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HomeUncategorizedAgriscience Fair promotes next generation of agricultural innovators

Agriscience Fair promotes next generation of agricultural innovators

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On March 18, 2019, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall told AG Daily, 
“The long-term sustainability of agriculture depends on talented young people pursuing careers in farming and ranching, as well as related fields and food-chain professions. Student agricultural projects encourage interest in fields of study that will provide the next generation of farmers, ranchers, food scientists, agricultural engineers, agronomists, horticulturalists and soil scientists.”

It’s a timely statement as local judging of Future Farmers of America (FFA) agriscience projects wrap up around the nation.  Winning at the local level sends the FFA member to the state competition and if they are successful there, a seat at the national competition is earned.

Hernando High’s Brooksville Senior FFA is Hernando County’s only FFA chapter and is one of 8630 chapters nationwide (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).  There 669,989 FFA members ages 12-21. 

“Agriscience is a science fair specifically for FFA- it’s an agricultural perspective of a science,” explained Hernando High School Sophomore and Brooksville Senior FFA member Haven Anderson.

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Haven’s project on oyster mushroom mycelium placed second at the state science fair last week. The mycelium of a mushroom is basically its root.  Oyster mushroom mycelium have the unique ability to filter heavy metals such as mercury from water.  Her research compared the ‘adsorption’ abilities of different strains of oyster mushroom mycelium to determine which variety would be most effective in filtering heavy metal pollutants from bodies of water.

Haven explained that the agricultural perspective of this project would be,
“If plants or animals are watered with contaminated water- it’s a food to table cycle that obviously can affect them.”  She pointed out that agriculture is also the criminal in this case as runoff from agriculture causes contamination.  Agriculture is both the criminal and the victim. 

She says oyster mycelium filtration could potentially be applied to mitigating pollution in the Everglades. Although it is quite a large body of water, oyster mycelium are sustainable in that type of environment. She gave credit to her freshman biology teacher in encouraging her to study mycelium.  In her research, she came across a book written by well known mycologist Paul Stamets.  She also collaborated with Doug Poteet who is a local mycologist.  Poteet started the agriculture program at Pine Grove Elementary.  He gave her tips on inoculating mycelium, especially in water.

She explained that mycelium has the ability to adsorb where elements such as heavy metals are glued or attracted to its surface as opposed to being absorbed internally.   

She said the mercury can be removed from the mycelium and the mycelium can be reused. The mercury can be recycled for various industrial uses.
Hernando High Seniors Summer Blessing and Victoria Rivera completed an animal based project on the effects of barometric pressure on a horse’s ability to learn.

Victoria explained, “Our overall project was, ‘Which barometric pressures can affect equine in their daily training?’ ”

She explained that the barometric pressure on a sunny day would be 30.0 – 30.66, while the pressure during a storm like a hurricane would be around 28.  

Summer said that because Florida does not experience four seasons, they did not see enough variation in pressure to elicit significant behavioral responses from the horses.

They state in their conclusion, “We came to the realization that in between pressure brackets, there was only .03Hg or less. This means that horses would not typically be affected by that little amount of pressure changes.”

“Our (pressure) brackets didn’t vary enough to get results that show the horses actually do react,” Summer said.  “That’s something we decided we would do differently- we would go somewhere that has four seasons.”

Victoria explained their testing method. “We would teach the horses to place their hoof on a wooden box with the light touch of a square based broom.  We would record each time, how long it took for nine horses in each pressure bracket (to learn to place their hoof on the box).”

It’s important to train horses in ideal learning conditions.  Victoria and Summer state in the ‘Applications’ section of their project, “This project can apply to not only the average farmer using a horse for everyday ranch work, but also any horse trainer. This could help with various training aspects, from ranching, rodeoing, showing and even jumping.”

Victoria remarked that participating in the agriscience fair has definitely steered her in an agricultural direction.  “It steered me more towards wanting to major in agriculture, in looking at all these different problems that we face agriculturally.” 

Summer said, “This has opened my eyes toward horses, to learn more about them and help them in different situations.”  

Haven hopes to focus on livestock from a molecular biology perspective in college.

Haven Anderson earned first place in the Environmental Systems, Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10), category for the BSFAA agriscience fair. Summer Blessing and Victoria Rivera also earned 1st Place Gold in their category: Animal Systems.  They are headed to the State FFA Agriscience Fair  held in conjunction with the Florida FFA State Convention in Orlando from June 10-14, 2019. 

Judges for the agriscience fair on Friday March 29, 2019 included agricultural stakeholders and professionals in the community as well as parents. Both

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and University of Florida’s IFAS program had staff members judging.  

Nancy Moores, 4-H Agent III for UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County, has served as a judge for several years.   

