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!


Saturday, September 30, 2017

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Results

Results were announced this morning at an awards breakfast hosted by Redfield Energy at the Spink County fairgrounds just south of Redfield, SD.

In what was the tightest contest in the memories of Dr. Mickey Ransom (KSU) and Dr. Doug Malo (SDSU) - together with over 70 years of Soil Judging experience - UMN was the only school with 5 judgers in the top 20. Only ~ 140 points separated the first and last of all 7 teams out of a total of over 2,200 points. Sara Bauer took 3rd place in individual judging and Cassie Tieman took 10th. The top 3 scores out of all 68 judgers on the 2nd individual pit were all UMN. 

2017 University of Minnesota ASA Regional Soil Judging Team, Redfield, SD: Upper Row (L-R): Nic Jelinski (Coach), Autumn Boxum, Julia Otten, Tessa Belo, Stefan Swenson, Gabe Benitez, Devon Brodie, Kathleen Hobert, Paige Adams. Bottom Row (L-R): Ka Yang, Cassie Tieman (10th Place individual), Sara Bauer (3rd Place Individual).

Nonetheless - such is the random component of Soil Judging - the coach (yours truly) did not make the correct choice of 4 scoring members the night prior to the contest, (typically based on performance on practice pits and previous experience (or some combination thereof)) and so the Gophers missed out on qualifying for Nationals by less than 5% of the overall points.

Regardless, the journey was so enjoyable and the team so cohesive this year that we couldn't stand to leave Redfield immediately after the contest - besides, the weather was beautiful! We actually travelled back to one of the contest pits (a Natrustoll) to further study the excellent columnar structure in a Btn horizon underlying an E horizon.

Columnar structure in a Btn horizon underlaying an E in a Natrustoll
The team collected some examples of the columnar structure to fix and utilize in our Basic Soil Science laboratory in future semesters. Therefore, our Soil Judging students continue to enrich soils education for their peers and for the students who will come after them. 

Not wanting to really hit the road and declare the week over, the team posed for one last picture.

Gopher Pride and Columnar structure!
I can't say enough about the past week, this fall's contest and this year's team. A fantastic group of students and future professionals. A subset of the group will be traveling to Norfolk, Nebraska for the 2018 NACTA Soil Judging Contest in April. Once again we would like to thank our donors for their generosity which made our South Dakota trip possible!

Be at one with your texture triangles.


Friday, September 29, 2017

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Contest Day

Contest day opened with a beautiful sunrise over the South Dakota prairies. After meeting up with the other teams and driving to the contest sites, the students began a long day of individual and group judging.

Gopher Soil Judging prepared for individual pits
Tessa Belo colors in the early sunlight
Devon Brodie waits his turn to enter Individual Pit #1
Julia Otten checking samples for effervescence
Ka Yang nailing her texture classes on Individual Pit #1
Gabe Benitez, Paige Adams and Stefan Swenson get to work on Individual Pit #2
Ka Yang, Cassie Tieman and Autumn Boxum fill out an independent card at Team Pit #2
Deep discussion and decisions being made at Team Pit #3
Cassie Tieman, Ka Yang, and Autumn Boxum working outside the pit on Team Pit #3
Sunset over the Dakota prairies on contest day
After finalizing scorecard grading, I returned to our lodging to find the team finishing dinner and socializing. What a great scene to return to. We spent the next hour chatting with Michael Whited (USDA-NRCS), Director of Region 10 Soil Survey.

This year's team is quirky, enthusiastic, motivated, dedicated, and sincerely enjoys spending time together. They are now experts in the soils of glaciated South Dakota and have a broader context for understanding the relationship of soil properties to land use across the northern glaciated plains. Whatever the outcome of tomorrow's results breakfast, the destination has been in the journey!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Day 4

The team spent their final day of practice (Flannel Day!) looking at three pits formed in sandy and loamy eolian material draped over a glacial till landscape. The final pit of the day was an Argialboll, which was completed as a team. Everyone is in good spirits and excited to see even more soils tomorrow on contest day.

Per tradition, Wednesday is flannel day!
An Argialboll in a depression on a till plain formed in colluvium/local alluvium
The team resolves differences of opinion in landform and
parent materials through logical arguments and group consensus
Based on our experiences this week, the contest pits should be extremely interesting. We are looking forward to the dawn, contest day, and another day exploring South Dakota soils and landscapes - it has been an excellent week of learning and growing both as individuals and as a group!

We are at one with our texture triangles.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Day 3

The team had another good day describing pits in the Redfield area. We began our day with two contrasting soils formed in silty Glacial Lake Dakota sediments above a stream terrace of the James River. First, the students described a Calciustoll on a backslope:

A Calciustoll formed in silty Glacial Lake Dakota sediments
Varves in glaciolacustrine parent material
The afternoon was spent describing two soils formed in glacial till in the Redfield Hills (a minor recessional moraine of the James Lobe).

Team scorecard discussion of a Calciustoll formed in glacial till
Goldy at home in South Dakota!
Tomorrow brings our last 4 practice pits southeast of Redfield, followed by a tour of a local ethanol plant. The weather for Thursday (contest day) looks beautiful!

