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Fresno State student headed to Brazil to judge soil

Fresno State’s Mark Castanon is headed to Rio de Janiero to compete in the International Soil Judging Contest after placing fifth at the national competition.

“Our team’s performance was a representation of all the hard work and dedication that we have put into making the soil judging team a reality at Fresno State,” Castanon said in a news release.

There were a total of 88 participants at the National Collegiate Soils Contest. It was hosted by the University of Tennessee at Martin on March 22 and 23.

Castanon and the rest of the participants were evaluated on their ability to “identify, evaluate, classify and describe soil profiles in individual and team competitions,” according to a university press release.

“Mark and the team’s finish was a true testament to all their hard work since they were competing against the nation’s top students, many of whom are taking advanced soil science classes or are majoring in the field,” senior soil scientist and coach Michael Sowers said.

The team would prepare on Friday evenings and weekends by learning soil judging techniques and methodologies. Sowers coached the team with Dr. Phil Smith, a soil scientist.

The Fresno State team finished 15th, the highest finish in its three year history. Sowers said the team’s performance is indicative of a bright future.

“The team’s future is bright with each year’s improvement and the addition of two freshmen who quickly understood the concepts without any formal classes,” he said.
The International Soil Judging Contest will take place from Aug. 7-11.