Ohio State Soil Judging Team going to nationals

Soil judging team 2The Ohio State Soil Judging Team is heading to the National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest next April that will be hosted by Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

This past Friday, Oct. 16, the Soil Judging Team took home third-place school honors with a strong showing in the Northeast Regional Soil Competition hosted by Brian Slater and Ohio State at Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio.

After a hiatus of several years, Ohio State entered one team (all rookies) among a field of 13 teams from eight universities, including Delaware Valley College (Pennsylvania), Pennsylvania State University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Maryland, Wilmington College (Ohio), Bloomsburg University (Pennsylvania) and Stockton University (New Jersey).

Soil judging competitions consist of an individual and team contest, with the scores from both portions compiled into an overall school ranking. Ohio State had six undergraduate students from the School of Environment and Natural Resources — Sabrina Johnson, Nick Heppner, Adam Vonderhaar, Kylie Seese, Grant Cory and Derrick Freshcorn — compete in the individual competition where contestants examined soils at three soil pits along a toposequence formed in glacial till over residuum, which included soils with a fragipan, argillic horizons and a lithic contact. Nick Heppner (SENR forestry major) took home fourth place individual honors. The group portion of the contest featured soils at two soil pits formed in glacial till, glacial outwash and alluvial deposits, and in this portion of the competition, Ohio State finished seventh.

Ohio State’s overall score from the combined individual and team portions of the event gave the school a fourth-place finish behind the University of Maryland’s A and B teams and Penn State’s A team, but third place school honors. Delaware Valley College placed fifth, and these four schools will represent the Northeast region in the National Collegiate Soil Judging contest next April.

In the two days prior to the competition, the team practiced at 10 practice soil pits in Wayne and Ashland counties formed in glacial parent materials, including alfisols, inceptisols and a very interesting mollisol.

Soil judging is an incredible opportunity for students to get their hands dirty describing soil horizons, morphology, redoximorphic features, color and parent materials before describing site characteristics, taxonomically classifying the soil and making site interpretations about the suitability of the soil for septic tanks, roads and basements — all skills in demand by government agencies, the pedology field in academia, wetland delineators and consulting firms.

Ohio State’s six soil judgers also attended three practices prior to its three days spent in northeast Ohio — further testimony to their dedication and skill.

The team was coached by two graduate students: Kaitlyn Benson, a student of Nick Basta’s, and Matthew Bright, a student of Richard Dick’s. Please take a moment to congratulate the soil judgers on their success and wish them the best in Kansas.

Pictured above, left to right, are Matthew Bright (coach), Kaitlyn Benson (coach), Kylie Seese, Nick Heppner, Sabrina Johnson, Derrick Freschcorn and Adam Vonderhaar. Not pictured: Grant Cory. (Photo: SENR.)

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