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soils judging
FFA CONTEST: The Farm Progress Show FFA soils judging contest, with separate divisions for Indiana and Illinois students, is set for Aug. 27.

Soils judging returns to 2019 Farm Progress Show

Indiana and Illinois FFA members can compete for cash prizes sponsored by Farm Credit.

FFA soils judging competitions were held at some of the earliest Farm Progress Shows more than 65 years ago. When the 50th anniversary show was planned in 2003 at Henning, Ill., show organizers decided to include a soils judging competition again. Soils judging has been held at the Farm Progress Show each time it was in Illinois ever since. The competition returns for the 2019 show at Decatur, Ill., Aug. 27-29.

The soils judging event will be held Aug. 27, beginning at 9:30 a.m. According to Gary Steinhardt, Purdue University Extension soils specialist and official judge for the contest, 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 will be two divisions: one for Indiana FFA members and one for Illinois FFA members.

This will likely be the first soils judging invitational contest of the 2019 soils judging season. It also may be the only contest featuring 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 team, $400; second- and third-place teams, $100 each; first-place individual in each state, $200; and second- and third-place individuals in each state, $100 each. That’s a total of $1,000 in cash awards per state.

FFA advisors can learn more information and officially enter the contest online. If you’re not sure your local chapter and advisor know about this contest, be sure to let them know, and pass along this link so they can learn more about how to sign up for the contest.

How it works

The contest is conducted “cafeteria-style,” which means 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 U of I Extension staff to facilitate the contest and grade results. Awards will be presented on-site that afternoon of Aug. 27.

Bowman says the competition is a great opportunity for FFA members interested in soils judging to tune up for the season, which occurs during the fall semester 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 get acclimated to the conditions at the site. The Farm Progress Show 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.

This is a special contest for Illinois students. A new soils judging format will debut that will be used for all official Illinois soils judging contests this year. It was adapted from Indiana materials specifically for Illinois, Steinhardt explains. All four pits for Illinois judging teams will be scored as agriculture sites.

For more details about the Farm Progress Show contest, call Bowman at 217-244-0851 or email ndbowman@illinois.edu.

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