Monday, September 24, 2012

Coach Cooper: Soil Judging Week in Review

  Soil Judging Maryville Missouri September 16-21 2012
At 7:00 am Sunday September 16, I pick up Tom who will be driving van 2 and I will be driving

van 1. We are using 6 passenger Dodge Caravans, as the U has removed all the 15 passenger vans from the motor pool due to their poor safety record. We pick up the vans with the car-top carriers to have room for students and gear. I arrive back at the Soils Barn at 7:30, while Tom makes a stop at the bank. Stephanie is waiting when I arrive and soon more are coming. Eleven students have signed up to participate in the contest. By 7:55 nine, are present and we have loaded both vans with people and gear, including 4 shovels, a big box and 4 large plastic containers. We are ready to leave at 8:00 as planned except we are missing two people. Andrew arrives at 8:10 after jogging from the transit way where his bike broke an axel. He is hot and sweaty from his jog. I double check my phone that it is on ring. I sent out my cell phone number to all the students in case they had a problem with arriving on time. I did not check my e-mail. Soon 8:30 arrives and without hearing anything from the missing student we depart 30 minutes late.
Team members this year are : Mellissa Collins-Rutter, returning from last years team, a senior from Kenard, NE in Global Studies and minors in Hort/soils; Tom Bolas another returning soil judger from Lowry, MN, and ESPM senior who is also working for the Mn. Dept. of Ag; Lewis Lachmansingh a Junior in Applied Plant Systems/Agroecology, From Plymouth, MN; Andrea Slotke a Senior in APS/Agroecology from Brown Deer WI; Stephanie Schumacher a Senior in ESPM from St. Paul; Andrew Krinke a Jr. in ESPM from Woodbury, MN; Andrew Haberman an ESPM senior from Beaver Dam Wisconsin; Yasha Horstman, an ESPM senior from Stillwater, MN; Erik Schilling an ESPM senior from Topeka Kansas and Xinyi Tu, and ESPM Senior from China.
The weather is clear, the freeways are un-crowded and travel is easy except for the accident of a semi and small car 10 miles north of Des Moines that slows us down for 20 minutes. It slowed the small car down for a lot more than20 minutes, though soon we are on our way and arrive at Highway Iowa 2 and head west.
We stop for gas and at an Iowan rest stop where we all introduce ourselves as some of the old judgers don’t know the new. I pass out and apple in case some are feeling hunger pains. We arrive in Maryville at 3:30. We check into the Holiday Inn Suites that was recommended by our host. Four other teams are staying here. I juggle the room assignments to make it easier for the larger/taller humans on our team. We review the scorecard after passing out the soil judging brief cases. We do this standing up in the parking lot as we all need to stretch after 6 hours in the van. We next travel two blocks to La Bonita Mexican Restaurant that had the only 4 star rating by the local graduate students. It was good and they were very attentive to our needs, food and drinks. I think we all had a good meal. We stop at Wall Mart to load up on some lunch groceries and later the HyVee for liquid groceries made from yeast, barley and malt. I notify the gang that the team will be leaving at 7:30 am for Monday’s practice sites. We will be on Campus of North West Missouri State Univ. When I am back in the room it is time for a cookie, coffee and a little football. We were able to listen to the Vikings score with 30 seconds to go to the Vikings tie the game only to let the Colts score a field goal with 8 seconds left.

