New year, new soils!

January 14, 2022
UMN Soil Judging Team Newsletter

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In 2019, the University of Minnesota Soil Judging Team began an annual newsletter to engage our biggest fans—YOU!—and showcase the life-changing impact of Soil Judging. We hope to continue this tradition well into the future as team members change, as we meet new soils in new places, and as our goals keep expanding. Thanks for sticking around and for keeping us going. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to!

A photo of the UMN soil judging team wearing masks and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Remote National Soil Judging Competition (April 2021)

In April 2021, Nationals officially came back! The competition was held remotely, so the UMN livestock pavilion became the team’s home once again. Still feeling the buzz from getting first in overall, first in group, and first through fourth consecutively in Region V competition in fall 2020, the Golden Gophers were excited to be back and take on the challenge. 

Since the competition could not be held in person, soil samples were sent from across the country. The judgers were still able to get their hands dirty since hand texturing was still a component of the competition, but the soil samples were not paired with a scorecard for a specific site. Other components of the competition were online. This included filling out an already partially filled scorecard  and determining morphology and site interpretations based on the information provided. Another online component of the competition was identification of soil features. The team were given high-quality photos of different soil features and had to determine what the feature was. All aspects of this competition included team and individual work. 

Late nights and busy weekends ensued once again during competition week. Although everyone wished the competition was held in person, the team developed a groove on working together in the UMN livestock pavilion that it was nice to be able to compete in the competition while also still attending classes and work on other academic work. The UMN Golden Gophers placed 5th in overall and 9th in group judging. Team members Morgan Fabian and Geneva Nunes placed 4th and 7th in the individual judging, respectively. After having 2020 nationals cancelled and then being able to participate in the 2021 competition, this created a spark in the team that fuels a fire on hopefully one day placing first overall for nationals. 

In May, the UMN soil judging team said goodbye to 4 talented and extremely loyal seniors that have had lasting impacts on the team: Captain Morgan Fabian, Geneva Nunes, Hannah Anderson, and Christina Berg... We think of you in all our soil pursuits for greatness.

A photo of a soil pit and the UMN soil judging team in Crookston, Minnesota

Region V Soil Judging Contest in Crookston, Minnesota (September 2021) 

Being online for classes and having two virtual competitions made the upcoming 2021 Region V Soil Judging Contest a special and memorable one. None of the judgers on the team had competed in person before, so this was a new and exciting experience for everyone. There were a lot of newcomers on the team this semester including Cole Montgomery, Alex Larson, Ben Newcomb, Evan Sinn, Grant Johnson, Jackson Gregory, Kellen O’Connor, and Lucy Gregersen. Returning members were co-captains Willa Nagel and Anjel Chavez, Matt Preis, and Zack Pederson.

The University of Minnesota was hosting this year’s regional competition. This meant that our dedicated, ambitious, and hardworking coach Prof. Nic Jelinski could not be with us for the competition as he was putting it together in Crookston, MN. He had two graduate students lead the team, Hava Blair and Megan Andersen, as co-coaches.

It was a crash course from the beginning of fall semester in September to the competition week which began September 26. The team met weekly and dedicated time in the evening to go over different aspects of the competition, including texture practice, practice score cards, and area overview and history. The team also had practice pit days on the weekends to get an idea and feel of how competition pits would be. 

In Crookston, the team had three practice days to study and learn about the Red River Valley soils. A new component was introduced to this competition called jumble judging! Jumble judging consisted of combining different schools together and working on a pit together, which were the last pits of the day during the practice days. The UMN team was paired up with the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. This allowed the team to meet new people and learn new and different techniques on how to work on soil morphology during competition. 

Excited to finally be out in the field, the team did not hold back their knowledge and skills and apply them in the real world. All of the team’s preparation and hard work had paid off, placing first in overall judging and group judging; new members Cole Montgomery and Ben Newcomb placed second and third, respectively, in individual judging. 

Fellow judger Zack Pederson reflects back on his time and experience on the 2021 regional competition: “Being able to compete at the 2021 Region V Contest in Crookston, MN has been a highlight in my undergraduate experience. Traveling and spending a week together as a team resulted in a level of bonding you just can’t replicate in a virtual competition. Our time outside of the pits was just as important as the time in them, and we were able to learn how to have fun together while also winning the competition! It’s the small things that made this trip memorable – helping Nic Jelinski bail out a waterlogged pit, going barefoot during the team competition, or just being able to learn about a soil profile while seeing the surrounding landscape. For the first time at any regional competition, we ended every practice day by joining another university and judging a soil pit together. Beyond forming friendships with some of these students, we were able to learn from each other and gain new ideas for how we could approach a soil pit. Overall, I’m thankful for the time and effort placed into organizing the competition to allow for it to happen.” 

We are excited to have added another first place banner to our flag! Victory inspires us to continue achieving great things; we continue to practice scorecards and expand our soil knowledge regularly for any and every adventure 2022 might hold.

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