Chemistry and Sustainable Agriculture (Grade 11)

by Jessi Cardoso

This course explores the physical and chemical nature of soil as well as the relationships between soil, plants, animals and agricultural practices. Students will examine properties of soil and land, and their connections to plant and animal production. Using knowledge of scientific protocols, as well as course content, students will develop an Agriscience research program to be conducted throughout the first semester of the course.To complete that entire project each student will investigate and test an Agriscience research question by formulating a scientific question related to the course content, formulating a hypothesis based on related research, conducting an experiment to test the hypothesis, collecting quantitative data, and forming a conclusion based on analysis of the data. The result of this research program will be an in-depth research and experimentation paper that is technically written, based on scientific protocol, and cited using APA formatting. Additionally, students will develop and present a capstone soil management plan for agricultural producers, using the content learned throughout the course.

From CALPADS: Intermediate Agriscience (Concentrator)

This course is intended as the second in an Agriscience Pathway sequence. Common prerequisite course is Sustainable Agriculture Biology. Similar to topics found with Agriculture Chemistry. This course is a prerequisite for Advanced Interdisciplinary Science for Sustainable Agriculture.
High school courses in this pathway are designed to prepare student through dual enrollment or articulation for a Sustainable Agriscience pathway in post-secondary education.

Program Information
Course Certification Elements
Course Standards
California's 2013 CTE Standards (54)
Next Generation Science Standards (50)
California English Common Core Standards (2)
Course Competencies / Outcomes
  • Conduct laboratory or field experiments with plants, animals, insects, diseases and soils.
  • Check equipment to ensure that it is operating properly.
  • Erect signs or fences, using posthole diggers, shovels, or other hand tools.
  • Prune or shear tree tops or limbs to control growth, increase density, or improve shape.
  • Select or cut trees according to markings or sizes, types, or grades.
  • Select tree seedlings, prepare the ground, or plant the trees in reforestation areas, using manual planting tools.
  • Sort tree seedlings, discarding substandard seedlings, according to standard charts or verbal instructions.
  • Sow or harvest cover crops, such as alfalfa.
  • Spray or inject vegetation with insecticides to kill insects or to protect against disease or with herbicides to reduce competing vegetation.
  • Develop technical standards and specifications used to manage, protect and improve the natural resources of range lands and related grazing lands.
  • Communicate research or project results to other professionals or the public or teach related courses, seminars, or workshops.
  • Conduct experiments investigating how soil forms, changes, or interacts with land-based ecosystems or living organisms.
  • Conduct experiments to develop new or improved varieties of field crops, focusing on characteristics such as yield, quality, disease resistance, nutritional value, or adaptation to specific soils or climates.
  • Develop methods of conserving or managing soil that can be applied by farmers or forestry companies.
  • Develop ways of altering soils to suit different types of plants.
  • Identify degraded or contaminated soils and develop plans to improve their chemical, biological, or physical characteristics.
  • Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the effects of alternative practices on the environment.
  • Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the use capabilities of soils and the effects of alternative practices on soil productivity.
  • Investigate soil problems or poor water quality to determine sources and effects.
  • Perform chemical analyses of the microorganism content of soils to determine microbial reactions or chemical mineralogical relationships to plant growth.
  • Plan or supervise waste management programs for composting or farming.
  • Provide information or recommendations to farmers or other landowners regarding ways in which they can best use land, promote plant growth, or avoid or correct problems such as erosion.
  • Study soil characteristics to classify soils on the basis of factors such as geographic location, landscape position, or soil properties.
  • Study ways to improve agricultural sustainability, such as the use of new methods of composting.
  • Survey undisturbed or disturbed lands for classification, inventory, mapping, environmental impact assessments, environmental protection planning, conservation planning, or reclamation planning.
  • Advise land users, such as farmers or ranchers, on plans, problems, or alternative conservation solutions.
  • Analyze results of investigations to determine measures needed to maintain or restore proper soil management.
  • Apply principles of specialized fields of science, such as agronomy, soil science, forestry, or agriculture, to achieve conservation objectives.
  • Calculate or compare efficiencies associated with changing from low-precision irrigation technologies, such as furrow irrigation, to high-precision technologies, such as computer-controlled systems.
  • Develop water conservation or harvest plans, using weather information systems, irrigation information management systems, or other sources of daily evapotranspiration (ET) data.
  • Develop, conduct, or participate in surveys, studies, or investigations of various land uses to inform corrective action plans.
  • Gather information from geographic information systems (GIS) databases or applications to formulate land use recommendations.
  • Implement soil or water management techniques, such as nutrient management, erosion control, buffers, or filter strips, in accordance with conservation plans.
  • Visit areas affected by erosion problems to identify causes or determine solutions.
Course Work Based Learning Activities
  • Supervised Agriculture Experience projects
  • Guest speakers- Soil Scientists, Natural Resources Conservation Service, PCAs/ Crop Advisors, Waste Water Treatment Workers.


