SOIL3412: Soil Genesis, Morphology, & Classification Syllabus, Fall 2019

  • Tarleton State University
  • College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences
  • Department of Wildlife, Sustainability, and Ecosystem Management

Course Information

SOIL3412 Soil Genesis, Morphology, & Classification

Chemical, biological and physical processes of soil formation leading to soil development. Recognition and description of soils. Factors of soil formation and interaction of soil with ecosystems. Morphology and diagnostic descriptions are practiced and soil classification is introduced. Laboratory work will consist of field study of the morphological features of soil and the use of soil morphology to practice soil classification. Provides practical experience describing soil properties in the field.


SOIL3301 Soils; or equivalent upper division soils introduction course
with laboratory.


  • SOIL3412-010; CRN 90890
  • TR 9:25AM 10:40AM Autry 207


  • SOIL3412-510; CRN 90391
  • M 2:00PM 4:50PM APSC1433
    plus other outside destinations - to be announced


Donald G. McGahan, Ph.D.
Office: Room 204B Joe Autry (Agriculture) Building

Office Hours

MTWR 11AM to 11:50AM and F 9AM to 9:50AM

Required Materials

For Laboratory you will need shoes with ankle support, a shade hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, a writing tablet, personal water bottle, clipboard and writing implements, and perhaps a hand towel to dry and remove moist soil from your hands.

Required Text(s)

Buol, S.W., R.J. Southard, R.C. Graham, and P.A. McDaniel. 2011. Soil
Genesis and Classification, 6th edition. Wiley-Blackwell.
ISBN-13: 978-0-8138-0769-0

Wiley-Blackwell online
This text is available in numerous digital formats.

Soil Survey Staff. 2014. Keys to Soil Taxonomy, Twelfth Edition. USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC. online

Note: Download Keys to Soil Taxonomy, Twelfth Edition, print all the Keys and the Errata file and have bound at local office supply store. Bring to all laboratories. You will use this to key out soils in class exercises and in laboratory field exercises. Specifically, you will want to read and reread Chapter 3 and 18 immediately and refer to them often.

  • A file of only Chapter 3 from Keys to Soil Taxonomy, Twelfth Edition is available here.
  • A file of only Chapter 18 from Keys to Soil Taxonomy, Twelfth Edition is available here.

Soil Survey Division Staff. 2017. Soil Survey Manual. Soil Conservation Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 18.

Print the PDF versions of Chapters 1 and 3 of the Soil Survey Manual and read. The above link has access to online html versions and printable PDF files. The balance can be referred to and read from the PDF you download to your local storage device, or from the online html Chapters.

Required Supplemental Reading From

Soil Survey Staff. 1999. Soil taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys. 2nd edition. Natural Resources Conservation Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 436. online

Note: Download, read, and retain the information in Chapter 6, The Categories of Soil Taxonomy, from Soil Taxonomy available here.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.
National soil survey handbook, title 430-VI.

Note: Download the above text but it is not necessary to print all of it. The instructor might advise about parts that are helpful to print to have available when in laboratory (in the field). This the linked items from the above page are broken as of the writing of this syllabus. It is expected that the links will be repaired in time for our use. If not, the instructor may announce an alternative.

Other sources to be identified during the course. (Online or free via the library)

Suggested Supplemental Texts: Yes, that means not required.

The following items are suggestions for items you may wish to have on your bookshelf.

Ray R. Weil and Nyle C. Brady. 2017. The Nature and Properties of Soils, 15th edition. Pearson-Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
Print Edition ISBN-13: 978-0-13-325448-8
Digital ISBN-13: 978-0-13-325455-6

The Tarleton State University Follett Bookstore sells the Textbook and has Rental, New, and Used offerings. (ISBN:978-0-13-325448-8 ) (ISBN: 978-0-13-3493368)

Follett Bookstore The Nature and Properties of Soils

Available at

Note: While this is a textbook it is a great reference for general soil science knowledge. Look for used copies of the 14th edition are useful. Previous editions, such as the 14th, are generally deprecated in the chapters addressing Soil Taxonomy. It is precisely Soil Taxonomy that you will be addressing with the required texts and readings.

Thompson, J.A. and Coyne, M.S. 2006. Math for Soil Scientists.
1st ed.
ISBN-13: 9780766842687

Note: This text can really help as a crutch to get you up to speed with math applicable to soil work. Students like this one! It is getting difficult to purchase given the publication date and how coveted the text is by purchasers.

Ellsworth, B., J.A. Higgins. 2012. English Simplified. 13th ed.
Pearson Ed. Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-0205110469

**Note:** One of the instructors personal favorites as a supporting reference. Often quicker to look here than Googling for the answer, and that is saying something!  

