University of Maryland Soil Judging Team members travelled to Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas in early April for the National Soil Judging Competition. The UMD team earned the right to go to Kansas by taking first and second in the North East Regional Soil Judging Competition at The Ohio State University in Wooster, Ohio last fall, marking the 22nd time that UMD captured the top spot in the region!
The UMD students joined 22 teams from universities across the country to be scored as groups and as individuals as they worked through several soil pits, identifying various soil horizons, their boundaries, and describing different properties of each. As an added bonus, students traversed portions of The Oregon Trail to learn about the dynamics of the Prairie ecosystem. Manhattan is approximately 120 west of Kansas City and the trail roughly follows I-70 throughout Kansas.
Environmental Science and Technology (ENST) junior, Kristi Persing, placed 8th overall in the individual rankings. “Now that the competition is over for the year I think about how great of an opportunity it was to travel to Kansas and see soils that are completely different from the ones we see in Maryland. It was also interesting to see how farmers and soil scientists from a different region than ours place importance on different soil factors than the ones we do here. Next year I hope to once again get the opportunity to travel to a different region and see new soils and learn new things.“
In the group contest, the Maryland team brought out their best, earning them 2nd place and they brought home 7th place honors in the overall standings.
Recent double major graduate from Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture (PSLA) and ENST, Jacylyn Fiola, hopes that the team will continue succeeding and expanding their program. “To an interested student, I would say, it'll be your loess if you don't join the team (the soil puns alone make it worth it).” Fiola continues that “in all seriousness, we're from different backgrounds, and we have different career goals, but we're a group of people who all care deeply about the soil. We get to go outside and do our best to understand a landscape. The skills we learn are valuable to potential employers, and are also applicable in almost any field.”
Congratulations to all who represented UMD soil well in Kansas! Dr. Martin Rabenhorst served as coach of the team this year.