Principles of Soil Science

An integrated introductory course in soil science. An exploration of the interaction between soil and the environment, soil formation and morphology, soil physical, chemical, and biological properties and their influence on soil management, nutrient cycling, and soil-plant interactions.

Course code

Qualifications are made up of courses. Some universities call these papers. Each course is numbered using six digits.



The fourth number of the course code shows the level of the course. For example, in course 219206, the fourth number is a 2, so it is a 200-level course (usually studied in the second year of full-time study).



Each course is worth a number of credits. You combine courses (credits) to meet the total number of credits needed for your qualification.



Soil Science

Course planning information

Expected prior learning

Students should ideally have acquired achievement standards in NCEA level 2 chemistry and maths prior to enrolling. If you are unsure of your maths capability try the online quizzes here: basic numeracy quiz.

Prerequisite courses

Complete first

You need to complete the above course or courses before moving onto this one.

Learning outcomes

What you will learn. Knowledge, skills and attitudes you’ll be able to show as a result of successfully finishing this course.

  • 1 Explain the physical properties of soils that affect energy, air, and water movement and the availability of water to plants and apply this knowledge to soil management.
  • 2 Describe the processes of soil formation, the association of specific soil types with different landscape units, the significance of soil morphological features, and the interpretation of soil maps.
  • 3 Explain the principles of soil chemistry with special attention to the development of surface charge, nutrient retention on soil surfaces, and plant mechanisms of nutrient uptake.
  • 4 Describe the dynamic nature of soil biology, including soil as habitat, factors that regulate soil organic decomposition and protection, nutrient cycling, and plant-microbe interactions and apply these concepts to soil management.
  • 5 Compare and contrast the attributes and limitations of common New Zealand soil orders and different cultural perspectives (including Māori) on soil management.
  • 6 Apply knowledge of soil science to investigate aspects of soil management in New Zealand and communicate the results in written format.

Learning outcomes can change before the start of the semester you are studying the course in.


Assessment Learning outcomes assessed Weighting
Test 1 5 6 15%
Test 1 3 5 6 25%
Test 1 3 4 5 6 30%
Portfolio 1 2 3 4 5 6 30%

Assessment weightings can change up to the start of the semester the course is delivered in.

You may need to take more assessments depending on where, how, and when you choose to take this course.

Explanation of assessment types

Computer programmes
Computer animation and screening, design, programming, models and other computer work.
Creative compositions
Animations, films, models, textiles, websites, and other compositions.
Exam College or GRS-based (not centrally scheduled)
An exam scheduled by a college or the Graduate Research School (GRS). The exam could be online, oral, field, practical skills, written exams or another format.
Exam (centrally scheduled)
An exam scheduled by Assessment Services (centrally) – you’ll usually be told when and where the exam is through the student portal.
Oral or performance or presentation
Debates, demonstrations, exhibitions, interviews, oral proposals, role play, speech and other performances or presentations.
You may be assessed on your participation in activities such as online fora, laboratories, debates, tutorials, exercises, seminars, and so on.
Creative, learning, online, narrative, photographic, written, and other portfolios.
Practical or placement
Field trips, field work, placements, seminars, workshops, voluntary work, and other activities.
Technology-based or experience-based simulations.
Laboratory, online, multi-choice, short answer, spoken, and other tests – arranged by the school.
Written assignment
Essays, group or individual projects, proposals, reports, reviews, writing exercises, and other written assignments.

Textbooks needed

Textbooks can change. We recommend you wait until at least seven weeks before the semester starts to buy your textbooks.

Highly recommended


Oxford University Press, Auckland

Campus Books stock textbooks and legislation. Current second-hand textbooks are also bought and sold. For more information visit Campus Books.