    • Consider video conferencing 
  • Job Shadowing/Mentoring with above careers
  • Field trips to waste water treatment, watersheds, farms with a PCA/CCA/ or soil scientist, soil pit
Course Materials

UCCI Agriculture and Soil Chemistry Resources:

Teaching Resources

Primary Materials:

  • Plant & Soil Science Fundamentals and Applications. Rick Parker. Delmar Cengage Learning.
  • Principles of Soil Chemistry. 4th edition. Kim Tan. CRC Press.

Supplemental Materials:

  • Agriscience Fundamentals and Applications. 6th Edition. L. DeVere Burton. Cengage Learning.
  • Environmental Science. 1st Edition. 2013. Michael Heithaus, Karen Arms. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt.
  • Environmental Science. 7th Edition. Bernard J. Nebel & Richard T. Wright. Prentice Hall.
  • Environmental Science .10th Edition. G. Tyler Miller, Jr. Chapters 9, 13 & 14.
  • Environmental Science and Technology. Second Edition. Agriscience & Technology. Chapters 10, 13, 14 & 15.
  • Environmental Science Fundamentals and Applications. Delmar Cengage Learning. Chapters 1-3; 5 & 6.
  • How to Write a Scientific Paper by Robert A. Day.
  • National FFA Agriscience Fair Handbook https://www.ffa.org/documents/agsci_handbook.pdf
  • National FFA Research Report Template https://www.ffa.org/programs/awards/agrisciencefair/Pages/default.aspx
  • The Science of Agriculture A Biological Approach. 2nd Edition. Ray V. Herren. Delmar Thomson Learning.

Unit 1-Assignment 1:

http://www.todayshomeowner.com/diy-soil-texture-test-for-your-yard/

Unit 3- Assignment 2:

https://www.lcmm.org/education/resource/on-water-ecology/worksheet-water-quality-testing.pdf

Unit 4 Assignment 1

http://www.cfaitc.org/lessonplans/pdf/403.pdf

http://www.cfaitc.org/lessonplans/pdf/404.pdf

Unit 5 Assignment 1

http://www.sites.ext.vt.edu/newsletter-archive/livestock/aps-06_04/aps-313.html

Course Units (180 hour course)

Unit 1 Agriscience Practices

Unit Length (Hours):  20 hours (See pacing guide)

Unit Description:

This introductory unit will focus on proper methods of agriscience inquiry. Through a series of mini-lab experiences based on the course content, students will learn to ask questions and define problems, conduct research to form a hypothesis, determine the experimental design and conduct experimentation, analyze and interpret data, develop conclusions and then communicate their findings in lab reports. Not only will the students learn to utilize proper scientific method protocol through conducting these mini-labs, they will also learn what topics will be taught throughout the year in order to guide them in selecting the problem/question for their individual Agriscience Project. Through these mini-lab experiences and unit content, students will be provided with the skills and knowledge to successfully establish the idea they will pursue in their Agriscience Project. By the end of this unit, students will complete the Agriscience Project Research Proposal for their on-going science experiment that will be conducted throughout the first semester of the course.