We have the buffet breakfast at the motel, and are on the way to our soil pits at 7:45 am. It is not easy to tell where we are going as the fog is close to the ground and visibility is 100 yards. We travel slowly but soon see the blaze orange arrow and head into the grass pasture area. The paths are passable, though the dip to cross a water-way is a little steep the cars bottom out front and back as we cross, but no damage was done. We complete site 5 and the fog is lifting. Tempearature is around 67 and rising as the sun comes out as we finish. Site 5 was a fine, Argiudoll from loess and pedisediment. The textures were border line silty clay loams and silty clays. With the percent clays moving from 30 in the A to 40 percent in the Bt1. 
Site 6 was next and was 50 yards down slope from site 5. Tom and I moved the empty cars back across the steep ditch without incident. We finished working in different teams of 5 again to help everybody learn strengths and weaknesses. This soil was similar to 5 but of course different, mainly due to glacial till in the profile at 82 cm, and the pedisediment was above the till. Btg horizons were silty clay textures with 41% clay. We went to bathroom break and lunch break at the Athletic department’s outdoor picnic-pavilion. After lunch back to complete pit 7 with eminent storm approaching. We started this pit at 12:30 pm with temperature near 76, and by 1:00 it was 60 with a stiff wind. The storm was coming. We finished this pit working in teams of two
to see how we can do with a partner. Tom and EriK were the high score on this soil formed in till and pedisediment in the footslope position. The textures were silty clay loams that were close to silty clays with 37% and 40% clay. We quickly gathered a team sample from pit 8 as the storm clouds were rolling in from the west. The team next gathered under a picnic shelter next to where we had lunch and started working together describing this soil. Having ten opinions on each morphological feature requires some consensus building, but they were able to arrive at a pretty good description on a soil that had an Ap, A, Bt1, Bt2, 2Bt3, 2Bt4 horizon sequence that was formed in loess over pedisediment. The soil textures were silty clay loams bordering on silty clays. Just as we finished the rain started pouring down and did so for the next 45 minutes. That might make some of the side roads slippery tomorrow.
Everybody got a chance to warm up and clean up and rest up from the day’s activities as we headed to our Country Bistro Restaurant that was 10 miles out in the country. This was a big shed of a building with lots of farm antiques in it including a toy tractor collection that must have had 100 tractors. Dinner started at 7:00 and it was delicious with 4 kinds of salad, pork chops, potatoes, green beans, rolls, and for dessert spice cake, brownies or cinnamon rolls. Big glasses of tea, lemonade, water and coffee were
the drinks. After dinner each coach got up and introduced the team, which is always a challenge. I did
just fine with only a stumble on Erik and Melissa’s last names. I even pronounced Xinyi mostly correctly (Ce e°°). We took a team picture and then were on our way home with a beautiful sunset to our west guiding us. Some of the boys needed a Wall Mart run for warmer clothes as the temp in the am will be near 40 or less tomorrow.

The day is bright and clear and the fog that was here yesterday is missing. Most students grab some
breakfast and we are on our way to Ravenwood by 7:45 am. We stop for coffee as the HyVee has Caribou Coffee in the gas station, or so the sign says. It is better than the Holiday Inn Express but not quite up to regular Caribou standards. We arrive at our site which is still in the shade so we set up work in the sun where it is warmer as the shade is about 40. I divide the gang into two teams of five for this soil and they get started. The pit is muddy in the bottom so boots are required by those who want get close to the pit face. This soil at practice pit 9 is developed in glacial till. There are lots of rocks to verify the till. Horizons are similar to yesterdays and so are the soil’s textures. Both groups do an adequate job of describing this Hapludalf, or Alfisol due to the thin Ap and light colored Bt1 that is directly under the Ap.

Practice site 10 is down the hill from here and while it has similar horizons it is developed entirely in loess. The lower horizons are silty clays with 49 % clay the highest clay content we have seen. We did this site in teams of 3. We break for lunch and stop in Ravenwood for a restroom at the local filling station and only store in town. We travel the 3 miles to our next ranch that raises horses, dogs and a few cows. The sites are through the farmyard of barking dogs and into the horse pasture. Later one of the horses tries to knock me into the trunk of our van while I am trying to get something out. We eat our lunch under the shade of some osage
orange trees and by 12:30 are starting practice pit 12. I use this pit as an individual pit so I can see how they are doing. Lewis and Andrea are the high alternates followed closely by Stephanie. We will do one more individual pit on Wednesday for the final determination. This pit is also all in glacial till another Hapludalf. The last horizon is a Btss or has slickensides, or peds smearing against one another due to the 45% clay content. Our final pit 11 was a mixed up mess (according to Coach Cooper) so I had them do it all together as a practice for the team judging. The pit was an Argiaquoll, but that call needs to be debated at the coaches meeting. We arrived back in town at 3:45 and they had 2 hours before we left for dinner. We went to the Thai Restaurant for dinner, I visited the place earlier to make the reservations for 11. The place only holds about 30 diners. We all had some interesting and good meals. The lady told us that if we wanted it spicy, she
loved to make people cry. I went for the mild pad Thai. Others had different kinds of soup or curry dishes. After dinner we went to campus for our meeting and talk on geology. Since the talk had been moved later to 7:30 the geology speaker could no longer talk so Jamie the contest organizer had a quiz bowl game ready. Minnesota won the first round and lost in the second. The coaches with my help were the ultimate winners. We arrived back at the motel around 9:00. More practice on Wednesday.

