Winners named in Iowa pest management contest for youth

Zach Clemens
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

AMES, Iowa - On July 30, 24 youth in grades 8-12 from across Iowa tested their integrated pest management skills through several tasks and challenges. This is the 10th year of the Iowa Youth Crop Scouting Competition, but it is the first time it has been conducted virtually.

The goal of the Iowa Youth Crop Scouting Competition is to educate Iowa youth on the basics of integrated pest management so these future farmers and decision-makers understand the importance of IPM for increasing economic returns and reducing the unintended environmental impacts of agriculture. The competition was created to increase high school students’ awareness of Iowa agriculture using hands-on learning and teamwork.

Teams use Iowa State University Extension and Outreach resources, as well as publications from industry and other universities to study for the competition. The top three teams receive cash prizes. This year, all youth participants received field guides and other scouting tools, thanks to support from Corteva, the Iowa Soybean Association, Environmental Tillage Systems, the Iowa Soybean Research Center and the Iowa Independent Crop Consultants Association.

“Usually the competition is a one-day event where teams gather at the Field Extension

Education Laboratory and explore the plots there looking for pests and disorders,” said Maya Hayslett, Iowa State University youth crop science education specialist and program organizer. “For safety, we were not able to gather this year, but I wanted to provide a similar experience and achieve the same learning goals.”

Youth explored crop fields near them and created videos of pest problems they identified. The videos were reviewed by crop science professionals and the youth received feedback on their presentations. In addition to video submissions, participants also met with judges via video conference to answer questions, make diagnoses and demonstrate their pest management knowledge.

During video conferences, judges asked questions and contestants diagnosed field issues using photos and videos. Video conference stations focused on general principles of IPM, abiotic injury, pesticide use and sprayer calibration and growth stages and crop morphology. Specialists tested each team’s knowledge on the topic at hand, but also took the time to talk with the youth and answer questions. The goal of the competition was to both test and increase students’ knowledge in the areas of IPM, crop growth and pest identification, as well as demonstrate the many careers available in agriculture.

On surveys, the youth reported high levels of learning in general principles of integrated pest management.

Receiving first was Kuhlman Seed, from Crawford County, with members Tom Welch, Maci Kaub, Ethan Holdswoth, Emma Reisz and Cole Carlson.

Three teams led by Joe and Suzanne Shirbroun took the next three spots, with Clayton County Team Number Two in second place (Ben Gibson, Nate Shirbroun and Nick Deitchler), Clayton County Team Number Three in third place (Avery Wessel, Nathaniel Gaul and Keaton Klingman) and Clayton County Team Number One in fourth place (Laci Orr, Lane Orr, Brandon Whittle and Tristan Weigand).