Part 1: The ‘Soil Judges’ of Oz

Our adventure started bright and early Sunday morning, the nine of us piling into a shuttle to the airport, bleary eyed and still half asleep. The 2017 5th Australian Soil Judging Competition awaited us in Toowoomba, Queensland.

Plane
Crisp morning at Christchurch International Airport.

Brisbane put on a show when we got there, what a beautiful day. We stopped and walked around Southshore, trying to acclimatise to the Australian weather. Five minutes out of the van, all we wanted to do was find somewhere cold to sit down and get out of the 30+°C heat!

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From Left: Sephrah Rayner, Connor Edwards, Alvand Azimi, Josh Nelson, Verina Telling, Judith van Djik, Milan Bonkovich, Irene Setiawan. Absent from photo: Camilla Gardiner (but still a key team member).

Off to Toowoomba we went. After settling into our accommodation we explored the local sites. Toowoomba the “Garden City” and had just finished its Carnival of flowers, giving us the opportunity to smell a few roses before we got into the depths of soil judging. Also enjoying the first of many BBQs.

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Exploring the Toowoomba Botanical Gardens with the Kiwi Soil Judgers, settling in to Toowoomba.

Soil Judging Practice. Now this is what you want to get into, if you have even a slight inkling of interest in soils you’d be addicted after seeing these practice pits. What beautiful soils! A broad range, contrasting in colour and conformation. They maybe not as varied in texture (clay everywhere) but if you’re used to New Zealand soils they sure are different!

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Alvand contemplating a buried Sodosol with his Niwashi.

We had a great bunch of knowledgeable Australian Soilys to take us through the practice soil pits. Finding and preparing seven soil pits in contrasting landscapes, sharing their expertise and time with us was greatly appreciated and very interesting. It definitely ‘expanded our horizons’.

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Jim Payne sharing his soils wisdom with the Kiwi crew.

Day one, we jumped on a bus and went east back down the Great Dividing Range (700m altitude) to Gatton to look at four different soil pits. Two clay rich soils, one Vertosol and one Dermosol, dark and prismatic. One Chromosol with rich red mottles at depth and the other a Sodosol, with a pale eluviated horizon that was buried under a gravelly red-orange fill that just made it ‘pop’ (image above). As well as this we heard from one of the local Ag Forestry and Fisheries Researchers, Steve Harper. With years of experience of the local area he talked about its history in market gardens, producing the majority of potatoes and other vegetables for all of Queensland.

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The complete Kiwi crew; Two teams of 4 and a team leader. From top left: Josh, Milan, Irene, Connor, Judith. From bottom left: Sephrah, Alvand, Camilla and Verina.

That evening we had the third BBQ of our trip, to finish of the sausages left over from the welcome BBQ the night before. Catching up with colleagues that some of us had met at last years competition in Wanaka and meeting new people just starting out in their soil judging careers. This is a great part of Soil Judging Competitions, extending collaboration and friendships across the ditch.

 

Day two, jumping on another bus we headed in the opposite direction. Off west to Darling Downs, with a pit in Toowoomba, Kingsthorpe and Jondaryan into the ‘erosional landscapes of the basaltic uplands’. The weathering status and hardness of Basalt determine many of the soil patterns in the landscape. Driving past paddocks with sodicity issues have cotton turned through them and left to fallow, ‘pasture’ paddocks with a few cattle here and there, bright green paddocks of barley and wheat providing a stark contrast to the surrounding vegetation.

Our first pit of the day was red. A Ferrosol that turns your hands red when texturing, providing a great instant tan for your legs or semi-permanent paint to graffiti your mates t-shirt. For the second we got treated to the most impressive slicken sides you’ve ever seen. Up until this point we Kiwi’s had a rough idea what they were, having read about them, but seeing them in person was next level. Lenticular peds, which have a horizonal lens shaped structure that when pulled out of the pit face revealed the polished slicken side faces. The third soil of the day was a Calcarosol, using acid to test for calcareous material.

Before our fourth and final pit of the day we got treated to hot fresh scones and tea at a historic farm. Just about as good as Kiwi scones.

