PLANT SC 3505WT - Soil and Plant Nutrition III

Waite Campus - Semester 2 - 2024

The focus of this course is the influence of mineral nutrients to the health of plants. The course will examine the factors that determine the availability of mineral nutrients in soil, their uptake and use by plants. The diagnosis of soil nutrient availability and plant nutrient stress will also be examined. The interaction of mineral nutrients with biotic and abiotic stresses and the role of plant mineral nutrition in human health will also be discussed.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PLANT SC 3505WT
    Course Soil and Plant Nutrition III
    Coordinating Unit Agricultural Science
    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 PLANT SC 3004WT
    Assumed Knowledge PLANT SC 2510WT, SOIL&WAT 2500WT or SOIL&WAT 2500
    Course Description The focus of this course is the influence of mineral nutrients to the health of plants. The course will examine the factors that determine the availability of mineral nutrients in soil, their uptake and use by plants. The diagnosis of soil nutrient availability and plant nutrient stress will also be examined. The interaction of mineral nutrients with biotic and abiotic stresses and the role of plant mineral nutrition in human health will also be discussed.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Glenn McDonald

    Course Timetable

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

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    1 Acquire knowledge and understanding of the chemical processes in soils that influence mineral nutrient availability
    2 Develop an understanding of how mineral nutrients are taken up by plants, transported and assimilated by plants.
    3 Develop an understanding of how mineral nutrients interact with important abiotic and biotic stresses
    4 Understand the role of mineral nutrients in the quality of the harvested product.
    5 Develop an understanding of how the nutrient status of plants is diagnosed by soil and plant analysis and the strengths and weaknesses of different methods
    6 Acquire knowledge of the importance of fertiliser formulation to soil nutrient availability
    7 To develop skills in sampling soil and plant tissues for routine analysis and diagnosis of nutrient status
    8 Develop skills in interpreting the results of soil and plant analyses
    9 Develop a critical approach to data analysis and interpretation
    10 Promote the ability to work co-operatively as a member of a group
    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)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.

    Career readiness: 7,8,9. Leadership readiness not addressed.

    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    Not addressed

    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    Not addressed
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Glasshouse space for growing plants for practicals
    Access to plant analysis facilities (currently achieved by using Waite Analytical Services)
    Access to orchards
    Recommended Resources
    There is no standrd text for the course, but the following references are used:

    (1) Marschner, H. (2012). Marschner’s Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants. (3rd ed) Academic Press, London.

    (2) Reuter D R and Robinson J. B (1997) Plant analysis: an interpretation manual (2nd edition). CSIRO Publishing

    (3) Asher, C, Grundon N, and Menzies, N (2002) How to unravel and solve soil fertility problems (ACIAR Monograph No 83)

    (4) Peverill K, Sparrow LA and Reuter DJ (1999) Soil Analu=ysis:L an Interpreation Manual (CSIRO: Collingwood, Australia)

    Online Learning
    The lectures and practicals will be posted on MyUni. Other material that support student learning, but which is not a core component of the lectures and practicals, will also be made available. These include links to websites that provide additional information supporting lectures and practicals.

    A diagnostic key to idnetify plant nutrient stress has been developed in Articulate Storyline
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Lectures are used to provide basic information about key concepts and important characteristics of agricultural systems.

    Tutorials serve to reinforce and extend some of the ideas raised in the lectures and practicals. They are also designed to allow students to 

    Practical classes are used to illustrate some of the principles described in the lectures.  The students work in small groups of 2-3 students which also help to build teamwork and to foster the relationships between students.

    A small independent project requires students to take samples of plant, food or beverage for nutrient analysis that addresses a specific question or problem.  It is designed to get stduents to think about sampling an to give them experiuence in interpreting and presenting nutrient analysis data.

    A number of visits to commercial growers and industry are used to illustrate the applciation fothe principles of soil and plant nutrition in a commerciual context.

