May 15, 1998
by Ellie Walradth
UW-RF News Bureau
For the third consecutive year, the UW-River Falls floral crop evaluation team has defended its title as best in the nation after recently winning the 57th annual National Intercollegiate Floral Crop Quality Evaluation and Design Competition at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
The UW-RF students competed against 10 teams from universities across the United States. The win is the fourth national title for UW-RF in the past six years.
"The win is a reflection of the quality of the program; it's not about just training for the contest," says horticulture Professor Terry Ferriss, who has coached the team since 1979. "It's what students have learned and the training that's important," said Ferriss, a Hastings, Minn., resident.
Team members are Paula Christ, a senior horticulture major from Stillwater, Minn.; Marcia Sell, a senior horticulture major from McFarland; Sarah Beckman, a senior horticulture major from Mendota Heights, Minn.; and Mike Fischer, a senior horticulture major from Cedarburg.
The competition was comprised of a cut flower division and a potted plant division, which included flowering and foliage plants. Each team member competed with 30 other individuals in judging cut flowers and designing an arrangement.
In the overall individual placings, Christ won first place, Beckman third, and Sell tenth. In the cut flower division, Christ took first place and Beckman second. Christ explains that judging cut flowers involves looking for insect and disease damage, improper flower form, and other problems. She said that at the event students didn't have to explain their placings, but usually do at their practices with Ferriss. Along with her first place win, Christ tied for second place in the design class, which consists of making a corsage and a centerpiece.
Once students have competed in the annual competition, they cannot compete again, so a different group of students attends every year. Ferriss believes that this provides a valuable resource to the team.
"One of the keys to why we have been successful is that some of our previous students (who have competed) come back and help train the next team. These assistant coaches add an extra level of training and resources."
From the competition students recognize the horticulture training they receive at UW-RF is equal to that of other programs across the country, says Ferriss. More importantly, they are able to network with those who will be the future leaders in the horticulture field. "Meeting and connecting with others is an extremely important part of the process," says Ferriss.
Students evaluated the quality characteristics of over 50 types of cut flowers, flowering potted plants, and foliage plants during the competition. The cut flowers, including roses, carnations, exotics such as heliconia and ginger, and specialty cuts such as Tweedia and Watsonia, were obtained from numerous sources throughout the world.
Students trained and competed for eight weeks at the local level for a spot on the team. The training process teaches students to identify the characteristics of various plant materials.
"Students have to be able to identify quality," says Ferriss.
The quality of plant material is determined by flower form, size, insect, disease damage, and senescence, condition problems that decrease longevity. Along with learning and identifying what causes faults in plant material, students have to assess what should be changed to improve quality.
An interesting component of the competition, says Ferriss, was that the SDSU faculty member in charge of coordinating the competition graduated from UW-RF and was a member of one of first flower judging teams Ferriss coached. Along with being the team's coach, she teaches introduction to horticulture, greenhouse management, floriculture production, herbaceous perennials and senior seminar in horticulture.
The floral competition event was sponsored by Pi Alpha Xi, the national Honor Society for Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture, the American Floral Endowment. PAX and AFE support academic achievement, education and research activities of the floriculture industry.
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