New soil science judging team competes at national contest

Fresno State Soil Judging Team(April 13, 2016) – The Fresno State soil judging team made its first appearance at the Soil Science Society of America’s National Soil Judging Contest, April 7-8 in Manhattan, Kan.

Fresno State was one of 23 university teams from across the nation that were tested in their ability to identify, evaluate, classify, and describe four soil profiles.

In the overall standings, Fresno State placed 18th overall with a score of 496 points, and its four-person team consisted of juniors Mark Castanon (Fresno), Aldo Garcia (Clovis) and Nancy Valdez (Wasco) and freshman Georgina Reyes Solorio (Livingston).

Garcia was the top individual scorer (56th, 623 points), followed by Solorio (68th, 608), Castanon (88th, 504) and Valdez (90th).

The competition included a day of individual soil pit judging and a day of team judging that combined the team members’ top three scores. Competitors’ evaluation score sheets were evaluated and scored by soil professionals.

“This was quite an honor for these students and area professionals who have volunteered their time to work together,” said Dr. Bruce Roberts, team advisor and plant science professor. “Soil science skills covered in this competition are very important in determining appropriate land use and management options and the capacities of different soils. It’s a unique art and application that this practice and competition. We were fortunate to have volunteer coaches like Michael Sowers and Dr. Phil Smith lend their expertise.”

Sowers serves as a Cascade Earth senior soil scientist (Visalia) and was a former soil judging team instructor for Delaware Valley College that won a national group soil judging title in 2011 and were northeast regional champions in 2008 and 2010.

Smith is an area USDA-NRCS soil scientist and previously served as a consulting soil scientist in the private sector.

Fresno State qualified for the national event based on its performance at the qualifying event near San Luis Obispo on Feb. 19, and was one of two teams from the region to earn a bid with Cal Poly.

Even though the Fresno State soil judging team is in its first year of existences as an official team, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology faculty, staff and students have hosted high school FFA soil judging state contests each spring on its campus farm.

Solorio, last year’s state champion, helped lead the official formation of a college judging team with the assistance of Roberts.

Fresno State students also have ties to soil science by attending and competing in poster and oral competitions the profession’s tri-society annual conference each fall sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America.

The team is now seeking support to help cover funding for the trip and more details of sponsorships are available through Dr. Bruce Roberts (baroberts@csufresno.edu / 559.278.1758 ).

More information on the national competition is available at https://www.soils.org/undergrads/soils-contest.