Soil Management - Crops

Course CodeBHT103
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

The quality of your soil is paramount to plant and therefore stock productivity. 

Learn how to improve your soils and benefit from them.  This course examines:

  • The properties of soil
  • Testing
  • How to manage and improve soil
  • Soil problems
  • Sustainability of soils and much  more.

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.


Whether you are living or working on a grazing property or work in the area of land restoration, the study of soil management goes hand-in-hand with the study of pasture management. This is a good course that covers the topic effectively” M. Cullen - Dip. Land care & Natural Resources, Assoc. Dip. SMI, B. Teaching.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Physical & Chemical Properties Of Soils
  2. Soil Testing Methods
  3. Sustainable Soil Management
  4. Soils & Managing Earthworks
  5. Land Degradation & Other Soil Problems
  6. Container Growing
  7. Soil Science & Health
  8. Soil Management


  • Develop a broad understanding of the physical and chemical properties of soils.
  • Develop skills in sampling and field testing soils for basic physical and chemical properties.
  • Understand the principles, methods and techniques of sustainable soils management.
  • Understand the principles and practices of earthworks.
  • Understand causes and remediation methods of land degradation and soil problems.
  • Develop a broad knowledge in the use of growing containers for agriculture.
  • Develop strong understanding of soil science and its impact on plant growth.
  • Develop practical knowledge about managing soil for particular cropping uses.

What You Will Do

  • 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 stabiliising 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.

Extract from the Course:

"The reason we investigate soils and their characteristics is to understand them in relation to plant growth and how to use them under man's management for his own manipulation. Man's management - ploughing feasibility, what type of implements will be required, and how to improve soil for the growing of a particular crop. To gain this understanding, it is necessary to integrate the combining affects of the different soil properties as they interdependently act as a medium for plant growth.

In the field, we record soil properties that are simple to measure without elaborate equipment. Attributes which can be seen directly (colour, structure) or measured directly (depth of horizons, structure form, size of structural units) or felt directly (texture, resistance to penetration) require little equipment. Presence of carbonate and pH are simple chemical tests using solutions that can be handled in the field. 

Nutrient levels, pH, salinity, depth of soil, texture (properties of sand and clay), structure (form and arrangement), porosity (air space), consistence (ability of soil to withstand rupture) and even colour can all affect plant growth independently and interdependently."

How Do You Feed the Soil?

There are many ways to feed a soil, and the most appropriate way can vary from one situation to the next. Here are some of the methods that might be used:
  • Add animal manures (well decomposed to prevent root burn).
  • Add well-decomposed plant material in the form of compost; un-decomposed material needs nitrogen to decompose, if you apply it in a ‘raw’ state it will use the soil nitrogen to decompose. This robs the soil of plant available nitrogen.
  • Don’t use mushroom compost too often (one initial application is fine) as it tends to be alkaline (same for chicken manure); this may radically change the soil pH especially if you add it on a regular basis.
  • Grow green manure crops such as legumes (members of the pea and bean family). Legumes can, with the help of soil microorganisms, convert unavailable nitrogen to available nitrogen and store it in root nodules attached to the legume’s root system (inhabited by the microorganisms). The nitrogen is released back into the soil when the tops are cut off, or it is dug into the soil. Green manure legumes can add enough nitrogen to your soil without needing the addition of topdressing with nitrogen fertilisers. Other green manure crops include oats and mustard and these don’t add nitrogen but do add organic matter. Planting a mix in fallow beds over winter is a great way to boost organic matter and soil fertility – try it in your garden and you will be amazed as to how little other fertiliser you will need for healthy plant growth.

Other good organic fertilisers that are readily available and easy to use in your garden include blood and bone, bagged pelletised manure, organic mulch such as pea straw or Lucerne hay (rich in nitrogen), or compost tea.



Those who need sound knowledge in soil management techniques:

  • Farmers
  • Horticulturists
  • Hobby farmers





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