Future weed scientists test skills

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Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn., recently hosted the Southern Weed Science Society’s 2018 Southern Weed Contest. The event is held to provide an educational experience where undergraduate and graduate students attending Southern universities can broaden their applied weed science skills. “These students can apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life situations,” explains Dr. Bruce Kirksey, director of research, Agricenter. “I would personally like to thank all of the volunteers from universities, agri-business industry and our Agricenter staff who collectively dedicated their time and talents to make this event a success.”

During the event, participating students rotated to different stations where various weed science-related scenarios were set up. From herbicide symptomology and calibration, to weed identification and crop/weed situation recommendations, all students were challenged, tested, and scored.

To provide the students with a little diversion from their chosen discipline, a “mystery event” was again included in this year’s contest. A flat-bed gooseneck trailer was set up with various flaws that included things like cargo load not being properly loaded or secured for transport. “The students had to look at everything on the trailer and identify the faults that would make it illegal to travel on the road,” explains Isaac Carpenter, associate Agronomist II, Winfield United Answer Plot Program, and a volunteer for the event. “This particular stop was added to the contest in 1999 to give students a mental break during the day. It wasn’t a weed science-centric stop but was very applicable to agriculture in general.”

Darrin Dodds, Extension and research professor, Mississippi State University, is the 2018 chairman of the Southern Weed Science Society Contest Committee from Mississippi. “Any undergraduate or graduate student currently enrolled and pursuing a B.S., M.S, or Ph.D. degree was eligible to participate in this event,” explains Dodds. “Mississippi State University submitted two teams and four alternates for the contest this year.”

Weed science major Kayla Browster, Mount Carmel, Ill., hails from a fourth-generation farming family. “My dad and brother operate a grain crop farm back home,” says Browster. “I’m hoping to become involved with weed science research after I finish my education.”

The team with the highest average team score from all the day’s events was awarded the coveted “Broken Hoe” trophy that is rotated to each year’s winner. This year’s first place team was from the University of Arkansas, second place went to the team from Virginia Tech, and the team from Louisiana State University took third place.