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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

A Laboratory Exercise Relating Soil Energy Budgets to Soil Temperature


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 37 No. 1, p. 59-62
    Received: Jan 2, 2008

    * Corresponding author(s): richk@wsu.edu
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  1. Richard T. Koenig *a,
  2. Teresa Cerny-Koenigb,
  3. Janice Kotuby-Amacherc and
  4. Paul R. Grosslc
  1. a Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State Univ., Pullman, WA 99164-6420
    b Dep. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State Univ., Pullman, WA 99164-6414
    c Dep. of Plants, Soils, and Climate, Utah State Univ., Logan, UT 84322-4820


Enrollment by students in degree programs other than traditional horticulture, agronomy, and soil science has increased in basic plant and soil science courses. In order to broaden the appeal of these courses to students from majors other than agriculture, we developed a hands-on laboratory exercise relating the basic concepts of a soil energy budget to soil temperatures measured on college campuses. Concepts related to soil energy and temperature were presented in lecture and discussed at the beginning of the laboratory session. Students were then given inexpensive stem and dial gauge thermometers and instructed to take measurements at two locations on campus where they predicted soil temperature would be high, and two where they predicted soil temperature would be low. Soil temperature differences between the high and low measurements commonly ranged from 8 to 10°C. Following in-field data collection, an open discussion of results helped to further emphasize the relative ease with which basic soil energy budget concepts could be used to predict environments where soil temperature would be high or low. Students were also encouraged to describe how they could use more generalized knowledge of energy relations and budgets to predict relative temperatures in their field of study. The exercise requires little preparation time and, once thermometers are purchased, is low cost. We believe the exercise applied and reinforced concepts presented in lecture and in introductory plant and soil science textbooks, and emphasized the application of these concepts in disciplines other than traditional agriculture.

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Copyright © 2008. Copyright © 2008 by the American Society of Agronomy