Sydney Uni sweeps the 2nd Australian Soil Judging Competition in lead up to World Soil Day

2 December 2014

With the United Nations-declared World Soil Day, December 5th, upon us, eight third year soil science students have celebrated in style by claiming the 2nd Australian Soil Judging Competition in Melbourne last week. Ten teams from universities in Qld, NSW, Vic, Tas and SA competed, with the Sydney Uni Blue and Sydney Uni Gold teams being standout performers. Third year BEnvSys students David Coleman, Michaela Dolk and James Diack filled the top three positions in the individual soil judging component, and the two Sydney Uni teams finished 'one-two' in the overall classification, which combines the individual and team judging scores. The perpetual soil judging trophy donated by Soil Science Australia will now find a comfortable home at The University of Sydney until the next competition in two years' time.

The discipline of soil judging involves the assessment of soil profile and landscape features, the classification of soil and the interpretation of soil behaviour and suitability, all for points. Students judge soils both as individuals and as part of 4-person teams, and are restricted to between 1 and 1.5 hours to judge a pit. Teams have an academic coach and competition days are preceded by at least one day of practice pits to allow students to calibrate to local conditions. The coaches for the two Sydney Uni teams at Melbourne were A. Prof. Stephen Cattle and Dr Damien Field from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment. The eight competing students were Michaela Dolk, David Coleman, Mardee Cassin, Natasha Livingstone, Bonnie Cannings, James Diack, Andy Tan and Nina Potts.

Sydney Uni Blue inspect a Sodosol
Sydney Uni Blue inspect a Sodosol

From an educational standpoint, soil judging is a very effective mode of learning for students, as knowledge, interpretation, calculation and making connections are all required for success. Comments A. Prof. Cattle, "Over the last couple of years we have incorporated soil judging into a senior soil science unit of study as an assessment task, and the students have responded to this very well - as soon as you explicitly frame an assessment task as a competition, the students take it very seriously and care deeply about the result, regardless of the weighting of the task to the whole unit. Our students consistently tell us that they appreciate field learning and the discipline of soil judging brings a sharp focus to this learning."

On the performance of the eight Sydney Uni students who competed in Melbourne, Dr Field commented "both of our teams gelled very well together and approached the judging in a very tactical manner - all of the students contributed with solid individual scores and strong teamwork in the team judging. We were impressed with the way our teams successfully tackled the high point value interpretation sections, demonstrating that they can effectively make connections between observed soil morphological features and soil behaviour and suitability".

The soil judging win caps a great judging year for the University, with the crop judging team, comprised of eight BScAgr third year students, also taking out the 2014 Crops Competition back in September.

Contact: A/Prof Stephen Cattle

Phone: 02 8627 1142

Email: 2104070900545742040d4730350612065622193d4b6f51023c78123e