University of Georgia Professor Marc van Iersel and storied former University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley are teaming up to improve the state of horticulture in Georgia.
Van Iersel, a horticulturist who researches smart greenhouse production systems, was recently granted the Vincent J. Dooley Professorship in Horticulture.
The UGA Athletic Association endowed the professorship in ornamental horticulture in 2004. The endowment, which provides extra funding to a faculty member working to improve the science of ornamental horticulture, was created to honor Dooley’s love of gardening.
While he may be best known for his years serving as coach and athletic director at UGA, gardeners across the Southeast know Dooley more for his experience tending hedges than for the years he spent between them.
“The gracious gift given by the athletic association to honor Coach Dooley via this named professorship is greatly appreciated by the horticulture department,” said Doug Bailey, professor and head of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Horticulture. “I can think of no one more deserving than Dr. van Iersel to hold this position. His innovative research in smart systems continues to reap benefits for ornamental producers and those of us who enjoy their products.”
Van Iersel, who serves as a professor in and graduate coordinator for the Department of Horticulture, has been a champion of sustainable practices in the green industry since arriving at UGA in 1995. His work with smart irrigation systems in greenhouse and nursery production settings are already helping producers use one-half to one-third of the water they did with traditional irrigation systems while producing healthier plants.
His recent work has focused on highly controlled greenhouse LED lighting systems, which use carbon dioxide sensors, light sensors, moisture sensors and other data collection tools to control artificial light in a greenhouse. The goal is to produce the healthiest possible greenhouse plants with the least energy. The $15,000 a year in funding that comes with the Dooley professorship will help to fund that work.
“These funds will help me recruit another graduate student to work on the use of LED lights for supplemental lighting in greenhouses,” said van Iersel. “LEDs are still new technology for greenhouses, and we are working on ways to make the use of these lights as cost-effective as possible.”
In addition to his research, van Iersel has taught and mentored hundreds of UGA horticulture students over the last 20 years and has held many roles in horticultural academic societies. Six of his former graduate students are now faculty members at other universities. He has published more than 120 academic papers and has made more than 230 academic and industry presentations internationally.
(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)