The annual Southern Weed Contest has been a valuable asset for training graduate students in the applied aspects of weed science since its inception in 1980. Recently, participation in the contest has declined, which spurred the need to assess the contest's utility. Past participants in the contest from 1980 through 2004 were surveyed (1) to determine their perception of the importance, impact, and need for a weed contest activity in the southern region; and (2) to determine whether participation in the contest is contingent upon availability of study material resources and level of emphasis placed on the contest at each university. A total of 88 of 134 electronic surveys was returned, with at least 1 survey from each of the 14 universities in the southern region. Most participants (93%) expressed having had a pleasurable experience in the contest. Fifty-five percent of the respondents indicated that the contest either “increased” or “may have increased” their employment opportunities. Ninety-two percent of the respondents indicated that they had access to “excellent” or “adequate” resources to prepare for the contest. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents felt that the contest is still needed. Faculty involvement in student preparation was closely linked to team performance in the contest. There were numerous ideas put forth to increase participation along with ways to make the contest more interesting and relevant with the changing times. With less than 25% of the graduate students in the southern region competing in the contest for the last 3 years, there is obviously a disconnect between the apparent benefits of participation and the number of students taking advantage of it. However, participation alone without preparation does little to instill within students the confidence and knowledge necessary to make the contest an enjoyable experience. Ultimately, the future of the Southern Weed Contest rests on weed science faculty involvement from each university in the southern region and on recruitment of graduate students.
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Vol. 21 • No. 4