fleshed sweet
potato. The Southern type is moist-fleshed, syrupy and sugary.

The amount of sugar in sweet potatoes varies with cultivars, however most of the current varieties are
quite sweet and are an excellent, concentrated source of vitamins and minerals. Sweet potatoes can be
boiled, fried, made into chips or candied, but to most of us sweet potato fans, baked is still best. You can
put sweet potatoes in a cold oven, turn it to 425 degrees for an hour or so, depending on the size of the
roots, and enjoy!

During the holidays I hope you will have the opportunity to enjoy some sweet potatoes or yams! And at
this time, I would like to give thanks for the many blessings I’ve received since I moved to North
Georgia 18 years ago. I work for an outstanding organization and with two great staffs, one in Gilmer
County and one in Fannin County. I know it’s a little early, but Happy Thanksgiving!
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Firewood Tips from the Gilmer County UGA Extension Agent


By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

To me there is nothing more calming than sitting in front of a fire on a cold winter’s night. Gas is efficient
and convenient, but it’s hard to replace the feeling of a wood fire. If you have fire burning devices, here
are a few tips to keep in mind when you are buying and burning wood this winter.

When firewood is first cut, it contains a good bit of water. One fresh-cut cord of oak may have enough
water to fill five and a half 55-gallon drums. In a wood-burning stove or fireplace, that wood has to dry
out before it will burn and boiling off all that water steals a lot of heat away from the house. Firewood
should be “seasoned” before it is burned in the house. In general, the term means the wood has dried to a level that will allow it to burn easily and give up a high proportion of its heat value. Well-seasoned
firewood will have dried to a point that less than 20 percent of its weight is water. So keep in mind that
when the wood is first cut, water makes up 40 percent to 50 percent of its weight.

How can you tell if firewood is dry enough to burn well? It’s not easy, but there are ways. One is to split
a fireplace log and look at the split surfaces. Recently cut wood will have a darker center with lighter,
drier-looking wood near edges or ends, and wet wood will be easier to split than dry wood. When
firewood is very fresh, the bark will be tightly attached. Bark on very dry logs can usually be pulled off
easily. You can also hit two pieces of wood together and if the sound is dull, then it’s full of water and
not dry enough to burn. When dry wood is hit together, it will give off a louder sound.

The real indication is weight. Because of the water in it, unseasoned wood is heavier. Use a bathroom
scale to compare a fixed volume (such as a cardboard boxful) of dry firewood with wood of unknown
moisture content. That will tell something about the degree of seasoning. At the same moisture content,
pound for pound, all wood produces about the same amount of heat. The difference is that some woods
are heavier than others. Oak and hickory logs weigh more than the same size sweet gum or pine logs.
That means you have to carry in and burn more pine or sweet gum logs to get the same amount of heat.
And because it has more natural resins, pine actually yields slightly more heat per pound than hardwoods.

The sticky, gum-like resins in pine firewood have given some people the impression that it produces more
residue buildup, called creosote, than hardwood but research has found this is not true. The buildup on
fireplace or wood heater walls, chimneys, and flue pipes seems more a result of burning wood at relatively
low temperatures. When wood is heated, some of its chemical makeup is first changed to a gas and later
ignited if the fire is hot enough but if the fire’s not hot enough, they become part of the smoke and if they
contact a surface cool enough, they’ll condense back to a liquid or a solid there. Over time, this layer of
creosote becomes thick enough that a hot fire will ignite it in place, causing a chimney fire. Filling a
wood stove at night and closing the damper to reduce airflow can keep a fire burning all night with no
more wood but it’s also likely to form creosote. Burning poorly seasoned wood also favors creosote
buildup because evaporating water cools the burning process. Burning small amounts of wood at high
temperatures is one solution to the problem, but doing that by hand makes for busy and sleepless nights.

If you are buying wood, make sure you and the seller are talking the same language. A cord is an official
measurement and its 4 feet wide, by 4 feet high, and 8 feet long. Wood is often sold as a face cord but it
is not an official measurement. A face cord is 1/3 of a cord because the pile is 16 inches wide instead of 4
feet wide. If you are buying it by the pickup load, keep in mind that a small truck has about ¼ of a cord, a
half ton truck about ½ of a cord, and a long bed with racks might contain close to a cord.

So as the nights get cooler enjoy your fire burning devices, but use them appropriately with the proper
wood. Also, if you did not change your smoke detector battery when the time changed, now is a good
time to do it. Safety in the home is very important. For more information, contact me in the Gilmer
County UGA Extension office.

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Survey Weeds Now



By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Late summer/early fall is an excellent time for you to survey or map the weeds in your pastures, hay
fields, orchards, and lawns, but it’s not the best time to spray. The majority of weeds growing in early fall
are usually summer annuals and summer perennials. Many people want to control summer annual weeds
that are present, but treatments now are usually unsuccessful. Your time would be better spent mapping
out your control strategy for next year.

