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Farm Credit associations provide cash awards for soil judging winners.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

August 25, 2021

3 Min Read
soil judging
PRACTICE TIME: One valuable feature of the FPS Soil Judging Invitational is the practice pit. Here a team gathers around their coach in the pit before they start the real contest. Tom J. Bechman

FFA soil judging competitions were held at the first Farm Progress Show more than 68 years ago. Soils judging has been held at the Farm Progress Show each time it returned to Illinois since the 50th anniversary show near Henning in 2003. It returns for the 2021 Farm Progress Show at Decatur, Ill.

The soil judging event will be held at 9:30 a.m. Central  time Aug. 29. Gary Steinhardt, Purdue University Extension soils specialist and one of the official judges 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. It’s two contests in one — an Indiana FFA soil judging contest and an Illinois FFA soil judging contest. Members from the two states do not compete against each other.

This is usually the first soils judging invitational contest of the season. It’s the only contest 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. Students can go through at their own pace rather than being 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. Awards will be presented Aug. 31. Farm Credit personnel will present awards to winners.

Bowman says it’s a great opportunity for FFA students interested in soil judging to tune up for the soil judging season. Answers are provided at the practice pit so that beginning students can get a feel for the contest, he notes. It also helps all students get acclimated to soils at the site.

The Farm Progress Show site is unique in that it contains both prairie and timber soils. Students may see either primarily prairie soils, more common in Illinois, or timber soils, more common in Indiana and southern Illinois.

Indiana students will judge two homesite pits and two agriculture pits, using Indiana rules, Steinhardt relates.

Contestants make recommendations for how to manage crops and prevent soil erosion on ag sites, and then suggest practices to ensure proper construction without soil erosion issues on potential homesites.

Illinois contest

A new soil judging card and set of rules now in effect in Illinois was first used at the 2019 Farm Progress Show soil judging contest. These rules for ag sites are now used for all official Illinois soil judging contests. It was adapted from Indiana materials specifically for Illinois, Steinhardt explains.

New rules for judging homesites are scheduled to be introduced in Illinois this year. If available by show time, it’s possible they will debut at this event. Otherwise, Illinois judgers will score four ag pits.

To learn more about the soil judging contest, email [email protected] or call 217-244-0851.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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