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Purdue Competes in Weed Contest

Published: Friday, November 8, 2019

More than 240 students from 29 universities, including Purdue University, tested their mettle during the recent 2019 North American Weed Science Contest, an event endorsed by the Weed Science Society of America and its regional affiliates.

This year's contest was hosted by the BASF Midwest Research Farm, the Valent Midwest Agricultural Research Center, and Klein Farms, a multigenerational family farm based in Seymour, Ill. Sponsors included Bayer, Corteva Agriscience and Syngenta.

The nation's top weed science students competed in multiple events—from identifying weeds to solving complex weed management challenges faced by farmers and land managers.

"It was a great educational experience that offered students a chance to apply what they've learned in the classroom and to network with some of the top talent working in weed science today," said Dawn Refsell, a Valent field development manager who helped organize the event.

Students competed as both individuals and as teams. Kansas State University took top honors at the undergraduate level with team members Dakota Came, Hayden Heigele, Jessica Schauf and Megan Workman. Matt Spoth of Cornell University placed first among undergraduates for individual performance.

Virginia Tech took top honors at the graduate level with team members Shawn Beam, John Brewer, Wykle Greene and Eric Scruggs. Scruggs, a graduate research assistant and master's degree student at Virginia Tech, also placed first among graduate students for his individual performance.

The dual wins by Virginia Tech were hard-earned. The team practiced twice a week for three months, coached by university weed scientists.

Scruggs describes the contest challenges as they encountered when they arrived in Illinois as incredibly realistic—especially the problem-solving scenarios devoted to farmer problems and herbicide symptomologies.

"It was like solving a mystery," he said. "You walk into the field to look for clues and try to figure out what's going on. I hope to work as a tech rep or sales rep after I graduate and it gave me a great feel for the kinds of situations I might encounter on the job."

In addition to honoring the best overall performances by individuals and teams, regional awards were presented to top-performing students from four weed science societies.

North Central Weed Science Society: A team from Purdue University took top honors at the graduate level (Jesse Haarmann, Matt Osterholt, Nick Steppig and Marcelo Zimmer), while the undergraduate Kansas State University team placing first in the overall competition also took top honors in the region. Individual winners with the best overall scores were Nick Steppig of Purdue University (graduate level) and Dakota Came of Kansas State University (undergraduate level).

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