SOIL&WAT 1000WT - Soils and Landscapes I

Waite Campus - Semester 2 - 2015

This course describes how agricultural and ecological systems are linked to soils and the Australian environment, and provides a basis from which sustainability issues can be addressed. Agro-ecosystems face increasing pressure in Australia to become more productive, profitable and efficient, yet sustainable. You will learn about the importance of soils in the landscape in relation to management of fertility, water use efficiency, and land degradation. You will learn about important ecological processes that are based in soils, and consider a 'whole-system' approach to land management. This will include interpretation of soil maps in relation to land evaluation and suitability for different purposes.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code SOIL&WAT 1000WT
    Course Soils and Landscapes I
    Coordinating Unit School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s Waite Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Assumed Knowledge SACE Science subjects
    Restrictions Available to B Agricultural Sciences, B Viticulture & Oenology students only
    Assessment Practical exercises, consultancy report, quizzes, exam
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Ron Smernik

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
    1 Understand and explain basic principles underlying the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils in landscapes
    2 Correctly quantitatively assess and interpret soil characteristics using relevant technologies
    3 Proficiently undertake (individually, in pairs or groups) simple field sampling of soil and laboratory measurements of basic soil physical and chemical properties
    4 Give a basic description of a soil profile and broadly assign this within the Australian Soil Classification system
    5 Search and find (individually and within a team) relevant scientific and technical information in the context of management of soils for a production enterprise
    6 Critically evaluate and confidently interpret soils data, maps and information especially in relation to identifying potential management issues for production enterprises and suggesting potential solutions
    7 Communicate effectively to individuals and in groups (orally and written) concerning the application of soil science in landscape management
    8 Appreciate the importance of careful planning, research and integration of information when compiling a short report for industry and to a deadline

    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1,3
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 1,4,6
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 1,2,3,7
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 3,4,5
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 3,4,6,7
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 6,7,8
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 1,8
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 1,8,
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Protective clothing
    Students are required to wear a lab coat and have closed foot wear for the practicals that are in the laboratories.  Stout shoes, suncreen, hat and a waterproof coat are recommended for field practicals .
    Recommended Resources
    Books for course (online or held in the Student Reserve Collection in the Waite Library)
    These books will be useful for following up on lecture material, for exam revision and for your consultancy report assignment.

    General textbooks   
    Brady NC, Weil RR (2008) ‘The nature and properties of soils.’ (Prentice Hal: New Jersey)

    Charman PEV, Murphy BW (2007) ‘Soils: their properties and management.’ (Oxford University Press: South Melbourne)

    Isbell RF (2002) ‘Australian soil classification.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne) NOTE: this is also available electronically

    McKenzie N, Jacquier D, Isbell R, Brown KM (2004) ‘Australian soils and landscapes: an illustrated compendium’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne). 631.4994 M1571a

    White RE (2006) ‘ Principles and practice of soil science.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne) .

    Wild A (Ed) (1988) ‘Russell’s Soil Conditions and Plant Growth.’ (John Wiley & Sons: New York)

    Consultancy report
    Gilkes RJ, Hunt N (1992) ‘Farm monitoring handbook: A practical down-to-earth manual for farmers and other land users.’ (University of Western Australia: Perth)

    Hall J, Maschmedt D, Billing B (2010) ‘The soils of southern South Australia’ Bulletin 56, Volume 1 of the Geological Survey of South Australia (Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation: Adelaide)

    Hazelton P, Murphy B (2007) ‘Interpreting Soil Test Results What do all the numbers mean?’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)
    Available as an electronic book from CSIRO via the Uni of Adelaide library website.

    Moore G ( 2004) ‘Soil Guide A handbook for understanding and managing agricultural soils.’ Bulletin 4343 (Department of Agriculture: Perth WA)

    Peverill KI, Sparrow LA, Reuter DJ (Eds) (1999) 'Soil analysis:an interpretation manual.' (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

    Online Learning
    Addtional materials and references will be available via MyUni including recordings of lectures
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Lectures are used to deliver content relevant to the specified course objectives. Lectures inlcude the opportunity foropen discussion, questions and problem solving activities 

    Practicals are used to develop and support material covered in lectures as well as providing a forum for acquiring skills and knowledge necessary to complete assessment tasks. Practicals particularly provide an opportunity to acquire hands-on skills, to integrate information from different modules in the course and to increase understanding of concepts.

    Workshops are held  in place of three of the practical sessions - these mentored sessions specifically provide time as a small group (12-15 students) for those working on the same consultancy report problem to exchange ideas, interact and benefit from peer input whilst being guided by an academic mentor  

    Tutorial sessions provide an opportunity for students in groups or individually to follow up specific issues regarding expectations on workload or assignments or to seek clarification of material from lectures and practicals.  


