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Course Information Undergraduate prospectus

Soils and Environments

Course summary

Course code: OAGR1015
Level: 7
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Course Coordinator(s): Peter Burt


Pre and co requisites



The aims of this course are to develop student's knowledge of the importance of soils, soil studies and soil organisms in the context of sustainable development. Students will also be shown how natural environmental processes, such as erosion, flooding and drought, influence soil dynamics. The skills needed to apply this knowledge to practical management of soils for sustainable use will be stressed.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Reflect on the key elements involved in the formation of soils, assessing the relative roles played by each in various parts of the world;
2. Apply the criteria currently used to classification of the major soils of the world, and use this in novel environments;
3. Recognise the origins and importance of erosion and desertification in soils, evaluating the various the roles of environmental conditions in governing these, and apply approaches to combat them;
4. Apply a knowledge of the diversity, distribution and functions of the major groups of soil biota in controlling soil formation and ecology, particularly in tropical soils;
5. Critically evaluate the role of soil organisms in decomposition processes and nutrient cycles in the soil;
6. Reflect on the role of man in maintaining and enhancing soil fertility and structure through appropriate cropping systems and the effects of such interventions on soil biota, and apply this information in appropriate contexts.

Indicative content

Soil formation and classification: the principles of soil formation with particular reference to the role of soil biota in tropical soils. A review of the principal systems of soil classification and their application in soil management.
Effects and control of erosion and desertification in tropical soils: o and importance of soil erosion and "desertification", and approaches to their control.
Soil organisms and biological processes in soils: the distribution, diversity and functions of soil micro-organisms and fauna and their interactions with other components of the ecosystem, decomposition processes and nutrient cycles as influenced by soil organisms.
Cropping systems and soil management: Practical options for maintaining and improving soil fertility and structure in cropping systems.

Teaching and learning activity

The course will be presented through a combination of formal lectures and case studies.

Learning Time (1 credit = 10 hours)

Contact Hours
lectures 39
practical sessions
Private Study 49
Assignments: course work and other forms of assessment
coursework 60
laboratory work
examinations 2


Essay - 50%
Up to 3500 words.
Essay on an aspect of soil/environmental relationships
(4, 5, 6)

Exam - 50%
2 hour examination

Minimum pass mark - 50%