Meet Stephen Meyers
In this year's Graduate Student Research Symposium competition, Stephen Lawrence Meyers, doctoral student in Horticultural Science, received second place for his poster entitled, "Palmer Amaranth Interference in Sweetpotato."
His interest in horticultural crops and weed science began while Stephen was a student in Indiana. A native of Rensselaer, IN, he received his B.S. degree (with distinction) in 2007 from Purdue University, with a major in Horticultural Production and Marketing, along with minors in Plant Biology and Weed Science. Meyers was greatly encouraged to attend graduate school, especially by Kathryn Orvis, Associate Professor at Purdue. He says that Dr. Orvis not only was his strongest proponent, but she was ". . . my mentor, friend, and role model, who always believed in my scholastic abilities more than I ever could."
But NC State's strong horticultural science graduate program enticed Meyers away from Purdue. A campus visit in Spring 2007, where he met department faculty and graduate students, sealed the deal. And it made his decision to attend NC State an easy one.
Meyer's graduate research on Palmer amaranth interference in sweetpotato is unique. He says that although much research has been done on the ". . . interference and control of Palmer amaranth in agronomic crops (corn, soybean, cotton) . . . little research had been conducted in sweetpotato."
Palmer amaranth is a vigorous weed that has the potential to reach heights of over six feet and produce as many as half a million seeds per plant. This sort of growth competes with the production of crops for light, water, and nutrients. Understanding these interactions make for well-informed management decisions.
Meyer says that Palmer amaranth is ". . . especially common and troublesome in the Southeastern U.S., which just happens to be where 80% of the sweetpotato acreage in the U.S. is located. Palmer amaranth greatly reduced sweetpotato yield and quality." He continues to explain that tall Palmer amaranth plants intercept sunlight before it reaches the low growing sweetpotato foliage, thus interfering with the sweetpotato yield. Additionally, the sweetpotato plants produced limited amounts of carbohydrates used to create storage roots.
One of the more interesting findings in Meyer's study is that at low densities Palmer amaranth tended to grow wider and branched out more than plants at higher densities. The result was that even at low densities, this weed was still capable of intercepting large amounts of sunlight, consequently contributing to large sweetpotato yield and quality losses.
Meyers says that he found creating a poster for the symposium that included all the pertinent information from a larger study into limited space was a challenge. "Creating a poster that could be easily understood by individuals of multiple educational backgrounds but that adequately covered research from a very specific niche within plant science was a great learning experience."
So, what does Meyers do when he's not chasing down Palmer amaranth? He says that he spends his ". . .spare time removing weeds from my large vegetable garden." But he also enjoys growing and collecting orchids, making homemade wines, and fishing.
Meyers has two pieces of advice for his fellow graduate students. He suggests that students surround themselves ". . . with the most knowledgeable, innovative, and experienced advisor and committee members available in your discipline and be willing to accept criticism."
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