Another beautiful morning greets us as we motor west toward the Missouri River 25 miles away. The road is narrow and the bridges only fit one car, but we don’t meet any. We stop at one river to talk about floodplains and terraces and how to identify them. We reach our first site by 8:40 and use this as our last group judging practice pit. They do a good job though I disagree with the call on the classification, the official judges call it a Hapludoll, but the team and coach agree that it is a Bt horizon and Argiudoll.
Site two is used as our last practice for individual judging. They all are working hard and this pit score will be added to two others to aid in determining the 4 team contestants and the rest will be alternates. The soil is another Argiudoll with silt loam or silty clay loam textures and Ap-A- Bt horizons. All do have their highest score for the week as they all are getting used to the soils in the area. We have a very good team and I expect that the second team will score just as high as the first team, so selecting a first team is not easy. I enlist Tom and Melissa as helpers to aid in the decision as I earlier designated them as Co-Captains due to their experience in previous contests.
We finish the day at 1:00 so that homework can be done and the coach can head to campus to find 4 postcards for our donors. On the way back to Maryville we stop for ice cream in the town of Fairfax, the coach buys the team a Dairy Diner cone, most go for the twist with two getting vanilla. The ice cream hit the spot. The town of Maryville with, 11,000 people only sells post cards at the Student Union on Campus and they only have one kind. Maryville must not have many visitors who want to share the fact with someone else via the US mail and Postcard that they are here. Maybe postcards are just going away with the typewriter. We head out to Italian place for dinner at 5:30pm; then to campus at 7:30 for the coaches meeting/students to go over the official descriptions.
We went out to the local Italian restaurant, with Lewis staying back to study for his Ecology quiz. Everybody had enough Italian to eat which included a salad bar, pizza, spaghetti, mac and cheese and pizza of your choice. Plus hot chocolate cake/pudding. The coaches/official judges meeting was interesting and we learned a few things as the 12 practice pits were gone over. We also learned that it will not be muddy in the pits, so we can leave our boots home. The weather is supposed to be nice and that is good for the expensive color books. I selected the team with the help of Tom and Melissa and we arrived at the same conclusion. Andrea Slotke and Andrew Krinke will be on the first team withTom and Melissa. We leave at 7:30 for the individual contest pits.

