A team of science students from the University of New England has won Australia's premier soil judging competition against formidable opposition from nine other universities.
The UNE team, comprising undergraduate Katie Barnett, and PhD candidates Kakali Roy and Apsara Amarasinghe, placed third in the team event with Apsara placing first in the individual event. They also won the Bennison Trophy for the Best University Overall.
Team coach and PhD student Ivanah Oliver, who won the U35 Professional category, was delighted with the result.
"I am immensely proud of the way the team came together, dedicated the time to learn new skills and compete with enthusiasm. We were overwhelmed and blown away by our success both as a team and individually," Ms Oliver said.
UNE first participated in the competition in 2016 with Ivanah winning the individual event in 2018 and the university placing in the team event for the last three years.
"This is our best result yet. Winning the Bennison trophy was an absolute highlight as both individual and team scores count towards the final result," Ivanah, who is about to finalise her PhD, said.
"Apsara is not only the best soil judge in the country, she is also an outstanding researcher who has successfully, and scientifically, shown that degraded lands can be recovered in terms of soil nutrients and microbial activity over time."
The soil judging competition is an annual event run by Soil Science Australia for university students from Australia and New Zealand. It's usually run over three days in the field but, because of the Covid pandemic, was held virtually for the first time this year.
Teams had opportunity to practise over Zoom before the actual competition started on November 30.
The competition itself consisted of two parts - the team pits and an individual pit. Teams were given photos of soil profiles and analytical data which they had to use to determine the characteristics of the soil, the soil classification and land use suitability.
Winners were announced at a World Soil Day event last Friday.
If all goes well, the team hope to defend their title in Cairns next year.