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Collegiate Soils Judging Contest Held

story by Dennis Brezina

The Region IV Collegiate Soils Judging Contest was held recently at Texas A&M University. Collegiate Soils Judging is an extra-curricular activity that teaches students to write soil pedon descriptions of soil profiles. A soil pedon is the smallest volume of earth that can be called "a soil." A pedon is three dimensional and large enough to permit study of all horizons. Typically, a pedon is at least one square meter in size.

The contest consists of four-member teams. Each member judges four soil pits independently, and the group judges one pit as a team. Contestants judge the physical properties or morphology of the soil, such as soil texture, structure, permeability, depth, slope, and runoff. The contestants then make interpretations of the soil behavior according to these physical and chemical characteristics. The students often learn more in the week of the contest than an entire semester of classes.

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Resource Soil Scientist, Dennis Brezina, Bryan, assisted professors from the Texas A&M University Soils & Crop Sciences Department in setting up and conducting the contest. Associate Professor of Hydropedology, Cristine Morgan, and Brezina set up the practice and contest pits with the help of C.T. "Tom" Hallmark, recently retired professor of soil genesis and classification. Hallmark has coached many teams in soils judging, and he also instructed thousands of students, many that would eventually become USDA-NRCS employees.

The four individual contest pits were in Robertson County at the Walnut Creek Mining Company near Bremond. The team pit was a high shrink-swell clay called a vertisol, that was located on TAMU's Riverside campus.

Region IV consists of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. With tighter budgets this year, the only schools competing were University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, University of Arkansas-Monticello, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State University, and Texas Tech University. The host team does not compete.

First place went to University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, followed by Oklahoma State University and Texas Tech University. High individual winners were: first place: Alden Smith, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, second place: Stephanie Kulesza, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, third place: Austin Hudson- Oklahoma State University, fourth place: Michael Kirch, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and fifth place: Jordan Gatlin- Oklahoma State University.

Senior Agronomy major, Heather Watson of Texas A&M University said, "The contest is a really great place to make friends, even though it is a contest and they are competing. We are all there because we love and enjoy being in soil and that is what brings us together."

For more information about NRCS, its partners and activities, visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov or follow NRCS at http://twitter.com/NRCSTexas.

The Region IV Collegiate Soils Judging Contest was held in Robertson County at the Walnut Creek Mining Company near Bremond. Contestants determine soil horizons and boundaries, soil color, and soil texture at each soil pit.

The Region IV Collegiate Soils Judging Contest was held in Robertson County at the Walnut Creek Mining Company near Bremond.

Contestants determine soil horizons and boundaries, soil color, and soil texture at each soil pit.

A contestant uses a clinometer to measure the slope of a site. A contestant determines soil texture by feel, while estimating the amount of sand, silt, and clay in each soil horizon.

A contestant uses a clinometer to measure the slope of a site.

A contestant determines soil texture by feel, while estimating the amount of sand, silt, and clay in each soil horizon.

Contestants evaluate the thickness of the surface to estimate erosion class and judge the soil structure and depth. The area in the center within the tapes is designated as a Individual award winners include (left to right): First place: Alden Smith, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, second place: Stephanie Kulesza, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, third place Austin Hudson, Oklahoma State University, fifth place: Jordan Gatlin, Oklahoma State University, and fourth place: Michael Kirch, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

Contestants evaluate the thickness of the surface to estimate erosion class and judge the soil structure and depth. The area in the center within the tapes is designated as a "no-pick" zone, so that each contestant is able to view the same soil.

Individual award winners include (left to right): First place: Alden Smith, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, second place: Stephanie Kulesza, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, third place Austin Hudson, Oklahoma State University, fifth place: Jordan Gatlin, Oklahoma State University, and fourth place: Michael Kirch, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.