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Presence of wisdom: Annual event showcases ag senior science projects

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson State University's agriculture and technical studies department showcased the talents of some of its graduating seniors at their annual Opportunities in Agriculture event, which brought together local industry, leader...

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Daniel Garza presented his capstone research project at DSU's Opportunities in Agriculture event on Wednesday, discussing the efficacy of specific types of herbicide. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)

DICKINSON, N.D. - Dickinson State University's agriculture and technical studies department showcased the talents of some of its graduating seniors at their annual Opportunities in Agriculture event, which brought together local industry, leadership and education.

"I feel that being as DSU is a smaller school, you have more one-on-one time with your instructors; you have more of a chance to really understand material. They also have connections with people in these agencies ... so they are more able to gear us towards the path we want to go on," said Daniel Garza, a DSU senior and one of three presenting their capstone ag science research projects during Wednesday's event, which featured numerous local businesses, banks and farm equipment supply outlets running booths and talking with students about job opportunities.

Garza's project was focused on the impacts of two specific herbicides, a nonselective chemical called Tordon and a broadly selective chemical called 2,4-D.

"My curiosity was going to be on how effective 2,4-D would be," Garza explained. "Tordon isn't selective. Any plant that comes into contact with a detrimental dose of the chemical will be effective. 2,4-D happens to be a broadly selective herbicide. Your grasses will not suffer the effects of the chemical."

The results of his experiment showcased that, while the chemicals produced different effects, Tordon was the more effective killer.

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Garza's presentation was meticulously detailed. He was one of two senior projects that worked directly with the head of the department, Dr. Chip Poland.

"He was kind of a comforting presence of wisdom. When I did all my data collection ... it was nice to have him there because Chip is good with statistics," Garza recalled. "I was a little intimidated by the process at first, just looking at the whole picture. I mean, let's face it, I've never done a science experiment like this before. Chip and Annika (Plummer, administrative secretary for the ag department) walked us through it, told us 'just take one piece at a time,' and doing that, everything worked out pretty good."

Tess Blaquiere, another presenting senior, had also worked with Dr. Poland to complete her capstone, a study of the impact of high-intensity grazing on plant species.

"I was very thankful to have my boss over my summer. He's implemented an intensive-grazing system," Blaquiere said. "Everyone's very skeptical of the intensive grazing method, and I was hoping to get some feedback on whether or not it's affecting (plant life) harshly or if people are just being skeptical of a new thing."

She lamented that her results lacked clarity at project's end, but she found plenty of help and support in her peers within the department.

"With the ag department, you're kind of closed off from the main campus, but everyone is kind of (close-knit) over there, so it makes it kind of nice and you can go to anyone for help," Blaquiere said. "You couldn't ask for a better support system."

The event was opened up with pre-recorded remarks from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who spoke to the importance of the agriculture industry to the nation as a whole.

"Unfortunately fewer and fewer people understand where their food comes from, and all the folks it takes to get the food from the farm to their table," Heitkamp said. "This makes the jobs you are seeking even more important as we look to convey the importance of agriculture and agricultural industries."

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Heitkamp said that in 2016 agriculture contributed over $7 billion to the state's economy, and that more than one-third of the jobs in North Dakota are tied to agriculture production.

"I look forward to seeing you take the next steps in your professional career," she said. "Thank you for continuing to believe that what we do in rural America is important."

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Tess Blaquiere is a senior at DSU who has faced many challenges in getting her senior capstone project done, presenting it publicly at Wednesday's Opportunities in Agriculture event. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)

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