Food and the Future Environment

Goals and Learning Objectives


Goals and Learning Objectives


  • Identify soil nutrients and soil function as key resources in need of protection for food production and food systems.
  • Describe spatial and geographic variation in soil resources and soil fertility.
  • Distinguish between preexisting aspects of biogeochemical cycling and human-induced processes that affect biogeochemical cycling.
  • Attribute different soil fertility outcomes in food systems to the coupled natural and human factors and feedbacks that produce them.

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, students will be able to:

  • Describe the basic properties of soil that distinguish it from mere "dirt".
  • Explain how soil serves as a medium for plant growth.
  • Explain how the five soil-forming factors interact to produce soils.
  • Explain the term "biogeochemical cycling".
  • Explain common limiting factors to plant growth that limits food production around the world.
  • Explain how nutrient and carbon depletion from soils and soil erosion create conditions of low food productivity.
  • Assess how farming practices affect soil fertility.
  • Analyze modern fertilizer use as the emergence of a strong human system impact on nutrients in soils that replenishes soil nutrients but can create nutrient pollution.
  • Analyze how natural/human system feedbacks operate to limit the actions of poorer food producers around the world.
  • Incorporate sustainability challenges related to soil nutrient management into an analysis of food systems.