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Glenville-Emmons sends first FFA'er to compete at national convention

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:18 PM

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GLENVILLE, Minn. — Glenville-Emmons FFA has a reason to be proud.

This is the first time ever the chapter has sent a national finalist to compete at the National FFA Convention, slated for Oct. 24-27 in Indianapolis. The chapter began in 1956.

Junior Sam Johnson will represent Glenville-Emmons on the national stage with his agriscience fair project. He will be interviewed by three judges on Oct. 25 and he'll find out how he did on Oct. 26. He will be given a score for his interview and also a report, which he has already submitted.

Johnson's agriscience fair project started as a science fair project in his sophomore biology class. His biology teacher, Angie James, who also happens to be his FFA adviser, steered him toward the project.

James said she requires sophomore biology students to do a science fair project each year as a hands-on way to learn the scientific method.

She tries to guide them toward a project area in which they have an interest. Johnson wanted to know how pH affected yield. She put him in touch with a seed dealer who advised him.

Johnson's interest stemmed for his own experience. His father owns one field that is lower yielding than his others. James had mentioned in class that pH can affect how plants grow and Johnson wanted to know if that may be the problem in his father's field.

He started on the project last November after harvest. He collected three soil samples apiece from 20 fields. The fields were located in Freeborn and Mower counties in Minnesota and Mitchell and Worth counties in Iowa.

In each field, he mapped out a five foot circle and took one sample within the circle. He moved 100 feet and took another sample, repeating the process for each sample using a soil probe borrowed from a neighbor.

He put the 60 soil samples into Ziploc bags. When he finished sampling, he tested each sample himself finding pH levels ranging from 6.2 to 7.3 in corn fields and 6.9 to 8.2 in soybean fields.

He determined that corn yielded the best when pH was between 6.7 and 6.9 and soybeans yielded the best when pH was between 7.2 and 7.8.

He went back to each farmer with the results and talked to them about how they could improve yields.

"They were surprised by my findings because they thought they were getting the best (yield) they could," Johnson said.

His father made changes to his field as a result of his work. He found the pH was 9.3. This field wasn't part of his study.

At a soil pH of 9.3, the soil is too basic to promote good plant growth. The soil eats the nutrients so there isn't enough to provide nutrients for the crop, Johnson said.

He finished his report and the soil testing by the beginning of March, which was in time for the project's due date and also in time for the state FFA agriscience fair.

James said Johnson received one of the science fair awards she gives out each year. His project was the best one she's seen in her five years teaching at Glenville-Emmons.

He competed in the Roland Peterson Agricultural Education Science Fair at the University of Minnesota in March. He won there, earning next week's trip to the National FFA Convention. Winning at the state level was also a first for the chapter, Johnson said.

"I'm really excited and proud that I could be the one that represented us the first time," Johnson said.

Seven members of the Glenville-Emmons FFA will travel to the National FFA Convention. Johnson will be the only one competing.