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course such as this should expect to spend, on average, 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes the formal contac time  (lectures, tutorials and pracs) as well as non-contact time (reading, consultancy report writing, revision)
    Learning Activities Summary

    The course content will include the following (timing may vary from the order shown here):

    Lectures 1 & 2:  Function and significance of soils in Earth’s spheres and landscapes – managed and natural. The five soil forming factors

    Lectures 3 & 4
    : Formation of soils from rocks and minerals, the processes involved

    Lecture 5: The basics of soil classification and the Australian classification system and relevance to management of soils

     Lecture 6: Overview on the fragile nature of Australian soils, the reasons underlying this and the implications for Australian landscapes

     Lecture 7: Soil primary particles – the building blocks, how they contribute to soil texture and relevance to managing soils

    Lecture 8: Soil structure and its importance in management of landscapes

    Lecture 9: Soil colloids and effects on soil chemistry (e.g cation exchange)
    Lecture 10: Soil acidification – what it is and how it can be managed

     Lecture 11: Influence of atmospheric processes on soil water

     Lecture12: Major inputs and outputs of water in soils and how water is stored

     Lecture13: Causes and consequences of landscape salinization in Australia

     Lecture14: Processes of soil erosion (by wind and water) and where it occurs

     Lecture15: Management practices to minimise erosion in farming systems and landscapes

     Lecture 16: Soil organic matter – what is it?  and its major functions

     Lecture 17: The management of soil organic matter in nutrient cycling – includes crop rotations, pasture and grazing

     Lecture 18: How different fertilisers (types and formulations) contribute to soil fertility

     Lecture 19:Fertiliser management of different soils in agricultural landscapes/systems

     Lecture 20: Intro to “Hostile” soils & subsoils as a feature of Australian landscapes – sodicity calcareous soils, traffic hardpan, texture contrast, nutrient toxicities and deficiencies

     Lecture 21: Management options for hostile” soils & subsoils in Australian landscapes

     Lecture 22: Chemicals in soil - pollutants, contaminants and residues  - sources and fate

     Lecture 23: Assessing the impact of chemicals in soils  - control or amelioration strategies

     Lecture 24: Bringing it all together: Case studies: Current challenges for the management of soils in particular land systems in Australia (horticulture, viticulture, broadacre cropping, livestock enterprises, irrigated systems). 

     Practical 1: Introduction to the field observation of soils and position in the landscape – soil pit – short report (per group) on observations made to be handed in on the day

     Practical 2: Laboratory task - hand texturing for a range of soils and soil colour (Munsell chart) plus  – laboratory –short report to be handed in on day plus computer session to familiarise with the layout and format and use of the on-line and hard copy versions of the Australian soil classification system –formative individual task completed at own pace

     Practical 3: Computer lab using Soil Mapper to demonstrate how spatially variable soils are and how sampling strategy influences outcome of a soil property test –  individual formative task completed on day

     Practical 4: Measuring soluble salts in soils – laboratory based prac to give hands-on experience of use of EC and pH meters and familiarise with various units used for measuring these characteristics – short report required on day

     Practical 5: Field and lab practical – soils across a toposequence in the landscape – soil coring and recording texture and samples taken back to lab for class discussion session –formative task -  short report (individual)

     Practical 6: Using nutrient calculators to devise fertiliser budgets for crops and vines – group based formative short task completed during prac

     Practical 7: Computer lab using map databases to integrate information on soil properties and how that relates to position in landscape – individual formative task completed during prac

    Consultancy report interactive small group sessions (substitutes for three practical sessions) First session to present the task for the consultancy report and work through tools and information required to achieve this task – includes database searches for journal info and format of the required report. Short prelim draft task set for delivery in next session. Second session to reflect on and improve the short prelim draft task for consultancy report – issues for each landscape and soil type identified and discussed as a group– improved draft report outlines to be handed up after this session for feedback. Third session is allocated time for final amendments to the consultancy report and/or follow up any issues in course material to date prior to submission of the consultancy report for assessment

     1h Ad Hoc Tutorial session each week: 3 sessions will specifically follow up on quiz material. Other tutorial sessions are for clarification of any lecture or practical material

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment Task Task Type Hurdle Weighting Learning Outcome
    Practical  exercises and reports completed in class in pairs x 5 Formative and Summative No  30% 2,3,4,6,7
    Quizzes x 3 Summative  No  30% 1,2,4,6,7
    Examination  Summative Yes 40% 1,2,4,6,7
    Assessment Related Requirements
    To obtain a pass in this course, students must submit all assessments and gain an overall mark in the course of t least 50%.

    Failure to meet the above minimum requirements for the course may result in a student failing the course or being offered an additional assessment task (or tasks).
    Assessment Detail

    Practicals (30% total assessment):
    Five practical exercises (computer based, field or laboratory) will be completed during class time. Each exercise will be undertaken in small groups (2-3 students) and will include a combination of short and long answer questions as well as calculations based on measurements collected during the practical session. Each practical exercise will be equally weighted (6% of total assessment). Prompt feedback (within 1 week) will enable early identification of any problems a student may be encountering in the area of practical skills for soil assessment or the reporting of these tasks, and give an opportunity to address these in the weekly informal tutorial sessions.

    Quizzes (30%)
    Three 1 hr quizzes (10% total assessment each) will occur during the semester. These will consist of a series of multiple choice questions to be answered online with feedback for students provided immediately after the quiz. These quizzes will allow students to continuously monitor their retention of important course material and highlight problem areas that can be addressed in the Workshop sessions.

    Final Exam (40%)
    The final exam is a summative assessment and allows the student to demonstrate retention of basic information taught during the semester as well as the ability to integrate the information obtained throughout the course. Exam questions will include a series of short and long written answers, calculations based on real life examples, multiple choice, and true/false answers.

    You must submit all work in hardcopy unless directed otherwise and attach an Assessment Cover Sheet (dealing with Plagiarism & Collusion) available on Myuni. This sheet will be detached from your assignment and kept by the Course Coordinator, so you must remember to also record your name somewhere on the piece of work, to ensure your graded report can be returned to you. Please note that electronic submission by email will not be accepted, so you will need to plan your time accordingly.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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