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The Gilgai exposed!

At the fourth pit we found ourselves staring at a thing of beauty, the soil pit had been dug to reveal the perfect finger of calcareous material that protrudes between Gilgai! Gilgai was also something that us Kiwis were trying to wrap our heads around. A Gilgai  is a small, temporary lake formed from a depression in the soil surface in expanding clay soils. Additionally, the term “gilgai” is used to refer to the overall micro-relief in such areas, consisting of mounds and depressions, not just the lakes themselves. The name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning small water hole.

The practice days were long and hot, but comprehensive and helpful. Especially when it came to coming to terms with a whole new classification system and defining textures with more than 35% clay. Its one thing to read a book and practice in a lab, or on New Zealand soils, but Australia is a whole different ball game. A great experience all round.

A shout out to all the people that made the competition possible, preparing such great practise pits and generously sharing your time, energy and knowledge. Also to the funders both here and across the ditch that made the whole thing a reality. New Zealand Sponsors were: FAR, Landcare Research, Ravensdown, NZ Society of Soil Science, Centre for Soil and Environmental Research, LRS and Lincoln University.

Sponors

Part 2 of The ‘Soil Judgers’ of Oz, “Competition Day” article coming soon! and if you missed out on the daily photo posts on Instagram and Facebook, check them out now!

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The Kiwi Soil Teams: Light Green = Bedrockers; Milan, Connor, Sephrah and Camilla. Dark Green = Fifty Shades of Greywacke; Irene, Alvand, Josh and Verina. Ready for competition day!

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References:

Competition Handbook: 5th Australian Soil Judging Competition, 2017. Toowoomba Queensland.

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgai

When Soils Fly

When you say to someone that you’re off to Australia for a Soil Judging Competition, there’s a look that comes across their face that’s quite unique. It’s a mixture of surprise, uncertainty and I would like to say awe. After an enthusiastic explanation of what it entails; descriptions of horizons, textures and structure, the landscape and suitability for different crops, their surprised look turns to understanding and sometimes they even show enthusiasm too!

For our last practise this week went on a bit of a road trip to North Canterbury to describe a clay rich soil. Clay rich to New Zealand’s South Island standards, a whooping 35% in the B horizon! A great morning of soil science was had by all, after just about getting trampled by stock that is.

We jump on the plane to Australia bright and early Sunday morning, with a daylight savings change meaning that the 5am pick up is actually a brisk 4am. Winging our way to what is going to be a very hot week in Australia, hot competition with an extra hot heat wave to cook our Kiwi brains that are used to a daily high of 12°C over the winter. Bring it on Australia! Lincoln is coming to represent NZ!

20170920_120714.jpgTeams ’50 Shades of Greywacke’ and ‘The Bedrockers’ are coming for ya!

Soil judging isn’t yet as widely known as it should be, but we’re on our way to making it the well-known sport. It’s not only a challenge but a valuable skill and something to inspire enthusiasm in all.

Thanks to all the help that we have received with training, organisation and funding.

Keep an eye out for updates of our trip here (the Blog), on Facebook or Instagram!

Sponors

Soil Judging – We’re off to Aussie

If you are interested in soils, want to get your hands dirty and get to know different soil types around the world you should get involved in soil judging!

A team from Lincoln University had the great opportunity of participating in the first New Zealand soil judging competition in Wanaka last year, as part of the New Zealand and Australia Soil Science Conference in Queenstown. Not only did we have a great couple of days in the field, hands on learning about soils but we got to know fellow soil lovers, with participants from across NZ, Australia and America.

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This year we are going to Australia for the 5th Australian National Soil Judging Competition in Toowoomba Queensland from 25 – 29 September 2017. One month to go before the competition there were 13 teams entered, representing 12 Universities and the registration numbers have gone up since then!

Soil Science Australia

Watch this space as we will have updates through out the week while we are there! Keeping you up to speed on Instagram, Facebook and of course the Blog!

