The 2019 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Iowa State Fair Weed Identification Contest was held on August 9 outside the John Deere Agriculture Building. Contestants need to identify live samples of weeds of agricultural, horticultural, and natural habitats in Iowa. Youth are tasked with identifying the first 20 weeds, species that are common across the state. Those competing in the General Division identify an additional 10 weeds, which are less common species. Professionals (weed science professionals and prior winners of the General Division) identify an additional 5 weeds. The weeds for the Professional Division test the contestants’ botanical knowledge. We select some plants that might stretch the definition of a weed (e.g. devil’s claw and devil’s beggarticks). This year we included cotyledon stage common lambsquarters as many of the contestants in the Professional Division don’t have an agronomic background, and thus might not be familiar with seedlings (we never claimed to be nice).
In the Professional Division, Lowell Sandell, a former ISU Weed Science grad student now with Valent, narrowly beat out Josh DeGroot, a current ISU grad student in Agronomy/ABE. Dennis Hartstack, a contest regular, won the General Division. In the Youth Division, Aiden Anderson finished in 2ndplace for the second year in a row, while Laci Orr moved up from 4th in 2018 to win. Lowell Sandell’s niece and nephew, two of the youngest contestants and first time competitors, finished in 3rdand 4thplace.
Meaghan and I want to thank Erin Jacobson (ISU Biology student) and Dawn Refsell (Valent) for helping make the contest run smoothly. If you’re at the fair this week, the weeds are on display inside the John Deere Agriculture Building, across the building from the butter cow. The contest is always held on the first Friday of the fair, and we hope to see you next year.