The 2019 Iowa State Fair Weed Identification Contest is 9 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 9 in front of the John Deere Agriculture Building at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines. There are three divisions: Future Agronomists, General and Professional. The Future Agronomist division is the youth competition.
The annual contest, coordinated by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, is conducted by ISU Extension weed management specialists. It is open to all ages.
Anyone interested in weed identification who would like to enter is encouraged to do so. Likewise, if you are interested in weed identification and weed management but just want to watch the competition and learn more, that’s fine too. “This is a fun experience for the entire family,” says Meaghan Anderson, ISU Extension field agronomist. Winners will be announced at the 3 p.m. awards ceremony inside the Deere ag building.
Take home cash prize, ribbon
The top five winners in each division will walk away with a cash prize and a coveted Iowa State Fair ribbon, “and that’s enough to entice anyone looking for a fun challenge,” Anderson says. Future agronomists identify 20 common Iowa weeds, while people entering the contest’s general division identify 30 weeds. Those in the professional division identify 30, plus five extra challenging Iowa weeds.
GO FOR IT: “No home or office is complete without an Iowa State Fair Weed ID Contest Blue Ribbon,” says ISU’s Meaghan Anderson.
Anderson urges people to “come see how your weed ID skills stand up against some of the most knowledgeable weed experts in our state.” There’s no preregistration, just show up between 9 and 11:30 a.m., and complete the contest at your own pace.
“The goal of the contest is to increase the participants’ knowledge of weeds,” says Bob Hartzler, professor of agronomy and an ISU Extension weed specialist. “We try to make the test difficult enough so that nobody gets all of the weeds correct, but we also include Iowa’s most common weeds to ensure everyone gets some correct.”
Last year’s contest champions
Weeds cannot hide from these contest winners. The top winners in each division in 2018 were:
- Future Agronomists — William Crow
- General — Casey Engen
- Professional — Karen Stiles
Stiles was the 2017 champion in the contest’s general division. “If you aren’t sure you are ready to enter the 2018 contest, you’ve got time to improve your skills,” Anderson says. “Use the weed ID resources listed here to study up and sweep your division.”
- Weed Identification Field Guide, second edition, $5-$10
- University of Missouri Weed ID Guide
- Michigan State University Turf Weeds
- University of Illinois Weed Identification page
The iNaturalist app is available for Apple and Android devices or at iNaturalist.org to help sharpen your knowledge and ability to correctly identify weeds.
ALL AGES CAN ENTER: There’s no age limit. The Iowa State Fair weed ID contest is held outside the ag building but moves inside if it rains.