The University of Maryland Soil Judging Team took first place at the 2019 Northeast Regional Soil Judging contest, qualifying for the national competition to be hosted by Ohio State in the spring. The team swept the medal stand with Cathy Wang in 1st , Jonathan Moy in 2nd , and Yunxuan Pei in 3rd . This impressive victory adds to the team’s recent run of success with three national championships in the past seven years. Over their 60-year history, UMD has 5 National Championships and 25 Regional Contest victories. The team had two other finishers in the top 15: Antonio Vega in 10th and Mia Godbey in 11th . Also on the team were Isabella Bruno, Mary Gumerov, Jacob Mast, Rory Skirzenski, Jeniffer Statter, and Wade Williams. The team was coached by Dr. Brian Needelman and Barret Wessel from the Department of Environmental Science and Technology.
To “judge” a soil, students spend one hour in a 5-foot-deep pit describing the characteristics of the various layers that have developed in the soil, the ability of the soil to transmit and retain water and support roots, the geological history of the site, the long-term processes of soil development, the classification of the soil, and the potential challenges of using the soil for various land uses. The contest was hosted by the University of Maryland, led by Dr. Martin Rabenhorst from the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, who was strongly supported by USDA NRCS Colleagues. Dr. Rabenhorst kept contest information Top Secret so that UMD students and coaches didn’t have insider information. The contestants examined practice sites October 9–10 across Queen Annes, Caroline and Kent counties which included mostly Ultisols, Alfisols and Entisols derived from Teriary sediments and Late Pleistocene aeolian deposits.
The contest itself was held on October 11th at Chesapeake Farms near Chestertown, Maryland. Among a field of 16 teams from 10 Universities, and behind Maryland in 1st place, the Univ. of Rhode Island finished 2nd, Delaware Valley Univ. 3rd, Penn State Univ. 4th and first-time participant Univ. of Delaware placed 5th.