The University of Newcastle, Australia
Available in 2020

Course handbook


This fundamental practical course introduces students to a broad range of subject matter from four sub-disciplines of soil science that include Soil Physics, Soil Chemistry, Soil Biology and Soil Resources in Australia. Students study soil characteristics and seek to understand their relationship to soil function, land use, plant growth, and environmental quality and protection. This course introduces students to the physical, chemical, and biological properties and processes of soils, and relate these to the way soils are used for various ecosystem functions including agricultural production and mining. Students acquire a working knowledge of the technical terminology of soil science and begin developing observational skills needed to describe and identify soil properties for specific locations and to interpret those properties for various land use practices. This course is suitable for undergraduate students majoring in environmental, earth science and agricultural sciences.

Availability2020 Course Timetables


  • Semester 2 - 2020

Replacing course(s)

This course replaces the following course(s): GEOS2070. Students who have successfully completed GEOS2070 are not eligible to enrol in GEOS2060.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. appreciate and understand the physical properties of soil

2. understand why soils vary in their irrigation/drainage requirements for enhanced production

3. appreciate and understand the chemical properties of soil

4. appreciate and understand the organic component of soils

5. appreciate and understand the soil resources of Australia

6. understand how soil resource information is collected, and how to evaluate soils for various land use practices


The course consists of four modules:

  • Module 1  Soil Physical Processes:  soil components;  soil texture and structure;  development and importance of structure in soils;  pore size and surface area;  bulk density and macroporosity;  management of soil structure;  infiltration,  storage and transmission of water;  drainage;  irrigation.
  • Module 2 Soil Chemical Processes:  Soil nutrients, sources, supply and movement to roots; mineral and organic components of soils; source and development of surface charge; sources, measurement and treatment of soil acidity; cations and cation exchange; anions and anion exchange.
  • Module 3 Soil Resources of Australia: soils in the Australian landscape;  environmental factors of soil formation;  soil description;  soil maps and mapping;  soil forming processes;  the main Soil types/orders of Australia,  their distribution,  attributes and limitations;  soil selection and versatility.
  • Module 4  Soil Biology:  Importance and fractions of soil organic matter;  decomposition of organic matter,  humus formation and release of nutrients;  nitrogen fixation;  nitrogen cycle;  earthworms and soil fertility; mycorrhizal fungi.

Assumed knowledge

BIOL1002, GEOS1050 and ENVS1001

Assessment items

Project: Project/midterm test

Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: Lab practices and report

Formal Examination:

Compulsory Requirements

In order to pass this course, each student must complete ALL of the following compulsory requirements:

General Course Requirements:

  • Laboratory: There is a compulsory attendance requirement in this course. - WH&S requirements for laboratories.

Contact hours



Face to Face On Campus 3 hour(s) per Fortnight for Full Term starting in week 2


Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term starting in week 1


Face to Face On Campus 1 hour(s) per Week for Full Term starting in week 2