Soil judging team members place first internationally

July 1, 2014

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Team USA-B

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville took first place at the recent inaugural International Soil Judging Contest. Twelve teams from 10 countries competed at the contest, held on Jeju Island, South Korea. The contest was held in conjunction with the 20th World Congress of Soil Science. The overall first-place team, USA-B, included a recent graduate of UW-Platteville, Kyle Weber, and was coached by Dr. Chris Baxter, professor of soil and crop science at UW-Platteville.

Weber, who graduated from UW-Platteville in May, earned a spot on the team – which was one of two U.S. teams represented at the competition — after he placed eighth in the individual portion of the National Collegiate Soils Competition in April.

“The experience of going there and learning about the soils of Jeju Island was really interesting, and having the opportunity to work one more time with Kyle, as well as with students from other universities, was a lot of fun,” said Baxter. “They are all really good students and they all love soils, so my job was pretty easy.”

During the contest, which included both an individual and team competition, participants identified the soil class and made interpretations for four sites based on soil and landscape characteristics. Their findings were compared to those of the competition judges to determine the individual, team and overall winner.   

“It was much different than contests in the United States,” explained Baxter. “In our contests, the teams tend to stay to themselves and don’t interact much with the other teams. In this contest we travelled with and were constantly interacting with coaches and students from other countries. Since soil judging isn’t as popular in other countries as it is in the United States, it provided an opportunity for the U.S. teams to share some of our experiences and demonstrate how soil judging is a great way to get students excited about soil science.”

Baxter added that he thinks this inaugural international contest will cause more national competitions to start in other countries. “Australia has already held a national soils contest, and it appears that Hungary, China and Taiwan are very interested in holding one in the near future,” he said.

Baxter explained that Jeju is a volcanic island that last erupted about 25,000 years ago, and presented the students with the challenge of describing some of the unique properties of volcanic soils. “The students certainly gained a better understanding of the properties, uses and limitations of the soils on Jeju,” said Baxter. “But, the real benefit was interacting with people from a variety of cultures. Even when we didn’t speak the same language, we could still communicate because the methods for describing and classifying soils are similar all over the world. Everyone at the contest had a common bond, a genuine interest in conserving and protecting soil resources, and many friends were made among both the students and coaches.”

According to Baxter, the organizers hope to continue the tradition of having an international competition to coincide with the World Congress of Soil Science, which occurs every four years. The next one is scheduled to be held in Brazil in 2018.

"This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Kyle to demonstrate and apply his knowledge of soils on an international level,” said Dr. Michael Compton, director of the UW-Platteville School of Agriculture. “He has worked hard and represented the School of Agriculture and UW-Platteville exceptionally well. We are proud of his accomplishments. I want to thank Dr. Baxter for his hard work and dedication to our students. He works very hard throughout the year to prepare students for the regional and national contests.”

Weber’s travel to the contest was supported by the Agronomic Science Foundation and the Soil Science Society of America, the World Congress of Soil Science, the Glenn Webb Education Fund/The GROWMARK Foundation, and the UW-Platteville College of BILSA. Baxter’s travel was supported by the Glenn Webb Education Fund/The GROWMARK Foundation, the UW-Platteville Foundation and by university and College of BILSA professional development funds. Baxter would also like to acknowledge SUFAC and the many alumni and friends for their continued financial support of the collegiate soils team, which made this opportunity possible.

“I want to join Dr. Baxter in thanking our alumni and friends in the agricultural industry and community who support activities like this with their contributions,” said Compton.

 

Contact: Dr. Chris Baxter, associate professor, School of Agriculture, (608) 342-1388, baxterch@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Alison Parkins, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1526, parkinsal@uwplatt.edu

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