Soil Science discipline existed formerly as one division of the Department of Agricultural Chemistry until 1986 and was established as a fully-fledged Department in 1986. Since then it was the only Department of study in Soil Science in the University system of Sri Lanka until the year 2006. The Department offers four courses in the core program of the undergraduate degree program and 11 courses in the advanced module. Courses of the core program are designed to build up knowledge progressively starting from Soil Genesis to Soil Management providing necessary theoretical background in Soil Physics, Soil Chemistry, Soil Mineralogy, Soil Microbiology, Soil Survey and Classification, Plant Nutrition, Soil Fertility and Land Use. Practical applications of all the courses address agronomic and environmental concerns giving equal emphasis on both. The advanced module provides more in-depth knowledge on theoretical aspects that are essential to develop technologies to address vital issues on sustainable land management.
Laboratory and field practical sessions are integral components of all the courses offered by the Department. Through these sessions, students develop skills to analyze soil, plant, manure, fertilizers and water and subsequently make judgments on their suitability for food production based on the availability of nutrients, and organic and inorganic contaminants. Students following the advanced module in Soil and Environment conduct independent research projects in collaboration with national research institutes and private sector organizations. This provides a training to conduct scientific research, identify problems at different levels of social strata and suggest suitable remedial measures through technological approaches.
Academic staff members of the Department are also involved in postgraduate education, serving as visiting lecturers to the Board of Study in Soil Science of the Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture. At present, three M. Sc. degree programs are offered; namely, 'Environmental Soil Science', 'Soil and Environmental Microbiology' and 'Tropical Soil Department of Soil ScienceManagement'. In addition, academic staff also renders their services as supervisors to the students following M. Phil and Ph.D degree programs related to Soil Science.
The Department has well equipped laboratories capable of performing a wide range of analyses using modern sophisticated equipments. Using these facilities, a number of research programs are continuing in the research laboratories of the Department, which include studies on fertilizer recommendations for selective crops, formulation of biofertilizers for rice and maize, establishing quality parameters for compost, movement of nutrients and pesticides in soil, heavy metal contamination of soil, water and food and developing a soil data base of Sri Lankan soils. The funds for research are provided by national and international organizations while undergraduate and postgraduate students are involved in such projects at various capacities.
The Department also owns a 'Soil Survey Laboratory and SRICANSOL Resource Centre', which was developed with the partnership of Soil Science Society of Sri Lanka. The laboratory and library facilities in the centre are available for student use. Furthermore, students have the unique opportunity to interact with leading soil scientists in the island and take part in inspiring discussions.