Agricultural Soil Management BAG103

Learn Management of Soils for Agriculture, Pastures and Cropping

Understanding soils can be a key to more productive farming

Soil is the foundation for profitable farming. There are many things that can be wrong with soil (eg. 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

 

COURSE STRUCTURE

There are 8 lessons in this course:

1. Introduction: Soils And Soil Classification

  • Soil health and Agricultural soils
  • What is soil health?
  • Soil Composition and Formation
  • Classifying Soil Groups and Soil Landscapes
  • Soil Profiles
  • 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

2. Properties of Soils and Plant Nutrition

  • 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

3. Soil Testing Methods

  • 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
  • Affect of Lime on Soil
  • Laboratory Testing of Soils

4. Land Degradation and Other Soil Problems

  • Soil Structure Decline
  • Water Repellence
  • Erosion
  • Hard-Layers in Soils
  • Transient Bonding; Compaction; Cementation; and Natural Rigidity
  • Sub-Soil Compaction: Compression, shearing and smearing
  • Soil Acidification
  • Alkalinity and Sodicity
  • Water-logging
  • Salinity
  • Chemical Residues

5. Soil Management on Farms

  • 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

6. Crops: Soil and Nutrient Requirements (Part A)

  • Wheat
  • Oat
  • Barley

7. Crops: Soil and Nutrient Requirements (Part B)

  • Narrow-Leafed Lupins
  • Canola
  • Faba Beans
  • Grapes

8. PBL Soil project - Soil Investigation and Report

  • 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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

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Tutor Support

This is very much a strong point in the service offered through this school. Our tutors are experts with degree level qualifications and decades of industry experience; and they provide you with very personal guidance; commenting on assignments and answering questions as you move through your course.

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Can You Speak the Language of Soils?

This course will do more than just teach you the meaning of terminology such as the following. It will change the way you think about soils, and communicate with people who understand soils. Using terminology such as the following should gradually become second nature to you.

ACID SOIL

A soil with a preponderance of hydrogen ions and probably of aluminium ions, in proportion to hydroxyl ions. Specifically, soil with a pH value less than 7.0.

ADSORPTION

The bonding, usually temporary, of ions or compounds to the surfaces of a solid, such as calcium ion held on the surface of a clay crystal.

AERATION, SOIL

The process by which air in the soil is replaced by air from the atmosphere. In a well‑aerated soil the soil air is similar in composition to the atmosphere above the soil. Poorly aerated soils usually contain a much higher percentage of carbon dioxide and a correspondingly lower percentage of oxygen than the atmosphere above the soil. The rate of aeration depends largely on the size, volume, and continuity of pores from the surface and within the soil.

AGGREGATION, SOIL

The cementing or binding together of several soil particles into a secondary unit, aggregate, or granule. Water‑stable aggregates, which will not slake, crumble, or disintegrate easily, are of special importance to a stable soil structure and greater plant growth.

ALKALINE SOIL

Any soil having a pH greater than 7.0. A basic soil.

ANION (ann‑I‑on)

Negatively charged ion; ion that during electrolysis is attracted to the anode.

AVAILABLE NUTRIENT

That portion of any essential element or compound in the soil that can be absorbed readily and assimilated by growing plants. Same as plant‑available.

AVAILABLE WATER

The portion of water in a soil that can be readily absorbed by plant roots.

BULK DENSITY, SOIL

The mass of dry soil per unit bulk volume. The bulk volume is determined by drying a soil volume to constant weight at 105 degrees centigrade. A unit of measure expressed as g per cubic cm.

CARBON: NITROGEN RATIO

The ratio of the weight of organic carbon to the weight of total nitrogen in the soil or in organic material, obtained by dividing the percentage of organic carbon(C) by the percentage of total nitrogen (N).

CATION

Positively charged ion. Common soil cations are calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and hydrogen.

CATION EXCHANGE CAPACITY (CEC)

The sum total of exchangeable cations that a soil can absorb, expressed in milliequivalents per 100g of soil, clay, or organic colloid.

CHELATION (pronounced key lay' shun)

The formation of strong bonds between metals and organic compounds. Some are insoluble, such as in soil humus. Those chelates used in fertility work are soluble and help keep the nutrient metals (iron, zinc, manganese, and copper) mobile in the soil, thus aiding plant uptake.

CHLOROSIS

A loss of normal green colour of the plant. Colours may be uniform pale green, brown spotted, yellowish over the entire leaf, or yellowish only between the leaf veins.

CLAY (soils)

A mineral soil separate consisting of particles less than 0.002mm in equivalent diameter.

COMPOST

Organic residues or a mixture of organic residues and soil that have been piled and allowed to undergo biological decomposition.

CONSERVATION TILLAGE

Any tillage sequence that reduces loss of soil or water relative to conventional tillage.

