Wednesday, September 29, 2021

2021 Region V Soil Judging: First days in Crookston, MN

We are thrilled to have a team of 12 students competing in this year's Region V Soil Judging competition hosted by the the University of Minnesota in Crookston, MN.  

The 2021 Region V team before leaving campus on Sunday morning.

This will be the first competition experience for most of the team, and they couldn't be more excited!  Huge thanks to our donors and supporters for making this learning experience possible.

Our spirits are high and our hands are dirty after 2 days of practice across the striking landscapes and soils formed by Glacial Lake Agassiz in the Red River Valley in NW Minnesota.  As we have traversed one of the flattest landscapes in the world, students have built new skills identifying subtle landforms and slopes on the lake plain.

Our first day of practice was focused on soils that have developed on the former beach ridges and beach complexes deposited by the the shifting margins of the lake.  For our second day of practice, we saw beautiful examples of soils formed in glaciolacustrine parent material on the flat lake plain.  

We are excited for one more day of practice before the competition!


A Calciudoll formed on a beach ridge complex

Practice using a clinometer to measure slope

A Calciudoll formed in the lake plain, notable for varves visible at the bottom of the profile.

These thin layers are varves - thin annual layers of sediment

Monday, October 26, 2020

2020 Region V Soil Judging: University of Minnesota Wins Remote Region V Soil Judging Contest

Region V was the only region in the country to hold a Soil Judging contest during Fall semester 2020. The University of Missouri and Missouri USDA-NRCS hosted the contest and coordinated the logistics of a remote contest (necessary due to Covid-19 protocols) by acquiring and delivering intact soil cores from practice and contest sites from across the State of Missouri. A huge thanks to Dr. Kerry Clark (University of Missouri) and Mark Abney (Missouri State Soil Scientist) for planning and organizing the contest in an extremely challenging year!

The students described each of 5 practice and 5 contest cores over the course of one week, from September 30th to October 10th, 2020. These cores showed the students a wide range of soils formed in different parent materials and under different drainage conditions:
Practice cores delivered by the University of Missouri

The students wore masks and followed-covid-19 protocols while working to complete their descriptions of the practice and contest sites. Although the team was not able to travel this year, we worked hard to learn about Missouri soils and landscapes during the contest week. The team took first place overall, first place in the group contest, and congratulations to Geneva Nunes (1), Abbie Clapp (2), Hannah Anderson (3), and Anjel Chavez (4), who placed in the top 10 individuals!

Congratulations to our students for persevering in a difficult year. A huge thank you to our donors and supporters who make everything possible! We could not do this without you!

Hannah Anderson, Zack Pederson, Anjel Chavez, and Abbie Clapp completing a group core

Chris Macke completing an individual core

2020 UMN Soil Judging Team

Sunday, October 6, 2019

2019 Region V Soil Judging: Contest Day and Results: Minnesota Takes 3rd Place Overall - Qualifies for 2020 Nationals!

Contest day opened with a beautiful sunrise and a crisp early October morning. The team completed two pits as individuals in the morning before moving to a second site in the afternoon to complete three pits as a team. Contest days are typically long, and this one is no exception. The students were in the field from 8:00AM to 7:30PM, but with cooperative weather and some amazing soils, nobody was complaining!

Contest ready just after sunrise!
Gabe Benitez (Captain) determining soil matrix color while completing his first individual pit
Abbie Clapp (3rd from right) and Matt Lundberg (right) evaluating soil morphology in their first pit as individuals
Minnesota works as a team to complete their first group card in the early afternoon
On Friday morning, the contest results were announced at an awards breakfast by host (from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) Dr. Becky Young and NRCS Soil Scientist Becca Hodges. After much anticipation, there was a lot to celebrate. The University of Minnesota placed 7 individuals in the top 20, 4 individuals in the top 10, and took 3rd place overall in the contest, qualifying for the National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest which will be hosted by Ohio State University in April of 2020! Congratulations also to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1st place) and the University of Missouri (2nd place), who will be joining us at the National contest in the spring.

