AGRO 860: Soil Microbial Ecology

Instructor(s): Rhae Drijber

Number of Credit Hours: 3

Cross-listings: PLAS 460, BIOS 460, NRES 460, SOIL 460, AGRO 860, BIOS 860

Prerequisites: Senior standing. Recommend having a strong science background, including courses from the agronomic, environmental, microbiology, engineering or medicine disciplines.

Description: Soil from a microbe's perspective-growth, activity and survival strategies; principles governing methods to study microorganisms and biochemical processes in soil; mechanisms controlling organic matter cycling and stabilization with reference to C, N, S, and P; microbial interactions with plants and animals; and agronomic and environmental applications of soil microorganisms.

Learning Outcomes/Course Objectives:

  1. Understand key factors of soil that shape microbial habitats.
  2. Discuss the relative importance of both abiotic and biotic controls governing the distribution, activity and survival of microorganisms in the soil environment.
  3. Outline the major pathways by which prokaryotes obtain cell carbon, reducing power and energy, and how these pathways have allowed microorganisms to exploit various niches in soils.
  4. Sketch the biogeochemical cycles of C and N (and P) highlighting key microbial processes and their abiotic and biotic controls.
  5. Understand the process of plant residue decomposition, the enzymes involved and the role of the microbial biomass as a source/sink for plant nutrients.
  6. Discuss the role of soil fauna in fostering decomposition and in regulating mineralization of nutrients from the biomass.
  7. Discuss the continuum of microbe-plant interactions in soils and mechanisms for plant growth promotion or biological control.
  8. Apply knowledge of soil microbial ecology to agronomic and environmental issues including cropping systems, biodiversity, waste utilization and bioremediation.