UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two teams from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences recently took first and fourth places in group judging at the regional soil judging competition at the University of Rhode Island, qualifying to compete in the national event hosted by West Virginia University in March.
The winning team included April Doroski, a junior environmental resource management major with a soil science option from Wyncote, Pa.; Kristen Kyler, an environmental resource management major with a water science option from Pottstown, Pa.; and Jess Thomas, an environmental resource management major with a soil science option from Mifflintown, Pa.
Team coach Patrick Drohan, assistant professor of pedology, picked the teams for the regional, a weeklong event where 11 teams from five schools competed for a spot at nationals. Penn State’s soil judging team history goes as far back as 1960.
Drohan said participating in soil judging helps students develop life-long field skills important in a wide variety of environmentally driven fields of science.
“Students are required to use their knowledge of soil to accurately determine morphological features found throughout the soil profile,” he explained. Doroski recalled how the team was required to describe a soil pit.
“We had to record different characteristics, such as color, structure, texture and other features,” she said. “We then were able to use these properties and characteristics of the surrounding landscape to decide the major limitations of the area and how these affect roads and streets or on-site sewage systems.”
The Soil Judging Team often is described by students as their most valuable college experience, according to Drohan. “By the end of the judging week, students develop their skills to such an extent that they rival professionals of 20-plus years in their ability to describe a soil profile,” he said. Doroski concurred.
“I felt like I learned more in one week than I ever could in our soil lab practicum course,” she said. “It was a constant drilling of information and continuous turnover of knowledge that transformed us into competent soil judgers in the span of a week.”