sustainable soil and crop management



Note: if you don’t have the prerequisites to take this class, please ask permission from the instructor.

Instructor: Dr. Masoud Hashemi, Extension Professor


Description: Sustainable soil and crop management implies successful management of resources for production agriculture to satisfy the changing human needs while maintaining or enhancing the quality of the environment and conserving natural resources. The focus of this course is to familiarize students with the soil health concept and the role of soil biology in performing various soil functions. Students will learn about farming practices that are important to the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity and sustainability of soils in food and feed production. Special focus of the course is to explore the benefits from cover crops in enhancing sustainability and resiliency of agriculture in our changing climate.

Lecture Topics:

A) Introduction to sustainable soil management

Impact of soils on our daily life.

B) Soil health:

a) Definition and criteria

b) Soil health components

c) Farming management practices that harms soil health

d) Carbon farming e) Soil organic matter d) Citizens of soils; communication between plant roots and soil microorganisms

C) Management strategies to increase soil organic carbon

a) Manure, compost, biochar, hydrochar, other biosolids

– Advantages and disadvantages of biosolides

– Nutrient content of biosolids and their availability

b) Cover crops

– Definition and agroecological benefits

– Decomposition of cover crop residues

– Factors affecting decomposition of cover crops residue

– Selecting the right cover crop

– Inter-seeding cover crops into standing crops

– Mixed vs monoculture cover crops

– Multi-purpose cover crops

– Timing and methods of terminating cover crops

c) Transitioning from conventional to minimum/no-till systems

D) Sustainable Crop Management Practices a) Crop rotation b) Inter-cropping c) Integrated cropping systems d) Nutrient management

Quizzes and Exams:

a) Quizzes: There will be a weekly quiz.

b) Mid-term Exam: There will be one mid-term exam. The exam covers lectures from the beginning to the end of management strategies to increase soil organic carbon.

c) Final Exam: There will be no final exam.


1) 11 quizzes: (6 points each) 66% of the final grade.

2) Mid-term exam: 34% of the final grade.


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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