Saturday, April 21, 2018

2018 NACTA Soil Judging - Contest Day

After a cold, snowy beginning of the week, it was a relief for everyone that the precipitation originally predicted for Friday held off. The morning was cool, but warmed up quickly, and the contest organizers did an amazing job selecting a contest site that showed the judgers a combination of everything they had seen in practice throughout the week.

In four pits on the practice site, the students described soils formed in eolian sand, loess, colluvium, and glacial till!

Gopher Soil Judging - Contest Ready! L-R: Matt Bluhm, Morgan Fabian, Gabe Benitez, Autumn Boxum, Geneva Nunes, Harley Braun, Devon Brodie, Will Effertz.

Contest Site east of Norfolk, NE
Gabe Benitez ponders soil texture as he looks out across the landscape. 
Autumn Boxum and Geneva Nunes work on the pit face with other 4-year contestants.

Harley Braun and Will Effertz working on texture and color as they wait to rotate back into the pit.
Morgan Fabian settles in to some texture samples
Devon Brodie working on the pit face
Gabe Benitez and Matt Bluhm completing their descriptions on the 3rd contest site.

2018 UMN NACTA Soil Judging team post-contest: (L-R): Will Effertz, Morgan Fabian, Matt Bluhm, Geneva Nunes, Devon Brodie (Captain), Autumn Boxum, Harley Braun, Nic Jelinski (Coach)
The team left Nebraska soon after the contest and arrived home safely to Borlaug Hall around 10:30PM on Friday evening. We won't find out the results until the scores and materials are sent to us, but an excellent educational experience was had by all! 

2018 NACTA Soil Judging - Day 3

The team finished the practice sites by completing four descriptions on a bluebird eastern Nebraska day on the Henzler Farm in Pierce County. The site was mantled by loess and eolian sands on the uplands. After what seems like weeks of snow, spirits were high!

Henzler site on a beautiful Nebraska morning.
The first site was an Inceptisol formed in eolian stand on a ridge top. The soil was still frozen in the morning, but with a little bit of body heat and the rising sun, texturing wasn't too difficult.

Ridge tops at the Henzler site underlain by sandy/loamy eolian material. 
A Haplustept formed in eolian material on a ridge top.
By the time we got to the second pit of the day, the sun was fully up, but there was still frost in the pit, as this pit was a colluvial soil on a concave landscape position that had been completely filled by drifted snow in the days prior.

A Haplustoll formed in loamy co-alluvium derived from loess and eolian sands.
 We finished the day with a team pit, and then took a drive to the west to loop through the easternmost part of the Nebraska Sandhills before returning to Norfolk.

Thursday Flannel Day for UMN Soil Judging. Back Row (L-R) Nic Jelinski (Coach), Will Effertz, Gabe Benitez, Matt Bluhm, Devon Brodie (Captain). Front Row (L-R) Morgan Fabian, Geneva Nunes, Harley Braun, Autumn Boxum.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018 NACTA Soil Judging - Day 2

The team woke up to two inches of snow in Norfolk and it started feeling more like home. The team described 4 pits on the Northeast Community College campus farm, two as individuals and two as a team. These soils were formed in eolian sand and glacial till.

2 inches of fresh snow in Norfolk, NE on Tuesday morning!
Autumn Boxum, Gabe Benitez, and Harley Braun working on individual descriptions of a soil formed in eolian sand.
A beautiful former Mollisol (now currently classified as an Inceptisol) formed in colluvium with a 40cm mantle of post-settlement eolian sand over the top on a toselope position.
NECC Farm showing glacial till/morainal landscape on the left and center, with a lower, eolian sand landscape and floodplain in the far right corner.
Matt Bluhm, Gabe Benitez, and Morgan Fabian working on individual descriptions of a soil formed in Pre-Illinoian glacial till.
A soil formed in Pre-Illinoian glacial till. This pit did a really nice job of showing the students the variability of the till in the area.



2018 NACTA Soil Judging - Day 1

Today, the team described four pits (two as a team and two individually) northeast of Norfolk in Wayne County, Nebraska, at the Thompson Wildlife Management Area. The landscape is comprised predominantly of dissected loess uplands. Due to all of the snow and winds they had in Norfolk over the past few days, several of the pits had large amounts of snow filling them. A huge thanks to Sarah Sellin (contest organizer with Northeast Community College) for staying out late the night before scooping snow out of pits with a backhoe!
Thompson WMA landscape - Wayne County, NE. This property was in agriculture until approximately 25 years ago.
We dug out the rest as best we could, describing a Haplustoll on a shoulder position.

