Alvand Azimi is currently studying for his Honors degree in the field of Agricultural Science, focusing on Soil Science at Lincoln University.
“I was born in New Zealand but do not come from a farming background, I have worked on various farms since 2013. My knowledge of New Zealand farming is broad and I am majoring in pedology, with minors in agronomy and animal science. I am currently working on my disertation, where I am assessing controlled release of nitrogen (N) fertilizer (Smartfert) from Bruce Smith at (Eko360 ltd). I have completed 10 weeks of summer work on sheep and beef, dairy and deer farms, with labour contributions to other farms whilst completing my academic career.
I am also working on another project, where I am quantifying the N absorption capacity of wood chips from multiple tree species. This research aims to use carbonaceous substrates as an alternative to engineered standoff pads, by using waste wood products to collect cattle bio-solids.”
‘Nitrogen loss from excreta can be controlled to an extent by using stand-off pads surfaced with wood materials. Most types of wood materials are suitable to be used as a stand-off base (DairyNZ, 2017). The most abundant being derived from radiata pine tree (Pinus radiata), which has been introduced for timber in New Zealand, where it is the most common tree (Knowles et al, 2010). Some hardwood sawdust produce splinters, which can damage cattle teats and skin making it unfavorable (DairyNZ, 2017). Most cows will lie down sooner on softer surfaces compared to harder surfaces and are reluctant to lie down on wet surfaces. Woodchip surfaces are the best for standoff surface material, largely due to softness and high moisture absorbance. Dairy NZ (2017) recommends to apply 40-50cm layer of woodchips over the standoff surface. The effectiveness of woodchips to absorb water and solute is little understood. Therefore an experiment was conducted to identify absorption of water applied onto woodchips, by measuring leached drained from woodchips.
The objectives of this research project was to set up a uniform experiment to determine the saturation point and drainage of dried woodchips. The effectiveness of woodchips to absorb water and solute is little understood. Therefore a uniform experiment was conducted using woodchips which were chipped from pine (Pinus. Radiata), willow (Salix. Caprea & Matsudana) and poplar (Populus. Euramericana & Deltoides). All chips were packed into columns exactly at 40cm (4760g) on top of a 10cm (5450g) soil layer. The control were columns without woodchips. Once the experiment was prepared, water was applied as a burst application 500ml/hr/column for 5hrs, afterwards applications changed to two 250ml/hr applications per day. Results from the 5 hour burst applications at 500ml exceeded the infiltration capacity of the 10cm soil layer, this was identified by a ponding effect in the control, hence applications were adjusted to two 250ml/day. The water holding capacity of woodchip treatments was greater than the control.’
Carolina Lizarralde is currently studying for her PhD degree in the field of Soil Science at Lincoln University. Professors Richard McDowell, Leo Condron and Dr. Jeff Brown are supervising this research.
“I was born in Montevideo, the capital city from Uruguay. However, most of my childhood holidays were spent on my family’s farm and I always looked forward to go there. I enjoyed being in direct contact with nature, and from a young age I loved learning everything I could about farming systems. So, I decided to do a Bachelor in Agriculture and afterwards a Master in Animal Science, both of them from the School of Agriculture, University of Uruguay. Once I finished my studies I started working on a research institute, also in Uruguay, as an assistant researcher on water quality. I found this topic really interesting and my desire to keep on learning motivates me to do my PhD.
My PhD project is about “Methods to mitigate the water quality impact from high phosphorus soils receiving dairy factory wastewater”. I am finding this project very interesting and challenging. “
Camille Rousset is currently studying for an Honours degree in the field of Soil Science at Lincoln University. Prof. Tim Clough is supervising her research.
“I grew up in a countryside in the southwest of France near Bordeaux named Bourg sur Gironde. My home is surrounded by the most famous type of Agriculture of the region, viticulture, on which it built its reputation and which results in the production of one of the best drink ever: wine.
My education career has always been oriented towards environmental and agronomy sciences; I completed my bachelor degree at Bordeaux University on biology of organisms and environment. After that, I did a master degree in Paris in Agroecology where I learned the different ways of designing production systems that rely on the functionalities offered by ecosystems. It was through those 2 years that I turned to the question of environmental effects of agriculture, thanks to lessons, professors, internships and all the people that I had the opportunity to meet.
Agroecology techniques and knowledge, is also a social movement and I want to be part of it. It is so exciting to see more and more farmers and scientists getting engaged to find solutions for an agricultural system that is more respectful of people and the environment.
