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Serving: IL

Illinois students learn soils judging at Farm Progress Show

Photos by Tom J. Bechman first-place soils judging team from South Central High School at Farm Progress Show
WINNING TEAM: Here is the first-place team from South Central High School FFA. Pictured with Beth Bolger of Farm Credit Illinois (left) are Alec Langley, Eli Arenas, Hailey Schuler, Dennis Wollin and T.J. Bolin, South Central FFA advisor.
FFA members compete for monetary awards as they learn about soils.

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 Illinois and Indiana 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.

Related: New Illinois soils judging contest debuted at Farm Progress Show

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.

Contest results

In the Illinois division, South Central High School FFA near Effingham captured first and third place in the team competition. The Cambridge FFA team took second place.

Members of the first-place team from South Central were Alec Langley, Eli Arenas, Hailey Schuler and Dennis Wollin. The coach and FFA advisor is T.J. Bolin.

Members of the Cambridge FFA second-place team included Kendra Downing, Brooklyn Humphrey and Ella Jeffries. Their advisor is Trent Taber.

Members on the third-place team from South Central included Kyla Engel, Riley Schaal, Colton Smith and Evan Hoover.

third-place soils judging team from South Central High School at Farm Progress Show

3RD PLACE: Cambridge FFA finished second but was not available for pictures. The third-place team was also from South Central. Pictured with Farm Credit Illinois’ Beth Bolger (left) are Kyla Engel, Riley Schaal, Colton Smith, Evan Hoover and advisor T.J. Bolin.

The top three individuals in the Illinois contest were Alec Langley, first; Eli Arenas, second; and Dennis Wollin, third — all from South Central.

Representatives from Farm Credit Illinois who helped present awards and greet Illinois soil judgers included Rod Stoll and Beth Bolger. Thanks again to Farm Credit Illinois for providing the support to make this event possible.  

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