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OSU's Dane Wilber takes second in regional weed society contest


Oklahoma State University senior Dane Wilber of Cherokee took second-place honors at the 2009 Southern Weed Society Collegiate Weed Undergraduate Contest Aug. 5 at Tifton, Ga.

"It's a fun yet very challenging regional competition, one that demands participants apply a wide range of what they have learned from their coursework to a real-world situation and solve related problems," said Joe Armstrong, adviser of the OSU Weed Science Team and an assistant professor in the department of plant and soil sciences. "The whole team did great."

Wilber is a plant and soil sciences major pursuing the biotechnology option. A 2006 graduate of Cherokee High School, he is the son of Jeff and Patti Wilber.

Also representing OSU in the undergraduate competition were Austin Goerke, a 2006 graduate of Watonga High School and son of Kyle and Mary Frances Goerke; Beau Woody, a 2006 graduate of Snyder High School and son of Steve and Glenda Woody; and Chase Vencl, a 2006 graduate of Garber High School and son of Wendell and Judy Vencl.

Josh Bushong, an OSU alumnus who is pursuing his master's degree in weed science, competed in the graduate-level competition. A 2003 graduate of Weatherford High School and son of David and Linda Bushong, he took top honors in the undergraduate competition in 2007 and 2008.

Students must employ their knowledge about such science-based aspects as herbicide chemistry and mode of action to identify 32 herbicides based solely on symptoms viewed on crops and weeds in plots.

They also must be able to list the common, genus and species names for 114 weeds; pass an in-depth written test on sprayer calibration; and solve a real-world "farmer problem." This year's problem revolved around one faced by specialists at the University of Georgia, involving transplanted peppers and cabbage.

"The guys were studying all summer long in preparation for the contest, a sign of how much they enjoyed it," Armstrong said. "The plant and soil sciences are often a passion for those interested in the discipline. Our attitude is if you wish to take part in club activities and broaden your horizons, you're more than welcome."

Point in fact, while everyone on the undergraduate team is a student in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Goerke and Woody are majoring in agricultural business, pre-law option, and Vencl is majoring in biosystems and agricultural engineering.

"We're thrilled at the success of our students in this highly challenging contest," said Dave Porter, head of OSU's department of plant and soil sciences. "These activities give the students a venue for applying their knowledge and expertise acquired through the college and university. It also gives them an opportunity to network with students and faculty from other universities and with industry representatives."

In other words, the competition is not only challenging and fun but beneficial to students looking for job openings or further educational opportunities after graduation from OSU.

Porter and Armstrong said a major benefit of the contest is that it mirrors the job responsibilities of many career options relative to plant and soil sciences, from Cooperative Extension specialists and educators to weed and crop researchers, to agricultural sales representatives.

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