Herbicides are usually more effective on weeds that are young and actively growing. The large size of
summer weeds makes them easy to identify for mapping out heavy infestations or "hot spots." Knowing
which weeds might be causing a problem and their location in the field allows you to develop a control
strategy for next year’s summer weeds.

For example, with fall here, many pastures are turning a brilliant shade of yellow. This is usually from a
problem weed called bitter sneezeweed but it could also be ragweed. Late summer or fall is not the
preferred time to control bitter sneezeweed or ragweed. Instead, controlling them in the seedling stage of
growth is cheaper and more effective but this is determined by scouting your lawn or pasture now.
Remember that proper identification is critical. A heavy frost is probably the best control for summer
annuals in the fall, but if you want to control them from spring thru summer, make notes now.

The key to low cost weed control is to match the most cost effective herbicide to the weed problem and
then apply the herbicide at the correct time of the year. The correct identification is needed so that you
can apply the correct herbicide. Keep in mind that there are two basic categories of herbicides. The two
categories are pre-emergence and post-emergence.

A pre-emergent herbicide is applied before the weed appears. This also means before the seed
germinates. If you plan to use a pre-emergent herbicide, it is extremely important to know what weeds
you had this year because chances are those are the weeds you will have next year. You can however
apply a pre-emergent now for winter weeds. One tool to keep in mind is the UGA weather network found
at www.georgiaweather.net which will give you soil temperatures so you can determine if it’s warm
enough for a seed to germinate. In the spring seeds usually germinate when the soil temperature is around
60 degrees.

A post-emergent herbicide works after the weed has germinated, but you need to apply it early in the
growth cycle as the weed is easier to kill when it is small. There are exceptions, but in general, late May
and early June are the preferred times to control summer annuals. Most weeds will be in the seedling to
early vegetative growth stage at this time and will be more susceptible to control by the herbicide. For
winter weeds November is a good time to apply a post-emergent.

For more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

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Foxtail…Harmful Pasture Weed


By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

You might be asking yourself “just what is a foxtail?” Foxtail is an invasive weed in pastures and
hayfields that produces a seedhead with hurtful sharp awns. The weed gets its name because the seed head
looks like a fox’s tail. Livestock likes to feed on the plant when it’s young because it’s full of protein and
very palatable. However, mature foxtail plants are less palatable, have poor digestibility, and are full of
sharp seeds. Hay quality can be greatly impacted by the presence of foxtail seedheads. Foxtail
populations often out-compete hayfield grasses for light, water, and nutrients required to optimize yields.
The identification of the foxtail species is critical for planning control programs in pastures and hayfields.

Annual foxtail species found in Georgia include giant foxtails (Setaria faberi), green foxtails (S. viridis),
and yellow foxtails (S. pumila). These species establish from seed in spring, exhibit vegetative growth in
summer, and complete their lifecycles in autumn. Annual foxtails have a clumped growth habit with
fibrous root systems. Giant foxtail seedheads are cylindrical panicles that often droop upon plant maturity.
The seedheads of green and yellow foxtail have a linear, erect growth pattern.

Knot root foxtail (Setaria parviflora) is a warm-season perennial with short rhizomes. This species may
rapidly infest grazed pastures when forage competition is limited. The seedhead is a cylindrical panicle,
similar to other foxtails, but with a more compacted size than the annual species. Knot root foxtail may
germinate from seed or from rhizomes in spring. The rhizomatous growth contributes to the invasiveness
of the species and persistence in pastures and hayfields.

Promoting competitive growth of pasture species with foxtail populations is critical for long-term
successful control. Annual foxtails begin to germinate in early spring when soil temperatures reach
approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The lifecycle of these species is predictable, and therefore, growers
can modify management programs to reduce spring establishment. For example, nitrogen fertilization
should be reduced during peak germination in areas with a history of foxtail populations. Excessive
nitrogen use in summer will also encourage seed production, dispersal, and survival. Grazing may
suppress foxtail populations and minimize competition with pasture species. Mechanical suppression
through mowing can inhibit foxtail growth and limit the spread of seed in pastures.

Actively growing foxtail plants will regenerate seedheads within about two weeks of mowing. Therefore,
regular mowing may be needed for effective suppression in grazed pastures. Mowing does not eradicate
foxtails, and seedhead suppression may only be temporary. Practices that disturb the soil, such as
aeration, sub-soiling, or tilling operations, should be conducted when pasture grasses are actively
growing. Voids left in fields with exposed soil may permit foxtail invasion. Timing these operations
during favorable periods for quick recovery promotes competition with foxtails. In tall fescue and cool-
season forages, growers should reseed thinned areas to promote competition with foxtails establishing in

Foxtail can be controlled with herbicides. There are pre-emergent and post-emergent ones that are labeled
to control foxtail species. Please read the label to choose the right herbicide to use in your forage and
always follow the instructions when using herbicides. For more information contact me in the Gilmer
County UGA Extension office or visit:

https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201464_1.PDF to read the entire bulletin
in the publications section of our website.

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