Soil Processes, Assessment and Management (AFNR5511)


Soils support agricultural and natural ecosystems and regulate environmental interactions between the hydrosphere and atmosphere. It is the quality of our soils that affect productivity, the environment, health and ultimately sustainability. However, challenges such as those presented by lack of plant nutrient supply, soil acidification, physical degradation, soil contamination, and loss of soil biodiversity are problems at a global scale that threaten the sustainability of the environment and society. As well as the threats the importance of maintaining a quality soil that regulates environmental interactions will be explored, such as soil as a sink for carbon affecting climate interactions or understanding how a rich soil biodiversity can contribute to food production affecting food security. To do this, this unit of study is concerned with exploring the key pedology, soil chemistry, soil physical and soil biological processes that drive these challenges to soil quality. Time will be spent investigating how the quality of the soil can be assessed, using the indicators of the mentioned soil processes, and how the resulting data can be aggregated and communicated in a meaningful way. Working with case studies, the students will identify problems that are assessed using soil quality or function analysis with the aim of identifying management options. The management options will be evaluated to determine their adoptability and implement ability. By investigating the case studies using soil quality or function analysis students will develop their research and enquiry skills. Assessing and developing adoptable management strategies the students will develop their skills in synthesising material from multiple sources and enhance their intellectual autonomy. By producing reports and presenting seminars the students will develop their communication skills.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


1 Lec, 2 tutorials/wk, case study & oral presentations.


Essay (30%), Group discussions (20%), Case study report (30%), Group presentation (20%)


Textbooks: D. Hillel, 2004. Introduction to Environmental Soil Physics, Elsevier Science, San Diego, CA USA

Faculty/department permission required?


Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.