Recognising differences in weed and crop species recognition skills of agriculture students.

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Students in an agricultural science degree were surveyed to assess their ability to recognise plants of agricultural importance. The survey consisted of high quality images of 25 species. Students were surveyed at the start of their studies in first year, and at various times during their second year of studies. At the start of their studies students had, on average, a low (35% and 27%, 2011 and 2012 respectively) ability to recognise agricultural species, with a very wide range of individual responses (6'66%, 0'72%, 2011 and 2012 respectively). Species that were conspicuous at the landscape level were well known, as were species that had spines or stinging hairs, while many important agricultural plants were poorly known. Students at the start of second year had only a small improvement (average 41% and 42%, range 4'76% and 2'84%; 2011 and 2012 respectively) from their first year of study. This was understandable as most first year subjects were introductory science, with plant recognition not specifically taught. About three months later, at the end of a subject where plant recognition was one of the main practical activities, the average mark had improved by about 50% (average 61%, range 24'92%). About four months later, after a semester where plant recognition was not specifically taught, but aspects of pasture management and weed control were, the average mark had further improved to 73% (range 40'96%). The survey showed that although over 80% of these students had a strong rural background (live on farms, etc.) they started their studies with a relatively low ability to recognise species of agricultural importance. Through identification and recognition practicals and general exposure to agricultural plants their recognition abilities rapidly improved during second year. The wide spread of individual student abilities indicates the need to develop different modes of plant recognition instruction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBioscience Education
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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