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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Soil Judging Team To Compete in Nationals

Oct. 20, 2015

Congratulations to the Soil Judging Team at Ohio State! The team is headed to the 2016 National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest at Kansas State University!

On Friday, Oct. 16, the Soil Judging Team took home 3rd place school honors with a strong showing in the Northeast Regional Soil Competition held at Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm in Lucas, OH and hosted by Brian Slater, associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) at The Ohio State University. After a hiatus of several years, Ohio State entered one team (all rookies) among a field of thirteen, from eight universities including Delaware Valley College, Pennsylvania State University, University of Rhode Island, University of Maryland, Wilmington College of Ohio, Bloomsburg University, and Richard Stockton College. 
Ohio State's soil judging team and coaches. Shown left to right: Matthew Bright (coach), Kaitlyn Benson (coach),
Kylie Seese, Nick Heppner, Sabrina Johnson, Derrick Freschcorn, Adam Vonderhaar. Not pictured: Grant Cory
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 SENR undergraduate students (Sabrina Johnson, Nick Heppner, Adam Vonderhaar, Kylie Seese, Grant Cory, Derrick Freshcorn) compete in the individual competition where contestants examined soils at three soil pits along a toposequence formed in glacial till over residuum, that included soils with a fragipan, argillic horizons and a lithic contact.
Nick Heppner (SENR forestry, fisheries and wildlife major) took home 4th 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 7th. Ohio State’s overall score from combined individual and team portions of the event gave the school a 4th place finish behind University of Maryland’s A and B team and Penn State’s A team but 3rd place school honors. Delaware Valley College placed 5th, and these four schools will represent the Northeast region in the National Collegiate Soil Judging contest next April at Kansas State University.
Ohio State’s six soil judgers also attended practices prior to spending three days at the competition—further testimony to their dedication and skill. The team was coached by two graduate students: Kaitlyn Benson (advised by Professor Nick Basta) and Matthew Bright (advised by Professor Richard Dick).
In the two days prior to the competition, the team practiced at 10 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 hands-on experience describing soil horizons, morphology, redoximorphic features, color, and parent materials before determining site charateristics, 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.  

                     Adam Vonderhaar and Sabrina Johnson texturing soil in                   Kylie Seese and Nick Heppner in a practice soil pit in 
                     a winter wheat field, Ashland County, OH.                                         Ashland County, OH.

Take a moment to congratulate the soil judgers on their success and wish them the best in Kansas. 
Photo caption top right: Sabrina Johnson in a soil pit. 
Story written by Matthew Bright.
October 19, 2015