K-State crops judging team wins international competition

Professor Kevin Donnelly, students Jessica Bramhall, Michaela Simmelink, Sarah Zerger, Nicole Sudbeck and Samantha L'Ecuyer and instructor Kim Kerschen. Photo courtesy of Kevin Donnelly.

The Kansas State crops judging team won the Grain Growers Limited run competition last week in Australia. K-State placed first as a team, while Samantha L’Ecuyer, senior in agronomy, placed second individually. There were nine teams total, with four from the United States and the rest from Australia.

“The competition was three days long, and there was a total of nine parts: yield estimating/field management, pulse crop quiz (chickpeas), cereal quiz (wheat), summer crop quiz (grain sorghum), general Australian grain quiz, seed I.D. quiz, field scouting, grain grading, and farm business quiz,” Jessica Bramhall, senior in agronomy, said.

Kevin Donnelly, professor of agronomy, said what the students study in class helps in competitions.

“It’s structured such that you kind of have to draw on things you already know from your class background and then apply that to a different situation or scenario,” Donnelly said. “The crops we really don’t study in our classes primarily, we don’t study much about canola or the chickpeas, so two of the crops they had a lot of.”

Donnelly said they had some Australian production guides to study, and that learning scientific names of crops and weeds that people don’t typically pay attention to, helped the team gain a lot of points because it counted more than the common name.

“The team mostly studied on their own time to prepare for the competition,” L’Ecuyer said.

They did this rather than having a set practice time together like they usually do for other competitions. Donnelly said the competition was fairly open-ended, so it was difficult to tell what would be included. It was a matter of just learning the material, and the more they read and learned about the Australian system the better off they were.

“They kind of have a different cropping rotation and a little bit of different cropping systems, so here we use a lot of irrigation and over there it’s pretty limited, so they’re a little bit limited on what they can grow and what they can do with the crops.” Sarah Zerger, junior in agronomy, said.

Zerger also said the crop yield is different in Australia.

“Their yield potential that they can have for those crops is different, so here we expect like 60-70 bushel wheat as our top yielding, but there it’s probably about 30-40 yielding bushel wheat,” Zerger said.

This competition has been going on for five years. Donnelly said it has grown into more of a relationship or an exchange between K-State and other schools.

“Australia has brought student groups and farmers here for competitions and tours,” Donnelly said. “Some of the same farmers that came last spring were our hosts for our farm tours there.”

The funding for this trip came from a grant provided by the American Society of Agronomy. They provided a travel stipend for the top six individuals from the U.S. national crops contests. The team qualified for the stipend by having three of the top-placing individuals in the United States’ contests last year.