Thursday – Contest Day
The team is ready and the caravan is lined up by the 7:30 am time. We are moving east toward Reavenwood which was the city near our second day practice sites. We travel through Ravenwood and arrive at the city park that houses the lake used for the Maryville’s water supply. The pits are within 200 yards of each other so it is convenient for the coaches to walk between them to take pictures. After 45 minutes at pit one and 65 minutes at pit two, round one is over. The official time keeper at pit one did not have the correct information for time keeping and stopped the judging at that pit 15 minutes early. This causes a lot of trouble for many students who were not done and were depending on the remaining 15 minutes to finish. The second session goes much better. I will write more about the actual contest pits and how we handled them below after I know the results. The pits were big and the judgers had plenty of room to move around and collect their samples. Lunch was provided by sack lunches at the picnic shelter of the park and by 12:10 the caravan has again started east. We travel another 15 miles to the east and enter the local Boy Scout camp. This camp provided adequate places to park and three soil pits for the afternoon’s team judging events. Minnesota and Nebraska the largest teams in the contest get the good draw and will do site 1,2,3 in that order then head home. The coaches take pictures of the teams doing their judging but quickly adjourn to the shelter to again begin grading the morning’s individual papers. Minnesota finishes their three sites before the coaches finish grading and I send them back to the motel to get cleaned up and go to dinner. Coaches finish the grading just as the last group finishes judging. I ride back with the South Dakota team and Doug Malo their coach. Just as we get back the team is heading out for dinner and and I join the gals to go back to Thai restaurant and the boys head to the Barbque pit for cow meat. I enjoy a bowl of curry chicken veggie soup with coconut milk. We enjoy our meal and head back to the motel.
I am heading to grade the afternoon papers when Andrew Krinke’s mom is on the phone. Andrew is suffering from an asthma attack due to his allergies to pollen. We visit the local emergency room at 8:00 pm. Andrew is brought in and his lungs are not very efficient, so after 2 hours where he had some mist medication, some prednisone he is now feeling better. Jamie stops in to see how we are doing, she is the contest organizer. They have completed the contest grading and it is safe to go back to the motel. We leave at 11:00 pm and stop at McDonalds as Andrew did not get dinner since we are there I enjoy a chocolate shake, since I missed out on
the Point beer at the evening grading session.
Individual contest site 1 – This soils looks like many of our practice pits and has the horizons of Ap, A and four Bt horizons. Textures are silt loam for the Ap and silty clay loam for all others. Structure is prismatic with redox concentrations and depletions in all lower Bt horizons. The soil is a fine-silty Argiudoll on an upland shoulder of 7% slope developed from loess. The high score by all contestants was from Minnesota, Xinyi Tu scored 314. Too bad the Minnesota coach (Coach Cooper) had Xinyi as an alternate. We did do a good job on this site as Erik had 296 and Andrew K and Andrew H both had 292. This site was a good one for Minnesota.
Individual Contest site 2, was not a good site for all the soil judgers. The contest official at this site shorted the first group or 1⁄2 of the students 15 minutes of time which was costly as this soil had 6 horizons
with all below the surface having 40% or more clay (Silty Clay textures). This was corrected for the next 1⁄2 of the students but we did do all that much better. The official judges classified this soil as Vertisol or Hapludert, but it was also close to an Argiudoll since the cracking might not go to the surface in most years and since Missouri currently does not have any Vertisols mapped in the state the coaches who grade the papers and check the official score card allow credit for both. The horizons were Ap, Btss, Btssk, Btssk, Btsskg and Btk with the soil parent material being glacial till on a back slope of 8%. The high on this site for Minnesota was Lewis Lachmansingh with 255. Lewis got all 6 textures correct. Melissa had 244 and three tied with 241, Xinyi, Andrew H and Andrew K. The highest score on this site was 288 from Iowa State. After the Individual contest sites Minnesota was in 6th place with 1549 points and 42 points out of 4th, the last spot for nationals. Xinyi with her two great scores on the individual sites had locked up 3rd high individual and received a nice trophy at the awards ceremony; she did an outstanding job on these difficult Missouri soils.
We stopped at the park picnic shelter for sack lunches and after 45 minutes the caravan went 20 miles further east to the local Boy Scout camp. Minnesota drew the desired position with Nebraska of doing the sites in order of 1,2,3 and the heading back to the motel, while the other 6 teams had a break after doing one of the sites. The day was partly cloudy, temperatures in the 70s and a slight breeze. Coaches were set up in a
picnic shelter to continue grading the 140 individual score cards twice. We did finish thesebefore we left the camp at 5:30 pm.
Group site 1 was a fine, Hapludalf formed in till and pedisediment. The textures were clay loams which was a first for the contest and only one practice site, as most had been silty. The horizons were Ap, Bt1, Bt2, Btss and Btk. Minnesota figured that since they were in a woods with trees older than 50 years that this site did not have an Ap and called it an AE due to the platy structure. Their score of 232 was was 5th best. They forgot that at the coaches meeting the host said all of this part of Missouri had been under the plow at one time.
Group site 2 was in the same woods as G1 and the horizons this time were Ap (with platy structure), E, Bt, Btss, B’t and Btk. The textures for this till/pedisediment derived soil were silt loams and Silty clay loams and silty clays. The classification was fine, Hapludalf. Minnesota scored 285 on this site which was the best of the bunch, 6 higher than Iowa State. A really good score for Minnesota who can recognize and E when the see it.
Group site 3 was out of the woods in an old pasture and was again formed in two different layers of pedisediments. Minnesota found some slickensides but this was their only major error and did not hurt their score too much. They scored 270, which was again the best of the bunch and 6 greater than the team from South Dakota. The horizons were Ap, Bt1, 2Bt2, 2Bt3, 2Bt4 and 3C for this fine, Hapludalf on a 14% backslope.
With the best two scores on two sites and a “pretty good” score on site 1, Minnesota was the Group Judging Champion for the 2012 Region V Contest. Xinyi Tu also received a trophy for her 3rd place individual finish.
Minnesota finished the overall competition in 5th place, just 8 points from 4th place SouthDakota State (2336 to 2444). Iowa state was the overall winner with a total of 2464 and University of Nebraska Lincoln was second with 2412, Kansas State was 2nd with 2348. This contest produced a very tight grouping of scores, where any one change of mind by a contestant can increase or decrease a team’s placing by 2 or 3 spots.
Prior to the awards ceremony Melissa went to the podium and presented to Coach Cooper the Coach Cooper Award for his 37 years of coaching soil judging, 32 at Minnesota. Mickey Ransom the coach of Kansas State also gave a short talk about the development of group judging that was initiated by Coach Cooper at the Aitkin County, Minnesota Contest in 1990 contest. This is now also a part of the ASA National Soil Judging Competition. It was appropriate that the Minnesota Team won the Group Judging for Coach Cooper’s last soil judging completion as he will retire in June of 2013. He has coached many students but always stressed the importance of working together and that was the way he coached; Together wE Accomplish More-TEAM.
After the awards ceremony Minnesota headed north to the land of loams and sand getting away from all the land of sticky silty clays of Missouri. The fall 2013 Regional Contest will be in Springfield Missouri, the last week of September hosted by Missouri State University.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Super Soils Trivia Night!

