Future scientists get hands dirty in soil judging event

Future scientists get hands dirty in soil judging event

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September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. - While most people their age were probably sleeping in on a recent Saturday morning, 71 high school students from 10 schools were hard at work at 8 a.m. getting their hands dirty in holes dug into the ground.

The students were participating in the Vincennes University/Purdue University High School Soil Judging Invitational. The event was held at the VU Agricultural Center and Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center. It provides high school students the opportunity to practice soil judging ahead of their official area events where only the best teams are selected to move ahead to the state contest.

Soil is vital to life on earth. It allows plants to grow that provide us with food to eat as well as other agricultural products. It sustains animal life. Soil helps regulate water and filter potential pollutants. 

VU is dedicated to helping students cultivate skills that are essential to academic and career success.

Soil judging develops and tests a student’s ability to apply knowledge to real-world natural systems. While in the soil pits, students evaluate texture, color, and other components of soil. 

“This kind of activity is the principal “feeder” program into the world of practical soil science, whether that be private practice or state/federal agencies such as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resource Conservation Service. The vast majority of practicing soil scientists on the Indiana Registry of Soil Scientists did soil judging during their high school and college years,” said VU/Purdue Agriculture Program Coordinator and Purdue Extension Agronomist Dr. Charles Mansfield.

This year’s high school soil judging invitational was a joint venture, serving as both the VU and Purdue invitationals. The event had nearly double the participants from last year.

VU and Purdue’s College of Agriculture have a long-established partnership. VU students who successfully complete the VU/Purdue Cooperative AG Transfer program or a related VU science degree can transfer to Purdue to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Following Covid-19 safety protocols, students were spaced six feet apart to maintain social distancing and wore masks. Students characterized four different soils/landforms and evaluated them for appropriate land use. Two soil pits were for homesite use and two were for agricultural use. 

This contest allowed students the opportunity to hone their soil evaluation skills and practice the decision making and thought processes that go into making appropriate land-use decisions.

Official area contests will be held in the coming weeks to select teams that will advance to the state contest, which will take place in central Indiana.

“We hope that many of these budding soil scientists will continue their academic college careers at Vincennes University and be on VU's 2-year Collegiate Soil Judging Team while they're here,” Mansfield said.

The invitational was sponsored by the College of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics and the Geoscience, Agriculture, and Horticulture Department.

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