PLANT SC 7240WT - Soil and Plant Nutrition

Waite Campus - Semester 2 - 2017

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 7240WT
    Course Soil and Plant Nutrition
    Coordinating Unit School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
    Term Semester 2
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s Waite Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 6 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Incompatible PLANT SC 7004WT
    Assessment Exam, practical reports, critical reviews, case study
    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 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)
    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
    Career readiness: 7,8,9. Leadership readiness not addressed.
    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
    Not addressed
    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
    Not addressed
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    There is no standard text book for the course, but the following references are useful:

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

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

    3. Mengel, K. and Kirkby, E.A. (2001). Principles of Plant Nutrition, 5th edn. Int. Potash Inst., Bern, Switzerland.

    4. Graham, R.D. (1984). Breeding for nutritional characteristics in cereals. Advances in Plant Nutrition 1, 57-102.

    5. Graham, R.D, Senadhira, D., Beebe, S., Iglesias, C. and Monasterio, I. (1999). Breeding for micronutrient density in edible portions of staple food crops: conventional approaches Field Crops Research 60, 57-80.

    6. Grundon, N.J. (1987) Hungry crops: a guide to nutrient deficiencies in field crops. Dept. of Primary Industries, Queensland.

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

    8. Peverill, K R., Sparrow, L A and Reuter, D J (2001) Soil analysis: an Interpretation Manual (2nd edition). CSIRO Publishing
    Online Learning
    The lectures and practicals will be posted on MyUni. Other on-line material that support student learning, but which is not a core component of the lectures and practicals, will also be made available through MyUni. 

    A key to assist with identification of nutrient disorders of plants will be made available
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Lectures are used to provide basic information about key concepts and important characteristics of agricultural systems.

    Occassional tutorials will be held during the practical period serve to reinforce and extend some of the ideas raised in the lectures and practicals. The aim of these tutorials os to be interactive and to develop skills in topics such as sampling, using diagnostic keys and problem solving

    The formal practical classes are used to introduce students to basic ideas related to sampling and diagnosis of plant nutrient status, nutrient uptake, soil-plant interactions.

    Students undertake a small independent assignment that uses plant nutrient analysis to identify a nutritional problem or to address a question related to nutrient status of plants, food or beverages.

    Additional assignment work requires students to prepare a critical review on a topic which is relevant to their area of study and to develop a case study on a topic related to soil and plant nutrition.  These topics change from year to year

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

    The work load is up to 6 contact hours per week, which will be based on 2 hours of lectures, and up to 4  hours of practical work. There are occassional 1-hour tutorials held during the semester.  

    It is expected that students will spend an average of approximately 5 hours per week in addition to the formal contact time on assignments, reports and essays.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Lecture Schedule
    Week 1 Soil testing: Principles of soil sampling and soil chemical testing to assess nutrient status of soils
    Week 2 Behaviour of fertilizers in soils: Macro- and micronutrient fertilizers, their reactions in soils and principles of fertilizer application.
    Week 3 Soil organic matter and soil fertility: the role of organic matter in soil fertility, managaing soil organic matter, greenhouse issues and biochar use
    Week 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
    Week 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
    Week 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
    Week 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
    Week 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
    Week 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
    Week 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.
    Week 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
    Week 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
    Each practical runs over a number of weeks
    Practical Schedule
    1 Soil sampling and analysis for pH, EC and 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.

    Tutorial topics
    1 Visual symptoms of nutrient stress
    2 Calculations of nutrient balances
    3 Interpretation of tissue analyses
    4 Interpreatation of nutrient analyses
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Students work in small groups on a plant analysis project. The objectives of this project are to:

    1. Develop an appropriate sampling strategy to diagnose a problem or test a hypothesis
    2. Interpret data on nutrient concentrations.
    3. Present this information to a general audience

    Working in groups of 2 or 3, students:
    1. Identify a question or a problem that is of interest to them from the list of potential topics
    2. Develop a sampling strategy which will allow them to test their idea or to diagnose a problem.
    3. Collect samples for analysis and submit them
    4. Collect additional information that will assist with interpretation of the data
    5. Summarise and interpret the nutrient analysis data
    6. Prepare a 10 minute presentation or short report on the results and conclusion
  • 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 Due Weighting Learning Outcome
    Practical reports (4)  Summative

    Approx every 2-3 weeks 

    28% 1-10
    Plant nutrient analysis project Formative and Summative Week 12 12% 1,3,4,5,7-10
    Critical review Formative and Summative Approx week 4 10% 1-4, 11
    Case study Formative and Summative Approx week 10 10% 1-4, 9, 10
    Examination Summative Exam period 40% 1-8, 10
    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.

    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 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.

    5. Critical review 
    This will require students to conduct research into a topic related to a contemporary issue in plant nutrition and provide a critical analysis on the topic. There will be some choice in the topic to allow the student to match it with their background and interest. This will assess the student’s ability to find and critically evaluate information and present this clearly.

    6. Case study
    Students will be required to complete a detailed case study on an aspect of soil or plant nutrition in an area relevant to their program. The topic will be selected after discussions with the course convenor but it will be based an area covered in lectures.

    7. Tutorial questions (0%)
    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.
    All material that is handed in for assessment is submitted electronically. Cover sheet are available on 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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