Soil Microbiome Management

Learn to manage soils better to improve and sustain the microbiome, in turn improving soil health and productivity.

Course Code: BSC310
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to manage soils better

  • improve and sustain the microbiome
  • improve soil health and productivity. 

There's so much more we are learning about the soil microbiome every year. There are still many questions to be answered before we can manage it as perfectly as we'd like, but passion and hard work is moving us into a better position every year. Here at ACS, we keep our finger on the pulse and keep updating and adding to this course. Studying this course will help you build your understanding and awareness of this all important and rapidly developing area of soil management.

Managing the soil microbiome can bring better outcomes in so many situations:

  • For achieving high productivity in all farming 
  • For production of healthy plant stock 
  • Gardens, Parks, Farms
  • Improve any landscape - urban, rural, natural, built environments 
  • Sustainable crop production and Pasture management 
  • Nursery potting soils


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of the Soil Microbiome
    • Nature of soil
    • Soil Structure & Texture
    • Soil Structure and Porosity
    • Soil Structure Research
    • Topsoil Thickness
    • Nutrient Components
    • Carbon and Nutrient Content
    • Carbon Retention
    • Nitrogen
    • Phosphorus
    • Sulphur
    • Other Important Indicators of Soil Health
    • Acidity (pH)
    • Salinity
    • Environmental Factors Affecting Soil Health
    • Drought
    • Frost
    • Erosion
    • Water Retention
    • Nature of soil Microbes
    • Bacteria
    • Archaea
    • Viruses
    • Fungi
    • Protozoa
    • Scope of the Soil Microbiome
    • Plant-Microbe Relationships
    • Microbe Interrelationships
    • Changes to the Soil Microbiome
    • Key Definitions and Concepts for Understanding Soil
  2. Evaluating the Soil Microbiome Status
    • Measurement vs. Monitoring in Soil Biology
    • Things the Soil Microbiome can Help Measure or Monitor
    • Types of Soil Biological Testing and Analysis
    • Deciding on the Right Type of Test
    • Overview of Different Testing Types
    • Cotton Strip Assay
    • Microbial Activity Using Basal Carbon Dioxide Respiration
    • Microbial Biomass
    • Identification Through Culturing
    • Potentially Mineralisable Nitrogen
    • Biolog Plates
    • Microarrays
    • Community Profiling
    • More Advanced Approaches to the Microbiome: Omics
    • Transcriptomics
    • 16S rRNA
    • PCR
    • Bioinformatics
  3. Man’s impact on Microbiome
    • Human Impact on Microbiomes
    • Land Development and Urbanisation
    • Changes in Land Use and Microbial Communities
    • Problems with land development on soils
    • Climate Change
    • Pollution
    • Air Pollution
    • Deposition
    • Precipitation
    • Erosion
    • Microplastics
    • Anti-microbials
    • Antibiotic Resistance
    • Monocultures
  4. Soil Substrates and Additives
    • Soil Substrates
    • Inorganic Substrate Materials
    • Perlite
    • Vermiculite
    • Sand
    • Rockwool
    • Organic Substrate Materials
    • Peat
    • Coir
    • Bark
    • Soilless Substrates and Microbes
    • Substrate Technology
    • Substrate Engineering
    • Substrate Evaluation
    • Novel Technologies used in Substrate Management
    • Tomography
    • Rhizometrics
    • Mini- Horhizotron
    • Rheometer
    • Organic Additives
    • Manures
    • Compost
    • Fungal Additives
  5. Conventional vs Organic soil management
    • Conventional vs Organic Soil Management practices
    • Conventional Practices
    • Soil Carbon Modelling
    • Organic Practices
    • Composting
    • Crop Rotations
    • Cover Crops
    • No Tillage Farming
    • Organic Pest & Disease Control
    • Weed Control
    • Rotational Grazing
    • Livestock Management
    • Biodynamics
    • Biodynamic preparations/sprays
  6. Soil Fertility Management
    • Soil Management Strategies
    • Soil Organic Matter
    • Cover Crops
    • Cocktail Cover Crop
    • Legume Crops
    • Longer Crop Rotations
    • Reduced Tillage
    • Planting Trees
    • ORGANIC Additives
    • Soil Humus
    • Building Soil Humus
    • Humates
    • Composting
    • Animal Manures
    • Microbial Inoculants & MICROORGANISMS
    • Use of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) Inoculants
    • Specific Inoculums
    • Protozoa Tea
    • Earthworms
    • Gypsum
    • Lime
  7. Plant Interactions with the Soil Microbiome
    • Soil Organisms
    • Function of Plant Microbiome
    • Effect of Non-native Species
    • Soil Microbiome and Plants
    • Plant-Soil Feedback
    • Plant-Microbe Associations
    • Examples of Plant-Microbe Associations with Plant Families & Species
    • Effects of Different Microbes
    • Other Associations
    • Cover Crops & Grapevines
    • Crop Rotations & Microbiomes
    • Types of Cover Crops & Microbiomes
  8. Pest & Disease Interaction with Soil Microbiome
    • Biopesticides
    • Advantages of Biopesticides
    • Biological Control Agents
    • Microbial Pesticides
    • Advantages of Microbial Insecticides
    • Entomopathogenic Fungi
    • Protozoa
    • Bacteria
    • Engineering Microbial Inoculants to Suppress Disease
  9. Soil Regeneration Practices
    • Restoring the Soil Microbiome
    • Practical Methods Which Benefit the Soil Microbiome
    • Reducing soil disturbance
    • No tillage (Zero Tillage)
    • Advantages of no till farming
    • Controlled Traffic Farming
    • Advantages of Controlled Traffic Farming
    • Increasing crop diversity & organic matter
    • Alley Farming
    • Cover Crops
    • Mulching & Composting
    • Biochar
    • Increasing soil microbes
    • Microbial Inoculation
    • Plant Breeding and Microbiome Engineering

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.


  • Describe different ways of identifying and monitoring components of a soil microbiome.
  • Explain a range of human impacts on soil microbiomes.
  • Compare different soil substrates and additives in different soil environments.
  • Compare conventional soil management with organic soil management methods.
  • Describe methods of managing soil fertility with consideration to the soil microbiome.
  • Describe how plants interact with their microbiome in a variety of different situations.
  • Explain different ways that pathogens and pest organisms interact with the soil microbiome.
  • Determine appropriate soil regeneration strategies to boost the soil microbiome.

This course may lead to: 

  • Work in plant and crop production 
  • Soil science career or study pathways  
  • Work in a production system or environment 
  • Conservation and land management roles 
  • Careers in forestry or mining
  • Managing soils in landscape design or in waste management
  • Preparing papers or writing on soil management 

Examples of jobs using soil science! 

  • Agricultural or Crop Consultant
  • Landscaper
  • Farmer
  • On-site land evaluation
  • Soil scientist
  • Research technician
  • Town planner
  • Crop production specialist
  • Research scientist
  • Wetland specialist
  • Watershed or drainage basin technician
  • Hydrologist
  • Environmental technician
  • Soil and water quality specialist
  • Conservationist

Land management has increasingly focused on how physical and chemical characteristics are affected by a complex community of largely unseen organisms that live within the soil. The more we learn and understand, the more we seem to recognise the importance of soil microbiome management. This has meant people need to develop holistic approach to the health of a soil, and therefore the health of the plants which grow in it. 

ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
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.
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 Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112
UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

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
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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.

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

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More information is here

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