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Danilo Pivaral

Northeast Weed Science Society contest

Deer browsing project.

As part of the internship experience I participated in the NEWSS Collegiate Weed Science Contest. The contest was held in Smithfield, North Carolina on July, 24 hosted by BASF. Starting in June our team of 11 people had weekly meetings from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Tuesdays. During practice we went over the rules, practiced identification, went over unit conversions and talked about past experiences. The most helpful experience was doing weed walks in the Weed Teaching Garden and looking at flats with herbicide symptoms. More details of the layout of the contest are given here: 

As a visual and tactile learner, identifying weeds as part of my job was very appealing and was a great way to practice for the contest. One of the projects that I helped identify weeds for was a project looking at the effects of deer browsing on weed communities. I worked on this project on rainy days because the flats were inside the greenhouses. When the weather was nice I counted weed seedlings at Musgrave and Freeville as part of the weed seed bank emergence forecasting project. The purpose of forecasting is to help identify weeds that farmers might have in their fields. In these plots there we’re subplots that were tilled and not tilled. I also practiced by memorizing scientific names.

Practicing herbicide application.

Two days before the contest the we drove 10 hours from Ithaca to Smithfield. The plan was to have a day to practice before the competition. The morning after arriving we went for a walk to identify weeds found in southeastern United states that we had not seen before. Then we did a complete walk through of the sprayer calibration. My role was to do the timed walk through after the calculations, backpack, and nozzles were in place. In the afternoon we went over the farmer problems list that was given to use in advance. Each of us researched a problem and identified root causes and possible solutions.

The day of the competition weed identification was first. I managed to identify some, but others I was less confident about or I couldn’t remember the name. Next was the calibration. For the sprayer component I had to walk 50ft in 10 seconds with the sprayer 30 inches above the ground. I forgot to start spraying the first time I made the walk, so the judge let me restart the walk. The walk was perfect except for the mishap  the first time. Next was the 20 minute written test that had many conversions. During the farmer problems, it would have been more clear to me how to approach the problems If I had practiced reading herbicide labels more. However, I knew the solution to one of problem thanks to the research. The second farmer problem I was able to find out that the farmer dumped extra herbicide in the forested area. It was easy to tell that there was bleaching. Overall the contest was thrilling and I look forward to participating in the Weed Olympics in my home state of Illinois next year!

Sample don’t trample

The golf hole cutter made work easy.

This week we completed the drought experiment at Leland. The experiment was to see how climate change can impact plant competitive ability under drought and non-drought conditions. Last year the experiment was done with morning glory, and this year it is with bur cucumber. The bur cucumber was transplanted from a corn field in Barton to our field in Leland.

We then placed 16 rain shelters into the field. The plots in the field varied with different bur cucumber densities between corn rows, and each density had a drought and non-drought area. Then we put moisture sensors 6 inches into the ground. Rain water was collected in gutters and dispersed by tile drains. As we did moisture readings each week I got an idea of how well the shelters were working.

Bur cucumber within corn row.

When collecting moisture readings I had to be careful not to trample the crops. This is a challenge when I collect Rye or Kernza samples. But in this field I had to be extra careful not to get caught in the bur cucumber or trip over the cable holding down the shelters. The Bur cucumber grew vigorously next to the corn using its tendrils to climb. For five weeks data was recorded. We discovered that a rodent had bitten one of the cables where were finding negative data. It is visible obvious that the corn under the shelters has been stunted. We also collected corn height for each subplot. Using the data we’ve collected we will get a better understanding of how climate change impacts weed species’ competitive ability.

Here is a video that helps visualize the extent of the low precipitation in Ithaca: Taughannock_Falls_drought-14cis42

Weed ecology internship

Ivy Leaf Morning Glory with herbicide symptoms

Greetings from Ithaca! My name is Danilo Pivaral. I am going to be a senior agricultural sciences major. Although I grew up in Chicago, I have wanted to contribute to the food supply chain that fails many neighborhoods, by studying agriculture. This summer I am an intern in the Weed Ecology and Management lab at Cornell. As part of the lab I work on a couple different projects such as, the perennials project, seedling emergence, and drought experiment. My interest in sustainability led me to the perennial grain project, growing intermediate wheatgrass and rye. In the past five weeks I have helped pull weeds at the Musgrave Research farm and fields in Newfield and Ovid. The weeds we have mostly targeted are wild mustard and hairy vetch. These were controlled to prevent them from pollinating and reseeding for next year. Pulling the vetch was very satisfying and had to be put in bags and dumped away from the field because vetch seed continues to form even when pulled. The satisfaction came from freeing up a cluster of Kernza by pulling out a vetch from stem closest to the ground. Although weeds are an issue to farmers, they can be appreciated for their beauty and resilience to cultivation and herbicides.

My experience as a home gardener has been limited to hand weeding. Though it is fun spending time outside weeding, herbicide application seems like an adaptable technology. This Internship will help me prepare for the weeds class in the fall and help me find a career in agriculture. By learning about how weeds are controlled in different fields, I will have another cultivation tool under my belt.

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