Rosenberg, J.L., L.M. Epstein, P.J. Krieger. 2013. Shaum’s Outline of College Chemistry. 10th ed. McGraw Hill, NY, NY.
ISBN-13: 978-007181082.

Note: If you did not keep that college general chemistry book this is a good replacement and it does not take so much room on the bookshelf!

Laboratory Report

The laboratory portion of grade will be based on participation in all labs and field trips, field recordation/observation sheets, and a laboratory field notebook report.

All the students laboratory / field observation sheets and notes are to be included. The field sheet and note package will likely be collected intermittently as checkpoints. This compilation of the field notes are to be included when the report is due prior to the end of the course.

The original field notes are to be submitted as checkpoints. Re-written field sheets or correlations can be added, but the central assessment will be on the original recordation sheets. Correlation matrixes and sheets to the original sheets and the report near/at the end of the course. Any such additional sheets do not count toward page count of the report, nor do they replace the original field sheets. The instructor wants to see the original field sheets.

The report section of the notebook (minimum of 10 pages, double spaced (not just 1 ½), 1 inch margin left and right, top, and bottom, but no greater than 33 pages) should include a discussion of all of the soil orders observed and incorporate student generated data, observations of soils on/in the laboratory/field and a reflection of the amalgamated data, implication, use, purpose of the knowledge and skills achieved.

The report discussion should expound and expand on (i) the environmental factors that affect soil-forming processes, (ii) on the relationships among the soils of the soil orders seen during the laboratory that are on the landscape, and (iii) on how these relationships are reflected in Soil Taxonomy. The discussions may–likely will–refer to the soil data collected in the field, or provided as exercises. These data should be presented and summarized in figures or tables (placed at end of report and do not contribute to the page count requirement). These tables and lists do not have to be sophisticated. They may be hand written, legibly and neatly.

You may refer to and reference other soil data. <All references and citations are to reflect the source.> Place all tables and figures discussed in the report at end of report after the bibliography.

For writing, table, figure, bibliography/reference and citation styles see Science

Laboratory Safety Training Compliance

Failure to accomplish the Laboratory Safety Training is a failure for the course.

To be in compliance you are required to take Lab Safety Training either in person or on line through TrainTraq External Gateway.

Instructions to access the gateway:

  1. Go to: Do not use Microsoft Edge as your web browser.
  2. Type in your e-mail address and the password. The gateway will send the completion certificate to this e-mail address. The current password is: embark&%Aqueous (Valid until October 14, 2019).
  3. Click Submit.
  4. Find the desired course, Lab Safety, (course #2111743).
  5. Click Start.
  6. You will be required to enter:
    • First Name:
    • Last Name:
    • Tarleton (as Employer)
  7. How did you hear about this course? Enter the following:
    • Instructor’s Name = Donald G. McGahan Ph.D.
    • Subject = SOIL
    • Course Number = 2112
    • Section number = 010
  8. Click Save.
  9. Click Start Course.
  10. Upon successfully completing the course, an e-mail will be sent to the e-mail address that was used to login to the external gateway. The e-mail will contain a link to the completion certificate. When you click the link, you’ll have the option to download the certificate as a PDF. Print a hard-copy as well.
  11. Return proof to applicable Professor or Lab Instructor.


This is a self directed assignment completed the first week classes are in session. This is an online safety course to be completed prior to coming to your first exercise.

  1. You need a computer with internet access
  2. A printer attached to print certification of course completion
  3. You must have your course, and laboratory section information at the ready. Other courses can be entered at the same time. Have a list of your courses and the CRN for each course handy to enter the information at the end of the Online Laboratory Safety Quiz.
  4. If the online safety course is not completed prior to the second laboratory assigned time you will fail the course.
  5. Safety is not an option.
  6. Go to the Tarleton Risk Management and Safety web site
  7. Under the heading TRAINING, expand Online
  8. Choose the “Lab Safety” and complete the training course.
  9. At the end of the course is a quiz. Complete the quiz. Print the certificate at the end of the quiz and retain it throughout the class. If requested by the instructor or safety official you must produce the certificate that you have taken the “Lab Safety” course and quiz.
  10. When you attend the laboratory in person the instructor will do a “on-site” laboratory safety.


Grading is only slightly competitive. Everyone may earn an A grade.

