An introduction to soil management for agriculture

Simple soil treatments can turn struggling farms into profitable properties. Soil management is not always the answer, but without the study and knowledge gained through courses such as this, it's difficult to know how much of a factor your soil management actually is.


This is a general soil management course involving: introduction to soils, nutrition, soil physics, chemistry, testing, problems, land degradation, soil management in farms and crops. The eight lessons include a special project on soil management for a site of your choosing.

An introduction to Soil Management for Agriculture

  • For farmers, technicians and students of agriculture
  • Learn to better manage farm soils
  • Improve farm productivity and sustainability


There are 8 lessons as follows:

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 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


    Duration: 100 hours



    • 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 compost
    • 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.

    What Can Go Wrong with Farm Soils?

    A number of major soil related problems can occur. Some are inherent in the nature of the soil itself and other are man-made. Some problems include:

    Physical factors that affect water infiltration

    • Water-logging
    • Water repellence
    • Soil structure decline

    Physical factors that affect soils

    • Wind erosion
    • Water erosion
    • Hard-layers in soils
    • Subsurface compaction
    • Soil factors related to eutrophication

    Soil Chemical Factors that affect plant growth

    • Acidity
    • Alkalinity and sodicity
    • Salinity
    • Chemical residues in soils


    Decline in Soil Structure is a phenomenon of surface soil, caused mainly by excessive tillage
    Degraded soils typically have reduced infiltration, increased runoff, are more compact, require more tractor power and in many areas can only be cultivated within a narrow moisture range. The true extent of the problem is difficult to assess as structural decline is often gradual.  Mainly medium and fine-textured soils are susceptible.  Surface soils with a clayey sand or coarser texture (<8-10% clay) have minimal secondary structure and are generally not susceptible.  
    Various hard layers occur in soils, but they do not always indicate structural decline

    Study this course to learn about other potential problems, how to deal with them, and much more.





    Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
    Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

    Email us at [email protected]