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Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students who recently participated in the North Central Weed Science Society's competition in Johnston, IA. Back row (L to R): Kyle Russell (Macomb, IL), junior; Aaron Prins (Olney, IL), senior; Zane Higgins (La Prairie, IL), senior; and Grant Dempsey (Loraine, IL), senior. Front row (L to R): Kristina "Krissy" Simmons (Ashland, IL), junior; Matthew Layher (Manchester, MI); and Brittany Parker (Kilbourne, IL) senior.
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School of Ag Weed Science Team Brings Home Awards

September 2, 2014

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MACOMB, IL – Four Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students recently brought home a team award from the North Central Weed Science Society's competition in Johnston, IA. According to School of Ag Assistant Professor Mark Bernards, WIU's "weed team 1," comprised of Zane Higgins (La Prairie, IL), senior; Grant Dempsey (Loraine, IL), senior; Aaron Prins (Olney, IL), senior; and Matthew Layher (Manchester, MI), senior, earned third place in the undergraduate category in the late July competition. In addition, Higgins earned the second place undergraduate individual award, and Prins garnered second place in the undergraduate farmer problem contest.

Bernards said the team award is based on the combined scores of the top three members of the team and one team event, the sprayer calibration event. The team with highest cumulative total won the contest. Approximately 90 students (both graduate and undergraduate) from the north central region of the United States participated in the event.

"The purpose of the competition is to allow students to apply their understanding of weed identification and accurate herbicide application, as well as their abilities to calculate math related to crop production and to identify which herbicide was applied based on which plants were controlled and the plants' symptoms. In addition, they were evaluated on their abilities to troubleshoot agronomic problems. The students worked with a 'farmer' who posed a problem in the field, and they then had to identify the cause of the problem and make recommendations about how to address it that year, as well as how to prohibit it from occurring in subsequent years," Bernards explained.

A second team of WIU School of Ag students also participated in the July 24 contest, including Brittany Parker (Kilbourne, IL) senior; Kyle Russell (Macomb, IL), junior; and Kristina Simmons (Ashland, IL), junior. Bernards said the students prepared for their competition during the Spring 2014 semester, as well as took part in a couple of practice sessions over the summer. He also noted their summer internships and jobs helped them prepare for the parts of the contest that covered weed identification and farmer problems.

"The competition is one of the best practical learning exercises an agronomy student can participate in," Bernards added. "It allows them to apply many of the skills they will use after they graduate, when they work in jobs related to agronomy and crop production. This is a great opportunity for each student to meet people in the industry and determine if this is the type of job he or she would enjoy. It also provides an opportunity for participating companies to identify outstanding future professional talent."

After the competitive part of the event, participating students toured DuPont Pioneer's headquarters and the company's highly automated greenhouse. In addition, DuPont Pioneer officials presented information about career opportunities within the company and explained how students could best prepare for the types of jobs available in the organization.

For more information, contact Bernards at (309) 298-1569 or via email at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing