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.K-State 2017 Collegiate Crops Team (l to r): Dr. Kevin Donnelly (coach), Kaylin Fink, Tyler Marr, Keren Duerksen, Trent Frye, Nathan Ryan, Noah Winans, Rebecca Zach, Wes Jennings, Sarah Zerger (asst. coach) | Download this photo.

K-State crops team wins national championship and top individual awards

University has won 15 of the last 19 national championships

December 1, 2017

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Kansas State University Crops Team recently captured the title of national champion by winning both the Kansas City American Royal Collegiate Crops Contest on Nov. 14 and the Chicago Collegiate Crops Contest on Nov. 18.  K-State teams have now won the collegiate crops contest championship in 15 of the past 19 years.

This was the ninth straight win for K-State in the Chicago contest, surpassing the previous record of eight set by the University of Minnesota from 1969-1976. Iowa State University was close behind in second place at both events, and the University of Minnesota-Crookston took third. 

Official members of the K-State team were Keren Duerksen, Newton, junior in agronomy, Kaylin Fink, Chapman, junior in agronomy, and Nathan Ryan, Louisburg, Missouri, sophomore in agronomy. Alternate contestants were agronomy majors Rebecca Zach, Morrowville, sophomore, Westley Jennings, Salina, sophomore, Tyler Marr, Formosa, senior, Trent Frye, Belleville, senior, and Noah Winans, Tekonsha, Michigan, sophomore.

In both contests, the K-State team took first place in the plant and seed identification phase of the contest and placed second in seed analysis. In grain grading, they were first at Chicago and second at Kansas City.

At Chicago, Keren Duerksen was the first place individual overall. She won both the plant and seed identification and seed analysis components, and finished fourth in grain grading. Kaylin Fink finished in third place overall, third in both seed analysis and identification, and seventh in grain grading. Nathan Ryan was fifth overall, placing as the high individual in grain grading, sixth in identification, and eighth in seed analysis.

At Kansas City, Nathan Ryan was the top individual overall, where he won the grain grading component with a perfect score. He also was first in identification and fourth in seed analysis.  Keren Duerksen was the second place individual overall, placing second in identification, third in seed analysis, and fourth in grain grading. Kaylin Fink placed fifth overall, third in identification, sixth in seed analysis, and eighth in grain grading.

The team was coached by Kevin Donnelly, K-State professor of agronomy.  Sarah Zerger, agronomy senior from Cheney, was the assistant coach.

In the contests, participants are required to identify 200 different plant or seed samples of crops and weeds; grade eight samples of grain according to Federal Grain Inspection Service standards; and analyze 10 seed samples to determine what contaminants they contain.

The American Royal coordinated the Kansas City contest, with DuPont Pioneer as the primary awards sponsor. Additional sponsors were GFG Ag Services, Bayer, CHS Foundation, American Society of Agronomy, Association of Official Seed Analysts, and South Dakota Crop Improvement Association.

The primary sponsor of the Chicago contest was the CME Group. Additional donors in Chicago included the Crop Science Society of America, Growmark Cooperative, and the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists.

For its performance, K-State received a team scholarship award from contest sponsors at Kansas City, and CME Group provided individual scholarships to the top five students at Chicago.

Locally, sponsors for the K-State Crops Team include the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, K-State’s Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture, and the K-State Student Government Association.


Kevin Donnelly

Written by

Kevin Donnelly

At a glance

Kansas State University’s Crops Team has done it again, winning its 15th national championship in 19 years.


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K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the wellbeing of Kansans.
Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan.