SOIL&WAT 1000WT - Soils and Landscapes I

Waite Campus - Semester 2 - 2018

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
    Incompatible GEOLOGY 1103 & GEOLOGY 1200. If students only completed either one, that is ok to enrol.
    Restrictions Available to B Agricultural Sciences, B Viticulture & Oenology students only
    Assessment Practical exercises, 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.     Quantitatively assess and interpret soil characteristics from the landscape to the sub-paddock scale using relevant technologies, including satellite imagery on the landscape scale and emerging digital technologies (precision agriculture) on the sub-paddock scale.
    3.     Undertake (individually, in pairs or groups) simple field sampling of soil and laboratory measurements of basic soil physical and chemical properties proficiently.
    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 different agro ecosystems.
    6.     Critically evaluate and confidently interpret soils data, maps and information especially in relation to identifying potential management issues for agro ecosystems and suggesting potential solutions. This relates to a range of scales, from landscape (e.g. land capability assessment) to sub-paddock (e.g. precision agriculture). 
    7.     Communicate effectively to individuals and in groups (orally and written) concerning the application of soil science in agro ecosystem landscape management.
    8.     Integrate elements of knowledge and work 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)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • 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 and for exam revision.

    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

    This course will be delivered by the following means:

    2 x 1 hour lectures in each week consecutively on the same day

    7 x 3 hour practicals and 3 x 2 hour workshop sessions

    3 x 1 hour quizzes held periodically throughout the semester during allocated times outside of formal teaching hours.

    1 x 1 hour informal tutorial session per week usually on the same day as lectures

    Lectures include the opportunity for open discussion, questions and problem solving activities with support materials provided online.

    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 sessions directly follow the quiz. During these sessions feedback will be specifically provided on the quizzes. Further, these mentored sessions provide an opportunity for students in groups or individually to follow up specific issues regarding practical assignments.

    Quizzes will test student understanding of material from lectures and practicals held during the semester. Each quiz will deal with material covered in the preceding weeks.

    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 & revision)
    Learning Activities Summary

    Lectures will focus on the function and significance of soils in Earth’s spheres and landscapes (managed and natural); the processes involved in the formation of soils from rocks and minerals; the basics of soil classification, the Australian classification system and relevance to management of soils; the fragile nature of Australian soils, the reasons underlying this and the implications for Australian landscapes; soil primary particles (the building blocks, how they contribute to soil texture and relevance to managing soils); soil structure and its importance in management of landscapes; soil colloids and effects on soil chemistry (e.g cation exchange); soil acidification and its management; the influence of atmospheric processes on soil water; major inputs and outputs of water in soils and how water is stored; causes and consequences of landscape salinization in Australia; processes of soil erosion (by wind and water) and where it occurs; management practices to minimise erosion in production systems and landscapes; soil organic matter, its major functions, and its management in nutrient cycling (including crop rotations, vineyard management, pasture and grazing); how different fertilisers (types and formulations) contribute to soil fertility and fertiliser management of different soils in landscapes/production systems; hostile soils & subsoils as a feature of Australian landscapes and their management (sodicity calcareous soils, traffic hardpan, texture contrast, nutrient toxicities and deficiencies); sources, fate and control/amelioration of pollutants, contaminants and residues and a set of case studies to examine the current challenges for the management of soils in particular land systems in Australia (horticulture, viticulture, broadacre cropping, livestock enterprises, irrigated systems). The importance of scale in soil management is addressed, along with the potential of emerging technologies, including remote sensing and precision agriculture.

    Field based practicals will provide an introduction to the observation of soils and position in the landscape by examining a soil pit and collecting and analysing soil cores collected across a toposequence in the landscape. Practical laboratory tasks will include hand texturing and determination of soil colour (Munsell chart) for a range of soils; familiarisation with the use of the Australian soil classification system, measuring soluble salts in soils using EC and pH meters and understanding the various units used for measuring these characteristics, and using nutrient calculators to devise fertiliser budgets for crops and vines. Computer based practicals will use “Soil Mapper” to demonstrate how spatially variable soils are and how sampling strategy influences outcome of a soil property test and map databases will be use to integrate information on soil properties and the relationship to position in landscape.

    Workshop sessions in practical times will comprise of 3 sessions that will specifically follow up on quiz material and summative practical assessments.
    Specific Course Requirements
    Small Group Discovery Experience
  • 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 Approximate timing of assessment
    Practical  exercises x 2;
    Reports completed in class in pairs x 5

    Formative and Summative
    No  0%

    2,3,4,6,7 Wks 2 & 9
    Wks 3,5,6,10,11
    Quizzes x 3 Formative and Summative  No  30% 1,6,7 Wks 4,8,12
    Examination  Summative No 40% 1,6,7 Examination period
    Assessment Related Requirements


    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.

    Late Submission:

    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that the assignment is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days late or more without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the marks available for that assignment.

    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.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.