Marestail.
Marestail.

It was a contest to see who knows their weed. Or weeds, to be precise.

College students from across the U.S. and Canada competed in the National Weed Science Contest July 20-21 at the Western Agricultural Research Station in South Charleston. The program was part of a competition to see who has bragging rights as the best student weed scientists, said Bruce Ackley, an Ohio State University Extension program specialist in weed science.

The station is part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

More than 225 undergraduate and graduate students from over 25 universities took part in the competition designed as both an educational experience to help students broaden their applied skills in weed science as well as an opportunity to network with university and industry researchers and to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom, Ackley said.

“This contest is a prestigious event that serves as a nice gateway for students to go from academia to the real world,” he said. “It allows students to take all those college skills they’ve spent years honing and apply them in the real world in an environment that hits the full spectrum of what is out there in the professional world in front of representatives from academia, government and industry.”

The contest was sponsored by the Weed Science Society of America and the Northeastern, North Central, Southern and Western weed science societies. The event was only the second time that all the regional societies have combined efforts to sponsor a competition at the national level, Ackley said.

Because the Ohio State Weed Team hosted the event, Buckeye students did not compete, he said.

Students were judged based on their performance in four categories:

  • Weed identification: Students were asked to identify 30 weeds in a variety of stages of growth and development, including seeds, seedlings, mature weeds and plant parts.
  • Sprayer calibration: Students took a written test to assess how well they understand the calibration of sprayers commonly used in weed control. They also calibrated a backpack sprayer to demonstrate its use for precise herbicide application.
  • Identifying herbicides: Students were required to identify the herbicides applied based on visual symptoms exhibited by the crops and weeds.
  • Problem-solving: Volunteers posed as farmers or land managers and presented a weed management issue that a weed scientist might encounter on the job. Students recommended an effective solution based on accepted best practices.