To help keep diseases out of your winter annual flowerbeds, University of Georgia plant pathologist Jean Williams-Woodward recommends starting with disease-resistant plants.“Selecting powdery mildew resistant cultivars of crape myrtles is easy. Just buy the ones with the Indian names,” said Williams-Woodward, a scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. These include the white flowering, ‘Natchez’ and the lavender flowering ‘Muskogee.’ Selecting disease resistant flowering annuals takes a little more thought.Pick the right varietiesWhen adding pansies to your winter landscape, she recommends selecting from this list of leaf spot resistant varieties: ‘Bingo Red & Yellow,’ ‘Crown Blue,’ ‘Crown Golden,’ ‘Crystal Bowl Supreme Yellow,’ ‘Crystal Bowl True Blue,’ ‘Dynamite Red & Yellow,’ ‘Majestic Giants Yellow’ and ‘Viola Sorbet Blackberry Cream.’ “Leaf spot resistance doesn’t mean they are totally immune to disease,” she said. “It means they get less disease than a susceptible variety.”If Patiola pansies are your flower of choice, Williams-Woodard recommends buying Purple Passion Mix, Pure Yellow, Pure Lemon and Pure Orange. These varieties are all less susceptible to Cercospora leaf spot than the Colossus series cultivars, she said.Remove infected plantsThis season Williams-Woodward expects to see snapdragons and pansies with downy mildew. This disease likes wet, humid and cooler weather. “The best control method is to remove the downy mildew infected plants because it spreads very fast,” she said. “You can send the plants to me because I personally love mildews. Once it spreads in your flowerbed, you won’t be able to control it.”Impatiens, another Georgia landscape favorite, is often infected by downy mildew. Williams-Woodward says home landscapers who saw the disease on their impatiens last year, will see it again if they plant in the same spot. “It can be hard to spot the symptoms – rapid defoliation, subtle leaf discoloration, downward cupping of leaves and white sporulation on the leaf underside – but eventually your impatiens will look like bare stems or twigs,” she said.You get what you pay forRoot rot disease is also a major problem in winter landscape beds. Georgia has had a fairly wet winter, which will make conditions ideal for root rot disease.“If you buy cheap plants from the ‘almost dead rack’ you are buying and bringing home problems,” Williams-Woodward said.To help prevent root rot diseases, she recommends installing plants at a higher elevation, not planting too deeply, improving soil drainage and redirecting water so plants are not overwatered. “And try not to till in old plants and plant materials,” she said. “If you had disease there before you are just incorporating that material back into the area.”Root rot diseases thrive in moisture, so inspect plant beds and make sure there are no sources of extra water, such as a downspout aimed into the bed or an irrigation pattern that directly hits the area.Numerous cases of black root rot (Thielaviopsis basicola) are being reported. It produces black spores in chains that survive in soil. In large numbers they cause the roots to look black, thus the name.“We are seeing a lot of it this year but some years we don’t. It favors cooler temperatures and alkaline soils, so keeping the pH below 5.8 will reduce it,” she said.Avoiding susceptible plants will also help fight black root rot. Susceptible plants include vincas, pansies/violas, snapdragons, impatiens, petunias, calibrachoas, verbenas and begonias. Less susceptible plants are salvias, geraniums, marigolds, zinnias, dusty millers, coleuses and celosias.“I haven’t met a calibrachoa yet that isn’t susceptible to black root rot,” she said.Follow these tipsOverall, to help reduce the amount of disease growing in your landscape flowerbeds, Williams-Woodward recommends following these tips:Follow good sanitation practices.Propagate from clean stock.Plant the correct plant in the correct location.Manage and modify the environment. (But don’t over water.)Use resistant cultivars.Eliminate disease-prone plants.Use, but don’t rely on, chemical control.Keep your tools clean. “Keeping track of what diseases you have in your beds now will help you plan for your landscape in the future,” she said.
“I view China as the greatest threat actor right now,” Ratcliffe, a Republican congressman from Texas, told the Senate Intelligence Committee.”Look with respect to COVID-19 and the role China plays; the race to 5G; cybersecurity issues: all roads lead to China,” he told the panel.He cited China’s geopolitical thrust through its “Belt and Road” global infrastructure initiative, its programs to acquire strategic technologies quickly, and its “military-civil fusion initiative” that keeps the private sector beholden to government priorities.”These are all spokes of the same initiative and that’s for China to supplant us as the world’s superpower.” President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the US intelligence community said Tuesday that he would focus on China as the country’s greatest threat, saying Beijing was determined to supplant the United States’ superpower position. But John Ratcliffe, an outspoken Trump defender nominated to become director of national intelligence, came under pressure in a Senate confirmation hearing over whether he would politicize the intelligence process to keep the president happy.It’s the second time Ratcliffe has sought the crucial position — which has lacked a permanent office holder for nearly nine months — after he withdrew from consideration in August following questions over his experience and credentials. Topics : Ratcliffe added: “We very clearly don’t want an authoritarian regime like the Chinese Communist Party setting standards in the world marketplace.” Other officials forced out Ratcliffe appeared before the first committee hearing held in Congress after a weeks-long hiatus forced by coronavirus, with masks required for those not speaking and hand sanitizer accompanying bottles of water for those addressing the chamber.The director of national intelligence job has been vacant since Dan Coats, who was regularly at odds with the president, left in August. Trump then forced out other top intelligence officials who were, like Coats, seen as not politically loyal to the White House.Trump has repeatedly accused the US intelligence community of plotting against him as a “deep state,” fuelling increasing resentment among the US spy community. In July Trump first nominated Ratcliffe as DNI but he quickly withdrew in the face of strong resistance in Congress, even from among some senior Republicans. Lawmakers faulted him for an extremely thin resume on national security matters — just one year serving on the House Intelligence Committee.The DNI job requires overseeing and coordinating 16 other intelligence bodies, including the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the FBI’s counterintelligence division. Trump then named counterterrorism official Joseph Maguire as acting DNI, only to remove him in February after a Maguire aide told Congress that Russia was meddling in the 2020 election and had developed a preference for Trump.Trump then named his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, another strong political defender, as acting DNI, and renominated Ratcliffe as permanent DNI.That has left the Democrats and Republicans who opposed Ratcliffe last year — including, it is believed, Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr — caught between approving him as permanent DNI or accepting Grenell in the job for another half year. Ratcliffe stressed in the hearing that he would “speak truth to power” and not shape intelligence reports to the president’s preferences.But Democrats expressed doubts, noting his rejection of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to help Trump in the 2016 election. “Never has anyone more unqualified been formally nominated by a president to lead the US intelligence community,” former CIA chief of staff Larry Pfeiffer wrote of Ratcliffe Tuesday.However, he said on Twitter the committee should confirm him in the job, “because there’s never been anyone less qualified to sit in the DNI’s chair that the current acting DNI Ric Grenell.”