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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Horticulture Students Place 5th in National Competition

LAS CRUCES -- Horticulture students from New Mexico State University placed fifth at the Floral Crops Quality Evaluation and Design Competition in Reading, Pa.

The competition April 7-9 included team judging and individual floral design contests.

NMSU students competed against nine other teams: California Polytechnic, Pennsylvania State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Utah State, University of Illinois, Texas A & M, University of Wisconsin and South Dakota State.

"We finished in front of some schools that have really big floriculture programs," said Geno Picchioni, team coach and NMSU assistant horticulture professor. "We were pleased to be doing as well or better."

Eight NMSU students practiced quality and design evaluation from January to March. The team worked outside of class with the help of Picchioni and assistant coach Sabine Green. Team members were Sandy Stout, Michele Hudson, Jana Egbert, William McGinnis, Angie Barber, Veronica Craig, Elaine Tourjeé and Carla Logan.

The judging team, made up of Craig, Tourjeé and Barber, evaluated the quality of 30 different groups of cut flowers and potted plants.

"The experience the judging team received is very relevant to real-life work in the floral industry," said Picchioni. "It's really hard to make a living without good quality and the students have learned how to judge that."

Team members Craig and Tourjeé both scored in the top 15. Tourjeé placed eighth and Craig placed 14th in the quality evaluation. A total of 30 students competed in the judging part of the competition where students had three minutes to rate the quality of each crop on a scale of one to four, with one being the best.

In individual floral design competition, divided into professional and nonprofessional categories, two NMSU students blossomed. Stout, a member of last year's team, placed third in professional design choice. Hudson, also a member of last year's team, placed second in centerpiece design, amateur division. Each student was given a selection of flowers, a container and one hour to complete a design.

First-time team member McGinnis said he felt he received a valuable experience. "It was a good chance to meet professors and students from other universities," said McGinnis. "We made contacts for life with people that share the same interests as well as the same ideas."

The team's trip was partially financed by a Christmas poinsettia sale last year. The plants were grown by NMSU horticulture students in a greenhouse management class.

Picchioni said the competition provides students with extracurricular activities that cannot be done in a classroom. In addition to coaching the floriculture team, he teaches classes in plant propagation and plant mineral nutrition.