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The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Students reap awards at research poster contests

Faculty Dr. Anil Shrestha attends state weed science contest with student researchers Rober Willmott, Kelsey Galvan, Kiera Searcy and Margaret Fernando.

Three plant science students received impressive research presentation awards at the California Weed Science Society annual convention that welcomed academic and industry members to Monterey earlier this winter.

Robert Willmott received first place in the graduate student poster division for his project on cover crops used in conjunction with strip tilling on silage corn. As a campus field crop manager, Willmott was able to test the effectiveness of a roller-crimper to knock down cover crops so it could decompose into the soil and extra nutrients to the soil. The method also used a narrow planting channel so soil tillage was minimal to better encourage the preservation of underground soil nutrients. The flattened cover crops also impeded natural weed germination and initial growth and reduced the need for pre-emergence and a first, post-emergence weed herbicides. 

Recent graduate Kiera Searcy won top honors in the undergraduate poster division for her project focused on weed control in lavender plots in nurseries and lathe houses. She compared the effectiveness of common herbicides and plant-based mulch treatments, since hand weeding and flaming treatments can be expensive and cumbersome often because of available labor resources. The practices can also benefit the farmer through reduced labor and purchase costs for chemicals and applications. 

Graduate student Kelsey Galvan added third place in the oral presentation division for her study of common waterhemp. She tested the influence of soil environmental factors on germination potential, as well as the tolerance of seedlings to common herbicides and soil salinity. The weed has become widespread in the Midwest and has become herbicide resistant, so the study was important to determine local resistance. 

The students conducted their research under the guidance of plant science faculty Dr. Anil Shrestha and used campus farm and horticulture nursery locations to help address these key topics related to the California ag industry.

In February, students added three of the six master's student research poster honors at the California Plant and Soil Conference in Fresno, which was coordinated by the American Society of Agronomy California Chapter and UC Cooperative Extension.

Graduate student Michael Urner won first place in the soil section for studying a new quantitative PCR assay test. The method hopes to be a more efficient and accurate way for growers to detect pathogenic soil borne fungus (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. vasinfectum, FOV), which is responsible for Fusarium wilt in commercial cotton fields in California. More info on this research with faculty Dr. Margaret Ellis and others is at:

Graduate student Gabrielle Celaya-Finke placed second in the plant section for her research with faculty Dr. Gurreet Brar and others to study how high efficiency and low heat LED lights could help citrus trees grow faster in nurseries. They used different light treatments with young Clementine mandarin and Meyers lemon trees to measure potential increases in root volume and bio mass. This method could help California greenhouses better manage the high volume of trees raised in insect exclusion facilities due to the increase in Asian Citrus Psyllid and greening disease. Read more on this project at:

Graduate student Mauricio Soriano claimed second place in the soil section for his work with faculty Dr. Sharon Benes and others to investigate whether satellite imagery could be used as a management tool to assess the effectiveness of saline water irrigation of 'Jose' tall wheatgrass. A time-series model that mapped the vegetation index and its dry matter yield measured crop production and how it can potentially withstand higher accumulations of salt in the rootzone (with water from the San Joaquin River Improvement Project). More on this project is at:

To see research abstracts from the other eight plant science students who competed in the graduate and undergraduate competitions at the latter conference (and included Eric Antrim, Diego Arriago, Victoria De Leon, Jacob Hampton, Rito Medina, Jesus Mireles, Harmanpreet Sharma and Robert Willmott), visit:

Special thanks also goes to Fresno State plant science faculty Dr. Ranjit Riar for his work helping coordinate the poster event that also students from other Cal State and UC institutions (and several industry professionals as well).