INDIANAPOLIS — Three projects entered by Illinois FFA members won top honors in the National FFA Agriscience Fair held during the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo.
The Agriscience Fair includes six categories and is open middle and high school students either individually or in a team.
Freeburg FFA members Cullen Covlin and Matthew Grab are the national champions for Division 6 Plant Systems.
“In previous years we did a project where we simulated hail on soybeans to stress them,” Covlin said. “We found out if we stressed the soybeans at the early growth stage we could obtain a higher yield.”
This year, the high school seniors, who both live on their family farms, applied the herbicide Cobra to soybeans.
“It kills the weeds and it also burns the soybean plants, so that’s what we used as our stressor,” said the son of Mick and Julie Covlin. “We did obtain a higher yield than our control soybeans.”
Just like other events at this year’s virtual FFA convention, the FFA members made a video about their project that was used for the judging process.
Watching the announcement of the winners, Covlin said, was nerve-racking.
“I was confident that we had a good shot at winning, but I was still surprised when we won,” said the FFA member who is advised by Dusti Ingles.
Lizzie Schafer’s work with cattle embryos earned her national champion honors for Division 3 Animal Systems. Schafer’s family owns an 80-head Angus herd and she got the idea for her project from an embryologist.
“My embryologist told me that Quality Grade 2 embryos were more often heifers than Quality Grade 1, so I wanted to see if this was true,” said the daughter of Aaron and Sue Schafer.
“I inserted Quality Grade 1 and Quality Grade 2 embryos into recipient cows,” the Taylorville FFA member said. “And I concluded that Quality Grade 2 embryos are more likely to be heifers than Quality Grade 1.”
Last year, Schafer entered a team project with her brother which was also about bovine reproduction systems and they won a national award, as well.
“It was different this year with the virtual convention,” she said. “The judges sent some questions to all the competitors that we answered in our video that also included information about my project.”
Advised by Sue Schafer, Katie King and Lori Parks, the Taylorville FFA member is currently working on an idea for a project to enter in next year’s Agriscience Fair.
“It will be something with cattle or animal reproduction systems,” she said.
Summer Ramsey won the Division 3 Plant Systems national award with her project that focused on dicamba drift.
“I met with a local co-op expert and he helped me create my project design,” the Southeastern FFA member said.
“My stepdad lost a little over half of a field because of dicamba drifting,” said the daughter of Doug Ramsey and Sara Guymon. “For my project, I compared drifting at temperatures of 20 and 32 degrees Celsius and I also had control plants with no dicamba exposure.”
Ramsey’s hypothesis was the higher the temperature the more damage it would cause to the plants.
“I was correct, at 32 degrees Celsius, the highest amount of damage was caused to the plant,” said the FFA member who is advised by Bryan Schullian.
As an eighth-grade student, Ramsey placed fifth at the national competition.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said about winning this year. “I was going to be happy with whatever place I got.”
The Southeastern FFA member is just starting her new Agriscience project.
“I am going to be growing microalgae and adding nutrients to see if there is more lipid production,” Ramsey said.