  • ASC1.1. Soil Structure and Composition Mini-Lab - Calgon Testing
  • ASC1.2.Water and Soil Management Mini-Lab - Water Percolation
  • ASC1.3. Plant and Soil Management Mini-Lab - Nutrient Uptake
  • ASC1.4. Animal and Soil Management Mini-Lab - Animal Manure Amendment
  • ASC1.5. Technology Mini-Lab - Soil Moisture Testing

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Conduct laboratory or field experiments with plants, animals, insects, diseases and soils.
  • Check equipment to ensure that it is operating properly.
  • Conduct experiments investigating how soil forms, changes, or interacts with land-based ecosystems or living organisms.

Unit Assessment

Agriscience Research Project Proposal

Unit 2 Nature of Soils

Unit Length (Hours):  35 hours (See pacing guide)

Unit Description:

Students will use the methods of scientific inquiry, developed in the previous unit, to investigate the composition of the physical world, and discover how matter and energy change forms through biogeochemical cycles. Students will understand where soil originates by investigating the role of the rock cycle in soil formation. Students will learn how the electron configurations of different elements, present in the parent material, give them unique physical and chemical properties, and will further investigate how these properties impact soil characteristics. Students will identify how the climate, weather, and environment impact the soil properties, and will examine the role erosion plays in soil science. Students will collect soil samples from a variety of sources, and will use industry methods to determine the chemical composition of the soil and how this composition affects its physical and chemical characteristics. Students will connect to prior knowledge of life science by looking at how biotic factors impact soil type, composition and texture through investigation and experimentation. Students will use the results of their soil testing and the locations from which they took their samples to create a soil map of their local area. Students will compare their map to existing soil maps and analyses, and analyze the similarities and differences with the previous research.

  • ASC2.1. Sedimentary Rock Lab Rocks cover the Earth's surface and are the basic building blocks of the soil. This unit includes four lessons covering the types of rocks, the rock cycle, the breakdown of sedimentary rock, and the basic formation of soil. Student Objectives included in this unit:*Visually identify a sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock. *Describe the process that forms an igneous rock, a metamorphic rock, and a sedimentary rock. *Describe six properties of minerals that can be tested. *Identify ten common minerals found in the rock cycle. *Describe two differences between detrital sedimentary rocks and chemical sedimentary rocks. *Demonstrate the rock cycle using model mineral sediments. *Define physical weathering, erosion, and chemical weathering. *Define element and compound; and give an example of each. *Compare and contrast physical weathering and chemical weathering. *Develop a class demonstration for the chemical or physical weathering of sedimentary rock.
  • ASC2.2. Collect and Test Soil Samples: Physical Properties Farmers rely on healthy nutrient rich soil to efficiently grow the raw commodities necessary to feed our World's population. The physical properties of soil directly influence the chemical properties and changes that can occur in the soil. At the completion of this unit students will create atomic models of common elements found in soil, including electron configuration, and participate in a gallery walk.
  • ASC2.3. Background Scholarly Research and Forming a Hypothesis
  • ASC2.4. Test Soil Samples: Chemical Properties Essential Question: How can soil fertility be impacted by the physical and chemical properties of soil? This project exposes students to the physical and chemical properties that impact soil fertility. Students learn the importance of plant nutrients and basic signs of nutrient deficiencies. Students investigate the role of the atom in plant production, by gaining knowledge in ions and their role in cation exchange capacity and subsequent impact on nutrient availability in soil. At the conclusion of this project students will be able to evaluate soil samples in various ways to predict soil fertility. Students will be able to propose strategies to increase soil fertility, and will actually have the opportunity to increase the fertility of a soil sample. Students will report their findings to the class through a slides presentation.
  • ASC2.5. Experimental Design and Conducting Experimentation
  • ASC2.6. Creating Soil Maps
  • ASC2.7. Soil Management Project

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Perform chemical analyses of the microorganism content of soils to determine microbial reactions or chemical mineralogical relationships to plant growth.
  • Provide information or recommendations to farmers or other landowners regarding ways in which they can best use land, promote plant growth, or avoid or correct problems such as erosion.
  • Study soil characteristics to classify soils on the basis of factors such as geographic location, landscape position, or soil properties.