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

    The course will be 6 contact hours per week which will include 2 lectures and a practical.  In some weeks a tutorial will be run on specific topics.  There are 4 short practical reports required.  Students also engage in a small project based on collection and analysis of plkant samples.  There are a number of field excusrions to illustratae applications of the principles and practices examined in the lectures and practicals
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week Lecture
    1 Soil testing: Principles of soil sampling and soil chemical testing to assess nutrient status of soils.
    2 Behaviour of fertilizers in soils: Macro- and micronutrient fertilizers, their reactions in soils and principles of fertilizer application.
    3 Soil organic matter and soil fertility: the role of organic matter in soil fertility, managaing soil organic matter, greenhouse issues and biochar use.
    4 Nutrient movement through soil and uptake by plants: How nutrients move to the root surface and the environmental influences on movement; the uptake of nutrients by roots and by leaves.
    5 Assimilation of nutrients (Macronutrients): The functions and metabolism of macronutrients and the consequences for plant growth and composition. This will be based on case studies on N and P
    6 Assimilation of nutrients (Micronutrients): The functions and metabolism of micronutrients and the consequences for plant growth and composition. This will be based on case studies on Zn and Mn
    7 Diagnosis of nutrient stress: The basis of plant tissue analysis; derivation of critical levels of nutrients; the strengths and weaknesses of tissue analysis; sampling issues.
    8 Nutrient balances and correction of deficiencies; nutrient use efficiency: Calculation of nutrient balances and their applications to nutrient management; alternative approaches to nutrient management; defining nutrient use efficiency, current levels of efficiency and the factors that influence nutrient use efficiency
    9 Breeding for nutrient stress and nutrient use efficiency: Exploiting genetic variation in tolerance to nutrient stress to improve plant nutrient status and efficient use of fertiliser. Genetic control of important nutritional characteristics of plants
    10 Plant nutrients and biotic and abiotic stress: The physiological bases of the interaction between plant nutrient status and the ability to tolerate important abiotic and biotic stresses and how this can be exploited to manage stress in plants.
    11 Plant nutrition, product quality and human health: The role of plant nutrition in determining the end-use quality of plant products. The role of biofortification in improving human health
    12 Organic and recycled nutrient use: The similarities and differences of nutrient availability in organic systems; the role of water and nutrient recycling in meeting future needs

    Soil sampling and analysis for soil P concentrations. The aim of this practical is to provide students with an appreciation of spatial variability in soil properties that influence nutrient availability and uptake as well as the interpretation of soil tests.
    2 Derivation of a critical level of nitrate in plants: students set up an experiment in two species to examine the response to N. The practical illustrates the general response curve. From severe deficiency to toxicity as well as allows them to derive the critical level for a nutrient.
    3 Responses to form and rate of P : Responses to soluble and insoluble forms of P in white lupin, wheat and canola are compared. The experiment demonstrates (a) the effect soil nutrient availability on response to a nutrient, (b) genetic variation in response to a nutrient; (c) nutrient use efficiency
    4 Effect of form of N on rhizosphere pH: The practical shows how plants respond to different forms of nutrient and illustrates the root adaptations that maintain nutrient uptake.

    Demonstrations & tutorials
    1 Visual symptoms of nutrient stress
    2 Calculations of nutrreient balkances
    3 Interpretations of tissue analyses
  • 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
    Asessment Task Task Type Due Weighting Hurdle Learning Outcome
    Pratical reports (4) Summative and formative

    Approx every 2-3 weeks in the first half of semester

    35% 40% 1,2,5,9
    Plant nutrition project Summative and formative Week 12 15% No 5,7,8,9,10
    Tutorial questions Formative Various times during semester 0% No 5,6,8,9
    Quizes (2) Summative Weeks 5 and 9 20% No 1,2,3,4,5
    Final exam Summative Exam period 30% No 1,2,3,4,5
    Assessment Detail
    1. Practical reports
    Four short reports based on the results of the practical exercises.   Using collated class data students are required to use statisitcal analysis to assit witht the interpretation of the results and provide a brief critical analysis of the data.  These reports are prepared using a number of differtent formats.

    2. Plant nutrition project
    Students working in small groups select a topic that they are interested in and which is related to the application of plant and soil  analysis to address a problem or question.  They devise a sampling procedure and submit samples for analysis.  Students then need to summarise and  interpret their results

    3. Tutorial questions
    There will be a small number of informal tutorials that are integrated into the practicals. This will be involved in diagnosis of nutrient stresses, interpretations of tissue analyses and calculations of nutrient balances.

    4. Final exam
    A theory exam at the end of the semester s based on material covered in lectures and practicals. Questions include problems realted to intepretation and analysis of data, short answer and extended answer questions.  A minimum mark of 40% in the final exam is required to pass the course.
    All material that is handed in for assessment is submitted electronically through MyUni. 

    The aim is provide feedback and marks on the assessment within 2 weeks after submission. Rubrics and mark sheets as well as additional comments on the work are used to provide feedback to students

    Late submission will incur a penalty which is generally 10% per day to a maximum of 50%. The assessor may elect not to accept an assignment a student submits after the deadline
    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.

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  • Policies & Guidelines
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