COVID-19 didn’t stop the Farm Progress Show FFA soils judging contest from returning as part of the 2021 show in Decatur, Ill. Contestants from both Indiana and Illinois competed in separate state divisions. Overall, nearly 120 contestants participated, making it the largest soils judging contest held since FPS revived the tradition in 2003. Soils judging contests were held for FFA members at the first Farm Progress Shows in the 1950s.
Farm Credit Illinois and Farm Credit Mid-America once again generously supported the contest, providing $1,000 in cash awards for each state to be split among the top three winning teams and top three winning individuals in that state. Special thanks also go to Randy Staley, Staley’s Soil Service, Clay City, Ind.; Gary Steinhardt and Ron Wamsley on behalf of Purdue University Extension; Scott Wiesbrook, soil scientist with the Illinois Natural History Survey; and Dennis Bowman and his crew of Extension educators with the University of Illinois, for making the contest possible. David Brix, a host farmer for the Farm Progress Show, provided the land and manpower to run a backhoe and dig pits for the contest.
Students started at a practice pit, where their coach could discuss soil properties with them; then they evaluated four pits as part of the contest. Two were evaluated for agriculture potential and two as potential home sites. Contestants evaluated nine properties at each pit, including parent material, slope, landform, soil color, past soil erosion, topsoil and subsoil texture, drainage, and possible limiting layers. Then they made recommendations based on those properties for how soils should be managed for the intended use.
In the Indiana division, Southmont FFA, Montgomery County, took first-place honors. Team members included Cole Rhoads, Kelsey Thompson, Clair Simpson and Hunter McArthur. Their coach was Gary Mosbaugh.
Southwestern FFA, Shelby County, placed second. Team members were Tristan Pappano, Elias Clark, Camalle Thopy and Austin Shannon. Southwestern FFA was coached by Pam Meyer.
The third-place team hailed from South Newton FFA. Team members were Stephanie Berenda, Logan Kollman, Dan Tordai and Hayden Davidson. The team was coached by Matthew Armbruster.
Individuals placing in the top three included: Cole Rhoads, first; Tristan Pappano, second; and Stephanie Berenda, third. Awards were presented to the Indiana winners by Matt Oberlies and Brett Anderson, both vice presidents of commercial agriculture for Farm Credit Mid-America.