Land Judging for
Farms and Homesites

Introduction

Land judging is a program that can help you learn about soil and protecting and conserving land, water, and the environment. Through land judging you learn to look for things that make one soil different from another; why some soils are dry and others wet; how "mottling" is a clue to drainage; what soil texture is by feeling and rubbing soil between your fingers; and how to judge depth, erosion, slope, and permeability.

You learn how to use all of these factors to classify land. Land capability classes tell us how intensively we can use land without damaging it, how to protect it from erosion, prevent loss of plant nutrients and improve crop production. Finally, in land judging, you learn some of the conservation practices needed to maintain or improve lands. You learn how and when to use strip cropping, pasture management, diversion ditches, and many other practices designed to protect the land. Land judging helps you to understand the soils and land capability of a site.

Land judging, as used in West Virginia, is oriented to the conservation of agricultural land. Many of the factors used in judging agricultural land are also applicable to evaluating sites where homes will be constructed. Homesite Evaluation is a natural extension to the Land Judging program and provides an exciting dimension to soil and water conservation education in West Virginia.

Land Judging

In land judging, a team is made up of three or four members. The total of the top three scores made by the individual members of the team is the team score. All team members are eligible for individual and team prizes. Team members judge four fields previously selected by the judges. Each field is marked off with stakes or other boundary markers. At some point in the field, a pit or hole is dug, exposing the soil profile. From this profile, the contestant determines the texture, depth, degree of erosion, permeability, and internal drainage of the soil. After these soil properties are determined, land use interpretations can be made. In each field, two wooden stakes are set up to determine slope.

The leaders give any information that is needed about each field. This may include the original topsoil depth, pH or soil acidity, amount of available plant nutrients, and size of the field. This information is usually posted on a card in each field (field sign). Unless otherwise announced, contestants are given 20 minutes to score each field. At the end of the allotted time, the group leader calls for the score cards. There should be no talking at any time, except to the leaders. In all contests, an independent judge or group of judges score all fields. Their decisions are final.

Each Vo-Ag region in the state holds a contest to select teams from that region to participate in the State Vo-Ag contest. Teams from 4-H groups attend the State 4-H Contest. The winning teams from the State Vo-Ag and State 4-H contests (in both Land Judging and Homesite Contests) are eligible to participate in the National Land Judging Contest in Oklahoma the following spring. Anyone who has competed in the National Land Judging or Homesite Evaluation Contest is not eligible to compete in any region or state land judging event after they return.

How To Fill Out A Score Card

Each team member is given four score cards, one for each field. Be sure to fill out the top of the score card with your name, contestant number, county and other information used by the leaders. Be sure that the squares for your answers to all parts are properly marked with an X so there is no doubt as to which square you intended to mark. The score card is divided into two parts. Part I deals with the land and soil conditions. Part II determines how the land will be used and which conservation practices are needed for its protection and wise use.

Part I - In filling out the score card, you determine eight land and soil factors which may limit the use of the land: (1) surface texture, (2) depth of soil (which includes both topsoil and subsoil), (3) amount of erosion, (4) permeability, (5) internal drainage, (6) surface runoff, (7) flood hazards, and (8) slope. These eight factors are described in this circular. A soil of a particular field may have 0, 1, 2 or more limiting factors. The severity of the limiting factors and not the number of them determines the best use of the land. In land judging, always assume that the land will be used as intensively as the capability class will permit. For example, Class VI land should not be used for crops. The most intensive use of Class VI is pasture, even though the land may be in timber or brush.

Part II - This part of the land judging contest determines land use and practices, and is divided into three sections: (1) Vegetative, (2) Mechanical, and (3) Fertilizer and Soil Amendments. You may need to use practices from all of these groups to properly treat the field. The first thing to do in Part II is to decide how the field should be used. For example, suppose you decide in Part I that the land is Class VI. From the Land Capability Class definitions, you will find that the most intensive use for Class VI land is pasture. Class VI land also could be used for woodland, but that is a less intensive use. Regardless of the field's current use, the most intensive use for the class of land selected in Part I must be chosen. After this, your first step is to put an X in the block by No. 5 Permanent Pasture, and then to select other practices that go with good pasture use, such as No. 10 Pasture Management. Be sure to check all of the practices needed for the land class you selected in Part I. Other vegetative and mechanical practices, and soil amendments may be necessary depending on the information given on the field sign and the condition of the field.

Scoring Land Judging Contests

When you have finished both Part I and Part II, the score cards are collected and your work is graded by the judges. Points are awarded for each factor and practice correctly chosen. Generally, each field (or soil pit) has a possible one hundred point value. The cards are scored as follows: fifty-five (55) points for Part I (10 points for Land Capability Class, 5 points for each of the other 9 factors). All limiting factors must be marked for a score of 5 points. If there are no limiting factors, number 9 under limiting factors must be marked to receive credit.

Forty-five (45) points will be scored for Part II as follows: 15 points for the Vegetative part, 15 points for Mechanical, and 15 points for Fertilizer and Soil Amendments. Scoring in Part II will be as follows: if the correct number of x's under Vegetative should be 3 and a contestant has 5 x's, a line will be drawn under the 3rd x and no score will be given for any correct x under that line. The same procedure will be followed for Mechanical and Fertilizer and Soil Amendments. In the event that no treatment is necessary, the contestant should mark number 23 under the Mechanical Practices and number 28 under Lime and Fertilizer Application. These squares must be marked to receive credit when no treatments are required.

In case of individual ties, Field No. 1 is used as a tie breaker. Part I of Field 1 is used first to break the tie, then Part II. If necessary, the same method is continued with Fields 2, 3, and 4. In the case of team ties, the total score of the top three land judgers on a team for Field No. 1 is compared to the other team and used as a tie breaker. If necessary, the same method is continued with Fields 2, 3, and 4.

FFA teams that win Land Judging and Homesite at region contests are eligible to compete in the State FFA contest. If the same team wins both contests at the region level, that team will represent the region at the State FFA contest. A second team from the region will be selected by totaling the team scores for both land judging and homesite contests. The second place team will be the team with the highest point total. This same process will govern the determination of teams to attend the National Contest in both 4-H and FFA state contests.

The following rules apply at Land Judging and Homesite Contests.

1.  Contestants are allowed to have the following pieces of equipment:
a.  writing pencil(s) with an eraser,
b.  a clean clipboard with no markings of any kind on it (clear clipboards are preferred),
c.  knife or nail or screwdriver,
d.  towel or rag,
e.  contest cards.

2.  Coaches are encouraged to focus on training the students in land judging principles and ethical competition.
3.  Once the contest begins and contestants are at the field sites and soil pits, no talking or comparing cards is allowed.  Any contestant  
     whispering or comparing answers with another contestant will have their cards taken.
4.  Pit monitors should be briefed in a short meeting before the contest on possible unethical practices by contestants.  Monitors have the
     authority to disqualify contestants for any form of cheating, misuse of equipment, or other unethical practice.

Condition and Information On Fields

There is generally some condition or information for fields to be judged which is not available to the contestant. This information is given to the contestant by the leader and/or placed on a field sign at the field to be judged. Conditions and information generally given on the field sign are as follows:

1. Thickness of original topsoil: _____inches.

2. Size of field to consider: _________acres.

3. Soil tests show that the field has:

a. A pH of _____

b. Phosphorus _____ pounds per acre.

c. Potassium _____pounds per acre.

d. Nitrogen _____ (sufficient or deficient).

4. Other conditions (example: Flooding frequency, overhead water problem, etc.).

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