Georgia scientist named 2012 Star in Agriscience finalist by National FFA Organization

INDIANAPOLIS (September, 2012/National FFA Organization) - It took just one day of a horticulture class at a new school for Kaylyn Stout to discover her passion for agriculture and FFA. Now Stout is one of four FFA members selected as national finalists for one of the National FFA Organization’s highest awards.

The American Star in Agriscience is one of the four awards that represent the highest honor FFA can bestow upon its members. Stout, from the Lowndes County High School FFA Chapter in Valdosta, Ga., will join the other three finalists during the final day of October’s 85th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis in hopes of being named the organization’s top member in the area of agriscience.

But before that moment, Stout will detail her projects and accomplishments to a panel of judges representing many areas of agriculture. Her story is sure to impress, especially coming from someone who admits she was shy and nervous when her FFA projects and competitions first had her speaking in front of people.

Stout’s time in FFA has been an inspiring one, starting from her time as a first-year Greenhand member. Since then, Stout has exceled as a member of state finalist farm business management contest teams and as a chapter leader. She finished as a state runner-up in her wildlife management proficiency and was deemed a national finalist during a separate contest at the 2009 National FFA Convention.

Stout is a finalist in the area of agriscience, however, thanks to what started out as an innocent question in one of her agriculture classes: “What part of the county has larger deer?” As the Lowndes High School Lab Research Assistant, Stout was convinced she could perform a study to find out and explain why certain whitetail deer grow larger than others in her county and help solve the debate in her class.

Using the scientific method and background research, Stout developed her hypothesis that whitetail deer have larger antler and body mass in areas with increased calcium and phosphorous in the soil. She then took soil samples from the eastern and western sides of Lowndes County, a 510-square-mile parcel on Georgia’s southern border, to be tested at the University of Georgia. Classmates even helped Stout collect information about deer they had hunted by weighing them, scoring antler sizes and estimating age via their jawbones.

After her statistical analysis was completed, Stout’s hypothesis was accepted when results showed that deer antlers were more than 30 percent larger and doe body mass was more than 18 percent greater in areas that showed higher levels of calcium and phosphorous in the soil. For Lowndes County, that meant whitetail deer typically grew larger in the western part of the county – something that Stout says can increase the value of property for farmers and landowners.

Stout is now a student at the University of Georgia, pursuing a degree in agricultural education. Her FFA chapter advisors are Dr. James Corbett and Mr. Quinton Hadsock.

The American Star Awards represent the best of the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients. Finalists for the awards have mastered skills in production, finance, management and/or research in one of four areas: Star Farmer, Star in Agribusiness, Star in Agricultural Placement and Star in Agriscience. Each state FFA association recommends a finalist in each area, and the National FFA Organization selects the four national finalists in each area. The 16 total finalists receive a $2,000 award for their efforts in the national program.

The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc.; Case IH; Elanco; Farm Credit; Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business; and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.