Cal Poly’s soil science team won first place at a regional competition on Nov. 3 in Arroyo Grande, keeping them undefeated from the previous regional competition in March.

The competition challenges students to quickly describe, classify and interpret soils in the field using standards established by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The competition was held at Bartleson Ranch and sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America, according to a news release.

Soil science is the study of the formation, components, properties and management of soil, including where it comes from, how we use it and what is in it, according to Professor Gordon Rees, who organized and oversaw the competition.

The experience the team receives during these competitions is highly regarded by employers, according to soil science team coach and professor Daniel Johnson.

“This is the apex of learn by doing,” Johnson said.

The Cal Poly Soil Judging region champion team. Cal Poly | Courtesy

Team members are judged by comparing their answers on the formation of soil and how it would be used with the answers of professional soil classifiers, according to Rees. The students fill out a card with their answers and every answer they match with a professional’s answer earns a point.

The team practiced for three hours, once a week by going on regional field trips and looking at different types of soil.

Cal Poly will be holding the national competition in April. Last year, the team finished twelfth in the nation.

Prepping for the national competition will be a lot of work, Rees said, but he is excited nonetheless.

“We’ve been working for a couple months. We’re excited to show off our California soil,” Rees said.

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