By April SorrowUniversity of GeorgiaGeorgia Vidalia onions and peaches need wintry temperatures to produce their best in spring and summer. So far, conditions have been excellent, say University of Georgia experts. “Right now, the Vidalia onion crop is progressing very nicely. We expect acreage to be pretty stable,” said Reid Torrance, the UGA Cooperative Extension coordinator in Tattnall County, where 60 percent of the crop is grown. Approximately 80 percent of the expected 12,000 acres has been planted. Recent rain has made planting more difficult. “We are having to hop around to find fields dry enough for planting,” he said. He expects farmers to grow 600 acres of organic Vidalia onions, a 50 percent increase over last year.“Onions are very tolerant to cold when they are young,” Torrance said. “But, we don’t want a real cold winter. Temperatures in the low teens and single digits bring a risk of cold injury. By the same token, a warm fall and early winter can cause onions to grow too much too soon.” Several winters in the 1980s wiped out the crop. But more cold-tolerant varieties now help prevent that, he said. The last devastating freeze happened in 1996. Improved varieties and management has helped farmers control diseases in recent years, too.Onion farmers seed planting beds in September and transplant the young plants from the beds to fields in November and December. They harvest onions in April and May. To be an official Vidalia onion, the onion must grow in one of only 20 counties in southeast Georgia designated by the Vidalia Onion Act of 1986.While onions use the cool winter months to mature underground, Georgia peach trees need chill hours, or hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, to stay dormant. This helps them bloom properly in the spring and produce fruit in the summer. “Depending on the variety, Georgia peaches like to get between 400 and 1,100 chill hours between October and Feb. 15,” said Frank Funderburk, UGA Extension coordinator in Peach County.Georgia has 12,000 to 14,000 acres of peaches scattered throughout the state. But most grow in central Georgia. As of Dec. 8, Peach County had received 375 chill hours. “We are ahead of the last three years. We are looking good,” he said.In recent years it hasn’t been a lack of chill hours, but rather a late freeze that hurt the crop. Freezes in 2007 and 2008 cut the crop by half, he said. “We can make a crop with low chill hours, but we won’t make a crop if temperatures drop too low after buds start to develop,” Funderburk said. A freeze in 1996 destroyed the entire crop.“We are hoping for a better year in 2009. By mid-January we will have a good idea of where we are,” he said. (April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
The total value of Vermont construction contracts this year through October were down 23 percent as federal funding for highway and bridge construction waned. But both residential and commercial spending showed modest gains after two years of sluggish building in each. Residential was up 16 percent for the year-to-date and commercial was up 12 percent. New Hampshire showed a similar rebound in residential and commercial construction.Meanwhile, total US construction spending increased by 0.7 percent in October, driven largely by growing demand for power projects and public construction, the Associated General Contractors of America noted today in an analysis of new Census Bureau data. The new data, however, indicated continued weakness in many construction categories, including private nonresidential and single family construction, association officials observed.‘Without any upward trend in key private-sector construction components like homes and office buildings, it is hard to feel optimistic about the near future,’ said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. ‘With public construction at risk of cutbacks, it is premature to conclude that construction has awakened from its long nightmare.’Simonson commented that power construction increased by 8.8 percent between September and October at a seasonally adjusted rate, although the total remained 3.9 percent below the year-ago level. Public construction, aided by federal spending on stimulus, military base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane-control projects, edged up 0.4 percent for the month and 2.2 percent year-over-year.Private nonresidential construction, however, slumped 0.7 percent in October, leaving the total 20.7 percent below the October 2009 figure. All 11 of the Census Bureau’s private nonresidential categories were below year-ago levels, Simonson added, with only private power and transportation showing gains from September.Private residential investment jumped 2.5 percent for the month. However, Simonson cautioned that the apparent leap is attributable to a 3.2 percent advance in new multi-family construction and a 6.2 percent rise in improvements to existing properties, whereas single-family construction sank 1.2 percent for the month.Association officials said that a proposal released today by the Deficit Commission to increase investments in highways, bridges and transit system construction provided some room for optimism. They urged Congress to embrace the transportation proposal, noting it would help the economy over the long run while giving a much-needed boost to short term construction demand.