by Stephanie Schumacher

On Tuesday evening we looked forward to a speech describing the local geology of northwest Missouri. However, due to a change in the schedule, the speaker was no longer able to attend. Therefore, contestants from all colleges participated in a spontaneous soil science trivia night. Additional pop culture questions were added in an attempt to level the playing field between the coaches and students.
Seven of the 8 schools competed, with their coaches forming an 8th team. The Minnesota team won the first trivia round, but lost the second due to some tricky pop culture questions. Unfortunately, when it comes to popular media, we seem to have buried our heads in the sand (and silt, and clay).
With the help of Professor Cooper, the coaches soared to the top of the rankings and qualified for the final match against Iowa State University.  Tension was high in the final round with both teams wanting to take home the trivia trophy, which consisted of a large soil pedon super glued to a metal stand.
Amidst the storm of trivia questions, one of the soil science ones was a little questionable by Cooper’s standards. “That can’t be right-- we wrote the book!” he exclaimed when the coaches were unable to come up with the ‘correct’ answer. In spite of this, they did not allow their patience to erode away, and in the end their textbook-writing knowledge led them to victory. Unfortunately the trivia trophy was unable to be split seven ways, so another team ended up taking it home.
Do you want to test your knowledge of soil science? See how many of the selected trivia questions you can answer—they’re pretty tough!

1. A plagen epipedon signifies long-term additions of what?
2.  What percentage of clay separates a clay loam from a clay?
3. What geologic epoch are we currently living in?
4.  What soil structure is described as “elliptical interlocking pedons with acute angles”
5. What soil moisture regime best decries a Mediterranean climate?
6. What is the local term for calcium carbonate concentrations within the soil? (Hint: A German term, also means “little child”)
7. Podzolization is a process which occurs mainly in which soil order?

