Soil judging

Soil scientists from the Wetland Science Program, under the leadership of Scott Wiesbrook, have worked with college-level soil judging teams in Illinois for many years. Soil Judging teams compete in contests that test their knowledge of basic soil properties, such as texture, color, and structure, as well as the students’ ability to make interpretations made based on these properties and local site characteristics. Students compete both individually and as part of a team, thus exposing them to the type of collaboration and teamwork that will be vital to their success both academically and professionally.  Soil Judging builds on what the students learn in the classroom (AG 282 – Introduction to Soil Science, Black Hawk College East Campus and NRES 276 – Introduction to Field Pedology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). It encourages students to continue their studies in Soil Science, as well as the protection and preservation of Illinois’ most important natural resource, our soil.

UIUC 2021 Soil Judging team at the regional competition in Dillon, IL, with Wetland Group Soil Scientist coaches Scott Wiesbrook (back left) and Elizabeth Miernicki (front right).

Since 2005, the University of Illinois’ Soil Judging Team has placed fourth, sixth (twice), and seventh in the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest, in addition to placing first in the 2007 ASA Region 3 contest. Learn more about ASA Soil Judging.

Black Hawk College, East Campus (BHE) restarted their soil judging program in 2000, and since then has won 10 national championships, in addition to having 12 national champion individuals (see table). One former student even went on to the international-level competition, in New Zealand! Learn more about NACTA Judging Conferences

Scott Wiesbrook has served as coach, judge, and competition coordinator, as well as serving on the committee that reviews and updates rules for the NACTA division. Recently, Scott has been working with several community colleges and Southern Illinois University, providing guidance and assistance to schools interested in beginning Soil Judging programs.  

If you are interested in developing a soil judging or similar program at your school, contact Scott Wiesbrook (

YearContest LocationTeam PlacingHighest Individual
Student Placing
2022North Platte, NebraskaFirstFirst
2021No contest – Covid
2020No contest – Covid
2019Murray, KentuckyFirstFirst
2018Norfolk, NebraskaFirstFirst
2017Manhattan, KansasFirstFirst
2016Crookston, MinnesotaSecondFirst
2015Galva, Illinois**
2014Maryville, MissouriFirstFirst
2013Lubbock, TexasFirstFirst
2012Coffeyville, KansasFirstFirst
2011Modesto, CaliforniaFirstFirst
2010El Reno, OklahomaFirstFirst
2009Wooster, OhioSecondFirst
2008Stephenville, TexasSecondSecond
2007Hutchinson, KansasThirdFifth
2006Macomb, IllinoisFirstFirst
2005Norfolk, NebraskaSecondSixth
2004Galva, Illinois**
2003Murfreesboro, TennesseeSecondSixth
2000Crookston, MinnesotaFirstFirst
BHE results at North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest.
* In 2004 and 2015, BHE hosted the national contest and so we did not compete.
four people stand in a deep ditch to examine the soil
man examine exposed soil face