EARTH502-19A (HAM)

Land and Soil Evaluation

15 Points

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Division of Health Engineering Computing & Science
School of Science


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Paper Description

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Land and Soil: Resources and Risks

Several land-use related themes are examined and integrated to help provide students with a better understanding of the issues involved with land use and especially its intensification in the Waikato region. Firstly, we show how farm-scale soil mapping and the use of Land Use Capability Handbook (3rd ed) for farm-scale land evaluation can aid decision making by land managers to help reduce or mitigate the environmental risks associated with particular land uses in ‘realworld’ soilscapes. Secondly, the concept of soil quality is examined with reference to the “500 Soils” project and recent developments regarding soil quality and soil health taking cognisance of concepts of soil as natural capital and its role in providing ecosystem services. Thirdly, some of the environmental consequences, including land and soil degradation and contamination by non-desirable elements or compounds, of the use and management of land are examined.

The paper is in three sections: (1) farm-scale soil and LUC mapping (Tokanui Farm project), (2) soil quality, and (3) land and soil degradation and contamination.

Note in schedule the initials of staff involved:

David Lowe = DL

Tanya O'Neill = TO

Guest lecturers (to be confirmed):

Dr David Houlbrooke (AgResearch, Hamilton) = DH

Dr Bryan Stevenson = BS (Landcare Research)

Shane Dodunski = SD

Tokanui Farm:

Office contact: Denise Adams, ph [07] 870 5137 ext 7118)

Farm manager: Shane Dodunski, ph 027 222 1240

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Paper Structure

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The paper is in three sections: farm-scale soil and LUC mapping (Tokanui Farm project), (2) soil quality, and (3) land and soil degradation and contamination.

The paper is composed of lectures, field mapping exercises, an essay on soil quality, and one student oral seminar.

Participants in the course will normally meet during term times in room E2.01 on Wednesdays at 9-11 am (or as required/advised). As well as a one-day farm visit/workshop (Fri 8 Mar),students will undertake independent mapping on up to three days in March as a key requirement of the paper on Fridays (please see the schedule).

The paper is supported by learning resources accessed via Moodle

All assignments are essential.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • 1. Describe land evaluation and the different sorts of land evaluation undertaken in New Zealand with comment on their effectiveness and limitations
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 2. Explain with reference to examples how to go about undertaking a farm-scale soil survey
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  • 3. Explain with reference to examples how to go about a farm-scale LUC survey
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  • 4. Explain the rationale and purposes of large-scale soil- and LUC surveys, and their benefits for agricultural and other land uses from management and environmental viewpoints
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  • 5. Explain the management of farm dairy effluent (FDE) including the roles of soil properties and landscapes in its disposal/use as an irrigant
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  • 6. Explain soil quality in New Zealand, including reference to the “500 Soils” project and its development including impacts of farming on soil quality and their potential amelioration
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • 7. Explain the degradation and contamination of soils as a consequence of different uses and management of land, and implications
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  • 8. Communicate and present scientific and other data (e.g., regulatory information) effectively in oral and written form
    Linked to the following assessments:
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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 60:40. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 40% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 60:40 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 40% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Assignment 1 soil and LUC surveys Tokanui Farm
6 May 2019
5:00 PM
  • Hand-in: Faculty Information (FG Link)
2. Assignment 2 Essay on soil quality
15 Apr 2019
5:00 PM
  • Hand-in: Faculty Information (FG Link)
3. Assignment 3 Seminar on soil contamination/degradation
22 May 2019
10:00 AM
  • In Class: In Workshop
4. Exam
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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We will lend each student a copy of each of Hewitt (2010), Webb and Lilburne (2011), and the LUC Handbook by Lynn et al. (2009). These texts must be returned in good condition at the end of the paper. (Failure to do so could result in penalties.)

Lynn et al. (2009) is also available for purchase ($45) from the New Zealand Society of Soil Science via Isabelle Vanderkolk (administrator at AgResearch Grasslands, Palmerston North,, or it can be downloaded free from the Landcare Research website at A pdf version of the downloaded low-resolution version is available on Moodle as well as on the Landcare Research website.