The 2019 University of Minnesota Region V Soil Judging Team. Front row (L-R): Abbie Clapp, Gabe Benitez (Captain - holding 3rd Place Overall Award), Rowan Doyle (6th Place Individual), Morgan Fabian (8th Place Individual). Back Row (L-R): Nic Jelinski (Coach), Harley Braun (2nd Place Individual), Geneva Nunes, Hannah Anderson (4th Place Individual), Matt Lundberg, Will Effertz, Devon Brodie (Assistant Coach).
A huge thank you to all of the contest hosts, donors, and supporters who made this amazing experience possible!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

2019 Region V Soil Judging: Practice Days in and Around Grand Island, NE

The team has been having a fantastic week, completing 11 practice pits around Grand Island, NE. A huge thank you to our contest hosts and our donors, who have made this amazing educational experience possible. We have seen soils on 3 major landscape components in this portion of Nebraska - Loess Uplands, Dunes, and Floodplains. One practice day has been dedicated to each of these landscape components, as the students have been learning about soil formation, land use, and hydrology!

After all of these amazing soils and landscapes, the Gophers are pumped up and fired up for contest day Thursday morning! We are at one with our soil texture triangles.

A beautiful landscape of dunes (left) and stream terraces (center and right) along the Platte River
An Ustipsamment on a natural levee on a stream terrace near the Platte River
A Haplustept formed in eolian sand on the backslope of  a dune
A floodplain sunset landscape
An Ustipsamment formed in alluvium on a floodplain
An upland depression in the Rainwater Basins near Clay Center, NE
A smectitic Argiustoll formed in loess in an plan depression in the Rainwater Basins
Wednesday Flannel Day for UMN Soil Judging!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

2019 University of Minnesota Regional Soil Judging: A Prelude and Thank You

Kick the tires and light the fires! The 2019 Region V Soil Judging Contest is next week, hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A traveling team of nine highly motivated, highly dedicated soil judgers will represent the University of Minnesota in Grand Island, NE from September 28th - October 4th for the 2019 ASA Region V Soil Judging Contest.

First and foremost, we would like to thank the continued generosity of a group of private donors who make our travel possible. Without you, the amazing experience that is Soil Judging would not be available to our students. We are forever grateful for your contributions.

Soil Judging remains the most important experiential opportunity for soils students. Our students will improve their ability to read landscapes, describe soil profiles, and make use and suitability interpretations. And in a much deeper sense, they will learn to be bridge builders, connecting with people through a shared love of the land and the soil resource that crosses all ethnic, cultural and political boundaries. For this reason, they are world changers, representing the heart and soul of the University of Minnesota and the United States Land Grant mission.

Follow our blog for updates on class activities through the contest, and...

Be at one with your textural triangles!


Monday, April 15, 2019

2019 NACTA Soil Judging: Results - Minnesota Takes First Place!

The team arrived safely back to Borlaug Hall on Saturday, April 13th around midnight. We are happy to report that the team took first place overall at the NACTA contest! Our very own Autumn Boxum took 3rd place in individual judging. Congratulations to the team for putting in many hours of hard work.
2019 University of Minnesota NACTA Soil Judging Team (L-R): Will Effertz, Devon Brodie (Assistant Coach), Autumn Boxum (3rd Place Individual), Morgan Fabian, Gabe Benitez (Captain), Cole Stenberg, Abbie Clapp, Geneva Nunes, Matt Bluhm, Harley Braun, Nic Jelinski (Coach)
The team post-contest.
But...even after the contest we weren't done! We traveled about 40 minutes south to Dresden, TN to see a beautiful Lamellic Hapludult:

Some folks have previously called this the "bacon soil"
And our final stop was at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana to see the Illinois State Soil (the Drummer) with our host, Dr. Kevin McSweeney!
UMN Soil Judging with the Drummer soil and Dr. Kevin McSweeney on the UIUC campus
A huge thanks to the donors who made this amazing experience a possibility. Look for an epilogue soon!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

2019 NACTA Soil Judging: Practice Day 1

After completing our pre-contest trip and getting settled in to Murray, the team was chomping at the bit to get out and see some Kentucky soils! We are in the heart of fragipan country in this part of Kentucky, and the soils did not disappoint. We saw two fantastic fragipans (one in a Aqualf and one in a better-drained Udalf) at the Murray State West Farm and an additional soil without a fragipan at the Brannon farm just over the border in Tennessee. We are excited for the remaining practice pits and looking forward to continued exposure to new soils and landscapes!

UMN Soil Judging with an early start to the day on a beautiful Kentucky morning (Murray State West Farm)
A Udalf formed in loess on the Murray State West Farm
A beautiful fragipan!