Unit Assessment

Soil Management Project

Unit 3 Water and Soil Management

Unit Length (Hours): 40 hours (See pacing guide)

Unit Description:

Using knowledge accessed from previous units on the physical and chemical properties of soil, students will analyze how the water cycle impacts soil based on its soil type (sand, silt, clay) soil location (geographic and topographic), vegetative state and natural slope of land. In order to understand how water becomes available for plant growth, students will explain the movement of water through soil with respect to how intermolecular forces impact percolation, capillary action, pore size, cohesion and adhesion. Furthermore, students will address how the concentration of organic matter in soil impacts the movement of water. Students will explain the impact that soil has on the quality of their water and will use water analysis tests to determine the safe and appropriate levels for potable water. Students will also be able to provide solutions to possible contaminations and/or toxic levels of residues/nutrients in the water samples. Students will determine how different irrigation, tillage and planting practices will impact the soil and surrounding area by testing water quality, pH and checking for possible contaminants due to leaching. Students will determine proper and efficient irrigation practices based on the chemistry behind the soil and the way water moves through the soil particles. Students will use GPS to enable them to more accurately analyze watersheds in their area and rationalize how the drought can impact both water quality and quantity as well as soil composition.

  • ASC3.1. Soil Erosion and Runoff Lab
  • ASC3.2.Water Quality Testing Students will investigate the water in their community, while learning about how water is formed, and where their water is found in the ground and above ground. Students will conduct experiments to determine what exactly is in their water within their community by doing a water analysis.
  • ASC3.3. Analyzing data, interpreting data and forming conclusions
  • ASC3.4.Tillage Practices and the Impact they have on Runoff, Erosion and Soil Chemistry Students will explore how chemical bonding, chemical reactions and chemical equilibrium are demonstrated through the relationship between tilled soil and water runoff. Students build upon their knowledge of atomic structure to explore the various forms of chemical bonding that takes place between atoms of different elements as well as the role of valence electrons. To deepen understanding of chemical interactions, students will investigate both the physical and chemical changes that take place during tillage. Specifically, students will evaluate specific tillage methods in relation to cation exchange capacity (CEC), soil structure, nutrient availability and plant health. The unit concludes with a student presentation recommending tillage protocols for a local agricultural producer.
  • ASC3.5. Ground Water Contamination and Aquifer Lab Students will demonstrate how aquifers filter different contaminants by constructing a model of an aquifer and testing how groundwater contamination occurs by using common agricultural contaminants. They will analyze two different types of aquifers and determine which type they would want to place a well into and why. Students will explain how the size of the pores affects the intermolecular interactions between contaminated water and the rock, and how this in turn impacts how well an aquifer can filter out contaminants. Students will examine how the pH of different solutions is directly affected by soil type and aquifer porosity. Students will model this by capturing water that comes through their aquifer model. Students will then determine the concentration of this type of solution through a standardized titration experiment. Once they have used their models as a means of understanding how easily groundwater can be contaminated, they will complete their conclusion and create a multimedia production in the form of a TED talk or Infomercial that educates their community on what agriculturists do and can do to improve water quality in their local area. They will present their productions to a panel of judges and the winners will have their video/multimedia presentation broadcast school-wide.
  • ASC3.6.Irrigation Practices in Agriculture This project helps students learn about different irrigation methods while integrating technology and team collaboration. Students will learn about the irrigation methods and apply this knowledge to the creation of a mobile app that enables them to share the knowledge they have learned electronically with anyone in industry.

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Students will explain the movement of water through soil with respect to how intermolecular forces impact percolation, capillary action, pore size, cohesion and adhesion. 
  • Students will address how the concentration of organic matter in soil impacts the movement of water.
  • Students will explain the impact that soil has on the quality of their water and will use water analysis tests to determine the safe and appropriate levels for potable water. 
  • Students will also be able to provide solutions to possible contamination and/or toxic levels of residues/nutrients in the water samples. 
  • Students will determine how different irrigation, tillage and planting practices will impact the soil and surrounding area by testing water quality, pH and checking for possible contaminants due to leaching. 
  • Students will determine proper and efficient irrigation practices based on the chemistry behind the soil and the way water moves through the soil particles. 
  • Students will use GPS to enable students to more accurately analyze watersheds in their area and rationalize how the drought can impact both water quality and quantity as well as soil composition.

