Four talented college students have captured $20,000 in prize money in the Future of Southern Ag student essay contest, sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection and Farm Press Publications. The group includes a first, two-time winner.

The two top winners are Andrew Landis, Auburn University, who won the graduate category and Matthew Turner, Louisiana State University, who took top honors in the undergraduate category. Both won $6,000.

Runners up are Jarrod Hardke, graduate category, Louisiana State University, and Sara Kovachich, undergraduate category, University of Florida. Sara and Jarrod will take home $4,000 each.

Students were asked to describe how the Southern farmer and the agricultural industry can effectively manage water usage amid increasing pressure to produce more food, feed and fiber and diminishing supply in some areas.

To get his point across, Andrew Landis used an ancient parable of a crow dropping stones into a pitcher of water to raise its level high enough to drink. Matthew Turner, who also won the undergraduate category in the inaugural year of essay contest in 2008, used his experience growing up on a farm in Mer Rouge, La., to provide a “hands on” analysis of water usage in the Mid-South.

Jarrod Hardke wrote that agriculture should focus on more efficient irrigation, better use of surface water and the development of drought-resistant crops. Sara Kovachich believes that using highly efficient irrigation technology like drip systems and variable-rate application is one key to solving water conservation issues.

Tight competion

Michael Boden, head of the Syngenta Southern Field Crops business unit said of the contest, “We are thrilled with the responses we received for the third year of competition in the Future of Southern Ag student essay contest. Once again, the essay pool was filled with exceptional submissions, which resulted in a very tight competition.

 ”As a company, Syngenta knows that one of the greatest investments we can make is in those who will bring new ideas and innovations to the industry. And, awarding scholarships to gifted students like Andrew Gascho Landis, Jarrod Hardke, Matthew Turner and Sara Kovachich reminds me that we have some very talented future leaders in our midst. We’re pleased that we can support these students and, in turn, encourage them as they pursue various agricultural related careers.”

To view the winning essays, go to www.FutureofSouthernAg.com and click “View the Complete List of 2010 Winners.” Please, take a few minutes to read the students’ work. Each of the four winners will be profiled in depth in an upcoming issue.

This year’s contest received a record 71 entries, and competition was the toughest yet. So much so, that additional students are worthy of recognition for their excellent efforts. In the graduate category, they include: Mark Swapp, Texas A&M University; Cody John Silverberg, Texas Tech University; Erica Petre, North Carolina State University; and Leah Harris, Virginia Tech.

Undergraduate honorable mentions

Honorable mentions in the undergraduate category include: Carolyn Ann Lacey, University of Missouri; Sara Alexandra Smeiser, University of Missouri; Melissa Snyder, University of Georgia; and Kyle Nette, Virginia Tech.

Special thanks are also in order for university liaisons for making the Future of Southern Ag essay contest a success and disseminating information to the students at their respective universities.

This year’s judging panel included: Jim Arnold, manager of advertising and promotions, Helena Chemical Company; Paul Hollis, editor, Southeast Farm Press; Erika Osmundson, marketing and communications manager, AgCareers.com; Elton Robinson, editor, Delta Farm Press;Jennifer Shaw, head of sustainability in North America, Syngenta Crop Protection; Commissioner Mike Strain, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry; Marjory Walker, director of communications, Production and Audio Visual Services, National Cotton Council; and Ron Smith, editor, Southwest Farm Press.

erobinson@farmpress.com