Soil Judging

In class I heard Dr. Pillar mention something about soil judging. I was interested to learn that many schools like Penn State, University of Maryland, and Virginia Tech have this class. Most if not all of these classes goals is to end up competing in the National Soil Judging Contest every year. The champions for 2008 were Dr. Pillar’s alma mater, the Kansas State Wildcats. The contest is sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America and gives student that opportunity to judge different soil pits.

During this contest student use their knowledge of soil to tell which morphologic features are found in a certain soil profile. The students then enter large ditches that have been pre-dug and begin to look for clues. They are told how many horizons there are, but it is up to them to be able to tell which one is which. As we saw in class this can be very difficult because some of the features are very similar looking to the others. They look at the color, type, the amount to clay, and texture of the soil to determine the different soil horizons.

In class we learned about the different soil horizons, the most common being the A Horizon. On top of that you can have an O Horizon which is mostly organic matter. This horizon is only found in wetlands, forest, or any other place with an abundance of organic material. Next you have the B Horizon. This horizon is very common, but takes time to develop because material from the other horizons are deposited here. Above this you can have an E Horizon, but it is very uncommon. Second to last you have the C Horizon. This horizon is unaltered by weathering and is made up pf the parent material. Lastly you have the R Horizon which is the bedrock that was formed millions of years ago.

Soil judging has many benefits to society. The students look at the soil and answer questions about it. After they figure out which horizon is which they give an overall rating of the land, and submit management practices. These are crucial in determining weather or not a soil can be more prone to flooding or if it has stability issues for starting a new construction project.

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