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Students from 11 southern universities competed in the Southern Weed Science Society's annual Weed Contest.

Ginger Rowsey, Senior writer

September 13, 2022

2 Min Read
Herbicide Symptomolgy SWSS
Students identify herbicide symptoms during the SWSS Weed Contest at Agricenter International. Bruce Kirksey

The University of Arkansas weed science team took home the “Broken Hoe” trophy at the 2022 Southern Weed Science Society Weed Contest.  

Additionally, U of A graduate student, Tristan Avent was the contest’s overall individual winner. Arkansas team members were Avent, Mason Castner, Casey Arnold, Maria Carolina and Juan Camilo Velasquez. 

Virginia Tech placed second in the team division. Mississippi State came in third. 

The SWSS Weed Contest was held in August at the Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn. Bruce Kirksey, director of farm and research at the Agricenter, headed up the event. 

“The Weed Contest is a longstanding tradition. The four categories within the competition — weed identification, herbicide symptomology, farmer problems and sprayer calibration — provide a comprehensive test of students’ weed science knowledge and skills,” Kirksey said. 

Other universities competing included Auburn, Georgia, Louisiana State, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. 


During the contest, students work together as a team on sprayer calibration but compete individually in the other sections. Individual point totals are added to team event scores to calculate a team’s overall score. 

Perhaps the most memorable section of the competition (for students and judges) is the Farmer Problem — a mock field scenario where students have 15 minutes to evaluate a real field situation and recommend the most effective legal remedy. Each contestant assumes the role of a chemical representative, crop consultant or Extension specialist. They are judged on how accurately they diagnose the situation and how well they interact with the “farmer” in the scenario.  

The first SWSS Weed Contest was held in 1980. It has taken place every summer since, with the exception of 2020.  

Weed contest winners 

1st Place Team – University of Arkansas 

2nd Place Team – Virginia Tech University 

3rd Place Team – Mississippi State University 

1st Place Individual – Tristan Avent, U of A 

2nd Place Individual – Eli Russell, Virginia Tech 

3rd Place Individual – Mason Castner, U of A 

4th Place Individual – Matt Spoth, Virgina Tech 

5th Place Individual – John Peppers, Virginia Tech 

Arkansas dominance continues 

Out of the 41 Weed Contests that have taken place, U of A has won all but nine of them. The team is coached by Jason Norsworthy, Distinguished Professor and Elms Farming Chair of Weed Science for U of A, and Nilda Roma-Burgos, professor of weed physiology and molecular biology.  

About the Author(s)

Ginger Rowsey

Senior writer

Ginger Rowsey joined Farm Press in 2020, bringing more than a decade of experience in agricultural communications. Her previous experiences include working in marketing and communications with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. She also worked as a local television news anchor with the ABC affiliate in Jackson, Tennessee.

Rowsey grew up on a small beef cattle farm in Lebanon, Tennessee. She holds a degree in Communications from Middle Tennessee State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She now resides in West Tennessee with her husband and two daughters.

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