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WIU Ag Students Compete in National Weed Science Contest

August 10, 2023

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MACOMB, IL - - Three students from the Western Illinois University School of Agriculture (Ag) recently participated in the 2023 National Weed Science Contest (NWSC) hosted by Bayer Crop Science in Union City, TN.

Students, senior Ag majors Stephanie Reiter and Clayton Walch and junior Ag major Jackson Rhoades were invited to compete by WIU Associate Professor of Agronomy, Crop Science and Weed Control Mark Bernards, who had taught them concepts that were included in the contest.

"Through Professor Bernards' class, we were taught concepts that would be at the contest in preparation for the event," said Walch. "We all volunteered to go for our own educational benefit. I learned more about visual herbicide injury symptoms. They were quite challenging, and after they went over the correct answers at the close of the contest, I learned why I got the ID wrong. We also learned how to interact with a farmer about a stand problem and how to identify it like an agronomist would on the job."

The 2023 NWSC was a valuable experience for the group. It involved Weed ID, Herbicide Mode of Action Injury ID, Sprayer Calibration math and test trial, as well as a mock field visit to solve a real-world farmer problem.

"The School of Ag continues to support many educational opportunities for our students to participate in regional and national level competitions, so students can showcase their skill sets and knowledge base," Bernards said. "We are very fortunate that our students are willing and eager to participate in these competitions to promote Western Illinois University and the School of Agriculture. Their presence at these events casts a positive reflection on this department and improves their marketability when searching for future employment in the agricultural industry."

The NWSC is a collaboration between the Northeastern, North Central, Southern and Western Weed Science Societies. The contest provides a competitive educational opportunity for students from universities across the country to develop their applied skills in Weed Science. Additionally, it allows students to meet and interact with peers from other universities and industries, learn from researchers and apply what they have learned in a contest to test their capabilities. The contest aims to promote the discipline of Weed Science and generate greater interest among those pursuing a career in this field.

"I always learn so much by going to these contests," said Reiter "I also compete in crop judging contests, and being able to network with people is always the highlight. I enjoy talking to people who have experience in the field I want to go into after I graduate because they can share the highlights and the downfalls. Taking the time to study for these contests, I learn more about herbicide identification and I can identify multiple weed species now, and I have learned their latin binomial. I don't come from an Ag background, and four years ago, I knew only about three different weeds. These contests have taught me knowledge outside of the classroom."

For more information on the NWSC, visit

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