Weed Science Students Showcase Skills at Annual Competition

Guelph, Ontario, Canada

  • Canada hosts the Northeastern Collegiate Weed Science Contest for the first time since 2000

Sixty contestants from seven universities participated in the Northeastern Weed Science Society (NEWSS) Collegiate Weed Science Contest this week in Plattsville, Ontario. Hosted at Syngenta Canada’s Honeywood Research Facility, the full-day event put weed science students to the test in the areas of weed identification, sprayer calibration, herbicide symptom identification and in-field problem solving.

A Virginia Tech team won the graduate student division and a Cornell University team took top prize in the undergraduate division. Individual achievers were also recognized. A full list of winners follows.

“This contest is very prestigious among weed scientists and weed science students,” says Karrie Boucher, event organizer and Value Summary Lead with Syngenta Canada. “These students have worked hard and came to win.” Participating schools included Clemson University, Cornell University, University of Guelph, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and Virginia Tech.

Each school showed great skill in correctly identifying weeds at various stages of growth and identifying herbicide applications in different crops based on visual symptoms. Teams also competed in a sprayer calibration challenge that required everything from calculating spray volume and herbicide rate to hands-on nozzle selection, boom height and application speed. Finally, in-field problem solving required students to determine the issue facing a crop and recommend an effective course of action for the grower.

“It is exciting to see these future weed scientists in action. It is really encouraging for our industry and for farmers who will ultimately benefit from their skills,” says Harold Wright, President of the Canadian Weed Science Society, and Technical Research and Development Manager with Syngenta Canada.

The annual event not only gave students a chance to apply their weed knowledge, but to connect with researchers from other universities and industry.

More than 70 volunteers including staff from Syngenta and other crop protection companies, agronomists, weed experts from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), as well as local farmers helped to facilitate and judge the competition.

Having students at the Syngenta Honeywood Research Facility is not out of the ordinary. “Each year we employ about 12 summer students to help run research trials alongside our field biologists,” says Doug Baumann, Crop Protection Development Manager, Syngenta Canada. He’s also site manager of the 100-acre facility, which Syngenta and legacy companies have owned and operated as a crop protection and R&D site since 1975. “Syngenta Canada is committed to supporting youth in agriculture – that’s why we’re thrilled to host this event.”

Next year’s event will be hosted by North Carolina State University.

Participants and volunteers at the NEWSS Collegiate Weed Science Contest hosted by Syngenta Canada at Honeywood Research Facility in Plattsville, Ontario.
Participants and volunteers at the NEWSS Collegiate Weed Science Contest hosted by Syngenta Canada at Honeywood Research Facility in Plattsville, Ontario.
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List of winners

Graduate teams
1st: Virginia Tech (Team 1)
2nd: North Carolina State University
3rd: Pennsylvania State University

Individual graduates
1st: Eli Russel, Virginia Tech
2nd: Matt Spoth, Virginia Tech
3rd: Luiz Augusto, Pennsylvania State University

Undergraduate teams
1st: Cornell University (Team 1)
2nd: University of Guelph (Team 1)
3rd: University of Guelph (Team 2)

Individual graduates
1st: Megan Wittmeyer, Cornell
2nd: Karen Reymer, University of Guelph
3rd: Corine Bateman, University of Guelph