Soil Fertility


January 22 – May 1, 2019   Online

Instructor: Allen V. Barker


Phone: (413) 545‑4733      Email:


Description of course:  The course is an introduction to scientific principles and management of soil fertility. Students in this course will study material provided in 10 topics that correspond to instruction in the Spring 2019 Semester for a total of 13 weeks. The material for all topics are in the online textbook that is available in the Welcome Section and in the Weekly/Unit Content if the Blackboard system. A total of 10 tests with equal value will be taken as students progress through the course. The quizzes are based on readings that are in the online textbook. Students can take the quizzes at their own paces and in any order. All tests must be completed by the end of the Spring 2019 Semester when reporting of grades is due (May 14, 2019). The Students also will participate in a Discussion Forum that will include topics of general issues in soil fertility and on topics that are not necessarily in the textbook. Students are expected to participate in the discussions for an average of twice per week by making entries into the Discussion Forum. Discussion topics will be available in the course structure online. Students do not need to participate in all topics but must participate 26 times. The first two topics in the Discussion Forum were provided by Continuing Education and were left in the list and are valid for participation as are all topics in the list

The content and workload of the course is identical to the resident course in soil fertility at the University of Massachusetts. 

Topics (from the online textbook):

  1. Introduction and factors of soil fertility
  2. Crop growth and factors affecting it
  3. Acid soil infertility
  4. Liming
  5. Modeling of crop growth
  6. Soil testing and plant analysis
  7. Cropping systems and soil fertility
  8. Tillage
  9. Livestock and soil fertility

Grading: Quizzes 90% & Discussion 10%

Textbooks: A textbook for the course is available online. The textbook includes all of the topics of the course and is written so that it is the text of lectures that would be given in a classroom presentation. The tests for the course are prepared from the textbook that is online. The textbook can be printed for a permanent copy.

Recommended: This book cited below is much more extensive in coverage of soil fertility than the online version that accompanies the course and may be useful to support the understanding of topics of soil fertility. This textbook has a lot more illustrations and written text than the online book. All tests are based on the information in the online book but the following textbook may be useful for obtaining additional information on the topics of the course or for a reference in the future. This book is not required to complete the course.

Havlin, J.L., J.D. Beaton, S.L. Tisdale, and W.L. Nelson. 2013. Soil Fertility and Fertilizers. Eighth Edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, or any edition of this book.


This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree.  Online classes cost $482/credit.

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.

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