Nebraska students win 2023 Regional Collegiate Soil Judging Contest

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

by Lana Koepke Johnson | Agronomy and Horticulture

For the second year in a row the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Soil Judging Team won first-place overall at the Region 5 Collegiate Soil Judging Contest Oct. 1 to 6. South Dakota State University hosted the contest, which was held in the northern Black Hills near Sturgis, South Dakota.

Students and teams earn awards for the individual portion and as a team overall. Scores from both individual and team portions are used to determine overall team rankings.

Nebraska’s team, made up of 14 students from the School of Natural Resources, the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, include:

  • Caitlin Andersen, sophomore fisheries and wildlife major
  • Charlotte Brockman, junior agronomy major
  • Julianna Canedo, senior environmental science major
  • Rachel Clarkson, junior agronomy major
  • Adrian Cox, sophomore integrated science major
  • Will Hernandez, senior environmental science major
  • Stephanie Kluthe, senior environmental science major
  • Jack Krebs, senior environmental science and water science major
  • Nathan Kufner-Rodriguez, junior environmental science major
  • Claire Nalty, junior environmental science major
  • Anna Newcome, sophomore environmental science and plant biology major
  • Mason Rutgers, junior agronomy major 
  • Mason Schumacher, senior environmental science major
  • Madi Stock, senior environmental science major

The following four students earned individual judging awards: Krebs earned first-place;  Schumacher, senior environmental science major, earned second-place;  Newcome, sophomore environmental science and plant biology double major, earned eighth-place; and  Cox, sophomore integrated science major, earned tenth-place. Nebraska also earned second-place in team judging where all 14 Nebraska students worked together to judge three soil pits.

“This year's contest was a little different in that we ran the contest concurrently with Region 7,” said Becky Young, co-coach and agronomy and horticulture assistant professor of practice. “It was a great opportunity to be able to re-connect with schools and peers from our region and make new connections and friends with folks from our neighbor region.”

The Region 5 contest included 75 students from Iowa State University, Kansas State University, South Dakota State University, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska at Omaha. Region 7 contest included 18 students participating from Colorado State University, Utah State University and University of Idaho.

In this contest, students that were present at the same practice sites were assigned to inter-collegiate “jumble judging” teams. Students from UNL, KSU, SDSU and UMN placed first and second in the Jumble Judging awards.

The team practiced at soil pits at various locations for three days to learn about the soils and landscapes of the area. Competition day consisted of an individual portion in the morning and team/group portion in the afternoon. Students had to correctly identify, evaluate, classify and describe soil profiles in previously unseen soil pits and then rate the area for land use.

“This year's contest was very exciting as we had the good fortune to be able to learn first-hand about the soils and landscapes of one of the most unique areas in our region,” Young said. “The students adapted well to the new environment and quickly became experts at identifying different types of rocks and residuum materials, as well as nuances of the mountainous landscape.”

Co-coaches for the team are Young and Judith Turk, pedologist with the Conservation and Survey Division in the School of Natural Resources. Coaching together for six years, Young and Turk have led the teams to first-place regional finishes five times and qualified for national contests every year.

The team stopped at Carhenge, The Mammoth Site and Mount Rushmore on their way to the contest site.

To join the team, students must enroll in NRES/PLAS/SOIL 279 Soil Evaluation, a two-credit class offered each fall semester. Students can then enroll in NRES/PLAS/SOIL 379 Advanced Soil Evaluation to participate in additional soil judging contests.

Follow the team on Facebook.

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Nebraska students win 2023 Regional Collegiate Soil Judging Contest.
Nebraska students win 2023 Regional Collegiate Soil Judging Contest.