  • Attendance to lecture 5% (one grace absence: each additional absence costs 1%)
  • Attendance to laboratory 5% (one grace absence: each additional absence costs 2.5%)
  • Assessments and Exercises 25% ± 3%
  • Laboratory Report and data book 25% ± 3%
  • Midterm(s) and Final Examination 40% ± 3%
  • Note: The classroom is a fluid environment. It is a special place. Questions and answers are why we meet face to face! This makes a schedule of exact dates at the beginning of the semester impossible to adhere to

How to be successful

The textbook assigned is a primary source of knowledge for this course.
There is no substitution for reading the textbook.

Reading textbooks that introduce information that is new to the reader, a student in a college course, is a challenge. The task takes longer than reading popular media and as a consequence adequate time must be set aside. Hint: read in small time slices and frequently.

There are several strategies that can be employed to maximize retaining the concepts presented in the textbook. One strategy is:

  1. to first look over the text book sections for the upcoming lecture without reading it in detail:
  2. The next step is to re-read the relevant portion of the textbook after the information has been presented in a face-to-face lecture setting.

The contradiction to this method is that in most courses, the face-to-face lecture is unlikely to mirror the text. Rather, most instructors choose to employ the fact-to-face lecture to clarify concepts that are difficult for students to grasp from the textbook alone. This is efficient for students who are motivated and this allows the instructor to link information presented in the textbook to other sources of text, audio, alternate visuals, or media.

Students often get behind and justify to themselves that they can read later to catch up. The student in these circumstances is challenged to recall the lecture when reading the text. Furthermore, the student must use the table of contents and index to link concepts presented in lecture. This method of “learn later” after they see what is stressed in the lecture increases the learning load on the student and the student may miss the simple information they should have been able to learn on their own via the assigned self directed readings and exercises.

Reading the textbook prior to lecture–even if skimming and accepting that an incomplete understanding at the first read–offers the student an introduction, and some knowledge, to better link the lecture to concepts offered in the textbook. However, when reading the textbook prior to a face-to-face presentation the student must decide on the appropriate balance between reading for complete understanding and skimming for content introduction.

For this course visiting the textbook prior to lecture and returning the textbook after the material is presented in a face-to-face setting will yield the richest experience. Retention is increased when skimming and subsequent rereading is employed.

Additional reading and resources are available online and, most, are listed in the syllabus above. Specifically, the current copy of “The Keys to Soil Taxonomy” is available as a pdf and it is necessary that the student print this document. It is also suggested that a local digital copy saved to a local storage device be keep “at hand” for reference. Reading the The Keys to Soil Taxonomy (Soil Survey Staff, 2010) and the Soil Survey Manual (Soil Survey Division Staff, 1993), also available as a pdf online, together with the textbook, is a most valuable key to success. The learner is encouraged to augment learning with suggested texts and authoritative resources: some as simple as undergraduate general science texts.

It is not mandatory that the Soil Survey Manual be printed out in its entirety, but printing selected passages (Chapter 1 and 3) of the Soil Survey Manual may prove easier to “refer to” than a digital copy alone. Referring to “Soil Taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys” (Soil Survey Staff, 1999) is helpful for some modules presented. Again, having a ‘local’ copy is important.

It is NOT an excuse to say that the reading could not be accomplished due to an interruption of internet access to these ‘on-line’ accessible documents. Save them to your local digital device (pad, phone, computer, Kindle, Nook, flash stick, etc) and have them handy.


The agenda is in a matrix below. Suggested readings for up-coming lectures will be on this agenda to help you keep abreast of reading in preparation for lecture(s).

First day assignment for week one: Read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Buol et al. (2011). This text is referred to as ‘the textbook’. For Chapter 1 and 2 of the textbook it is suggested that you power skim and then go back a read for content. Read The Soil Color section from Chapter 3 in Soil Survey Manual (Soil Survey Division Staff, 1993).

^\[1\]^](#cite_ref-1) Tarleton State University Risk Management & Safety. 2009. Tarleton Stat University Laboratory Safety Program. Accessed August 14, 2013 Online at Tarleton State Univeristy

University core values can be reviewed at

Academic Integrity Statement

Tarleton State University’s core values are integrity, leadership, tradition, civility, excellence, and service. Central to these values is integrity, which is maintaining a high standard of personal and scholarly conduct. Academic integrity represents the choice to uphold ethical responsibility for one’s learning within the academic community, regardless of audience or situation.

Academic Civility Statement

Students are expected to interact with professors and peers in a respectful manner that enhances the learning environment. Professors may require a student who deviates from this expectation to leave the face-to-face (or virtual) classroom learning environment for that particular class session (and potentially subsequent class sessions) for a specific amount of time. In addition, the professor might consider the university disciplinary process (for Academic Affairs/Student Life) for egregious or continued disruptive behavior.