1. Manure;   2. 40%;   3. Holocene;    4. Wedge;    5.  Xeric;    6. Kinchins;    7. Spodosol

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Coach Cooper: Our Second Day

This is our second day of practice in Missouri,  We are starting to get the hang of those silty clay loam textures.  The day is bright and clear and the fog  that was here yesterday is missing.  Most students grab some breakfast and we are on our way to Ravenwood, which is 8 miles east of Maryville by 7:45 am.  We stop for coffee as the HyVee has Caribou Coffee in the gas station, or so the sign says.  It is better than the Holiday Inn Express but not quite up to regular Caribou standards.  We arrive at our site which is still in the shade so we set up work in the sun.  I divide the gang into two teams of five for this soil and they get started.  The pit is muddy in the bottom so boots are required by those who want get close to the pit face.  This soil at practice pit 9 is developed in glacial till.  There are lots of rocks to verify the till.  Horizons are similar to yesterdays and so are the soil’s textures.  Both groups do an adequate job of describing this Hapludalf, or Alfisol due to the thin Ap and light colored Bt1 that is directly under the Ap. 

Practice site 10 is down the hill from here and while it has similar horizons it is developed entirely in loess.  The lower horizons are silty clays with 49 % clay the highest clay content we have seen.  We did this site in teams of 3.  We break for lunch and stop in Ravenwood for a restroom at the local filling station and only store in town.   We travel the 3 miles to our next ranch that raises horses, dogs and a few cows.  The sites are through the farmyard of barking dogs and into the horse pasture.  Later one of the horses tries to knock me into the trunk of our van while I am trying to get something out.  We eat our lunch under the shade of some osage orange trees and by 12:30 are starting practice pit 12.  I use this pit as an individual pit so I can see how they are doing.  Lewis and Andrea are the high alternates followed closely by Stephanie. Melissa is the overall winner and the coach owes her a drink at the pub.   We will do one more individual pit on Wednesday for the final determination of the team of four.  This pit is also all in glacial till another Hapludalf.  The last horizon is a Btss or has slickensides, or peds smearing against one another due to the 45% clay content. This we don’t see much of in Minnesota.    

Our final pit 11 was a mixed up mess (according to Coach  Cooper) so I had them do it all together as a practice for the team judging.  The pit was an Argiaquoll, but that call needs to be debated at the coaches meeting.  We arrived back in town at 3:45 and they had 2 hours before we left for dinner. 
Wednesday is another practice day, though we will need to cut it short for some badly need time for homework.

Coach Cooper

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Welcome to Maryville!

The University of Minnesota has arrived in Maryville, MO for the 2012 Region V Collegiate Soil Judging Competition! After 7 hours of driving, we pulled into the Holiday Inn Express, ate dinner, went grocery shopping at Walmart, and settled in for a week of getting to know northwest Missouri soils. The illustrious Terry Cooper, our fearless leader, went over the general soil types of the area, and already we can tell this is not going to be easy….up to five different A layers in one profile (Ap, A1, A2, A3, A4)?! Two buried soils?! Did I really just see a 2Btkgb2 in that soil description…!!! We expect to see quite a few Mollisols and textures in the silt loam to silty clay loam range. There could even be some old Paleosols deposited during the Kansan Glaciation over half a million years ago. 

For those of you not familiar with soil judging, it is a competition where undergraduate students from different universities compete at describing soil profiles (usually in a pit about 150cm deep where we can see a wall of soil and its layers). We have to know things like soil taxonomy, geographical features, land use classification, as well as be able to feel the soil in our hands to determine the texture (the ratio of sand, silt and clay). We will practice for three days and then compete on Thursday both individually and as a group. If we place in the final four of the regionals, we could get the opportunity to compete at the National Soil Judging Competition!

            Sadly, we are one member short (Brianna Mattson had trouble with the Twin Cities public transportation this morning) bringing our team down to ten members. Our team captains are Thomas Bolas and Melissa Collins Rutter, both returning soil judgers, and joining us this year is: Andrew Haberman, Yasha Horstmann, Andrew Krinke,  Lewis Lachmansingh, Erik Schilling, Stephanie Schumacher, Andrea Slotke, and Xinyi Tu.

Go Minnesota!