Faculty Under the Limelight

Sarah Lowder Assistant Professor, Viticulture Extension Specialist; Emphasis: Viticulture

Dr. Sarah Lowder, Assistant Professor and Viticulture Extension Specialist

We welcome Dr. Sarah Lowder as our new Viticulturist in the Department of Horticulture. Dr. Lowder completed her PhD in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University under Dr. Walt Mahaffee. Dr. Lowder is an Assistant Professor and Viticulture Extension Specialist. She officially started March 1, 2023.

Sarah’s doctoral research focused on developing and evaluating rapid and cost-effective disease disease monitoring tools for grape growers across the US with a focus on grape powdery mildew (GPM) caused by Erysiphe necator. The tools developed from her work have been adapted to monitor other diseases and to detect fungicide resistance. The glove-based spore sampler is very sensitive for detection of the E. necator and provides for similar spore count information (with less time and equipment) to airborne spore impaction traps. Additionally, Dr. Lowder secured a grant to investigate more effective and efficient methods for engaging growers, exploring barriers to adopting cooperative practices. While on this project, she mapped the extensive networks with growers, industry professionals and stakeholders in multiple US grape growing regions. 

Since joining the faculty this summer, Mar 2023, Dr. Lowder has had a great start. She has been traveling around to meet grape growers across the state and develop a better understanding of their needs. Erstwhile, she has worked with Extension Agents to conduct several research trials investigating shoot thinning requirements for hybrid bunch grapes, and a Pierce's Disease treatment. She has also been investigating different vine spacing outcomes on two different muscadine cultivars at the horticulture research farm, Additionally, she completed her first summer running the Winegrowers of Georgia Internship. Four UGA undergraduate students spent the summer working with winegrowers throughout the state of Georgia. She made her first trip to Italy in preparation for our Maymester 2024 study abroad course, UGA Cortona-Viticulture and Enology in the Mediterranean Region (HORT/PATH/FDST 3050). In spring semester 2024, Dr. Lowder will be teaching HORT 4310/6310, Vineyard Production and Management. She also has initiated several extension publications. We are excited to have Dr. Lowder on our team and see a bright future with her in our Viticulture program.

Kate Cassity-Duffey Assistant Professor; Emphasis: Organic production

Dr. Kate Cassity-Duffey, Assistant Professor of Organic Horticulture Production 

Dr. Kate Cassity-Duffey was hired in the fall of 2021 and comes to Horticulture with a strong relationship with UGA. Dr. Cassity-Duffey is a double dawg having received her B.S.A. in Horticulture (2010) and her Ph.D. in Crops and Soil Sciences (2014). She gained experience with hands-on agriculture working at the student farm at Warren Wilson College, where she fell in love with the science of growing food, specifically using natural materials to improve organic crop production.  After transferring to UGA, she dived into the Horticulture program.  As an undergraduate she was an active volunteer at both the Hort Club and the UGA Trial Gardens. During her Ph.D., Kate studied nutrient cycling and worked in modeling nitrogen mineralization and volatilization.

Following her Ph.D., Kate worked as a post-doctoral researcher in the UGA Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. She conducted both field and laboratory research focused on nitrogen mineralization and volatilization from organic fertilizers and poultry liter. She self-funded a post-doctoral research project that led to the development of an online calculator that farmers can use to determine nitrogen availability for plants from applied organic fertilizers and poultry liter (https://aesl.ces.uga.edu/calculators/nitrogen/).

In her new faculty role, Dr. Cassity-Duffey continues her cycle of teaching and learning at UGA. We are very excited about the robust research program that she is developing. Her professional goal is to increase organic agricultural production and recognition in the state of Georgia (and Southeast) by addressing regionally specific issues through a multidisciplinary approach to encourage profitable organic production. She provides significant outreach to farmers in Georgia and the Southeast as well as to UGA Extension educators. In short order, she has secured significant sponsored funding having secured a $500,000 USDA NIFA ORG Transitions grant and is Co-PI on a grant from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and a USDA NIFI OREI grant. We are excited to have Dr. Cassity-Duffey added to our faculty and the opportunities she’ll bring to organic farming in our state.