Hillsboro native’s career goal has gone to weeds

When he tells people he majors in weed science “I usually have to go into a little more detail,” says Ryan Rector, a graduate student from Kansas State University.

Rector, a Hillsboro High School graduate and the son of Kirby and Kathy Rector, has a bachelor of science degree in agronomy-a branch of agriculture that deals with the raising of crops and the care of the soil. He is working on his master’s degree in weed science.

While his field of study may sound somewhat humorous, it is important business to Kansas farmers.

“Weeds cause tremendous crop losses each year, and farmers spend a great deal of time, effort and money in attempts to control them,” said Dallas Peterson, coach of the K-State Weed Science Team that Rector has joined. “Training and educating young scientists and professionals in weed management is very important.”

But why weeds?

“I like agronomy and herbicides,” Rector said. “I grew up with it, and then with Dad being at Ag Service (in Hillsboro) and all, it just happened.”

Last July, Rector and five fellow students competed in the North Central Weed Contest sponsored by the Northwest Weed Science Society in Oxford, Ind.

The annual event is hosted by different herbicide companies, and this year it was Bayer’s turn.

“There were four parts to the competition,” Rector said, “and each part was timed. It was a long day.”

Rector said students had to be well-prepared to compete in this multi-faceted contest.

The first part of the contest focused on weed identification. Rector said students were expected to identify 25 out of 70 weeds, their seeds, and seedlings.

“We had to know all 70 because we didn’t know which 25 they would pull out and test us on,” he said.

The second part of the test involved calibration. This test was subdivided into two parts, one written and one demonstration.

Test number three required the identification of unknown herbicides.

Rector said 10 plots were each sprayed with a different herbicide. Students were asked to identify the herbicide by observing plant damage and injuries to remaining plants.

The fourth test was a problem-solving exam.

“We acted as the chemical representative,” Rector said, “and someone else was the farmer. The farmer gave us the problem and we had to identify the problem and come up with a recommendation. The judge was there to listen to the entire discussion.”

After Rector completes his master’s degree, he hopes to acquire a doctorate.

“I have will have received two degrees from K-State, so I will go to another university for my Ph.D,” Rector said. “But I do want to stay in the midwest.”

After school he hopes to research and develop new herbicides for a chemical company.

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