Nutrient Management was selected in a June, 2001 MSU Extension survey as the topic that the most Montana Extension Agents and Rocky Mountain Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) would like to learn more about.  Soil scientists in the Dept. of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences created fifteen Nutrient Management modules, covering such topics as Soil Sampling and Laboratory Selection, Plant Nutrition and Soil Fertility, and Cycling and Fertilization for each of the essential plant nutrients. Each module includes a quiz that can be taken to enhance your learning. Hard copies of these modules are available for free from MSU Extension Publications, or they can be accessed below as PDF files.

Note: Currently only modules number 1, 2 and 8 are approved for CCA continuing ed credits, until we update the rest. Please let us know if you are interested in taking any quizzes for CEU, and which are of the highest interest. Contact Clain Jones ( or Kathrin Olson-Rutz ( Thank you.

Modules of Nutrient Management Self-Study Course

  • Module 1:   Soil Sampling and Laboratory Selection.  Learn how to describe soil sampling and handling procedures, explain the different philosophies in soil testing programs, and select an analytical laboratory. Revised Dec 2014
  • Module 2:  Plant Nutrition and Soil Fertility. Covers the 17 elements essential for plant nutrition; macronutrients and micronutrients; the function and mobility of nutrients within plants; the forms of each nutrient that are taken up by plants; typical nutrient plant concentrations; how nutrient needs change during the growing season; the basics of nutrient intake; and the basics of how nutrients are held or released by the soil. Revised Sept 2016
  • Module 3:  Nitrogen Cycling, Testing and Fertilizer Recommendations. Learn the nine major nitrogen processes that occur in soil; the major factors that affect each of the nitrogen processes; how different crops and cropping systems affect nitrogen availability; optimum nitrate sampling depths for different conditions; how soil nitrate tests are used to estimate nitrogen fertilizer requirements; and how to calculate nitrogen fertilizer application rates.
  • Module 4:  Phosphorus Cycling, Testing and Fertilizer Recommendations.  Understand the various soil forms of phosphorus; recognize how soil and climate properties affect phosphorus cycling in soil; recognize how cropping systems affect phosphorus management; be able to make a phosphorus fertilizer recommendation based on a soil test report; recognize the advantages and disadvantages of different phosphorus fertilizers.
  •  Module 5:  Potassium Cycling, Testing, and Fertilizer Recommendations.  Learn the various soil forms of potassium; understand the soil processes that affect the availability of potassium to plants; understand how soil and climate properties affect potassium cycling; be able to make potassium fertilizer recommendations based on soil analysis and site characteristics.
  • Module 6: Secondary Macronutrients: Cycling, Testing and Fertilizer Recommendations. Learn the major processes that determine the availability of the secondary nutrients, sulfur, calcium, and magnesium, in the soil; know the factors that affect each of these nutrient cycling processes; recognize how different crops and cropping systems affect nutrient availability; understand how to calculate S fertilizer requirements.
  • Module 7: Micronutrients: Cycling, Testing and Fertilizer Recommendations. Learn about the eight micronutrients, the major nutrient cycling processes that determine the availability of micronutrients in soil, and the factors that affect each of these cycling processes. Learn how to diagnose and correct micronutrient deficiencies and how to calculate micronutrient fertilizer requirements. (2003)
  • Module 8: Soil pH and Organic Matter. Learn about soil pH is and how it is calculated; understand how soil pH affects nutrient availability in the soil; learn techniques for managing soil pH and the processes of soil organic matter cycling; and understand the role of soil organic matter in nutrient and organic carbon management.
  • Module 9: Plant Nutrient Functions and Deficiency and Toxicity Symptoms. Identify and diagnose common plant nutrient deficiency and toxicity symptoms, know potential limitations of visual diagnosis, understand how to use a key for identifying deficiency symptoms. and distinguish between mobile and immobile nutrient deficiencies.
  • Module 10: Commercial Fertilizers and Soil Amendments. Learn about fertilizer grade and calculate elemental nutrient content of a fertilizer, fertilizer manufacturing processes and forms, the effects of various fertilizers on soil pH and salt concentrations, fertilizer reactions in the soil, appropriate soil amendments for given soil conditions, and the potential for heavy metal accumulation following fertilizer or amendment application and calculate maximum allowable metal levels for products.
  • Module 11: Fertilizer Placement and Timing. Learn to identify fertilizer placement options, know the various fertilizer timing options, understand the effects of fertilizer placement and timing on crop yield and quality, and become familiar with the effects of fertilizer placement and timing on emergence, fertilizer use efficiency, weeds, and water quality.
  • Module 12: Water Quality Considerations and Regulations. Learn to recognize nutrient impacts on different water bodies, understand common water quality issues, become familiar with federal and state water quality regulations, and identify Best Management Practices (BMPs) for preventing nutrient movement from fields.
  • Module 13: Manure and Biosolids: Regulation and Management. Learn the pros and cons of manure and biosolids application; animal feeding operations and concentrated animal feeding operations; regulations that affect a specific livestock operation; management practices for reducing water quality and regulatory impacts; the effects of manure and biosolids placement and timing; and the composting process, including pros and cons of compost.
  • Module 14: Technological Advances in Nutrient Management. Learn about recent advances in nutrient management, pros and cons of available technologies, and connections between different types of technology.
  • Module 15: Sustainable Agriculture. Learn about the practices of sustainable agriculture and how they can be applied; methods to reduce inputs and improve on-site nutrient availability; the effect of soil conservation practices on soil fertility and quality; and general standards pertaining to certified organic crop and livestock production.