Nutrient management and soil fertility improvement

Aims

to provide an introduction to sustainable nutrient management and soil fertility improvement (NMSFI) to facilitate students to understand, create, adapt and develop knowledge and technologies in this area scientifically and site-specific to stimulate students to develop NMFSI further in economically viable and productive agricultural systems all oriented in the following relevant topics: the central role of soil organic matter (SOM)              nitrogen and phosphorus cycle and management in sustainable agricultural (SA) systems organic manures and alternative NP sources the role of animals and tree/crop/animal associations in SA  soil erosion prevention: soil tillage+cover cropping   visual assessment of soil quality

Prerequisites

Basic knowledge in Plant Nutrition, Agronomy and Crop Physiology

Learning Outcomes

  By the end of the component, the students are expected:   to analyze and interpret scientific results, figures and tables related to NMSFI to handle tools and strategies of NMSFI to apply site-specific strategies of NMSFI

Syllabus

Definition and concept of soil fertility. Importance of soil fertility improvement and conservation in the light of climate change. Maintenance of soil's capacity to supply the nutritional needs of plants: nutrient dynamics in soil and nutrient demand of crops, the problem of synchronization, main losses and environmental impacts. Measuring and assessing soil fertility characteristics: analytical methods, empirical methods (visual soil assessment). Organic matter: definition, new concepts, central role in soil fertility conservation and mitigation of GHG emissions from agriculture. Input and output of organic matter in agroecosystems: the organic matter budget. Overview on organic fertilizers available in different farm types and their effects on soils and crops: commercial organic fertilizers, farmyard manure, slurry, liquid manure, manure compost, etc. Strategies for an integrated management of soil fertility and crop nutrition: cover crops and green manures, legume crops, intercropping, agroforestry etc. Examples from case studies.

Content Delivery

  This course is based on:   lecture input by the lecturer discussion of examples with the students on-site teamwork exercises/trainings (also with mobile apps) in-room exercise on pc  wrap-up group discussion in the final day for consolidation of knowledge and facilitation of the preparation for the final exam. 

Coursework And Assignment Details

  The coursework of this unit involves a combination of the following:   Listening to the lecture assimilating the contents (70%) On-site and in-room exercises (10%) On-site and in-room discussion/deepening the knowledge (20%)   Before and during the course, students will be given a selection of teaching material (weblinks, PDF of scientific papers and reports) aimed to make them gradually acquire confidence with new concepts and place them in the broader context of agricultural sustainability. Students will also receive a PDF version of lectures. Students will be actively engaged in individual homework, teamwork and group discussion, aimed to fix concepts and stimulate critical reflection. In-room exercise on organic matter balance based on a case study will be set up and performed on students’ PCs. A field activity will be organised with the aims to show a practical example of soil fertility management and also to demonstrate an empirical soil assessment method (i.e., the spade test) with the support of a mobile application. All these activities will be guided by the lecturer. The evaluation of this course will be based on individual oral interview.