MANHATTAN, Kansas- The Kansas State University Department of Agronomy will host the 8th annual "Willie and the Beanstalk" contest in spring 2015. Registration is now open.
The contest, open to kindergarten through 12th grade, 4-H and/or FFA teams, provides an opportunity to see who can grow the largest soybean plant in the state of Kansas. There will be two divisions for the contest: kindergarten-8th grade, and 9th-12th grade. By participating in the contest, students will learn first-hand how several parameters, including temperature, soil and potential disease, influence plant growth.
"It's a great contest to help students understand all aspects that go into growing a plant," said Dr. Nathan Nelson, associate professor of agronomy at K-State and contest organizer.
Dr. Nelson also emphasized the real-world production scenarios that this contest provides students.
"It puts some production goals behind growing plants, which is essential in agronomy and food production," he said. "We've been able to give students a little flavor of that and they've been able to get excited and engaged in the contest."
Last year, the contest reached its highest completion rate since its launch, with over 400 students finishing. With the contest reaching its highest participation ever, and soybean production so prevalent in the state, the Kansas Soybean Commission feels their sponsorship is more impactful than it's ever been.
"In 2014, Kansas farmers harvested nearly 148 million bushels of soybeans from 4 million acres. At $9.66 per bushel, the average Kansas price so far this marketing year, that's $1.4 billion," said Jerry Jeschke, Robinson, Kan., chairman of the Kansas Soybean Commission. "The year before, soybeans represented about 20 percent of Kansas' total principal-crop value."
"The Kansas Soybean Commission sponsors the Willie and the Beanstalk contest because it teaches students about the science that goes into food and feed production. By focusing on the soybean life cycle and what makes for a healthy soybean plant, they explore the importance of soil fertility, genetics, light and water. Plus, they experience some of the challenges farmers face," Jeschke said.
The Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (KFAC) plays an important role in providing information to students learning about soybean plant growth. The non-profit agricultural education foundation's mission is to connect classrooms to Kansas agriculture. The "Willie and the Beanstalk" is a perfect opportunity to provide that service.
"Being a part of the Willie and the Beanstalk contest is a perfect fit for KFAC," Cathy Musick, KFAC executive director said. "We love knowing teachers and students are learning the importance of agronomic factors in the growth of a healthy soybean plant and applying math and science to the process."
The contest will culminate at the K-State Open House on Saturday, April 11, 2015. The soybean plants will be evaluated on cultural practices documentation, plant height, plant mass, leaf area and leaf greenness. All students who participate in the final judging will receive a t-shirt.
Deadline for submission is March 2, 2015. For complete contest rules, registration and educational resources, visit the K-State agronomy website or firstname.lastname@example.org.