Academic Excellence Statement

Tarleton holds high expectations for students to assume responsibility for their own individual learning.  Students are also expected to achieve academic excellence by:

  • honoring Tarleton’s core values.
  • upholding high standards of habit and behavior.
  • maintaining excellence through class attendance and punctuality.
  • preparing for active participation in all learning experiences.
  • putting forth their best individual effort.
  • continually improving as independent learners.
  • engaging in extracurricular opportunities that encourage personal and academic growth.
  • reflecting critically upon feedback and applying these lessons to meet future challenges.

Academic Service Statement

In support of Tarleton’s core value of service, each student is expected to participate in a service learning experience as a part of the Spring term week of service. This experience will challenge students to be engaged in the local community, address a community need, connect course objectives to the world around you, and involve structured student reflection. In this service learning experience you will not only enhance your knowledge and skills, but actively use those skills as you serve your community.

Americans with Disabilities Act Statement

It is the policy of Tarleton State University to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable laws. If you are a student with a disability seeking accommodations for this course, please contact the Center for Access and Academic Testing, at 254.968.9400 or The office is located in Math 201. More information can be found at or in the University Catalog.

Copyright Information

Tarleton State University is committed to adhering to all applicable laws regarding intellectual property, specifically the rights of copyright holders and compliance with copyright law. It is the responsibility of all members of the Tarleton State University community to make a good faith determination that their use of copyrighted materials is in compliance with Title 17 U.S. Code, the United States Copyright Act, Fair use, Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002. Guidelines in use at Tarleton State University regarding copyright can be found on the Fair Use, Copyright, and the TEACH Act Information page.

Please be aware that copyright protection also extends to the use of films for educational purposes. It is acceptable to show a full-length feature film in a face-to-face class, if the film 1) was acquired through library check out or legally purchased and 2) pertains directly to the curriculum for that class. It cannot be legally shown in its entirety in an online class or to the public. A more in-depth presentation of information can be found at:

Content Work of Authorship

All copyright, design right, registered design, work of authorship, and other intellectual property rights in Donald G. McGahan, Ph.D.’s writings, designs, products, designs of presentation and in the images, text and design of this course are, and remain, Donald G. McGahan, Ph.D.’s property and unauthorized use of any part of Donald G. McGahan, Ph.D.’s intellectual property rights is strictly prohibited.

Expanded Course Description, Learning Aims and Objectives

  • Theory, principles, and themes of soil genesis will be surveyed.
  • Theory, principles, themes, and a brief history of soil classification will be introduced.

The content can be parsed into eight *(8) general areas and more specific objectives are presented below.

Morphology was introduced in the introductory SOIL course. Morphology skills are reviewed, add to, practiced, and the determinations applied using knowledge about morphological descriptions. Learners will classify and make inferences with created and instructor provided morphological descriptions.

Area 1 - Soil Forming Factors

  1. Define soil.
  2. Describe the five soil forming factors.
  3. Describe the processes and landscape characteristics that result in the formation of soils.
  4. Define the following parent materials: (see also the Soil Science Glossary)
  5. Arrange a set of soil profile descriptions as they would occur in a toposequence.
  6. Given a series of profile descriptions, identify the dominant soil-forming factor that influenced the development of horizons.

Area 2 - Horizon Forming Processes

  1. Describe the following terms or processes: Parent material, Climate, Biota, Topography, Time.
  2. Identify the key soil horizon-forming process when given a master horizon or sub-horizon symbol or name.

Area 3 - Soil Profile Descriptions

  1. Define hue, value, chroma and Munsell notation.
  2. Recognize the master horizons of a soil profile.
  3. Use a soil profile description to determine the morphological characteristics and horizon nomenclature.
  4. Name the master horizons, diagnostic horizons and the soil order of a soil profile when given morphological and lab data.
  5. Identify the seasonal high water table of a soil profile when given its profile description and morphological data.
  6. Name the essential morphological and chemical features of hydric soils.
  7. Define and describe redoximorphic features, mottles, gleying and variegated colors.
  8. Explain how the following soil characteristics vary with depth: Structure, Texture, Color, Bulk density, Porosity.

Area 4 - Soil Interpretations and Land Use Management

  1. Identify suitabilities and limitations for a map unit from the tables in a National Cooperative Soil Survey Report for the following uses: Crop yields, Recreation, Urban development, Forestry, Wildlife suitability, Engineering properties, & Hydrologic properties.

Area 5 - Soil Classification Concepts

  1. Compare and contrast differences among soils using their taxonomic classification.
  2. Identify the diagnostic criteria that differentiate the orders of soil taxonomy.
  3. Given the complete soil name including taxonomic classification, identify all levels of classification from order to series and including soil phase.

