131-7 Today's Students, Tomorrow's Land Managers and Policy Makers: Teaching Sustainable Soil Management by Integrating Chemical, Physical and Biological Considerations In Theory and Practice.

See more from this Division: S05 Pedology
See more from this Session: Innovations In Soil Science Education: I
Monday, October 17, 2011: 10:15 AM
Henry Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 206B
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Bianca Moebius-Clune1, Harold van Es2, Robert Schindelbeck3, Frederick Magdoff4, Janice Thies2 and Johannes Lehmann5, (1)1001 Bradfield Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
(2)Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
(3)1004 Bradfield Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
(4)Hills Bldg. Carrigan Dr., University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
(5)909 Bradfield Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Human soil management and policy decisions hugely impact soils, and thus the sustainability of our agroecosystems as well as natural ecosystems. Over the next decades, management and policy decisions will largely be made by our younger generations – today’s college students and young farmers taking on the nation’s farms, agricultural support systems and governmental agencies. Universities must play a role in preparing these students to grapple with today’s agricultural and environmental challenges. Courses on classical soil fertility abound, and introductory classes on the broad field of sustainable agriculture are on the rise around the country. However, there are still relatively few classes that teach agriculture students the theory and practice of information-driven, holistic and adaptive soil quality management. Such courses are essential in fostering new generations to succeed in sustaining our agricultural soils through informed on-the-ground management and appropriate policy decisions. We have designed an upper level undergraduate class, titled “Soil Management for Sustainability.” Interactions between soil, water, organisms and chemical inputs form the basis of discussions about cropping systems, soil health, water quality and quantity, bioenergy, greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainability. Students apply concepts in groups through semester-long case studies. During the first part of the semester, students explore perspectives on the physical, chemical, and biological soil processes that control crop productivity and environmental quality. They take the role of laboratory technicians, measuring and interpreting the newly developed set of soil health indicators that make up the Cornell Soil Health Test for a local agricultural soil sample of as-of-yet unknown origin. In the latter part of the semester, students explore sustainable soil management options in the broader context of agroecosystems through hands-on laboratory activities, a field trip and interactive lectures. They become agricultural consultants, and use grower- and operation- information about their sample to design a sustainable soil management plan specific to the constraints they have identified for their field. Student feedback suggests that many feel ready to practically implement their newly gained knowledge and skills from this class in their future occupation.
See more from this Division: S05 Pedology
See more from this Session: Innovations In Soil Science Education: I
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