III. SOILS, AGRICULTURE, AND ENVIRONMENT First Section>>
After the contestant determines the soil properties and marks the answer on the left side of the scorecard, he or she will make several judgements about how to use the soil. The goal is to select management practices that will allow for optimum agricultural production from the soil while protecting the environment. First, the soil is classified according to its capability for crop production. Then, the potential of the soil and water resources to be degraded is evaluated. Finally, contestants select practices based on soil properties that will best preserve the quality of the soil and water resources. They include vegetative practices such as natural vegetation and conservation buffers, tillage-cropping practices, water management practices, and chemical and fertility practices.
Soil evaluators mark each practice “YES” or “NO” according to rules based on soil properties (not other practices). “YES” means that the practice is feasible for the soil conditions. Some soils will have “YES” marks for many practices, but this does not mean that all of them should actually be used. For example, Natural vegetation, Clean tillage, and High nitrogen application rate may all be marked “YES.” Usually high nitrogen rates will be used for a corn crop, but not in a forest. Readers must use common sense to decide which combinations of practices are practical. Writing rules in which one practice depends on other practices would result in very complicated rules, much beyond the scope of soil contests.