Students test their skills in regional weed science contests


Throughout the summer, Weed Science Society of America affiliates in the north central and southern regions of the United States gave nearly 100 students from 18 universities a chance to test their weed science know-how. The organizations sponsored hard-fought competitions featuring multiple challenges — from identifying weeds at varying stages of growth to troubleshooting weed control issues faced by farmers in the field.

“For many students, the contests culminated months or even years of study,” says WSSA board member Delaney Foster, a graduate research assistant at The University of Tennessee and a winner in the Southern Weed Science Society contest. “Participants get hands-on experience in many of the practical aspects of weed science, including an opportunity to practice problem-solving skills that will benefit them as they enter the workforce.”

The Weed Science Society of America is a nonprofit scientific society that promotes the development of knowledge concerning weeds and their impact on the environment. The events were held by the North Central Weed Science Society and the Southern Weed Science Society Contest.

Here are more details about the events, along with the winners:

North Central Contest

The 2021 North Central Weed Science Society contest was hosted by North Dakota State University in Fargo. Sixty-one graduate and undergraduate students from 10 universities participated.

Top team performance, graduate

  • Purdue University placed first, with team members Claudia Bland, Jesse Haarmann, Matt Osterholt and Ben Westrich. The same team also took top team honors for sprayer calibration.
  • Kansas State University took second place with team members Isaac Barnhart, Chad Lammers, Luke Ryan and Sarah Zerger.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison placed third with team members Nikola Arsenijevic, Felipe Faleco, Lindsay Malone and Haleigh Ortmeier-Clarke.

Top team performance, undergraduate

Western Illinois University placed first, with team members Luke Bergschneider, Jacob Johnson, Stephanie Reiter and Dustin Steinkamp. The same team took top honors for sprayer calibration.

Top individual performance, graduate

All three top individual performers were from Purdue University. Ben Westrich placed first, followed by Claudia Bland in second and by Jesse Haarmann in third.

Top individual performance, undergraduate

Luke Bergschneider of Western Illinois University took first place, while his teammate Jacob Johnson placed second. Third place went to Taylor Nix of the University of Missouri.

Individual contests, solo performers, graduate

Calibration: Matt Osterholt of Purdue University

Weed ID: Navjot Singh of University of Minnesota

Herbicide ID: Claudia Bland of Purdue University

Farmer Problem: Lindsay Malone, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Individual contests, solo performers, undergraduate

Calibration: Matt Humbert, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Weed ID: Dustin Steinkamp, Western Illinois University

Herbicide ID: Luke Bergschneider, Western Illinois University

Farmer Problem: Luke Bergschneider, Western Illinois University

Southern Contest

The 2021 Southern Weed Science Society Contest was hosted by Corteva Agriscience in Stoneville, Mississippi. Thirty-seven graduate students from eight universities competed — supported by a team of 45 volunteers who helped to make the event happen.

Top team performance

In the closest finish in the history of the event, the University of Arkansas took first place with team members Tristen Avent, Pamela Carvalho-Moore, Mason Castner, Lawson Priess and Maria Zaccaro.

Scoring just two-tenths of a point behind the Arkansas team was Virginia Tech, with team members Daewon Koo, John Peppers, Eli Russell and Matthew Spoth.

Louisiana State University placed third with team members Bradley Greer, David Walker, Connor Webster and John Williams.

Top individual performance

Lawson Preiss from the University of Arkansas took top honors, followed by teammate Mason Castner, Eli Russell from Virginia Tech, Connor Webster from Louisiana State University and Hannah Wright from the University of Georgia.

Individual contest winners, team

Calibration: The University of Tennessee took top honors with team members Trey Clark, Delaney Foster and Randall Landry.

“Mystery Event” to build a small boat out of common craft items: Texas A&M University, placed first, with team members Zach Howard, Sarah Kezar, Andrew Osburn and Gustavo Silva.

Individual contest winners, solo performers

Calibration: Delaney Foster of the University of Tennessee and Eli Russell of Virginia Tech (tied for first place)

Weed ID: Connor Webster of Louisiana State University

Herbicide ID: Lawson Priess of the University of Arkansas

Farmer Problem: Hannah Wright of the University of Georgia

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