FFA soils judging competitions were held at the earliest Farm Progress Shows more than 65 years ago. Soils judging has been held at the show each time it was in Illinois since the 50th anniversary show near Henning in 2003. It returns for this year’s show, as well, Aug. 27-29 in Decatur.
The soils judging event will be begin at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 27. Gary Steinhardt, Purdue University Extension soils specialist and official judge for the contest, says there will be four pits plus a practice pit.
The contest will be located on the Farm Progress Show site on land farmed by cooperating host farmers. There are two soils judging contests in one: an Indiana FFA contest and one for Illinois FFA.
This will likely be the first soils judging invitational contest of the 2019 soils judging season. It’s also one of the few, if not the only, contests that features cash awards. Farm Credit Mid-America sponsors cash awards for the Indiana division, and Farm Credit Illinois sponsors cash awards for the Illinois division.
Awards for each state division are:
- first place, $400
- second and third place, $100 each
- first-place individual per state, $200
- second- and third-place individuals, $100 each
That’s a total of $1,000 in cash awards per state, or $2,000 for the entire contest.
How it works
The contest is conducted cafeteria-style, which means students can go through at their own pace rather than be rotated in groups on a set time schedule.
Dennis Bowman, an Extension educator in commercial agriculture at the University of Illinois, coordinates with other University of Illinois Extension staff to facilitate the contest and tabulate results. Awards will be presented on-site the afternoon of Aug. 27. Farm Credit personnel from each state will present awards to winners in their respective states.
Bowman says it’s a chance for FFA students interested in soils judging to tune up for the soils judging season, which occurs during the fall in both states. Answers are provided at the practice pit so beginning students can get a feel for the contest, he notes. The practice pit also helps all students to get acclimated to the conditions at the site.
The FPS site is unique in that it contains both prairie and timber soils. Depending upon where the contest site is positioned each year, students may see either primarily prairie or timber soils.
Indiana students will judge two homesite pits and two agriculture pits, using Indiana rules, Steinhardt says. This is the regular format used in Indiana contests. Contestants make recommendations on how to manage crops and prevent soil erosion on ag sites, and suggest practices to ensure proper construction without soil erosion issues on potential homesites.
Illinois contest debut
This is a special contest for Illinois students. A new soils judging format will be debuted at this contest and will be used for all official Illinois soils judging contests this year. It was adapted from Indiana materials specifically for Illinois, Steinhardt says.
All four pits for Illinois soil judges will be scored as agriculture sites. The revised portion of the contest that would allow judges to make recommendations for homesites that parallel practices currently used in Illinois is not yet available.