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Students experience agronomy, UK through crop scouting competition

Students experience agronomy, UK through crop scouting competition

Students experience agronomy, UK through crop scouting competition


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High school students from across the state recently came to the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton to test their knowledge of agronomy during UK’s first High School Crop Scouting Competition.

Kiersten Wise, UK extension plant pathologist, organized the competition after seeing the success similar competitions had in other states. She hopes to make the contest an annual event.

“We think this is a great opportunity for those of us at the University of Kentucky to interact with high school students, particularly those who are interested in agriculture,” Wise said. “I really like this event, because it not only gives us an opportunity to teach high-school students about the various disciplines in agriculture, but it allows them to see agriculture at the University of Kentucky. It also showcases our great facilities here at the Research and Education Center and the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence.”

Interest in Kentucky was strong, with the competition receiving its maximum number of 10 registered teams. High school FFA teachers, 4-H adult leaders, extension agents and industry representatives could field teams.

“This is the first competition that I’ve been to that’s been this hands-on,” said Bobby Schmitt, FFA advisor at Livingston Central High School. “You have over 20 specialists here today. My students are not just getting content out of a book but are learning from people who are specialists in their area. From what I’m gathering, they want to come back next year.”

Zach Perry, UK graduate student, explains the defining characteristics of an ivyleaf morningglory. Photo by Katie Pratt, UK agricultural communications.

Teams competed in interactive field scouting exercises in corn and soybeans. UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment specialists and graduate students tested each team on their ability to identify potential field problems and use basic agronomic and integrated pest management principles to develop suggestions for producers.

“I came here today to learn more about agriculture. We farm about 5,000 acres, so learning more about the different weeds, insects and diseases are things I can put to use on my farm,” said Sydney Pepper, a senior at LaRue County High School. “It’s been really fun. I’ve learned a lot of stuff today like growth staging corn and soybeans.”

The competitors learned about potential agriculture-related careers and experienced a working research farm. Joshua Ingram, a sophomore at Trigg County High School who is interested in a career in agronomy, is considering attending UK.

“This kind of gave me foresight into the future of what I would be getting into with my college courses,” he said. “I learned about insects. I learned a nymph is not an adult but the stage right before adulthood. I learned about different types of weeds and how to identify those including waterhemp.”

The team from LaRue County won the competition and are now qualified, along with runner-up Adair County, to compete in the National Crop Scouting Competition held in Iowa later this month.

The competition was made possible by funding from the Barnhart Center for Excellence and the Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board.

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