A set of LRI map legends for the Waikato sheets will also be provided for the class. Papers on each of the topics will be provided in handouts for assignments and via Moodle.

Recommended reading

Büneman, E.K., Bongiorno, G., Bai, Z., Creamer, R.E., De Deyn, G. et al. (2018) Soil quality – a critical review. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 120, 105-125.

Dominati, E.; Mackay, A.; Bouma, J.; Green, S. 2016. An ecosystems approach to quantify soil performance for multiple outcomes: the future of land evaluation? Soil Science Society of America Journal 80, 438-449.

Hewitt, A.E. 2010. New Zealand Soil Classification 3rd ed. Landcare Research Science Series 1. Manaaki Whenua Press.133 pp.

Hewitt, A.E., Dominati, E., Webb, T., Cuthill, T. 2015. Soil natural capital quantification by the stock adequacy method. Geoderma 241-242, 107-114.

Janzen, H.H. and 7 others 2011. Global prospects rooted in soil science. Soil Science Society of America Journal 75, 1-8.

Lilburne L, Sparling G, Schipper L (2004) Soil quality monitoring in New Zealand: development of an interpretative framework. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment104, 535-544.

Lynn, I.H., Manderson, A.K., Page, M.J., Harmsworth, G.R., Eyles, G.O., Douglas, G.B., Mackay, A.D., Newsome, P.J.F. 2009. Land Use Capability Survey Handbook 3rd Edition. AgResearch Hamilton, Landcare Research, Lincoln, GNS Science, Lower Hutt. 163 pp.

Massey, C. (editor) 2017. No free lunch. Can New Zealand feed the world sustainably? The New Zealand Land and Food Annual, Massey University Press, Palmerston North/Albany. 284 pp.

Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ (2018). New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Our Land 2018. Retrievable from and

Pretty, J. 2018. Intensification for redesigned and sustainable agricultural systems. Science 362, eaav0294. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0294 (comprises 7-page article and a 1-page summary)

Sparling G, Schipper L (2004) Soil quality monitoring in New Zealand: trends and issues arising from a broad-scale survey. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 104, 545-552.

Sparling GP, Schipper LA, Bettjeman W, Hill R (2004) Soil quality monitoring in New Zealand: practical lessons from a 6-year trial. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 104, 523-534.

Taylor M, Cox N, Littler R, Drewry J (2017). Trends in soil quality monitoring data in the Waikato region 1995-2015. Waikato Regional Council Technical Report 2017/26. Retrievable from

Taylor M, Caldwell J, Sneath G. (2017). Current state and trend of cadmium levels in soil, freshwater and sediments across the Waikato region. In: Science and policy: nutrient management challenges for the next generation. (Eds L. D. Currie and M. J. Hedley). Occasional Report No. 30. Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. 11 pp.

Webb, T.H., Lilburne, L.R. 2011. Criteria for defining the soil family and soil sibling – the fourth and fifth categories of the New Zealand Soil Classification. 2nd edition. Landcare Research Science Series 3. 38 pp.

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Recommended Readings

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Further references will be provided during the paper for each topic.
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Online Support

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Online support will be provided via Moodle, which is accessible to all students who are enrolled in the paper.

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The paper involves around 9 lectures, a field day/workshop (Tokanui Farm) and subsequent independent mapping normally for 2 or 3 days on Tokanui Farm and associated write-up, preparation of an essay on soil quality, preparation and presentation of one oral seminar, and preparation for a final 3-hour exam. A 500-level 15 point paper in any of the science subjects offered by the University of Waikato typically involves less than ~30 hours of supervised study and it is assumed that up to ~120 hours will be spent in private study by an ‘average’ student. Students should allocate the ~120 hours approximately as 70% for course work and 30% for exam preparation.

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Linkages to Other Papers

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This paper is complementary to ENVSC503-19B 'Terrestrial Ecosystem-Atmosphere Exchange Processes'.

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Prerequisite papers: EARTH321 or EARTH322 or ERTH333 or ERTH334




Restricted papers: ERTH535

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