The Virginia Tech Soil Judging Team finished ninth out of 23 teams at the 2023 National Collegiate Soils Contest, sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America.
Students spent four practice days describing soils derived from ancient and modern alluvium, eolian sands, and residuum from several types of unusual bedrock.
“This contest was very challenging because of the very subtle differences in colors and textures between the soil horizons,” said John Galbraith, a professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. “The soils were not strongly developed, so subtle differences made big differences in the soil classification.”
They braved cool, windy days before the weather finally cleared up for the two competition days.
“The students learned about wind-blown parent materials and witnessed wind erosion in action, reminding them of the dust bowl days in that region,” Galbraith said. “The semi-arid vegetation and land uses, seen on the drive to and from the contest, will help the students to better understand instructional lectures in their environmental science and ecology classes.”
The contest was hosted by Oklahoma State University near Woodward, Oklahoma.
The University of Maryland won the overall contest. The group judging event was won by Tarleton University.
“Overall, the preparation in Blacksburg and the contest week experiences were a tremendous learning opportunity for everyone involved,” Galbraith said.