Geba Benitez and Devon Brodie getting in an early morning workout.
Devon Brodie and Will Effertz discussing horizon morphology and nomenclature.
It was a tale of two days, because in the afternoon, the sun came out, the wind died down, and the temperature climbed to 50 degrees. All of us cold hardy Minnesotans were complaining about how hot it was. We described a Haplustept (an eroded
Haplustoll) on a backslope with some beautiful redoximorphic features that the official judges and NRCS soil scientists have interpreted as relict. Pipestems and nodules abounded.

A Haplustept on a backslope position.

This is about when the entire team started complaining that it was WAY TOO HOT. Will Effertz, Matt Bluhm, Morgan Fabian, Gabe Benitez, and Autumn Boxum working on a portion of a team description sheet.
Cross section through a pipestem redox feature interpreted as relict. You can see a root channel running through the center of the feature. We are a bit skeptical...






2018 NACTA Soil Judging - The Road to Norfolk

Your Gopher Soil Judging team shoveled themselves out early Monday morning and met in the front of Borlaug Hall at 5AM in 23 degree weather. Spirits were high, smiles abounded, and all were motivated and dedicated.

A motivated 2018 UMN NACTA Soil Judging squad prior to leaving for Norfolk, NE. L-R: Geneva Nunes, Gabe Benitez (in sandals), Harley Braun, Devon Brodie (Captain), Matt Bluhm, Autumn Boxum, Morgan Fabian, Will Effertz.
 We made a brief detour on or way to Norfolk, stopping by the Murray Hill Overlook near Little Sioux, IA. That pit stop allowed us to discuss eolian processes and the formation of the Loess Hills while standing on top of 150-200ft of loess overlooking the Missouri River valley in western IA.

UMN Soil Judging walking down a ridge trail at the Murray Hill Overlook near Little Sioux, IA. To the west in the floodplain of the Missouri River. The team is on a bluff comprised of loess. 



2018 NACTA Soil Judging - Prelude

The University of Minnesota Soil Judging team is traveling to the 2018 NACTA Soil Judging Contest hosted by Northeast Community College in Norfolk, NE from April 16th - 20th. A huge thank you to the organizers of this contest for preparing pits for our students in inclement weather conditions (Norfolk got hit with the same snowstorm that hit the Cities over the weekend).

Eight UMN judgers are traveling to Norfolk. Five of our students are new to Soil Judging, while 3 of our students participated in previous contests. We have a highly motivated, highly dedicated team who are all looking forward to spending a week learning about soil morphology and classification.

We are at one with our texture triangles.

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Epilogue

The University of Minnesota Soil Judging team is returning to normal after an immersive and successful week of investigating soils in Spink County, SD. Our first order of business is to once again express a sincere thank you to our donors, without whose generosity this educational experience would not have been possible!

Over the course of the week, our students "met" soils with nests of gypsum, high exchangeable sodium, natric horizons, and albic horizons. The team worked extensively to fit the soils they saw into a broader landscape context, and to better understand and apply the knowledge they had gained.

The finalized UMN soil-landscape synthesis for the contest and practice pits in Spink County, SD
One excellent example of this contextual work was a discussion we had on Wednesday at a practice pit at the edge of a slight depression in an alfalfa field. I asked our students to hypothesize the reasons for an area of poor alfalfa growth, based on soils knowledge gained over the course of the week. The winning hypothesis was a poorly permeable natric horizon which perched water and caused winter kill on the alfalfa - after conferring with the contest organizers, this turned out to be true.

This is just one example of the many ways in which the unique knowledge gained through Soil Judging can be translated into technical and professional skills which set Soil Judgers apart as they enter the workforce. See our previous post on "6 Reasons to Hire a Soil Judger" for even more skills that our Judgers gain through their experiences.

This was a memorable and educational trip for all involved. Soil Judging is one of the most valuable opportunities that our students participate in - it presents an opportunity to learn fieldcraft, observational and synthetic skills, and the relationship between the soil resource and local land use and livelihoods. Thus, Soil Judgers are students of the land and its people, and represent a core component of the land grant mission.

A Perspective from the Coach: This was one of the most memorable Soil Judging trips that I have been involved in. A huge thank you to our students for their dedication, focus, and attitudes - I am filled with gratitude for knowing each of you. A huge thank you to the organizers and official judges for their hard work in selecting unique sites and putting on an extremely well organized contest. Finally, a huge thank you to our supporters and donors - you provide the foundation upon which our students have the opportunity to participate in these experiences.

2017 University of Minnesota Soil Judging Team, Redfield, SD. Top row (L-R): Nic Jelinski (Coach), Stefan Swenson (Captain), Gabe Benitez, Devon Brodie, Julia Otten, Autumn Boxum, Cassie Tieman (10th place individual). Bottom row (L-R): Sara Bauer (3rd place individual), Tessa Belo, Kathleen Hobert, Ka Yang, Paige Adams.
Check back in the spring for updates on our team's travel to the 2018 NACTA contest in Norfolk, NE. Until then, be at one with your texture triangles!

Respectfully,
Nic