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Introduction to Soil Science
APBI 200 teaching team (2020)
Course Info
Instructors: Dr. Maja Krzic; Dr. Sandra Brown
Office: MCML 227 (Maja); MCML 229 (Sandra)
Instructors' Office Hr: Wed 12-1 pm
Classroom: MCML 166
Lab: MCML 102A
TAs: TA Info
' PASS Info
Syllabus: | Syllabus
Course Material
Lecture Notes Lab Manual
Problem Sets Exams
Lab Assign. My Grades
Bonus Assign.
Course Discussion


APBI 200 Syllabus 2023

Course Overview

The objective of this course is to give you a fundamental knowledge of soil science. If you are a student interested in agricultural, forest, rangeland, wetland, or constructed ecosystems, a basic understanding of soils is essential for you. The soil provides an ideal system in which to observe practical applications for basic principals of biology, chemistry, and physics. In turn, these principles can be used to minimize the degradation of soil as one of our fundamental natural resources.

Learning objectives for this course are:

  1. identify and characterize elementary aspects of soil formation,
  2. discuss basic soil physical, chemical, biological, and morphological properties,
  3. explain behaviour of soils in managed and natural landscapes, and
  4. identify 10 soil orders in the Canadian Soil Classification System.

Recommended Textbook and Study Materials

  1. Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2010. Elements of the nature and properties of soils (3rd ed.). Pearson Education (Prentice Hall), Upper Saddle River, NJ. 624 pp.
  2. Krzic, M., K. Wiseman, L. Dampier, S. Grand, J. Wilson and D. Gaumont-Guay. 2013. SoilWeb200: An Online Educational Tool for the APBI 200 course - Introduction to Soil Science. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver. (


Mid-term Exams (Mar 1, 2023) 15%
Laboratory Assignments * 55%
Final Exam 30%

* Up to 3 bonus assignments can be submitted by each student for up to 6% bonus of the lab assignments mark (for more info see

All assignments should be handed in on time and a 10% mark subtraction will be made for each day being late. Assignments submitted passed day 4 will not be accepted.

Note for auditors - For Auditor status to be entered on the transcript you will have to attend at least 75% of the lectures and to submit problem sets and laboratory assignments.

Note about plagiarism - As a university student, you are expected to submit original work and give credit to other peoples' ideas; hence, plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you are unclear on the concept, please see

Academic Honesty – Academic honesty is a core value of scholarship. Cheating and plagiarism (including both presenting the work of others as your own and self-plagiarism) are serious academic offenses that are taken very seriously at UBC. By registering for courses at UBC, students have initiated a contract with the University that they will abide by the rules of the institution. It is the student’s responsibility to inform themselves of the University regulations. Definitions of Academic Misconduct can be found on the following website,54,111,959

If you are unsure of whether you are properly citing references, please ask your instructors for clarification before the assignment is submitted. Information about academic integrity

Schedule of Labs, Exams and Problem Sets

Date Date Week Lab Problem sets/Midterm exams
Jan. 6-10 1
13-17 2 Lab 1 - Campus field trip (weather permitting)
20-24 3 Lab 2 - Parent material
24 3 Problem Set #1 due
27-31 4 Lab 3 - Soil texture & bulk density
Feb. Feb 3-7 5 Lab 4 - Water retention
7 5 Midterm Exam #1
10-14 6
14 6 Problem Set #2 due
17-21 7 Reading Break - UBC Closed
24-28 8 Lab 5 - Soil chemistry
Mar 2-6 9 Lab 6 - Forest floor
Mar. 11-13 10
16 11 Midterm Exam #2
16-20 11
23-27 12 Lab 7 - Soil classification
27 12 Problem Set #3 due
30- Apr 3 13 Lab 8 - Soil description (field trip)
Apr. 6-8 14
8 14 Our last class

Course Overview


(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 1; SoilWeb200 Factors of Soil Formation)

  • Course objectives and organization
  • Soil definitions and viewpoints
  • Factors of soil formation; pedon; polypedon; soil horizons; solum; soil profile

Soil physics

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 4, 5, 7; SoilWeb200 Soil Components)

  • Soil phases; constituents; mass and volume relationships
  • Soil separates and texture classes
  • Particle mineralogy and its effects on physical properties (e.g. quartz, kaolinite, montmorillonite); origin and magnitude of permanent and pH-dependent charge (Brady&Weil Ch.8.1 to 8.6)
  • Inter-particle forces; flocculation and dispersion
  • Soil consistency; plastic and liquid limits; soil strength, puddling
  • Soil structure: formation, stabilization, classification and significance
  • Soil water: energy status, retention and flow. Potential components; matric potential and soil water tension; water retention characteristics and air entry value; water potential gradient; Darcy’s Law and hydraulic conductivity; “field capacity”; “permanent wilting point’, and “available water storage capacity” concepts and limitations
  • Soil thermal behavior: Fourier’s Law; soil thermal conductivity and heat capacity
  • Diffusion in porous media: Fick’s Law; diffusion coefficient
  • Soil aeration: convective and diffusive exchange; composition of soil air
  • Solute transport in soil: mass flow and diffusion; transport to roots; leaching; migration of ions in an electric field, diffuse double layer

Soil chemistry

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 8, 9; SoilWeb200 Soil Components, Interactions Among Soil Components)

  • Reversible reactions; mass action; equilibrium constant: a brief review
  • Soil pH and acidity; soil buffering capacity
  • Ion adsorption and exchange; ion exchange capacities; crystalline & amorphous clay colloids
  • Base-forming cations; exchangeable aluminum; hydroxyaluminum behavior and significance

Soil organic matter

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 11; SoilWeb200 Soil Organic Components.)

  • Soil organic matter: definition and roles it plays in soil
  • Some physical properties of organic layers
  • Components of soil organic matter; humic substances and their functional groups; chelates
  • Some chemical properties of soil organic matter; CEC; C and N conc.; significance of C/N ratio
  • Soil organic horizons

Soil biology and biochemistry

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 10, 12, 13; SoilWeb200 Soil Organisms, N Cycle, P Cycle, and S Cycle.)

  • Major groups of soil organisms and their roles
  • Microbial physiology in the soil environment: physico-chemical environment, nutrition, energy and metabolism, growth and reproduction
  • Biochemical transformations of N, S, and P in soils
  • Interactions of soil microbes with plant roots: rhizosphere; N-fixing root nodule symbioses; mycorrhizae

Soil as a source of plant nutrients (soil fertility)

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 13; SoilWeb200 Nutrient Cycles, and Soil Acidity.)

  • Nutrient transport to roots and nutrient uptake by roots
  • Nutrient elements and forms; non-nutrient elements taken up by roots
  • Processes affecting amount, forms and availability (to plants) of nutrients and toxic elements in soil
  • Regulation of soil pH

Weathering and soil formation; Soil classification and survey

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 2; SoilWeb200 Soil Classification, and Lab manual, labs # 4 and 7)

  • Parent material characteristics
  • Influence of the factors of soil formation; physical and chemical weathering, soil-forming processes
  • Classification concepts; technical and natural classifications; Canadian System of Soil Classification; horizons and horizon symbols; soil orders and great groups; subgroup designation; soil families and soil series
  • Forest humus forms: morphology, development, classification, and significance

Soil science in environmental management and problem-solving

(Reading: Brady & Weil, Ch. 14, 15; SoilWeb200 Soil Management.)

  • Soil erosion: overview of processes, prevention and control
  • Soils and waste management: nutrient cycling
  • Soils and land use conflicts at the urban-rural interference
  • Soils and forest management

Lecture Schedule

Click here to access the Lecture Notes page.