Course Description

This course provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the soil-plant relationships, soil fertility, plant nutrition, and nutrient management. Emphasis will be given to soil conditions affecting the availability of nutrients in the soil, the use of soil and plant analysis as a tool for soil fertility and plant nutrition management, and environmental quality associated with the application of fertilizers.

Delivery Method: Distance Education – offered every Spring semester

Schedule: Recorded Classes and Assignments will be posted weekly to the students

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this course you should be able to:

– Relate soil fertility to physical, chemical, and biological processes;

– Discuss how nutrients cycle through soils, plants, animals, and the environment;

– Become conversant in soil fertility concepts used in the scientific literature;

– Understand how soil conditions affect plant growth and the relations between soil chemistry and fertilizers. Emphasis is placed on factors affecting availability of nutrients and methods of measuring nutrient availability;

– Understand how soil fertility can be managed and manipulated for applications in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, engineering, and for environmental protection.

Course Topics:

T1. Soil Fertility Introduction

Essential Nutrients

Nutrient Uptake

Response of Plants to Nutrients

T2. Chemistry review

Force between atoms

Bounding Forces in the Soil Chemistry

Molecular Geometry

T3. Soil Chemistry review

Soil constituents

Origin of Soil Electric Charges

Ion Exchange

Buffer Capacity

Measuring Cation Exchange Capacity

T4. Soil Acidity

Sources of Soil Acidity

Components of Soil Acidity

Consequences of Soil Acidity

Soil Acidity Measurement


T5. Soil Organic Matter

Origin of Soil OM

Nature of Soil OM

Functions of Soil OM

Dynamics of Soil OM

T6. Nitrogen

Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen Fertilization

Nitrogen Analysis and Recommendations

Nitrogen fertilizers

T7. Phosphorus

Phosphorus Cycle

Soil P Availability and Soil P Test

Phosphate Fertilizers

Phosphate Fertilization and Management

T8. Potassium

Potassium Cycle

Soil K Availability and Soil K Test

Potassium Fertilizers

Potassium Fertilization and Management

T9. Secondary Macronutrients (Ca, Mg, and S)

Ca, Mg, and S Cycles

Ca, Mg, and S Availability and Soil Test

Ca, Mg, and S Fertilizers

T10. Micronutrients (Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ni, B, Mo, Cl)

Micronutrient Cycles

Micronutrient Availability and Soil Test

Micronutrient Fertilizers

T11. Soil Test Calibration and Fertilizer Recommendations

How to decide if a certain crop needs fertilization?

Soil test as a toolbox

How to choose a methodology for soil analysis?

Soil Test Calibration

Soil Sampling, Analysis, and Interpretation

T12. Nutrient Management and Environment

Nutrients and Environment

Nutrient Management Planning for North Carolina