Unit Assessment

Tillage Practices and Soil Chemistry PBL project

Unit 4 Plants and Soil Management

Unit Length (Hours): 25 hours (See pacing guide)

Unit Description:

Building on knowledge acquired from the previous units on the physical and chemical properties of water and soil, students will begin to determine the effects of plant, soil and water interactions with respect to maintaining or restoring environmental health and structure. Students will model how nutrients cycle through the environment, analyze how pH affects nutrient availability by changing chemical equilibrium, determine water holding capacity with respect to water availability for plant growth, and identify possible nutrient deficiencies based on plant observations. Students will apply this learning to developing knowledge of soil nutrients and their role in the environment by testing and analyzing soil samples for optimal soil structure, nutrient value and availability and determining possible soil amendments and practices to improve soil quality.

  • ASC4.1. Plant Requirements from Soil Lab
  • ASC4.2. Soil Management Project
  • ASC4.3. Plant and Soil Interactions

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Students will begin to determine the effects of plant, soil and water interactions with respect to maintaining or restoring environmental health and structure. 
  • Students will model how nutrients cycle through the environment, analyze how pH affects nutrient availability by changing chemical equilibrium, determine water holding capacity with respect to water availability for plant growth, and identify possible nutrient deficiencies based on plant observations. 
  • Students will apply this learning to developing knowledge of soil nutrients and their role in the environment by testing and analyzing soil samples for optimal soil structure, nutrient value and availability and determining possible soil amendments and practices to improve soil quality.

Unit Assessment

Soil Management Project

Unit 5 Animals and Soil Management

Unit Length (Hours): 22 hours (See pacing guide)

Unit Description:

Using knowledge from previous units about soil nutrient content, students will identify the key macrominerals and microminerals necessary for normal livestock growth and reproduction. The students will correlate the minerals present in soil with the nutrient content of typical livestock concentrate and roughage feeds. Using local resources, the students will identify mineral deficiencies or toxicities in the soil and relate the deficiencies or toxicities to livestock health. Students will identify crop and range management practices to improve the nutrient content of soil, and will explain what reactions take place at the molecular level to improve nutrient content. Students will identify various methods of using animal waste and the environmental impacts including the use of animal waste as soil amendments and fertilizers. Students will relate the units of concentration used in agriculture practice to units used in chemistry labs, as they identify problems and contaminants associated with livestock waste disposal and related health and safety regulations.

  • ASC5.1. Nutrient Deficiencies in Livestock
  • ASC5.2. Livestock and Water Quality
  • ASC5.3.Livestock Waste Management
  • ASC5.4. Soil Management Project

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Students will identify the key macrominerals and microminerals necessary for normal livestock growth and reproduction. 
  • Students will correlate the minerals present in soil with the nutrient content of typical livestock concentrate and roughage feeds. 
  • Students will identify mineral deficiencies or toxicities in the soil and relate the deficiencies or toxicities to livestock health. 
  • Students will identify crop and range management practices to improve the nutrient content of soil, and will explain what reactions take place at the molecular level to improve nutrient content. 
  • Students will identify various methods of using animal waste and the environmental impacts including the use of animal waste as soil amendments and fertilizers. 
  • Students will relate the units of concentration used in agriculture practice to units used in chemistry labs, as they identify problems and contaminants associated with livestock waste disposal and related health and safety regulations.

Unit Assessment

Soil Management Project

Unit 6 Soils Sustainability

Unit Length (Hours): 28 hours (See pacing guide)

Unit Description:

Based on accumulated knowledge, examples and research conclusions from throughout the year, students will develop an understanding of sustainable agriculture by employing a Sustainability evaluation tool, “The 3-Pillars of Sustainability, economic, environmental and social impacts" of agriculture. Students will critically evaluate and justify perspectives and determine benefits/concerns based on research and credible information. Students will investigate and evaluate the sustainability of agricultural practices. Students will design and conduct a phytoremediation lab to analyze the efficacy of salt tolerant accumulators to remove saline from the soil. Students will formulate potential solutions using the three pillars of sustainability to soil and land management problems based on agricultural scenarios and debate agricultural issues.

