Introduction to Building Better Soils
4.2 (22 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
176 students enrolled

Introduction to Building Better Soils

Learn fundamental principles that guide soil health.
4.2 (22 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
176 students enrolled
Created by Mary Lucero
Last updated 7/2020
English [Auto]
Current price: $27.99 Original price: $39.99 Discount: 30% off
5 hours left at this price!
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This course includes
  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Understand the relationship between soil health, plant productivity, and nutrition.
  • Name the 5 soil components that make up a healthy soil.
  • Carry out qualitative, on site assessments of soil texture and structure.
  • Identify the 16 classic, and 18 contemporary mineral nutrients recognized as essential for plant health
  • Make practical decisions about when to run soil chemistry tests.
  • Understand why scarcity of a single nutrient may limit plant growth, even when other nutrients are abundant.
  • Reasons for measuring and managing soil cation exchange capacity (CEC) and pH
  • Why researchers are exploring soil redox chemistry as an indicator of soil health.
  • Basic interest in growing plants (farming, gardening, etc.) or building soil for environmental restoration.

Healthy soils are key to clean environments and nutrient dense food production. As such, healthy soils play key roles in the profitability of any farm, and the health and prosperity of any society.  

In this course, I will introduce basic principles about how soils work to clean the air and water around us, and to produce nutritious food. 

You will be shown the 5 key components of soil, and how each component influences overall soil health. 

You will learn how to assess soil texture, improve soil structure, and manage soil minerals, organic matter, and microbiology to ensure that soil quality and crop nutrition improve.

Who this course is for:
  • Farmers, Gardeners, and other Growers seeking to understand basic soil chemistry, biology, and health principles.
  • Farmers, Gardeners, and other Growers who want to optimize soil health in order to reduce the need for synthetic inputs.
  • Growers interested in maximizing production.
  • Students or entry level agricultural, horticultural, or natural resource professionals.
  • Science teachers seeking real life applications for basic soil ecology information.
Course content
Expand all 25 lectures 01:53:03
+ Introduction
2 lectures 04:56

This preview gives an overview of what to expect from the course.

Preview 02:21

This lesson provides a general overview of what we will cover in the course, why the content matters, and who can benefit from enrolling.

Preview 02:35
Remove a shovel full of soil from your preferred growing area and make observations of the soil quality. Is the soil hard to dig up? If so, what makes it difficult? Is it hard because a thick layer of roots gets in the way of your shovel? Is it rocky? Is it dry or is it moist? What color is
Examining Your Soil
6 questions
+ Soil Components
8 lectures 19:50

This section identifies the five principle components that make up soil.  While we often think of soil as an inanimate object, the definition of soil makes it clear that without live biota, soil does not exist. 

Five Components of Soil

This lesson highlights the mineral components of soil, and discusses tools and resources that can help you determine what minerals are in your soil. 

Recognizing Mineral Components

This lesson explains why air is a critical soil component.

Soil Air

This lesson covers the basics about soil water, and introduces the concept of water holding capacity.

Soil Water

This lesson defines soil organic matter and describes its role as food for microbes.

Soil Organic Matter

This section describes the living fraction of soil, emphasizing the importance of hosting a complete ecosystem.  All taxonomic kingdoms should be represented in a spoonful of soil.

Soil Biology: The Living Fraction
Read the article from Scientific American found in your resource tab, and answer the questions that follow.
Potential and Promises of Soil Microbes
3 questions

This lesson introduces the concept of soil texture as determined by particle size and feel.  The assignment will help you estimate the texture of your own soil by feel.

Soil Texture
This activity allows you to determine the texture of your own soil.
Estimating Soil Texture
3 questions
Building Soil Structure
+ Optimizing Availability of Mineral Nutrients
7 lectures 37:29

This lesson covers the eighteen mineral nutrients that have been identified as essential for plant growth.  

Eighteen Mineral Nutrients That Plants Require
Soil Chemistry Testing
Liebig's Law of the Minimum
Consequences of Ignoring Liebig's Law

In this section we explore the relationship between healthy farm soils and healthy populations, highlighting the impact that industrialization has had on human health and consumer understanding of what constitutes "good food."

Preview 06:40
Adding Mineral Nutrients to Your Soil

Learn what a biostimulant is, and how it differs from a so-called complete fertilizer. 

+ Organic Matter and the Living Fraction
2 lectures 14:57

Learn the pros and cons of manures, composts, cover crops, mulches, and other kinds of organic matter additions.

Building Soil Organic Matter

This lesson provides simple principles for increasing the diversity and abundance of naturally occurring soil microbes, and discusses situations in which added microbes could be advanatageous.

Building Soil Biology
+ Monitoring progress
1 lecture 03:28

Learn useful ways to assess soil health with and without laboratory analysis. 

Monitoring progress
+ Diving Deeper into Soil Chemical and Physical Properties
4 lectures 30:32

     Life in the soil depends on chemical reactions and related energy transfer.  In this I discuss the need to understand that chemistry, biology, and physics are all tightly coupled.  You can change the biology by changing the chemistry and physics of the soil.  You can also change the chemistry and physics of the soil by changing the biology. 

Introduction to Soil Chemistry

This video defines Cation Exchange Capacity, or CEC, a common parameter measured in soil testing labs.  Learn why CEC is important for determining how much nutrition (how many nutrient ions) you soil is capable of storing.   

Cation Exchange Capacity

Soil pH directly impacts the nutrient availability within your soil.  Here we define pH, describe the ideal pH range for most agricultural soils, and illustrate common nutrient deficiencies that can occur at high or low pH.

Soil pH

Just as cutting edge medical professionals are gaining new interest in cellular redox, soil health professionals are looking at redox in the soil.  Here we discuss why redox measurements in soil are intriguing and discuss how soil redox can influence plant health.

Soil Redox
+ Bonus Video
1 lecture 01:51

Look here for an overview of other classes I teach and where to go for more information.

Bonus Lecture