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Weed science students put their skills to the test at annual competition

July 29, 2022  By Syngenta Canada

Participants, organizers, volunteers and more at the 2022 NEWSS Collegiate Weed Science Contest. Photo courtesy of Syngenta Canada.

Sixty contestants from seven universities participated in the Northeastern Weed Science Society (NEWSS) Collegiate Weed Science Contest on July 27 in Plattsville, Ont. Hosted at Syngenta Canada’s Honeywood Research Facility, the full-day event put weed science students to the test in the areas of weed identification, sprayer calibration, herbicide symptom identification and in-field problem solving. 

A Virginia Tech team won the graduate student division and a Cornell University team took top prize in the undergraduate division. Individual achievers were also recognized. A full list of winners follows. 

“This contest is very prestigious among weed scientists and weed science students,” says Karrie Boucher, event organizer and Value Summary Lead with Syngenta Canada. “These students have worked hard and came to win.” Participating schools included Clemson University, Cornell University, University of Guelph, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and Virginia Tech. 


Each school showed great skill in identifying weeds at various stages of growth and identifying herbicide applications in different crops based on visual symptoms. Teams also competed in a sprayer calibration challenge that required everything from calculating spray volume and herbicide rate to hands-on nozzle selection, boom height and application speed. Finally, in-field problem solving required students to determine the issue facing a crop and recommend an effective course of action for the grower. 

“It is exciting to see these future weed scientists in action. It is really encouraging for our industry and for farmers who will ultimately benefit from their skills,” says Harold Wright, president of the Canadian Weed Science Society, and technical research and development manager with Syngenta Canada. 

The annual event not only gave students a chance to apply their weed knowledge, but to connect with researchers from other universities and industry. 

More than 70 volunteers, including staff from Syngenta and other crop protection companies, agronomists, weed experts from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), as well as local farmers, helped to facilitate and judge the competition. 

Next year’s event will be hosted by North Carolina State University. 

List of winners

Graduate teams 

  1. Virginia Tech (Team 1) 
  2. North Carolina State University 
  3. Pennsylvania State University 

Individual graduates 

  1. Eli Russel, Virginia Tech 
  2. Matt Spoth, Virginia Tech 
  3. Luiz Augusto, Pennsylvania State University 

Undergraduate teams 

  1. Cornell University (Team 1) 
  2. University of Guelph (Team 1) 
  3. University of Guelph (Team 2) 

Individual graduates 

  1. Megan Wittmeyer, Cornell 
  2. Karen Reymer, University of Guelph 
  3. Corine Bateman, University of Guelph 


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