  • ASC6.1.Phytoremediation Lab
  • ASC6.2.Tillage Protocols: Impact on Soil Structure and Soil Sustainability Lab
  • ASC6.3.Land Use Planning Model
  • ASC6.4.Agriculture Issue Debate and Policy Proposal

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Students will critically evaluate and justify perspectives and determine benefits/concerns based on research and credible information. 
  • Students will investigate and evaluate the sustainability of agricultural practices. 
  • Students will design and conduct a phytoremediation lab to analyze the efficacy of salt tolerant accumulators to remove saline from the soil. 
  • Students will formulate potential solutions using the three pillars of sustainability to soil and land management problems based on agricultural scenarios and debate agricultural issues.

Unit Assessment

Agriculture Issue Debate and Policy Proposal

Unit 7- QWEL Certification (Part 1)

Unit Length (Hours): 10 hours

Unit Description:

QWEL (Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper) Certification is an affordable, proactive, local approach to reducing landscape water demand. The training provides students with knowledge in water efficient and sustainable landscape practices, including water management and preservation of other valuable resources. This is the first half of the training for this certification. The second half and test for certification will occur during the Grade 12 course for this pathway (Interdisciplinary Science for Sustainable Agriculture). ***As of April 2018 curriculum unavailable on website, being updated*** 

https://www.qwel.net/curriculu...

  • Section 1 - Where Our Water Comes From - Locally customized version available from QWEL PCOs
  • Section 2 - Sustainable Landscaping
  • Section 3 - Soils
  • Section 4 - Landscape Water
  • Section 5 - Irrigation Systems

Reference Manual

  • Reference Manual - Reference Manual (DRAFT) - Document in draft form until early 2018 (18 MB)

Unit Competencies/ Outcomes

  • Check equipment to ensure that it is operating properly.
  • Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the effects of alternative practices on the environment.
  • Investigate responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the use capabilities of soils and the effects of alternative practices on soil productivity.
  • Investigate soil problems or poor water quality to determine sources and effects.
  • Calculate or compare efficiencies associated with changing from low-precision irrigation technologies, such as furrow irrigation, to high-precision technologies, such as computer-controlled systems.

Unit Assessment

Case Study analysis project

Unit Test

Course Summative Assessment

Soil Management Capstone Project

As the final course capstone project, students will be given a scenario and soil sample designed around their local agriculture industry. The scenario will provide students with specific information about the topography and climate/rainfall data of the location where the soil sample was collected. Students will use knowledge and skills learned in previous units to physically and chemically analyze the soil sample.Their soil analysis should include the composition and nutrient, pH, and salinity levels.The data collected from their soil sample analysis and the provided land information should be included in the soil management plan that the students create. The student's Soil Management Plan will recommend soil amendments, proper tillage practices, optimal irrigation methods, crop recommendations, and animal use suggestions.Their recommendations and suggestions should be justified in terms of the 3-pillars of sustainable agriculture.

  • ASC2.7. Soil Management Project
  • ASC5.4. Soil Management Project

Course Summative Assessment

Course Portfolio

The course portfolio will provide evidence of real-world agriculture application of scientific research done throughout this course.The portfolios will highlight student work from throughout the course to show a progression of learning, experimentation, and application of course content. Items that will be included in the portfolio are student lab reports, the Agriscience Research paper, and their Soil Management Plan.

Course Summative Assessment

Agriscience Research Project

Students will submit their agriscience research in a written paper, and it will include the following components: problem/purpose, background research, hypothesis, methodology, results/data, and discussion/ conclusion. The paper will be written using skills associated with technical and scientific writing, for example, refraining from the use of personal pronouns or keeping discussion limited to what the research and data suggest rather than personal opinion and bias. APA format will be utilized to reference and cite sources. The project and its findings will be shared with the class in an oral presentation.

  • ASC1.6. Agriscience Research Project Proposal
  • ASC2.3. Background Scholarly Research and Forming a Hypothesis
  • ASC2.5. Experimental Design and Conducting Experimentation
  • ASC3.3. Analyzing data, interpreting data and forming conclusion