K-State Crops Team takes second place in Australian competition

The K-State Crops Team stands in front of a canola field. From left to right: senior Wes Jennings, senior Nathaniel Dick, junior Jayden Meyer, senior Madison Tunnell, junior Luke Ryan, junior Blake Kirchhoff and head coach Kevin Donnelly. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Donnelly)

The Kansas State University Collegiate Crops Team traveled to Australia in September to compete in the Australian Universities Crops Competition, placing second overall.

The competition was “sponsored by the Australian GrainGrowers organization, which is a commodity group kind of like our national associations of wheat growers or corn growers or sorghum producers would be,” said Kevin Donnelly, coach of the Crops Team and professor of crop science.

The competition took place at the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy agricultural campus in South Australia.

Six team members attended the competition Sept. 18-29 and competed Sept. 23-25. Donnelly said the competition includes competitive and social events as well as tours of farms and agricultural businesses.

Three students earned a stipend from the American Society of Agronomy based on their high placing in the U.S. national crops contest last year, and scholarships from the College of Agriculture were awarded as well, Donnelly said. They also had major donations from state agriculture associations.

They began preparing for the competition last spring, and studied for it over the summer.

“This semester we’ve been having practices once a week to go over different parts of the contest and trying to prepare for it,” said Luke Ryan, team member and junior in agronomy. “Then, of course, studying on our own scientific names specifically.”

The event consisted of several components.

“The competition involves identification of crops, some assessment of problems in the field, weed identification, diseases and then there’s a couple of written exams,” Donnelly said. “One is a business analysis of a farming enterprise, and there are some exams over production of specific crops and the Australian grain industry.”

Going into the competition in Australia, Ryan said the team wasn’t sure what crops they would be working with.

“It’s really based on Australian agriculture, so they have all these different crops that we don’t have over here,” Ryan said. “Ours is identifying specific weeds and crops and their’s is more like, ‘What do you do when you have these weeds in your crops or how do you manage your crops?’”

The team also did more than compete; they explored the country and spent a full day on the Great Barrier Reef.

“We got to go to Kangaroo Island and we got to see a lot of the wildlife, we chased kangaroos, saw koalas, found a pet kangaroo and saw seals and dolphins,” said Madison Tunnell, team member and junior in agronomy. “We really got to see the things you don’t see here.”