Do you all know what type of soil is beneath your feet? Do you know if it’s well drained, primarily silt loam, depth to the water table, etc…? These are all things that should be taken into consideration before roads are constructed, houses are built, or most anything.
Soil is the foundation of all that we do. Soil determines productivity for crops, suitability for development, drainage and much, much more.
Unfamiliar to many, soil judging contests take place every year at high schools and colleges across America. The soil and water conservation districts host soil judging contests throughout the state at both regional and county levels.
We recently held our contest here in Ashland County. We had roughly 100 students compete from five schools.
Students judge either rural or urban soil pits. The rural contest requires students to analyze the soil and the surrounding area to best determine what type of farming and/or conservation practices may be best suited to the area. The urban contest requires looking at soil properties as they pertain to buildings, septic tank absorption fields, landscaping, driveways and local roads.
Soil judging is much more than collecting soil samples; it is a process that involves immense knowledge of soil properties. Students must identify the color, texture, consistency, structure and other properties of each soil horizon. They are also asked to make interpretations of the soil; such as its classification, parent material, suitability for different land uses, and its water holding properties.
Did you know that there are more 70,000 different types of soils in the United States? It takes more than 500 years to form one inch of topsoil. How quickly do we see this erode away in many cases?
Soils are complex ecosystems that exist right under our feet and most people never notice them. A student once said “soils are an underappreciated aspect of our lives, which provides us with food, feed, and living space.”
Soil science is indeed a key factor in food production and agriculture, and is at the forefront of environmental issues such as land use, soil contamination, ground water quality, and waste disposal.
For hundreds of high school students, soil judging is not only an enjoyable and competitive experience, but an excellent opportunity to learn about soils and the environment in a field setting.
Soil judging can not only look great on your resume, but it can also teach you life skills you would never think you could learn in a 4-5 foot deep pit.
I would encourage all of you to become involved with land judging. The knowledge gained is priceless.
If you have any questions concerning soils or land judging contact your local soil and water conservation district.