Research news: A sod shortage, soil DNA, and direction-giving chimps

A roundup of studies, surveys, and experiments conducted by local universities

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We don’t want to alarm y’all, but evidently there will be a Georgia sod shortage this year. The Georgia Urban Ag Council and University of Georgia surveyed sod producers and learned inventories will be low. On the plus side, from the producers’ perspective at least, prices will be up—to “historic levels” for Bermuda and centipede grasses, according to UGA turfgrass specialist Clint Waltz. If you want to support farmers—turf represents an $84 million business in Georgia—invest in that lawn project.

In other grass-related news, Georgia Tech researchers determined that climate change affects the DNA of soil. The Tech team heated air above patches of Oklahoma grassland and found that grass in warmer spots grew faster, and in response, the dirt below changed its DNA to cope with carbon released by the speedily sprouting plants.

If you want evidence of our similarities to our simian cousins, consider this: Chimpanzees can give directions. In an experiment conducted at Georgia State, food was hidden in a space occupied by two chimps. When a researcher entered the space, the chimpanzees used gestures to direct the researcher to the stashed goodies, in a manner the scientists compared to the kids game “warmer/colder.”

This article originally appeared in our April 2014 issue.

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