‘The best way to reduce the deficit and simultaneously support a strong and expanding economy is to invest in our aging network of highways, bridges and transit systems,’ said Stephen E. Sandherr. ‘Even as the broader report calls for dramatic reductions in federal spending, it is clear that our country can’t afford to neglect its infrastructure.’View Census Bureau data.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Manuel Pellegrini knows all about difficult owners, off-the-field problems, press scrutiny and elevated expectations from his time at Real Madrid and Malaga. So the Chilean should have an idea of exactly what he can expect at Manchester City.He has already been written off by some sectors of the British media as a big-spending foreigner with a modest trophy record, the same press pack hailing the appointment of David Moyes at City’s local rivals Manchester United.The Scot, incidentally, has never won a major trophy. But that’s okay because, well, he hails from the British Isles. Pellegrini? He’s from Chile. When did a South American ever succeed as manager in the Premier League? Oh, and he has an Italian surname. Like Mancini. Cardinal sins, clearly…Pellegrini won’t care, of course. The Chilean coach is a former central defender turned trainer with a very accomplished record (including several trophies in South America) at almost all of his sides, mostly modest teams by the way, which makes comparing his win percentage with Mancini’s (as the Daily Mail did on Monday) a futile exercise. He is also a fully qualified civil engineer. How many British bosses can claim that?Laid-back and likeable, Pellegrini will work with dignity and bring a brand of football which will please City fans after the pragmatic Mancini era. A beautiful building must be strong and solid too, however, and El Ingeniero’s sides sit on strong bases. Defensive stability allows creative flow.It is an approach mixing science and art, brawn and beauty. And it works.But what about Real Madrid? Pellegrini ‘spent’ €200 million and still won nothing, they say. This is, at best, a half-truth. The Chilean was caught in the centre of a power battle at the Santiago Bernabeu, was ignored by president Florentino Perez, viciously attacked by the local media and had little or no say when it came to player recruitment, despite the outrageous outlay in the summer of 2009, which saw Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka signed but Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder shipped out against his wishes.“I didn’t have a voice or a vote at Madrid,” he told El Mercurio in an interview in 2010, while also lamenting his inability to build the side he had wanted at Real. “I can’t get anything out of an orchestra if I have the 10 best guitarists but I don’t have a pianist or a drummer.”It was essentially all over for Pellegrini after his Madrid side lost 4-0 at lowly Alcorcon in the Copa del Rey. Not even 96 points in La Liga (the club’s best-ever total at the time) could save him, even though his team had been without Cristiano Ronaldo for almost two months and pushed Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Barcelona all the way to the end of the season.Duly discarded by Madrid, Pellegrini decided to rebuild his reputation at Malaga and took the Andalusians to within seconds of the Champions League semi-finals this term, despite summer sales (including the team’s finest player, Santi Cazorla), uncertainty over unpaid player bonuses and chaotic behaviour from club owners, who left him very much in the dark over the finances and the future of the team – as well as his own.All of that will help Pellegrini ahead of his Manchester City adventure. The Chilean has been strengthened by his experiences at Madrid and Malaga, and should feel much more comfortable with (Spanish speaker) Txiki Begiristain in the role of sporting director. It is a Barcelona blueprint in tune with his philosophy, while the Chilean’s football ideology is also in keeping with the views of Beigiristain, who is keen to install a 4-3-3 formation from top to bottom at City, in the youth sides all the way up to the first team.That may take time. Pellegrini has favoured 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2 for much of his career. He built a spectacular side at Villarreal with that formation, leading the small-town club to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2006 and winning many admirers with a brand of football which succeeded in combining Latin American flavour with European efficiency.At Malaga, meanwhile, he has used both of those systems, as well as an effective 4-2-3-1. Stability, however, remains key and the 59-year-old is unlikely to agree to a switch to 4-3-3 unless he believes he has the players to succeed in that system – or until he can bring them in.Tactically, Pellegrini is an upgrade on Mancini. He has shown at Villarreal, Madrid and Malaga that he is comfortable using a number of formations and, wherever he has been, he has made the team better than before.In the two games against Dortmund recently, his defensive organisation frustrated the German side and had it not been for the Andalusians’ late capitulation, it would have been Malaga in the semi-finals up against Madrid and not BVB. Indeed, Pellegrini’s pedigree in Europe is one of the things City will have been attracted to, especially following their two disappointing Champions League campaigns under Mancini, while the Chilean’s man-management skills will help bring the best out of a side which seems primed for greatness.At Madrid, the players backed him until the end; at Malaga they love him. At City, they will too. And if he wins, will anyone really care that he isn’t British?