Plants vs. Hope
Plants and I have an interesting history. Trees were only things to be climbed on days my mom had time for the emergency room (which thankfully was often), and vegetables in the garden gave up and died the moment I touched them. Trees and I have remained on good terms (being a Forestry minor sort of demands that), but the little green ones that are out in the field ... those are a different story. As our projects at the Noble Research Institute continue to unfold, it seems our history is destined to continue.
The newest chapter of our saga has taught me that those little green plants in the fields are sneaky little devils. While walking transects with Mike Proctor, he explained, "Plants don't follow the rules, don't read the guide books and don't care what they are supposed to look like." They also like to make sure that if they are to be identified, they are the smallest, rattiest-looking specimen possible. It would not be any fun if it was a nice, mature, normal-looking big bluestem plant ... oh, no, it has to be tiny, with tiny hairs, that if you look really closely you can kind of see how they could be looking wild and unkempt ... oh, well. I guess everyone has the right to be an individual, even plants.
That being said, learning about plants through plant identification and assisting with other projects has been wonderful. As an Animal Sciences major, I spend a lot more time learning how plants are digested by animals rather than how those plants grow, look and function. But those plant facts are pretty important. I can't expect to manage livestock well or even understand them fully if I don't have a solid appreciation for what keeps them alive. So, dear people who dedicate your lives to studying plants, who fearlessly identify even the most stubbornly unique specimens, and who brave the world of forage improvement and research, I salute you.
Hope Wentzel is a 2013 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Alexandria, Va. She will be a junior at Virginia Tech in the fall, majoring in animal and poultry sciences with a production business option and livestock emphasis, and minoring in forestry.