Team USA took first place overall at the International Soil Judging Contest in Gödöllő, Hungary held Sept 1-5. The contest, now in its second year, was one of the highlighted activities in 2015 to celebrate the International Year of Soils.

The contest allowed students, researchers and people interested in soils from around the world to interact and experience the landscapes and soils of Hungary and the Danube Basin, according to Mickey Ransom, coach of the K-State soil judging team.

Students in the contest spent their first four days learning about the landscape and soils of Hungary. On the fifth day, the students were asked to describe, understand and interpret soil characteristics in the field. Participants described a series of contest profiles using basic field tools, selected standards and guidelines.

The winners were selected on their ability to correctly describe each soil, evaluate potential soil functions and interpret their capacity to perform under different land use and management practices.

The students competed both as individuals and as teams. In the individual competitions, one member of Team USA, Kristen Pegues of Auburn, won the top award at the contest. Bush, who is also a member of the K-State soil judging team, was the 4th high individual at the international contest. Among the team competitions, Team USA took second. Taking both individual and team scores into consideration, Team USA finished first.

The contest included participants from all continents, with a total of 28 countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Laos, Montenegro, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, South-Korea, Spain, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States. The participants were organized into 16 national and multinational teams with three to five students per team.

Team USA was represented by Erin Bush, Kansas State University, junior in agronomy from Franklin, Indiana; Stephen Geib, Delaware Valley University; Adrienne Nottingham, West Virginia University; and Kristen Pegues, Auburn University. The students qualified to represent the United States by finishing as the top four individuals at the 2015 National Soil Judging Contest, hosted last spring by the University of Arkansas, Monticello. Team USA was coached by Joey Shaw, professor of soil science at Auburn University.

Scoring high as an individual and as a team in international competition was an achievement to remember, Bush said.

“I was so proud to be representing my country and Kansas State University at this contest. Many of the very best students in soil science from around the world were competing, and I was fortunate to have been trained so well for this at K-State,” Bush said.

Beyond the winning, the contest itself was a valuable learning experience, she added.

“It was an incredible opportunity to go to Hungary, meet people from all over the world, and become exposed to soils that I have never seen before. I will always cherish this experience, and I know it will be valuable in my professional life after I complete my master’s,” she said.

The event followed the 1st International Soil Judging Contest held during the 20th World Congress of Soil Sciences in Jeju, Korea in June 2014.