Area 6 - Soil Mapping

  1. Define the following terms: (see the Glossary of Soil Science) Complex (soil), Association (soil), Inclusion, Mapping unit (map unit), Pedon, Polypedon, & Soil series.
  2. Recognize information in a modern National Cooperative Soil Survey Report.
  3. Explain the limitations of soil surveys and importance of site specific evaluation.

Area 7 - Geomorphology

  1. Identify the following landforms: (see the Glossary of Soil Science) Flood plain, Coastal plain, Playa, Meander scar, Till plain, Lake plain, Alluvial terrace, Outwash plain, Drumlin, Esker, & Moraine.
  2. Differentiate the properties of soils formed in the following hillslope positions.
    Summit, shoulder, backslap, footslpope, & toeslope.

Area 8 - Soils in Landscapes

  1. Identify how morphological, chemical and physical soil properties vary in the following landscapes: Forest, Desert, Prairie, Arctic and alpine, Wetlands, & Agriculture.

Agenda and Assignment due dates

  • Monday August 26: Introduction, Horizon Designations, and Morphology: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 1
  • Monday August 26: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 2
  • Monday August 26: Read Keys to Soil Taxonomy Chp. 18
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday August 27: Main themes of soil genesis and classification
  • Tuesday August 27: Read Soil Survey Manual Chp. 3
  • Tuesday August 27: History: Read Soil Survey Manual Chp. 1
  • Tuesday August 27: Morphology (soil color, soil texture, soil structure)
  • Tuesday August 27: Continue to Read and master Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 2
  • Thursday August 29: Morphology Continued
  • ------------------
  • Monday September 1: Labor Day No Laboratory
  • Tuesday September 3: Morphology Continued
  • Thursday September 5: Problem Set 1 Due
  • Thursday September 5: Soil Taxonomy
  • Monday September 16: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday September 17: Soil Taxonomy Diagnostics
  • Thursday September 19: Soil Taxonomy Diagnostics
  • ------------------
  • Monday September 23: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday September 24: Moisture and Temperature Regimes
  • Tuesday September 24: Read Soil Taxonomy 2nd ed Chp. 4 p. 97–112
  • Tuesday September 24: Problem Set 2 Due
  • ------------------
  • Thursday September 26: Composition and Characterization
  • ------------------
  • Monday September 30: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday October 1: Composition and Characterization
  • Tuesday October 1: Soil Taxonomy
  • Tuesday October 1: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 7
  • Tuesday October 1:–2014.pdf
  • ------------------
  • Thursday October 3: Soil Taxonomy
  • ------------------
  • Monday October 7: No Laboratory
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday October 8: Midterm Examination (Proctored)
  • ------------------
  • Thursday October 10: No Face to Face Lecture
  • ------------------
  • Monday October 14: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday October 15: Soil forming factors
  • Tuesday October 15: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 3
  • ------------------
  • Thursday October 17: Soil forming processes
  • Thursday October 17: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 5
  • ------------------
  • Monday October 21: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday October 22: Transported Materials
  • ------------------
  • Thursday October 24: Mineralogy
  • Thursday October 24: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 4
  • ------------------
  • Monday October 28: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday October 29: Histosols
  • Tuesday October 29: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 13
  • ------------------
  • Thursday October 31: Entisols
  • Thursday October 31: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 11
  • Thursday October 31: Inceptisols
  • Thursday October 31: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 14
  • ------------------
  • Monday November 4: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday November 5: Inceptisols
  • Tuesday November 5: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 14
  • Tuesday November 5: Gelisols
  • Tuesday November 5: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 12
  • ------------------
  • Thursday November 7: No Face to Face Lecture
  • Monday November 11: No Face to Face Lecture
  • Tuesday November 12: No Face to Face Lecture
  • ------------------
  • Thursday November 14: Aridisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 10
  • Thursday November 14: Vertisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 19
  • ------------------
  • Monday November 18: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday November 19: Spodosols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 17
  • Tuesday November 19: Andisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 9
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday November 19: Mollisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 15
  • Tuesday November 19: Alfisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 8
  • ------------------
  • Monday November 25: Visit Soil location to be announced
  • ------------------
  • Tuesday November 26: Alfisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 8
  • Tuesday November 26: Ultisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 18
  • ------------------
  • Thursday November 28: University Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • ------------------
  • Monday December 2: Ultisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 18
  • Tuesday December 3: Oxisols: Read Soil Genesis & Classification Chp. 16
  • ------------------
  • Thursday December 5: Finals Begin No Face to Face
  • ------------------
  • Friday December 6: Final 8AM to 10:30AM

Agenda References