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. 

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
    • Rhizometer
    • 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
    • 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.

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 Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).

ACS is an organisational member of the Future Farmers Network.

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.

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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.

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Course Contributors

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


Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Maria Schmitz Fontes

Maria has extensive experience in Environmental Science working in the private and public sectors. She has 6 years of experience teaching graduate and post-graduate students subjects as Marine Pollution, Microbial Ecology, Geochemistry, Oceanography, Methods in Aquatic Science and Benthic Ecology. She has published over 20 scientific articles and book chapters. She has also coordinated an innovative project in bioenergy production using simple-cheap methods to isolate microbes in laboratory. She has collaborated with scientists of Climate Change Cluster Group from University of Technology Sydney and has current interests in areas such as: sustainability and clean energy.

Cheryl McLardy

Cheryl has spent two decades working in agriculture and equine industries, across England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. Formerly: Sports Horse Stud Groom, Stable Manager, Yard Manager, Equine industrial Training Manager, FE Distance Learning Manager at Warwickshire College

Julia Mayo-Ramsay

Dr Julia Mayo-Ramsay is a practicing environmental and agricultural lawyer. She holds a PhD in International Environmental Law, LLM, BLJS, GDLP, LLM (Environmental Law) and a Master of Applied Science (Agriculture).
Julia started out in agriculture working on various dairy farms in the 1980s before working as dairy manager / tutor at Hawkesbury Agricultural College Richmond NSW. Julia then went on to work at Riverina Artificial Breeders at Tabletop (Albury) NSW as an embryo transfer technician assisting vets with artificial breeding and embryo transfer in cattle, sheep and deer. This was followed by two years as a herd manager for a very large commercial dairy herd milking 3,000 cows over three dairies on the outskirts of Sydney before heading overseas. In 1994 Julia accepted a position in NE Thailand at the Sakhon Nakhon Institute of Technology (now a University) training farmers and students in cattle breeding and dairy farm management. On returning to Australia in late 1996 Julia completed a Master of Applied Science in Agriculture at Hawkesbury Agricultural College (UWS) as well as law degrees and maritime studies. Julia now works as a Lawyer in the area of environmental and rural law.
Currently Julia teaches a variety of maritime subjects for Marine Rescue NSW.
As well as teaching Julia is working on a number of environmental research projects.

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