Soil Management (Crops)

Learn all about soil management to know what you need to know to ensure the healthy development of plants.

Course Code: BHT103
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn Soil Management for Crop Production

Good soil conditions are critical to the healthy growth of most plants.

Over eight lessons this course will develop an understanding of physical and chemical properties of soils, the ability to carry out simple tests and determine soil characteristics, and to decide ways of treating a soil to improve its ability to grow plants.

The course is specifically designed for crop production.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Physical and Chemical Properties Of Soils
    • How soil develops naturally
    • The main rock forming minerals
    • Types of rock
    • Understanding soils
    • Soil structure
    • Water and air
    • Soil temperature
    • Organic matter
    • Cation exchange capacity
    • Conductivity
    • Nutrition, major and minor elements, salts
    • Diagnosis of nutritional problems
    • Improving soils
    • Fertilisers
    • Composting
    • Indore Method
    • 14 day Method
    • Sheet composting
    • Worm Digester Method
    • Trench composting
    • The finished product
  2. Soil Testing Methods
    • Naming the soil
    • Soil sampling
    • Checklists for sampling soil
    • Common soil tests
    • Methods for measuring: pH, organic matter content, water content, fertiliser solubility
    • Testing the effects of lime in soil
    • Laboratory testing of soil
    • Sampling in greenhouses
    • Measuring salinity
    • Colorimetry
    • Bulk densities of soils and potting mixes
    • Checking the drainage rate of potting mixes
    • Understanding soil analysis, including when, what and how to test
  3. Sustainable Soil Management
    • What is organic growing
    • Eco gardening
    • The use of organic principles to help overcome soil problems
    • Natural plant nutrition -including trace elements
    • A quick guide on nutrient deficiencies in plants
    • Earthworms
    • Mycorrhizae
    • Laying mulch
    • Nutrition management
    • Fertilisers
    • Factors affecting fertiliser application
    • Liquid fertilisers
    • Organic fertilisers
    • Natural fertilisers
    • Mineral rock fertilisers and soil conditioners
  4. Soils and Managing Earthworks
    • Earth forming
    • Drainage
    • Improving drainage after construction
    • Points to remember when designing a drainage system
  5. Land Degradation and Other Soil Problems
    • What can go wrong
    • Chemical damage
    • Rubbish and soils
    • Salinity problems
    • Gardening in dry areas
    • Soil degradation
    • Erosion
    • Soil acidification
    • Compaction
    • Chemical residues
    • A few hints with planting
    • Physical plant protection methods
  6. Soil Science and Plant Health
    • Organic carbon
    • Phosphorus
    • Soil colour,pH, porosity, texture, consistence and its effects on plant growth
    • Soil profile, classification and description
    • Factors of soil formation
    • Weathering processes of soil formation
  7. Soil Management
    • The use of legumes
    • Soil management in orchards
    • Soil management in market gardens
    • Determining the kind and quantity of fertilisers to use
    • Planning a vegetable growth site
    • Soil management for vegetables

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the physical and chemical properties of soils suitable for crop production.
  • Use soil testing methods to assess soils characteristics suitable for crop productioN.
  • Describe appropriate techniques for sustainable soil management for crop production.
  • Explain the methods used in managing earthworks in a way which is sensitive to soil condition.
  • Identify and propose solutions for a number of problems that may occur with soils for crop production.
  • Describe the relationship between soil characteristics and plant health.
  • Describe appropriate techniques for soil management in crop production

How to Revive a Degraded Soil

Degraded soil can be brought back to "good health" by using organic methods of growing.  One of the main methods of improving the quality of soil is to use mulches extensively.  Mulches are layers of material which are spread across the surface of the soil. Through the use of mulches, you can:

  • Reduce Erosion: Mulch acts as a protective blanket over the soil surface, preventing soil particles from being removed by wind and water.  
  • Reduce Weeds: The barrier of mulch makes if difficult for weed seeds to penetrate through to the soil layer. The need for constant hoeing and spraying is thus eliminated, and the odd weed which does emerge usually has very shallow roots and is much easier to pull out by hand.
  • Prevent soil from drying out: Mulches shade the soil surface and slow down the rate of evaporation; mulched soils thus require less watering.  
  • Provide a source of nutrients: Over time, all organic material decomposes, releasing a store of nutrients into the soil. Although not all mulches are organic (e.g. black plastic sheeting, gravel, etc. are often used as mulching material), organic mulches are an extremely useful way of building up the soil's nutrient level.  
  • Provide a buffer against temperature variations: Exposed soil has little capacity to resist temperature extremes, and plants growing in soil which has not been mulched, often suffer from the effects of very cold or hot weather.  

There are a number of other ways you can improve the long term health of problem soils. 

Composting - adding composted organic materials is one of the most important principles of organic gardening.

Adding materials to soil to improve structure:

  • Add sand to clay soils to improve drainage.
  • Add clay or organic material to sandy soil to improve its ability to hold water.
  • Add organic matter which will improve water holding capacity (although not to the same degree as the addition of clay will).
  • Add sand, organic matter or gypsum to help break up a clay soil, making cultivation easier (although the two will act in different ways).
  • Add organic matter to improve the nutritional status of the soil.
  • Use soil ameliorants   Lime, Gypsum, Sulphates, Clay Breaker.
  • Use crop rotations and correct cultivation.
  • Choose plant species which will give maximum benefit to your soil e.g. legumes.


Market gardeners, those working on cropping farms who need a broader understanding of soils, hobby farmers, all need to understand their soil and how the ways in which you treat them will not only influence the health of your soil but also the health of the crops you grow in them. This course is a great way to gain that knowledge and peace of mind that you are helping rather than hindering soil health.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
ACS is a Preferred Member Training Provider with the Australian Institute of Horticulture. ACS students meeting AIH criteria can join AIH as a Category 2 student member.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

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We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

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Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Leading horticultural expert in Australia.
Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.
She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.
In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others.
Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing

Marie Beermann

Marie has more than 10 years experience in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M. Sc. Hort., Dip. Bus., Cert. Ldscp.

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