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Students Test Their Knowledge in Land Judging Competition

story by Beverly Moseley

The Area 9 career development land judging event was held recently in Huntsville at Gibbs Ranch which is operated by Sam Houston State University. Nineteen teams of four students each from schools across Area 9 competed in the annual contest, up from 2011's number of participants.

"Land judging offers one of those sets of skills that students can use for the rest of their lives," said Doug Ullrich, Jr., a professor in agricultural education at Sam Houston State University.

He added that these skills can prove invaluable whether the students pursue careers ranging from construction to gardening. The skill set includes teaching students about soil texturing, soil erosion, and how water moves through soil or infiltration.

Teams rotated through four soil pits where they evaluated their knowledge on factors such as soil texture, soil slope, root depth, and erosion control.

Rodney Bass from Garrison I.S.D. was participating for the first time.

"It's fun to learn about different types of soils," Bass said as he quickly moved between judging pits.

Within a couple hours of the truck horn sounding that started the contest, the top teams were named. The top five teams were Grapeland, Madisonville, Newton, Rusk, and Onalaska, respectively. These teams qualified to compete at the state contest which will be held April 19 at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

The top five placing individuals were Joseph Treadway of Newton, Rachel Moreno of Madisonville, Christia Mochel of Grapeland, Jesse Arjon of Madisonville, and Julie Riess of Grapeland.

Ullrich attributed this year's increase in teams to the number of new teachers in Area 9 willing to work with students on land judging skills. Another incentive is that land judging qualifies as a fourth science credit now that Texas has approved an advanced plant and soil science class for high school students, he added.

For years, Dennis Brezina, a soil scientist for USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has worked on setting up the land judging contest, digging the soil pits, and working with volunteers during the contest. Along with learning the skill set, Brezina sees this event as a tremendous outreach opportunity.

"The FFA career development events, such as land judging, give high school students an opportunity to interact with professionals of different disciplines. It also shows the students some of the careers that are available in agriculture," Brezina said.

Dennis Brezina, NRCS Soil Scientist (left), instructs contest volunteers about monitoring their assigned soil pit during the contest. Students head out in assigned groups to the soil pits where they will evaluate factors such as soil texture, soil slope, root depth, and erosion control.

Dennis Brezina, NRCS Soil Scientist (left), instructs contest volunteers about monitoring their assigned soil pit during the contest.

Students head out in assigned groups to the soil pits where they will evaluate factors such as soil texture, soil slope, root depth, and erosion control.

A student samples the subsoil to determine its permeability. A bucket of soil provides students the opportunity to evaluate soil texturing.

A student samples the subsoil to determine its permeability.

A bucket of soil provides students the opportunity to evaluate soil texturing.