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Day 2

The team had a productive day of practice, describing 4 pits (2 as individuals, 2 as a team) in and around the towns of Redfield and Doland. Our day started with a Haplustoll formed in Alluvium on a stream terrace of the James River.
Haplustoll formed in alluvium on a stream terrace of the James River
Goldy looks on as our judgers share differences of opinion on horizon nomenclature
We then ventured into the Lake Dakota lacustrine plain to describe a Natrustoll formed in lacustrine sediments:

Columnar structure pokes out from below a surficial horizon

Natrustoll formed in lacustrine sediments on the Glacial Lake Dakota Plain
The team wrapped up the day with two pits formed in till just north of the town of Doland SD.
An Argiustoll formed in James Lobe till over Pierre shale residuum.

Fantastic pendants on coarse fragments
Stones exposed at surface of pasture in James Lobe stagnation moraine landscape
The day ended with a team meal and a social night with bowling, darts and pool provided for all attending schools at Starters Lanes in Redfield. Thanks to all of our hosts for what has already been an excellent experience!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield, SD - Day 1

Gopher Soil Judging ready to head to Redfield, SD on a beautiful Sunday morning

The team met bright and early in front of Borlaug Hall to leave for Redfield, SD. We arrived in Redfield highly motivated and ready to learn. After picking up the week's breakfast and dinner foods, we headed to our lodging just west of town (the Cowboy Inn - a house rented out by Mary Kay and Terry Jandel). We ate a welcome dinner with our Region V colleagues (University of Missouri, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Kansas State University, Iowa State University, and South Dakota State University) and met the mayor of Redfield as well as numerous NRCS staff assisting with the contest. After a brief introduction to area geology and soils, we had a team meeting and retired for the evening.

Tomorrow brings the unique soils of the Glacial Lake Dakota plain.

We are at one with our texture triangles.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Prelude - 2017 ASA Regionals, Redfield South Dakota

Fall is in the air and your University of Minnesota Soil Judging team is back in action! In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 24th, the team will be traveling to Redfield, South Dakota for the 2017 Regional Contest hosted by South Dakota State University.  In and around Redfield, the students will be exposed to the unique soils of the Lake Dakota plain, including features such as Albic, Natric, and Glossic horizons.

Soil Judgers are students of the land and its people. They embody the land grant mission and along the way learn a suite of relevant technical and personal skills that set them apart.  

Follow our journey on this blog (posts will be daily the week of the contest) or on Instagram:

We cannot express enough appreciation for the supporters who have made this trip possible with their financial contributions. In particular, we appreciate the support of the Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists, Minnesota Crop Production Retailers, and several anonymous private donors. Thank you!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

2017 NACTA Soil Judging - Manhattan, KS - Epilogue

Our team arrived home to St. Paul in the early morning hours on Saturday. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to this spring's NACTA team for their hard work, dedication, and positive attitudes. A well deserved congratulations goes to team captain Stefan Swenson for taking a strong 2nd place out of a field of 60 judgers.

Next fall brings Redfield, South Dakota and the lacustrine plain of Glacial Lake Dakota.

In the meantime, keep your mind open, your spirit free, and be at one with your soil texture triangle!

We'll see you in the pits!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

2017 NACTA Soil Judging - Manhattan, KS - Contest Day!

The contest was held on the high prairie of the Flint Hills. Winds were low, the sun was out, and it was generally perfect conditions for the contestants.
Sara Bauer working on soil texture 
Stefan Swenson working on color
Gabe Benitez ponders clay percentages while overlooking the Flint Hills
2017 NACTA Judging Team post-contest: Front Row (L-R); Sara Bauer, Julia Otten, Kathleen Hobert. Back Row (L-R) Gabe Benitez, Stefan Swenson (Captain), Tessa Belo, Ilya Swanson, Nic Jelinski (Coach)

2017 NACTA Soil Judging - Manhattan, KS - Practice Days

Seven University of Minnesota students travelled to Manhattan, KS from April 3-7 to compete in the 2017 NACTA Soil Judging Contest hosted by Kansas State University. The team left in the early morning hours on Monday, April 3rd and arrived at our home for the week, Tuttle Creek State Park, just outside of Manhattan by late afternoon.

Sunset over the Tuttle Creek Reservoir, on the porch of our cabins for the week in Tuttle Creek State Park
We spent Tuesday describing 4 pits on a catena in Rannells Prairie, south of Manhattan. We beat the rain in the morning, but it rained hard the rest of the day. The Manhattan area received over 10 inches of rain in the past 10 days and the pits were generally very wet. Dr. Mickey Ransom (KSU contest organizer) and his crew were hard at work pumping pits every day. Thanks Mickey!

Tessa Belo (R) and Julia Otten (L) describing a soil formed in colluvium over residuum on a backslope on Rannells Prairie.

This gully was dry last spring and fire danger was severe. A different story this year!

Footslope pit at Rannells Prairie with well developed slickensides formed in colluvium.
Wednesday brought a break in the rain, some beautiful sunshine, and two pits differing in their development near Ashland Bottoms, in the Kansas River Valley.
Stream terrace overlooking the Kansas River floodplain in Ashland Bottoms 
An Entic Haplustoll on a 20-yr floodplain near Ashland Bottoms
A much better developed Typic Haplustoll (with a cambic subsurface diagnostic horizon) on can older stream terrace above the floodplain
Thursday brought more sunshine and 2 pits on a catena at the KSU Agronomy Farm North. Two other practice pits on the catena (at a footslope and stream terrace position) were completely full of water so we did auger/gutter descriptions as best we could!
KSU Agronomy Farm North catena
The completed soil-landscape synthesis diagram that we worked on every night of the week.