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About Soil Judging

A soil judger will use their knowledge of soil to accurately determine morphological features found throughout the soil profile. Soil judgers at Penn State have 100% employment rates within 6 months of graduation and annual salaries of ~$44,000.

How do they do this? A pit is dug, via a backhoe, and the judgers enter the pit. They are told how many horizons there are in this particular profile (horizons are different layers in the profile). There are several types and each has its own characteristics. Soil judgers determine where the horizons are then fully describe each one. Type, color, depth, consistence, clay percentage, shape, structure, grade of structure and redoximorphic features are recorded on a score card. The soil is also classified according to standard Soil Taxonomy. Site and soil interpretations are also performed and recorded.

Soil judgers test their skills against students from other schools. In the Fall, a regional competition is held in October and then in the Spring, schools that qualify from the regional competition, compete at the nationals. The contest events require knowledge of soil features and how they affect other soil characteristics. Each student has 1 hour to complete the scorecard. The time is broken up as such: 10 minutes in the pit, 10 out of the pit, 10 in, 10 out, 20 free for all. While one set of contestants are in the pit the others are out; you can tell it pays to be the first set of students in the pit. Team judging is similar except the time is usually 30 minutes and all four students are able to speak and converse with each other. However, only 1 scorecard is turned in for the team.