Study Agricultural Soil Management Online
An Introduction to the Maintenance and Management of Agricultural Soils
Understand soil management for profitable farming.
Learn about problems that can affect soil and how to deal with them
Essential for anyone working with the soil.
Taught and written by experts in the field.
Study online or by distance learning.
Soil is the foundation for profitable farming. There are many things that can be wrong with soil (e.g. poor nutrition, chemical imbalance, structural problems such as drainage, lack of microbial life etc). Often minor and relatively inexpensive treatments can make a huge difference to productivity, but the problems need to be identified first, and that requires a solid understanding of soil theory and management practice. Learn about soil properties and requirements in agriculture, and how to apply that knowledge at a management level.
DURATION: 100 hours
There are 8 lessons as follows:
1. Introduction: Soils And Soil Classification
2. Properties of Soils and Plant Nutrition
- Soil health and Agricultural soils
- What is soil health?
- Soil Composition and Formation
- Classifying Soil Groups and Soil Landscapes
- Soil Horizons
- Key Properties of Selected Soil Groups
- Parent Materials
- Classifying Soils According to Hydrological Properties
- Soil hydrology Groups: Uniform Coarse-textured Soils, Permeability Contrast Soils; Cracking Clays; Medium to Fine Textured soils
3. Soil Testing Methods
- Understanding Soils
- Mineral and Rock
- How Soils Develop Naturally
- Mechanical Weathering
- Chemical Weathering
- Geo-chemical Weathering Processes
- Pedo-chemical Weathering
- Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition
- Organic Carbon
- Soil Colour
- Texture and its Effect on Plant Growth
- Structure and its Effect on Plant Growth
- Consistence and its Effect on Plant Growth
- Depth of Profile and how it Relates to Plant Growth
- PH and Plant Growth
- Porosity and Plant Growth
- Plant Nutrition and Nutrient Toxicity
4. Land Degradation and Other Soil Problems
- Tilth and Organic Matter
- Soil Sampling for Chemical Analysis
- General Principles of Soil Analysis
- Tools for Field Sampling and Soil Investigation
- Digging a Sample Pit or Hole
- Finding Out about your Soil
- Settlement Activity
- Soil Structure Activity
- Recording Soil Colour
- Testing Consistence
- Describing Texture
- Test for Free Carbonates
- Soil pH Testing
- Stability of Clods to Wetting (Slaking and Dispersion)
- Bulk Density Testing
- Measurement of Organic Matter Content of Soil
- Measuring Salinity
- Measuring Water Content
- Fertiliser Solubility
- Effect of Lime on Soil
- Laboratory Testing of Soils
5. Soil Management on Farms
- Soil Structure Decline
- Water Repellence
- Hard-Layers in Soils
- Transient Bonding; Compaction; Cementation; and Natural Rigidity
- Sub-Soil Compaction: Compression, shearing and smearing
- Soil Acidification
- Alkalinity and Sodicity
- Chemical Residues
6. Crops: Soil and Nutrient Requirements (Part A)
- Conservation Farming
- No-Tillage (Zero tillage)
- Minimum Tillage
- Trap Cropping
- Cover Crops and Green Manure Cropping
- Alley Farming (AF)
- Contour Farming and Strip Farming
- Controlled Traffic Farming
- Stubble Management
- Establishing Water and Nutrient Management Plans
- Soil Conservation Earthworks
- Integrated Pest Management
- Direct Drilling in Pasture Establishment
- Soil Management in Orchards
- Soil Management in Market Gardens
7. Crops: Soil and Nutrient Requirements (Part B)
8. PBL Soil project - Soil Investigation and Repor
- Narrow-Leafed Lupins
- Faba Beans (Broad Beans)
- Aim is to:
- evaluate a range of soils for a given situation
- determine soil problems or limitations that exist for a given land use
- decide on suitable soil management strategies for the selected land
- prepare and present a report
What You May do in this Course
- Define terms related to the production and management of agricultural soil, such as: manure, micorrhyzae, ameliorant, pore space, micro-nutrient, denitrification, ammonium fixation, chemo autrophic organisms, colloids, buffering capacity, leaching, compaction.
- Create a compost heap;
- Discuss ways that human activity can destroy soil structure;
- Explain how pH affects nutrient availability;
- Explain the function of different nutrients in soils/growing media, such at nitrogen and phosphorus;
- Analyse a soil test report in order to evaluate the soil for horticultural or agricultural use;
- Describe appropriate soil testing methods for different situations;
- Compare the use of organic and inorganic fertilisers in different situations;
- Develop a detailed nutritional management plan for a particular crop, following organic principles;
- Identify suitable earth moving equipment for different tasks, and the conditions of use;
- Explain various methods for assessing drainage at a site;
- Evaluate the use of earthworks to refurbish or improve a specific site;
- Research Environmental Protection Agency (or equivalent) recommendations for cleaning up chemical spills and for disposing of old household chemicals and their containers;
- Discuss advantages and problems of importing soil from elsewhere for crop production;
- Explain appropriate methods of stabilising an unstable or erosion-prone slope;
- Remove a soil profile, describe the different soil layers, and compare the effects of different soil treatments on the soil profile;
- Report on prevention and control methods for soil degradation, and development of sustainable soil management practices in a case study.
Sample Course Notes - How Do You Manage Farm Soils?
Soil cultivation was in the past; considered an essential practice on almost every farm. This has changed today. Cultivation is still used of course, but there are other ways to manage soils that do not always involve cultivating it.
This system replaces all cultivation with herbicides so that soil disturbance occurs only at sowing time when the planting implement engages the soil. Mulch cover is maintained at a maximum level.
Zero tillage (or direct seeding) involves the planting of a crop into untilled stubble of a previous crop.
This system uses crop rotation and herbicides to control weeds. All crops except tuber and root crops can be produced in this fashion.
Zero tillage eliminates soil erosion, saves moisture, and reduces fuel, labour and maintenance costs.
Zero tillage can be practiced on all soil types. However, wet, heavy clays are more difficult to manage without tillage.
This system involves some primary cultivation for weed control, mulch management and seed bed preparation. Herbicides are usually used in conjunction with tillage. Reduced tillage refers to the least amount of tillage required to create a good seed bed. This tillage system leaves sufficient ground cover (50 per cent on clays and silts, 65-75 per cent on sandy loams and sands) to prevent soil erosion throughout the period when no crop is growing. There are numerous options for reduced tillage, depending on the tillage equipment available. The amount of residue remaining will increase with decreased depth and lower tillage speed. Tillage after low-residue crops such as lentils and field beans should be avoided or limited to one pass.
The general practice of trap cropping involves a “trap” crop planted next to a higher value crop. The trap crop is naturally more attractive to a pest as either a food source or oviposition (egg laying site) site, thus preventing or making less likely the arrival of the pest to the main crop and/or concentrating it in the trap crop where it can be economically destroyed.
Please don't hesitate to ask, we are happy to help.