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WIU Agronomy Students Bring Home Awards from Regional "Weed Olympics"

August 12, 2015

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MACOMB, IL — In late July, a team of students from Western Illinois University's School of Agriculture won second place in the North Central Weed Society's Student Weed Contest (for the North Central region of the U.S) in South Charleston, OH. In addition, two students took home individual awards after taking part in the annual competition, which according to WIU Agronomy Assistant Professor Mark Bernards, was called the "Weed Olympics" this year.

A senior agriculture major, Michael Keane (Stronghurst, IL), won the undergraduate "Farmer Problem" contest, which involves troubleshooting a field complaint or problem. A senior agricultural science major, Kristina ("Krissy") Simmons (Ashland, IL), earned third place in the undergraduate individual category.

Simmons noted competing at the North Central Weed Society's Student Weed Contest provides students with a great networking opportunity.

"Being a member of the team and attending these type of contests helps put your face out there. There are lots of industry people at these events, and they see you doing well and then they see it on your résumé and it all comes together. It also gives a person more confidence, especially the 'farmer problem' contest, because that is a one-on-one scenario with an industry person," Simmons explained.

Keane added being a part of the Agronomy Club/Weeds Team has expanded his knowledge in the areas of weed identification and herbicides and improved his problem-solving skills, as well.

"When I started my journey at Western, I never saw myself joining any teams or organizations like this, but it has been one of the best decisions I have made," he said. "It has been a great way for me to expand on things I wanted to know more about, and Dr. Bernards is a great instructor and was more than willing to help. I encourage all the other students to go out and get involved on campus, maybe this team is not for them, but there are many other great organizations on campus that could provide them with similar experiences."

Bernards noted the competition included universities from across the U.S. and one school from Canada (University of Guelph).

"This competition is a great way to develop skills needed by agronomists and farmers to make prudent weed management recommendations and to identify the causes of poor crop growth," he said. "The team prepared for the contest by attending a weekly evening practice session during the spring semester, where we practiced troubleshooting, math problems relative to crop production and pest management, as well as weed identification and herbicide identification."

In addition to Keane and Simmons, Ken Tryggestad (Cherry Valley, IL) and Grant Dempsey (Loraine, IL, who graduated in May 2015), were both on the 2015 team.

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

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