Without being able to become a farmer at the moment (it may happen one day) and because I have always been attracted by the research community, I started research on SOIL, the “agriculture pillar”, without which agriculture would have been unthinkable. I am currently doing a PhD in N2O (greenhouse gas) emissions from arable soil, a subject that I started to deal with during a 6 month internship in Scotland at the James Hutton Institute. I will try through this 3 next years to find answers to mitigate N2O emissions by optimizing irrigation management. I am hoping, with farmers’ collaborations, to find fertilizer and irrigation strategies to limit the N2O emissions and find a tool that they can easily used to better control these inputs.
“The Global Soil Partnership is dedicating World Soil Day 2017 to the theme “Caring for the Planet starts from the Ground“. Soil is a finite natural resource. On a human time-scale it is non-renewable. However, despite the essential role that soil plays in human livelihoods, there is a worldwide increase in degradation of soil resources due to inappropriate management practices, population pressure driving unsustainable intensification and inadequate governance over this essential resource.” – FAO 2017
To celebrate, here are some photos of Lincoln University Soil Students getting involved in soil science! Get your hands dirty and see what secrets your soils hold!
Tihana Vujinovic is currently studying for her PhD in the field of Soil Science at Lincoln University. Professor Timothy Clough, Dr Niklas Lehto, Dr Mike Beare and Dr Denis Curtin are supervising this research.
“I grew up in Croatia and completed my Master’s in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies at the University of Udine in Italy. Among a large list of topics in my area of interest and an apprentice in beekeeping, I’ve jumped into the field of soil chemistry and biochemistry with my BSc thesis, which aimed at characterizing humic fractions in leachates from soil under organic and conventional management and their interactions with the root zone. After a period spent at BOKU Vienna, where I’ve enlarged my interest in soil science, I’ve decided to pursue soil organic matter studies and work on the dynamics on nitrogen in humified fractions of agricultural soils through the use of stable isotopes for my Msc thesis.
Currently I am all into my PhD project looking at the factors controlling dissolved organic matter formation and its role in carbon and nitrogen dynamics in agricultural soils. My study is trying to provide an insight into the mechanisms that affect DOM release and its microbial availability with respect to its physicochemical characteristics and its response to soil water content fluctuations or land management. It’s a challenging sphere where to sneak a peek.”
The day started out like any other, up at 6am, breakfast, coffee, coffee, coffee and then all tumble into the van. By the time we got to the meeting point on the University Campus in Toowoomba we were all pretty much awake. Awake enough to take a few pre-competition selfies! The teams were looking pretty snazzy in their green competition shirts, with the “Bedrockers” and “50 Shades of Greywacke” printed across the back.
As a small prelude before we get into the competition details I would just like to refer back to one of the Blog’s previous Soil Judging Articles written by Carol Smith, Lincoln University and Sam Carrick, Landcare Research, Lincoln (read full article here).
“Soil judging has a long and distinguished history in North America; first initiated in 1961 and held annually at a different host institution each year. In North America, soil judging is taken very seriously and is seen as a key component of the soil science curriculum and an important part of the graduate attributes of all soil science graduates. There is stiff competition to be selected into the soil judging team, and team members train weekly during the competition season.
But what exactly IS soil judging and why should we care about it here in New Zealand? There is certainly more to soil judging than just “pedology by stealth”. We would all agree it is advantageous for every soil science graduate to be able to describe a soil at a basic level and from this, to make some interpretations therein: whether for land use, fertiliser recommendations, nutrient fluxes, irrigation scheduling or waste disposal.
We teach soil science in a changing world. Students who study soil science increasingly do so as part of other allied disciplines like agronomy, environmental science, horticulture; and often at an introductory level. But there is also an increasing need internationally for graduates with soil science expertise. A wide-ranging study of teaching soil science around the globe found that the initial focus of soil science teaching is geared towards capturing the attention of the student, and is then followed by courses that deepen that knowledge (Hartemink et al., 2014). Moreover, these global studies have shown that a field component remains vital in our soil science teaching – both at the introductory and advanced levels. Students like learning in the field; it helps them to comprehend soils as not only part of the landscape but also part of a functioning ecosystem. In the field, there is more time to think and to interact with staff so that learning occurs at a deeper level. In a study of graduates who had majored in soil science (as part of a larger study of soil science specific teaching principles) the most effective learning activities reported were: field work (43%), laboratories (36%), tutorials/group discussions (11%), followed by lectures (8%), presentations/assessments (7%) and writing reports (5%) (Field et al., 2011). Clearly, field based learning can only help students in their soil science studies.“
Competition Day of the 5th National Australian Soil Judging Competition, all teams were loaded onto a bus and taken to an undisclosed location. Two soil pits for the teams and one for the individual competition.
The bus ride there was surprisingly quiet, the soil puns and witty comments of the last few days weren’t forth-coming. Everyone was preparing mentally for the challenge ahead.
