Reading a soil science textbook is not the same as reading a book from the New York Times best sellers list. There’s no “Fifty Shades of Soil” to read that’s for sure! An introductory course in soil science is taken at one point in the college career of every turf, hort, and ag student. At most universities, the textbook used is The Nature and Properties of Soils (published by Pearson/Prentice Hall), and authored by Dr. Nyle C. Brady.
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Today there are many soils textbooks, covering an introduction to advanced to more specialized soils topics. Dr. Brady’s book, however, remains the standard and provides the foundation for all others. Each chapter warrants a full semester of study, with topics such as soil water – characteristics and behavior, soil chemical properties, soil physical properties, soil biology, soil organic matter, soils and plant nutrition, and much more. This book should be on your shelf as a ‘go-to’ reference on soils when needed. There are even references to turfgrass management found in the book.
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Matt Shaffer, golf course superintendent at Merion Golf Club (Ardmore, PA) which hosted the 2013 U.S. Open, is an avid reading during the winter holiday break. Among his peers, he is considered a true agronomist. Matt had this to say:
The best part about being an older Superintendent is that what you have already read four decades ago is still as interesting to read the second time around. Except for soils, which is a subject that should be read about constantly. I am always amazed when I hear someone say ‘I really don’t understand the dynamics of soil science?’ Really, then how the heck do you grow good grass? If in fact you are that honest with yourself — GREAT! Go get THE BOOK! Read only as much as you can comprehend at one sitting. Learn that section even if it requires you to read it twice. When you understand soils, your job as a superintendent will become much more logical. There’s no “Fifty Shades of Soil” to read that’s for sure!You may not feel like you are in control at first, but when you have made the corrections, you will see the results. – Matt Shaffer, Golf Course Superintendent, Merion Golf Club
Nyle Brady and Ray Weil co-authored the 14th edition of The Nature and Properties of Soils, published in 2007. Future editions will only feature Dr. Ray Weil, University of Maryland, as the principal author. Dr. Nyle Brady died on November 24, 2015, at the age of 95. Originally from Colorado, he earned a BS in Biochemistry from Brigham Young University, and a Ph.D. in agronomy from North Carolina State University (back when it was NC State College). His career included professor at Cornell University, Associate Dean at Cornell’s College of Agriculture, Director of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, Director of Scientific Education for the USDA (Washington, DC), and served as Chairman of the Agricultural Board for the National Academy of Sciences. On a personal note, he leaves behind 22 grandchildren and 90 great-grandchildren! Thank you Dr. Brady for your insight into soil science.