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Elevating Weed Science Society Through Research

Man cradling 5 sweet potatoes in his arms, wearing an NC State t-shirt with their "Think And Do" slogan printed on it.

Through all of the pandemic challenges, a few challenges have directly impacted university research and its progress. In the Department of Horticultural Science, the Vegetable and Small Fruit Weed Science program has shown continued resolve to excel while facing new normals.

From the Vegetable and Small Fruit Weed Science program, Levi Moore, Kira Sims, and Colton Blankenship have each been awarded for their poster presentations and research by the Weed Science Society of North Carolina. They share another commonality: their advisor Dr. Katie Jennings.

Jennings’ graduate student researchers are frequently awarded and affirm why she is the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Weed Science Society of America.

Dr. Levi Moore
Dr. Levi Moore

Levi Moore

1st place in the Ph.D. poster contest
Optimal Timing of Mechanical Palmer Amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) Removal in Sweetpotato

Why is your research important to the sweetpotato industry?

This research aims to evaluate sustainable alternatives to herbicides for control of Palmer amaranth, the most troublesome weed in sweetpotato. The mechanical or electrical weed removal technologies evaluated could provide economical alternatives to hand roguing, which is expensive and labor-intensive. 

Kira Sims
Dr. Kira Sims

Kira Sims

2nd place in the PhD poster contest
Strawberry Tolerance to 2,4-D Choline Applied to Row-Middles

How has your research poster inspired the next strawberry research project?

My research on the use of 2,4-D choline in strawberry field production led to an interest in understanding how 2,4-D and dicamba, another synthetic auxin herbicide, affects fruit production. I conducted a greenhouse project this winter to look into how rates of these two herbicides affect strawberry fruit development when applied at various reproductive stages. I have not analyzed the data yet, but there is a good chance we’ll see some differences. This will be important for growers to know, especially if 2,4-D is registered for use in strawberries, so they can anticipate what may happen if these herbicides make contact with the plant during fruiting. Follow-up studies from here may include field trials to assess the impact on yield. But that’ll be a project for another student.

Colton Blankenship
Colton Blankenship

Colton Blankenship

3rd place in the MS poster contest
Effect of Cultivation Timing and Crop Canopy Architecture on Weed Control in Organically Grown Sweetpotato

What is the most important thing learned from your research poster?

I think that the study reaffirmed that cultivating more frequently later in the season is not necessarily better and can actually be harmful in certain cases. It depends a lot on the context, and I’m looking forward to repeating the study to confirm the effects.

Dr. Katie Jennings
Dr. Katie Jennings

Dr. Katie Jennings

Outstanding Teaching Award from the Weed Science Society of America

Would you share your graduate advising philosophy?

I believe that each graduate student is unique, and my role is to guide them through their graduate program. No two programs look alike. It is my job to offer opportunities that help each student meet their objectives and assist them in reaching their goals and the next step in their professional journey.  It is important that I provide them with all of the resources they need to efficiently and effectively complete their research projects. I truly believe that I am successful because my students are successful. It’s very much a collaborative relationship.