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Tuskegee University students studying environmental and soil science got down and dirty as part of the 2018 Region II Southeastern Collegiate Soil Judging Contest, held at Western Kentucky University Oct. 15-18. The team of students from the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Science placed ninth in a competitive field that included 14 Southeastern universities.
“This was Tuskegee’s first time competing in nearly 20 years, and our students did great as a group and as individuals,” explained Dr. Walter Hill, the college’s dean. “We were up against other land-grant intuitions that have been competing for a number of years.”
During the contest, students had to describe soil morphology — colors, textures, structures, layers and other characteristics — and soil classification to determine landscape setting, land-use limitations, and taxonomy for four different soil profiles. Each team had three days to practice their skills before competing against other students to see how close they could come to the assessments of local soil scientists.
Dr. Anthony S. Kumi, a soil scientist in the college who also coached Tuskegee’s team, noted that the existence of life hinges on soil — from which we derive food, shelter, fiber, raw materials and water.
“How well the soil is determines the proper sustainability for human and animal consumption,” he explained. “We train our students to be soil scientists who can best determine what type of soil can be used for wetlands, construction and agricultural purposes.”
The Tuskegee team included team captain Brandon Bradley, assistant team captain Tiiwon Siaway, and team members Jaden Battle, Douglas Brown, Melanie Groves, and Kendrick Rodgers — all of whom are majoring in environmental and soil science. Cooper Reid Nichols and John “J.B.” Burns from the National Resources Conservation Service served as team advisers. NRCS liaison Alice Love, state soil scientist Lawrence McGhee, and college faculty members William Hodge, Dr. Ramble Ankumah and Dr. Raymon Shange helped in initiating and providing logistic support to the student team.
Kumi expects the team’s success with boosting students’ confidence and Tuskegee’s future participation in the competition.
“During a six-week crash course, our students prepared themselves to compete against teams from other intuitions where students may have taken a soil science course before competing,” he said.
Dating back to 1961, the National Collegiate Soils Contest is an annual event in which students identify, evaluate, classify, and describe four soil profiles. It is sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America, an international scientific society that encourages sustaining global soils, and the American Society of Agronomy, which fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global agronomy.
In addition to Tuskegee, the competition included teams from Alabama A&M University; Auburn University; Clemson University; North Carolina State University; Tennessee Tech; the University of Georgia; the University of Kentucky; the University of Tennessee; the University of Tennessee, Martin; Virginia Tech; West Virginia University; and Western Kentucky University.
For more information about the competition, visit https://www.soils.org/undergrads/soils-contest.
© 2018, Tuskegee University