Biggsy gave us a run down of the day and we were put into groups to rotate around the three pits. The day was windy but the sun was out, soon becoming a scorcher and giving the water spray bottles another purpose; they make great face misters.
First rotation of the day, Team “50 Shades of Greywacke” started at the individual pit where Josh Nelson, Verina Telling and Irene Setiawan competed, while team “Bedrockers” were at Pit #2 of the team soil pits.
The clock started and the count down was on, 90 minutes to complete a full soil description. Thanks to the practice over the last few months and especially the two practice days, we felt confident with completing the description within the allocated time. Teams swapped, 5 minutes in, 5 minutes out for the first 20 minutes, then 10 minutes in 10 minutes out, with the last 30 minutes being free entry for any team.
Bedrockers were out for the first 5 minutes so the focus was on the surrounding land-forms, slope and surface condition an coarse fragments. A bit of entertainment was provided by one of the boys as he was looking at the soil surface condition surrounding the pit, promptly running back over to the tent after jumping a couple of foot into the air when he came across something rustling in the grass.
For the first 5 minutes in the soil pit, the focus was on defining horizons and boundaries so that the team “texturers” could get the samples to work into a good texturing bolus. Over the last two days we had been working hard to calibrate our fingers to the high clay content soil textures of Australian soils, lucky to find anything with less than 30% clay.
After filling out all the components of the score-sheet with 20 minutes to spare, we all descended into the soil pit to discuss all the aspects of our description, to confirm as a team that we were happy with our decisions. Thumbs up all round and we were ready for the next challenge.
Something that was noted by all through out the day was how much we had learnt over the last couple of practice days. Hands on exposure to new exciting Australian soils and how much they contrast to New Zealand. The knowledge we gained from the very helpful and encouraging organisers was absolutely priceless.
The other teams returned from completing the individual pits and we were up. Having not entered in the individual pits competition at registration we were offered the chance to give it a go 5 minutes before it started. Camilla Gardiner and I (Sephrah Rayner) took this opportunity, even through all the practice had been focused on team work, it was worth a shot.
The individual competition was structured much the same as the team pits but all the components of the description were completed by one person. Sorting out our gear we jumped straight into it, juggling books, geo-picks, texturing bolus and petri dishes of dispersing samples, the 90 minutes flew by! I don’t understanding how timing 5 minute and then 10 minute intervals makes 90 minutes seem so short!
Coming out of the individual pit on our way back to lunch, an then the last pit of the day, we were slightly dubious as to the quality of our descriptions. The heat had also started getting to us, Camilla having cooked herself in the sun while contemplating all her texture samples one arm clearly much pinker in colour than the other.
Meanwhile “50 Shades of Greywacke” were completing their first team pit, with both teams off to complete their 2 and final team pit after lunch. Lunch break could have been a competition in itself, “how many people can you fit under 2 gazebos?”. Apparently competition day was the hottest day in September on record since the 1930s and we were definitely feeling it.
The final pit of the day was the most challenging as everyone was getting hot and tired by this stage. There was going to be a group discussion of the pits at the end of the day but due to the temperature this was called off and we all happily climbed back onto the air-conditioned bus to head back to Toowoomba. What a day.
Prize giving was held that evening, where everyone got to enjoy a well deserved cold beverage or two. While the New Zealand teams didn’t place in the team competition we did in the Individual competition! Camilla Gardiner taking out 1st place! Josh Nelson getting 3rd and Verina Telling getting 4th (6th in the ranking, but next after 3rd is 4th place still right?!)! Well done!
Congratulations to everyone who competed this year!
The University of Sydney
Team South Australia
As noted at the NZ competition last year by Chris Baxter of University Wisconsin-Platteville that in his experience, these soil judging competitions do encourage students into the discipline: the tactile and investigative side of soil judging is something that many students can excel in and the competition aspect makes it a fun activity. It engages their curiosity to learn more about soils, and it is a powerful recruiter to University soils courses and degree programmes.
We look forward to the next one! and what a line up there is! Next year there’s not just one, but potentially three competitions! The first in Brasil at the International Congress in Rio, then hopefully one in New Zealand at the New Zealand Soil Science Conference then one in Canberra, Australia!
Comradery, companionship and competition! the perfect combination, all that and ‘expanding your horizons’ with great soils knowledge. Soil Judging is indeed the new NBA!
Expand your horizons, dig deeper!
Thanks once again to our sponsors who made this possible and all of the team that put the event together in Australia. New Zealand Sponsors were: FAR, Landcare Research, Ravensdown, NZ Society of Soil Science, Centre for Soil and Environmental Research, LRS and Lincoln University.