CONSISTENCY (soil)

The degree of cohesion or adhesion of the soil mass.

COVER CROP

A close‑growing crop grown primarily for the purpose of protecting and improving soil between periods of regular crop production or between trees and vines in orchards and vineyards.

EROSION

The wearing away of the land surface by water, wind, ice, or other geological agents, including such processes as gravitational creep.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT (plant nutrition)

A chemical element required for the normal growth and reproduction of plants.

EUTROPHICATION

Enrichment of waters with nutrients, primarily phosphorus, causing abundant aquatic plant growth.

EXCHANGEABLE SODIUM PERCENTAGE (ESP)

The percentage of the cation exchange capacity of a soil occupied by sodium.

FALLOW

Allowing crop land to lie idle, either tilled or untilled, during the whole or greater portion of the growing season.

FERTILITY, SOIL

The quality of a soil that enables it to provide nutrients in adequate amounts and in proper balance for the growth of specified plants when other growth factors, such as light, moisture, temperature, and the physical condition of the soil are favourable.

FERTILIZER ANALYSIS

The actual composition of a fertilizer as determined in a chemical laboratory by standard methods.

FIXATION

The processes in a soil by which chemical elements are converted from a soluble or exchangeable form to a much less soluble or to a nonexchangeable form ‑ for example, phosphate fixation.

FRITTED TRACE ELEMENTS

Sintered silicates having total guaranteed analyses of micronutrients with controlled (relatively slow) release characteristics.

GREEN MANURE CROP

Any crop grown for the purpose of being turned under while green or soon after maturity for soil improvement.

HUMUS

The fraction of the soil organic matter remaining after the major portion of added residues have decomposed, usually amorphous and dark coloured.

INOCULATION

The process of introducing cultures of microorganisms into soils or culture media, such as by adding Rhizobia bacteria to legume seed.

LEACHING

The downward removal of materials in solution from the soil.

LIME

Acid‑neutralizing materials. The most commonly used forms of agricultural lime are ground limestone, marl, and oyster shells (carbonates), hydrated lime (hydroxides), and burnt limes (oxides).

MICRONUTRIENT

A chemical element necessary in only extremely small amounts (less than several parts per million in the plant) for the growth of plants. Examples are boron, copper, iron, and zinc. See Macronutrient.

MULCH

A natural or artificial layer of plant residue or other materials, such as crop residues, leaves, sand, plastic, or paper, on the soil surface.

MYCORRHIZA (my core rise a)

Literally "fungus root". The association, usually symbiotic of specific fungi with the roots of specific higher plants.

NO‑TILLAGE

A method of growing crops that involves no seedbed preparation other than opening a small slit or punching a hole into the soil in order to place the seed at the intended depth. There is no cultivation; chemical weed and other pest control is used.

PERCOLATION, SOIL WATER

The downward movement of water through soil, especially the downward flow of water in saturated or nearly saturated soil.

pH -SOIL

A numerical measure of the acidity or hydrogen ion activity of a soil. Exactly, the negative logarithm of the hydrogen‑ion activity of a soil. See Reaction, Soil.

PORE SPACE

Total space not occupied by soil particles in a bulk volume of soil.

PROFILE, SOIL

A vertical section of the soil through all its horizons and extending into the parent material.

SALINE‑SODIC SOIL

A soil containing sufficient exchangeable sodium to interfere with the growth of most crop plants and containing appreciable quantities of soluble salts.

SALINE SOIL

A non-sodic soil containing sufficient soluble salts to impair its productivity but not containing excessive exchangeable sodium.

SOIL HORIZON

A layer of soil or soil material approximately parallel to the land surface and differing from adjacent genetically related layers in physical, chemical, and biological properties or characteristics such as colour, structure, texture, consistency, amount of organic matter, and degree of acidity or alkalinity.

SOIL IMPROVEMENT

The processes for, or the results of, making the soil more productive for growing plants by drainage, irrigation, addition of fertilizers, and the like.

SOIL MANAGEMENT

The sum total of all tillage operations, cropping practices, fertilizer, lime, and other treatments conducted on, or applied to, a soil for the production of plants.

SOIL ORGANIC MATTER

The organic fraction of the soil that includes plant and animal residues at various stages of decomposition, cells and tissues of soil organisms, and substances synthesized by the soil population.

SOIL TEST

A chemical, physical, or microbiological operation that estimates a property of the soil pertinent to the suitability of the soil to support plant growth.

TILTH

The physical condition of soil as related to its ease of tillage, fitness as a seedbed, and impedance to seedling emergence and root penetration. Tilth is a result of tillage.

WATERLOGGED

Saturated with water. Soil condition where a high water table is detrimental to plant growth, resulting from over-irrigation, seepage, or inadequate drainage.

   

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