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Students Win Honors in Plant Judging

The UW-River Falls floral evaluation and design team earned top honors at the 62nd National Intercollegiate Floral Crop Quality Evaluation and Design Contest held at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, April 3 and 4.

Judging both as a team and as individuals, students evaluated the quality characteristics of 16 species of flowering and foliage potted plants and 14 species of cut flowers.

UW-RF student Kim Bode, a junior from Faribault, Minn., majoring in horticulture, took first place in the "High Individual Overall" category, second in the "Individual in Potted Plants Evaluation," and second in the "Individual in Cut Flowers Evaluation."

In the team competition, the UW-RF team placed second. The team members, all horticulture majors, included Michelle Stay, a senior from Foley, Minn.; Dana Johanek, a junior from Michicot; Kevin Roethle, a senior from Rubicon, and Bode. Nick Folk, a senior from Fort Atkinson, was assistant coach for the team, and horticulture Professor Terry Ferriss from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences was the coach.

"Evaluation is the highest order of thinking skills in this activity," said Ferriss. "The student must identify something, make comparisons between the quality characteristics of groups of plant materials, and make justifications on their choices."

Ferris said the exercise teaches critical thinking and verbal skills that students will take with them and use in their daily lives in one way or another.

The students toured several horticultural places in the Las Cruces area, including Sorenson's Geothermal Cactus Greenhouses; a New Mexico re-constructed wetlands; the New Mexico State University's arboretum, floriculture and turf research programs; and Aldershot's of New Mexico, a greenhouse production facility that ranks in the top 50 nationally for volume produced.

Twelve universities from some of the more progressive horticulture programs across the country participated in the competition, which was co-sponsored by the American Floral Endowment, an industry group; Pi Alpha Xi National, the national honor society for floriculture and ornamental horticulture; and the host university.

Students also had an opportunity to connect with the local culture and natural sights, including a local Spanish mariachi band, a tilapia fish farm, the White Sands National Monument, and the third highest golf course in the United States at Cloudcroft, at an elevation of 9,000 feet.

Ferriss said funding for the trip came from a variety of sources. Some was provided by the College and the student senate provided some single-event funding. The American Floral Endowment provided a small grant for travel, and the students each paid part of the cost.

In addition, Ferris said, there is a cadre of loyal floral evaluation alumni who make contributions for the trip each year. "Even if the contribution is small, it really adds up. It makes a difference and it is appreciated," she said.

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