Soil IQ - put to the test

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer October 10, 2012 02:16 pm

FFA chapter members from all over Oregon tested  Wallowa Valley soils for structure, permeability and root depth during a state competition held  Tuesday. KATY NESBITT - The Observer
FFA chapter members from all over Oregon tested Wallowa Valley soils for structure, permeability and root depth during a state competition held Tuesday. KATY NESBITT - The Observer

Eighteen teams of future farmers descended on the Wallowa Valley to test its soils in a state-wide competition Tuesday morning.  

The winning team will compete next May at the National Land and Pasture Judging Contest in Oklahoma City. 

Joseph and Enterprise’s FFA chapters cohosted the event for the first time, said Joseph advisor Dave Yost. The competition served as both the state and the district competitions.

Alena Rice coordinated with landowners who volunteered their ranches for the pit testing sites, said Yost. Rice is the Malheur County Soil and Water Conservation District director.

Yost said Rice did the placing, evaluating and digging of each of the four pits used by the students for the test.

The soil is evaluated by looking at its color, texture, structure, depth for root penetration, water and wind erosion, drainage and permeability, said Yost.

Students also judge site characteristics such as whether or not it is an upland or a flood plain, what the parent material is, and the site’s slope. They determine whether the site is feasible to drain for crops, can be sustainably irrigated, or corrected for PH imbalances.

By midafternoon North Lake High School from Silver Lake was awarded the state title. District winners were Joseph High in first place, Imbler in second, Enterprise in third and Elgin in fourth. The competition is taken very seriously and talking is strictly forbidden. 

Mickayla Hall, a Baker City senior, said she has been involved in the soil test all four years that she has been in FFA.