Eric Webster, Schultz, Bruce | 4/19/2005 10:29:13 PM
BATON ROUGE – Weed science graduate students from across the southern United States competed in a series of challenges recently at the LSU AgCenter.
The top three teams were the University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University and Clemson University, in that order.
The other schools represented by the 24 students were Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky and University of Tennessee. Students from Louisiana State University helped to host the conference and therefore did not compete.
"The contest is designed to take classroom study to a practical application of weed science," said Dr. Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist and chairman of the Southern Weed Society’s contest committee. "The biggest loss in crop yield in the South is generally due to weeds.
"Each student should bring or take away from the contest knowledge of how to use weed science at the field level," Webster said. "The contestant should take what was learned in the classroom and apply that knowledge in the real world. I have always felt it is the best teaching tool we have in weed science."
The first event required contestants to identify, with common and scientific names, 35 weeds and 15 seeds. Many of the plants were seedlings.
Also in the competition was a problem-solving event that gave students two scenarios with angry farmers who demanded a solution for their failed crops.
At one of the stations, Dr. Jason Bond, an LSU AgCenter agronomist, and Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Southwest Region, posed as rice farmers whose rice had failed to make a stand despite two plantings, and they were blaming their problems on the use of a herbicide. Bond complained to one student that the only thing he had in his field was discolored weeds.
"Big white grass," he shouted indignantly. "You could put it in a flower arrangement."
Between contestants, Bond later admitted, having once competed in a similar event, that thinking rationally is difficult with someone yelling about his or her crop.
Students also had to calibrate a herbicide sprayer at a sugarcane field, and they were required to identify what herbicides caused damage to crops.
The final event was a relay race. They had to run through a flooded, muddy field to get buckets containing three weeds and bring them back to their team. Once all the buckets were retrieved, the contestants had to identify the plants.
Students said the day provided a good learning experience.
Paula Steptoe of the University of Georgia said the problem-solving event was the most difficult.
"I had never seen rice, and I had never seen sugarcane," she said.
Prashart Jha of Clemson said it was tough to identify the seedlings in the identification phase.
"I have a lot to learn," he said.
"It was a pretty good contest," said Brandon Fast of Oklahoma State, adding, "A pretty difficult contest."
"Challenging, to say the least," remarked Jason Walton of Mississippi State.
The Arkansas contingent has won 18 of 22 contests since 1983.