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The Lincoln University Soil Department has entered two teams in this years competition, sending two teams of 4 and one team leader to Toowoomba! We are able to do this thanks to fundraising  and sponsorship from the Lincoln Soil Society, Lincoln University, the New Zealand Soil Society, FAR, Ravensdown, Landcare Research and LSR. To all of which we are very grateful.

The Lincoln University Soil Society Quiz Night, with the winning team holding the “Golden Spade”

The last couple of months have kept us very busy with fundraising and of course our weekly training/practice sessions. Fundraising has occurred in the form of LU Soil Society T-Shirt sales, Quiz nights (images above) and Bake sales, with a few sausage sizzles still to come.

Our teams in one of the Lincoln University soil pits, working through the different components that we will be judged on with the help of a couple of LU’s soil experts, Peter Almond and Roger McLenaghan.

Practice on (early and chilly mornings) Wednesdays  has seen us go through every aspect of what we get judged on: Soil Morphology; horizon designations,  texture, colour and structure, Soil Profile Characteristics; permeability, available water capacity, slaking/dispersion, Site Characteristics; land-form morphology, slope class, parent material….. Australian Soil Classification; diagnostic criteria, order…. and Interpretations; class for different uses and limiting factors.

Along side this we have been researching Australian soils in the area that the competition is going to be held. It’s interesting applying our New Zealand soils knowledge to Australian versions of the same thing. As we have found, we do things quite differently. Colours and textures will be a very interesting change! Bring on vibrant reds and rich clays!

Comradery, companionship and competition! the perfect combination, all that and ‘expanding your horizons’ with great soils knowledge. Soil Judging is indeed the new NBA!

Want more?

Our previous articles on soil judging:

Article on 2012 Australian Soil Judging Competition 

Competition Details – Follow link for flyer

Sponors

 

Z is for Podzol

“Podzol Soils occur in areas of high rainfall and are usually associated with forest trees with an acid litter. The soils occur mainly in materials from silica-rich rocks. They cover 13% of New Zealand.”

In the Labs for Lincoln Uni’s Level 1 Soil Science course this week we have been looking at different soil profiles, describing horizons and classifying them to the NZ Soil Classification. Podzol is one that the students get to and ponder for a while. It’s abundance of different horizons can be quite confusing at first, but after working through them, can be appreciated as a beautiful.

Podzols - Landcare Research
Photo Credit: https://soils.landcareresearch.co.nz/describing-soils/nzsc/soil-order/podzol-soils

A Podzol generally has an Ah horizon, followed by a E, then all or one of; Bh, Bs, Bfm, making for a colourful soil description and something to get fresh soil science minds working. The E horizon is an eluviated horizon, where the weathering over thousands of years has leached any nutrients, organic matter, iron and aluminium oxides out of it making it a very pale horizon.

Read more on LandcareResearch’s ‘Describing Soils’ Webpage

References:

https://soils.landcareresearch.co.nz/describing-soils/nzsc/soil-order/podzol-soils

https://www.landis.org.uk/services/soilsguide/series.cfm?serno=729

The Colourful History of Soil Mapping

Follow us on Instagram to see more exciting and beautiful images of soils, soil science and research in action.

A snapshot of the colourful history of soil mapping. #soilmaps #handpainted #colourful #history #newzealand #soil #lovesoil

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Why Blog?

Communication of science and what we do here in the Department is really key to helping people understand the challenges we face in the land based sector, especially when it comes to sustainable primary production and protecting the environment. Currently it’s something we do through outreach, farm days and such like. Another strategy is to use a Blog to reach a wider audience such as land users, the interested public and potential students at the UG and PG level.

 This is not an official Lincoln University blog site, it is designed to represent our views and do not necessarily reflect the views of our employer.

Lincoln University Department of Soil & Physical Sciences

The Department of Soil Science at Lincoln University, NZ is responsible for the delivery of all undergraduate and postgraduate soil-related courses, and many physical science courses.

http://www.lincoln.ac.nz/Lincoln-Home/About-Lincoln/Faculties-and-Divisions/Faculty-of-Agriculture-and-Life-Sciences/Department-of-Soil-and-Physical-Sciences/