Students from five area schools attempted to evaluate the soil and landscape of rangeland on Stegall Road on Wednesday as part of land judging competition.
The competition is held annually, according to Angie Elg, of the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. It drew students from Bayard, Banner County, Leyton, Scottsbluff and Minatare Public Schools.
The goal of the competition is to challenge students to gain a better understanding of land evaluation and soil structure.
“It’s a chance for kids to get out and see different landscapes and learn about the different types of soil,” Elg said.
Each student must learn to recognize physical features of the soil, such as soil texture, depth and permeability as well as surface thickness.
“To figure out the texture, they’ll get a handful and get it wet,” Elg said. After that, they work over the soil with their hands to figure out whether it’s fine, medium or coarse.
Participants also determine whether the land could be used for crop production and evaluate proper management practices, such as prescribed burning, weed control and grazing.
They must score the land’s erosion and figure out it’s slope, which is challenging because they’re not given any measuring devices, Elg said.
Instead, students could be spotted holding up their score cards, usually with one eye closed, in an attempt to determine the slope.
“For me, figuring out erosion is the hardest most of the time,” Gabriel Tretter, of Leyton Public Schools, said.
The students practice by going to fields and evaluating the characteristics of that land.
“Typically we go to flatter fields,” said Tyenne Berner of Leyton Public Schools.
In order to get to two of the pits that students were evaluating on Wednesday, they were required to make a short hike.
Berner said that the competition teaches students how to manage a larger area and how to determine whether or not it would be worthwhile for crop production.
Elg said finding land to host the competition can sometimes be difficult, but this year, several land owners offered to let the NRCS dig pits for students to analyze.
“That’s such a great thing because we wouldn’t be able to do this without land owners,” Elg said.