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UWRF soils team wins second straight national championship

April 22, 2015

For the second year in a row the UW-River Falls soil judging team took first place in the soils competition at the annual North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Judging Conference in Moline, Illinois, on April 7-10.

Fifteen schools participated in the soils competition, encompassing nearly 90 students. The UWRF soils team includes: Logan Ahlers of Bigelow, Minnesota; Nikki Stehr of Zumbrota, Minnesota; Jon Alexander of Belview, Minnesota; Katie Wolff of Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Lee Boles of Prescott, Wisconsin; Emily Sorenson of River Falls; Megan Beisner of Wausau, Wisconsin; Travis Vieths of Hastings, Minnesota; Jonathan Wagaman of Medford, Wisconsin; and Matthew Strahm of Ladysmith, Wisconsin.

Per the contest rules, each school could enter one official team of four students along with an unofficial team and alternates. The UWRF students did so well, its official and unofficial team scores were only three points apart. Had the rules allowed it, they would have placed first and second in the competition. Individually, Ahlers took second place in the nation, Stehr took third place, and Alexander took fifth place.

“This shows just how strong our students were and how much depth we had as a team,” said Holly Dolliver, associate professor of soil science and geology. “Our performance was so amazing.”

In the soils competition the students are given limited time to evaluate four different soil sites and give a description and interpretation of the sites. The descriptions must include the color, texture, consistence, structure and other properties of each soil horizon in each soil pit. The interpretations about the soil include its classification, parent material, water holding properties, productivity, susceptibility to erosion and suitability for different uses.

In addition to the competition, the students were able to attend a networking fair, tour the John Deere headquarters, and participate in a volunteer project of packaging meals for a local food bank. The conference wrapped up with a formal banquet featuring keynote speaker Cory J. Reed, senior vice president at the John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group.