She remarked, “I was very impressed with the number of participants (up from the last several years), the scope of the problems they sought to resolve (some being very current and challenging), and mostly with their presentation skills.  Public speaking is something we have a strong focus on in Hernando County 4-H so it is always great to see these high school youth professionally dressed, composed, and very confident in their knowledge and ideas.  It is also a pleasure to be able to give them feedback immediately and then more detailed in writing.  As I have had the privilege of judging multiple years, I’ve seen some of these youth take my suggestions from one year to be more successful the next.”

Here in Hernando County, 4-H and FFA work hand in hand.  Moores explained, “Rick Ahrens (FFA Advisor at Hernando High School) and I work as a team to educate the youth of Hernando through hands-on learning opportunities.  We often consult each other, share information and opportunities, and support each other’s programs in many ways.”  

She also said, “As Hernando County does not offer middle school FFA, Rick encourages young people to join 4-H at an early age and learn/experience as much as possible.  I, in turn, encourage our members to join FFA when they reach high school, while remaining in 4-H, of course.  Not only does joining FFA offer them more experiences, it also allows them to earn degrees and awards open only to members… I feel it does the community good to see the two programs working together for the promotion of agriculture, the education of our youth through experiences, and helping develop a well rounded young adult that is workforce ready.”

100 Brooksville Senior FFA members participated in the agriscience fair with over 80 projects in the running.  

“I definitely think agriscience fair is something very beneficial,” Haven Andersen said.






Individual Projects:
Haven Anderson – “Mercury”ous about Mycelium: Effect of the Strain of 
Oyster Mycelium on the Biosoption of Mercury(Hg) from H20.

Alexandra Crane – The Ramification of Bos taurus, Sus scrofa and Gallus domesticus Manure on Escherichia Coli Production.

Best of Show- Team Projects:

Anna Babione & Mary Babione – How does Haungalongbing affect the pH in the soils surrounding Citrus Aurrantium?



Plant Systems

Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10)
Adrianna Cueto 
1st Place Gold
Syrah Melton 
2nd Place Gold
David Eppley 
3rd Place Silver

Division 4 
(Teams, Grades 9 & 10)
Emily Overstreet/Tia Smith 1st Place Silver

Division 5 (Grades 11 &12)
Madison Zuccheri 
1st Place Gold
Brach Jeppesen 
2nd Place Gold
Nathan Graydon 
3rd Place Silver

Division 6 
(Teams, Grades 11 & 12)
Anna Babione/Mary Babione 1st Place Gold
Gianna Huber/Bricyn Wylie 2nd Place Silver
Power & Structure Systems

Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10)
Nat Monroe 1st Place Gold
Hanna Vincent 
2nd Place Gold
Hailey Miller 3rd Place Silver

Division 4 
(Teams, Grades 9 & 10)
Ava Philip/Maddox Romain 1st Place Bronze

Division 5 (Grades 11 & 12)
Amanda Bates 
1st Place Gold
Ethan Watler 2nd Place Gold
Jennah Karagines 
3rd Place Gold

Division 6 
(Teams, Grades 11 & 12)
Madison Collins/JessiJo Pallay 1st Place Gold
David Batten/Sidney Batten 2nd Place Silver

Food Systems

Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10)
Erin King 1st Place Gold
Christina Volberg 
2nd Place Gold
Payton Decius 
3rd Place Silver

Division 5 (Grades 11 & 12)
Bethany Blocker 
1st Place Silver
Savannah Foley 
2nd Place Bronze

Social Systems

Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10)
Angelina Zuniga 
1st Place Gold
Ashton Sowder 
2nd Place Bronze

Division 5 (Grades 11 & 12)
Larissa Greene 
1st Place Gold
Alexus Rogers 
2nd Place Gold
Isabella Carter 
3rd Place Bronze

Environmental Systems

Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10)
Haven Anderson 
1st Place Gold

Division 4 
(Teams, Grades 9 & 10)
Anastsia Britcher/Jana Mudd 1st Place Bronze
Ethan Erickson/Pete Maxson 2nd Place Participant
Division 5 (Grades 11 & 12)
Tabatha Bingaman 1sdt Place Silver

Division 6 
(Teams, Grades 11 & 12)
Tim Ellerman/Logan Holcomb 1st Place Silver

Animal Systems

Division 3 (Grades 9 & 10)
Alex Crane 1st Place Gold
Hailey Smith 2nd Place Gold
McCoy Smith 3rd Place Gold

Division 5 (Grades 11 & 12)
Greta Drenth 1st Place Gold
Summer Blessing/Victoria Rivera 1st Place Gold
Hayley Shamblin 
2nd Place Silver
Kolby Lonigro 
3rd Place Silver 

Division 6 
(Teams, Grades 9 & 10)
Hope Barnes/Madeline Lee 2nd Place Silver
Bailey Britton/Hannah Thomson 3rd Place Bronze

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