Virginia Tech wins regional soil judging championship

The Virginia Tech Soil Judging Team won first place at the 2015 Southeast Region Collegiate Soil Judging Contest held in Murray, Kentucky, on Oct. 15. The overall team standings were:

  1. Virginia Tech
  2. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  3. Tennessee Technological University
  4. University of Georgia
  5. West Virginia University
  6. Western Kentucky University
  7. Clemson University
  8. Auburn University
  9. University of Tennessee at Martin
Front row, left to right: Jake McGaughey, Steffany Yamada, Coach John Galbraith, Naina Sharma, and Caitlyn Herron. Back row, left to right: Robert Goodwin, Hunter Wyatt, Janelle Salapich, Jessica Cox, Scott Bauman, Coach Dan Johnson, and Olivia Simpson.

Front row, left to right: Jake McGaughey, Steffany Yamada, Coach John Galbraith, Naina Sharma, and Caitlyn Herron. Back row, left to right: Robert Goodwin, Hunter Wyatt, Janelle Salapich, Jessica Cox, Scott Bauman, Coach Dan Johnson, and Olivia Simpson.

The top 5 teams advance to the National Championship in Manhattan, Kansas, on Apr. 3, 2016. In the individual contest, the following students placed in the top five out of 67 contestants:

  1. University of Georgia – Patty Lawson
  2. Tennessee Technological University – Mandy Millard
  3. University of Tennessee, Knoxville – Kristen Moretz
  4. Virginia Tech – Rob Goodwin
  5. Virginia Tech – Steffany Yamada

Also for Virginia Tech were: No. 10 Hunter Wyatt and No. 13 Caitlyn Herron. Congratulations to these students and all of the 67 participants!

The event was held on Oct. 11-15, about 15 miles southwest of Murray. The contest week began with 10 schools describing 12 practice pits in pasture and forests. The soils and site properties had previously been described by professional soil scientists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. On contest day, teams described four more pits and matched their answers with those of the official judges. The nearly level soils in the area were silty ancient wind-blown silt deposits (loess) and the gently rolling areas were underlain by loamy and sandy ancient Coastal Plain deposits. Many of the soils had a restrictive subsoil feature and color patterns confirming past saturation and reduction.

“The students were asked to record their estimates of the soil properties and evaluate the soils and sites for uses such as buildings with basements or septic tank absorption fields. The students also evaluated the hydraulic conductivity, depth to high water table, runoff and erosion potential of the site. These skills are in top demand by employers,” according to John Galbraith. Most of the team practiced for the contest by taking a course called Soil Description and Interpretation offered by the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.

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