MACOMB, IL — As students in the Western Illinois University School of Agriculture, Kyle Russell (Macomb, IL), Krissy Simmons (Ashland, IL) and Ken Tryggestad (Cherry Valley, IL) had different reasons behind the desire to take part in the 70th Annual North Central Weed Science Society Meeting/ Midwest Invasive Plant Network Symposium late last year. They all three agreed, though, that being chosen to attend and present their research results at the 400+ person event was beneficial not only for them as students and agriculture professionals, but their selection as student presenters also demonstrated the learning and research opportunities offered through the School of Ag.
At the event (which was held in Indianapolis in mid-December), out of the only 12 undergraduate students from Western and other universities and colleges selected to present, Russell and Simmons both received first place honors for their research. Simmons, who graduated in December with her bachelor’s degree in agronomy, presented results from a research study that examined how soybean yield is affected by planting dates and removal times of covers crops or winter annual weeds.
“My interest in this research comes from working on the University Farm. I have always had an interest in soybeans, and cover crops are becoming a very popular topic of research in the agriculture field. I chose to present this particular project because it was presented last year by a former student, and I wanted to be able to show the data from the two years the study was conducted,” Simmons explained.
Russell, a senior in the WIU School of Agriculture, said his research, which was conducted at the newly opened WIU School of Ag Teaching and Research Greenhouse, considered the question, “Do tank-mixtures of clethodim with dicamba or 2,4-D adversely affect control of grass weeds?”
“I conducted the study to understand how much antagonism occurs when two different types of herbicides (synthetic auxins and an ACCase inhibitor) are used together at the same time, compared to just an ACCase inhibitor sprayed on a grass species by itself,” Russell noted. “I am interested in this project because it addresses a question that nearly every farmer is asking his or her local agronomist. This project helps to answer a lot future questions farmers will start asking their agronomists when 2,4-D or dicamba resistant soybeans are being used more frequently.”
Although Russell noted he was pleased with his first place award at the symposium, the primary reason he wanted to attend the event was to network with industry leaders.
“Attending this conference enabled me to meet individuals from many different states, as well as professors from many different colleges or universities that I could potentially enroll in for a graduate program,” Russell said. “This project also helped me get over my fear of public speaking. I gained a great understanding of all the work it takes to create and conduct a research project in the agriculture industry.”
For Simmons and Russell, their attendance at the 2015 North Central Weed Science Society Meeting/Midwest Invasive Plant Network Symposium marked their second year taking part in the event. For senior Ken Tryggestad, the 70th annual meeting was his first experience at the symposium.
“It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had. Not only did it give me insight into the industry, but it also humbled me. I was sitting, and got to interact, with some of the nation’s brightest and leading scientists. Overall, the experience was profoundly beneficial and showed me exactly what the Weed Science Society was all about,” Tryggestad said.
“The value of the educational opportunities our students receive within the School of Agriculture is directly associated with the availability and accessibility of our faculty members,” noted School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker. “Our faculty and staff encourage our students to get out of their comfort zones and explore new opportunities and experiences that will directly impact their marketability in the work force. It is activities such as this that will leave a lasting impression with our students. It is a winning combination when you have talented students and persistent faculty to guide students to achieve at high levels.”
For School of Agriculture students interested in agronomy, Russell strongly encourages them to take advantage of the faculty mentoring and research opportunities offered.
“If you have the opportunity to work under WIU School of Ag Professors Mark Bernards, Win Phippen or Joel Gruver on a research project—either in the new greenhouses or in a field trial—I recommend doing it. Working on this project helped me understand what it would be like to work in the research and development industry, conducting studies and replicating them over numerous years. The only way to truly know if you are going into the right field of study is to get a first-hand experience with it. We have the faculty and the facilities to conduct a research project… what more could you ask for?”
For more information, contact Mark Bernards, associate professor of agronomy, crop science and weed control, at (309) 298-1569 and ML-Bernards@wiu.edu.