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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

This advanced soil science course provides additional teaching of physical, chemical and biological properties of soils in the context of food security. You will learn a variety of processes that affect soil productivity, accompanied by practical sessions that will teach relevant analytical methods. The wide range of soil processes taught will be brought together at the end of the course to provide a working knowledge of agronomy, including the interactions between crops and specific chemical or physical properties of soils. Students are introduced to modelling of agricultural impacts on soils and the environment so that mitigation strategies can be assessed.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 3
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Professor Paul Hallett

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

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What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description


The course examines soil conditions in relation to environmental sustainability and food security. This will be put into context of soil management, inherent soil properties and major limiting factors such as water availability.

  • The first stage will consider the soil physical environment through aspects of structure, mechanical behaviour and the relationship with water. This will be supplemented with practical laboratory work to examine the impact of inherent soil properties and soil management.
  • The soil chemical environment will focus on pH, mineralogy, exchange sites and nutrient/ trace nutrient availability. Contrasting soil types will be used to underpin these concepts. There will be complementary laboratory and field work and data processing.
  • The final stage will be to integrate the first two parts with the plant environment with a specific emphasis on agronomy and wider environmental impacts.  The impacts of increasing food production on the environment will also be considered. Modelling of soil processes related to food security and the environment will be taught.

Course Aims

  • To understand the principles of the soil physical environment and to be able to make relevant measurements in relation to soil water relationships, transport processes, soil structure and physical limitations to plant growth.
  • To understand the principles of the soil chemical environment, its relationship with the physical environment and to be able to interpret relevant measurements in the characterisation of soil chemical parameters.
  • To relate the demands of modern agronomy to the soil physical and chemical environments in both a qualitative and quantitative manner.
  • To understand the application of modelling to investigate the interaction between soils and food security.

Main Learning Outcomes

  • A competent understanding of the underpinning factors of the soil physical and chemical environment.
  • An ability to develop experimental procedures to analyse the soil physical and chemical environment.
  • The capability of processing data associated with soil physical and chemical measurements and an understanding of the limitations and uncertainties associated with such data.
  • The ability to integrate the plant environment with soil physical and chemical parameters.
  • A working knowledge of the interaction between crops and different soil physical and chemical parameters, and an introduction to modelling of food security issues related to soil.

Associated Costs


Further Information & Notes

This course runs in weeks 13-17, and is scheduled in Thread 2 so may have contact hours in any or all of these times: Mondays, 14-18; Tuesday, all day; Friday, 14-18. If it is an optional course, there may also be contact hours on Wednesdays, 9-11.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

Executive Summary of student debates on a topic relevant to Soils for Food Security (25%)

Two laboratory reports with a strong emphasis on data analysis, statistical applications and summarizing large volumes of information.

i. Soil physics laboratory report (10%)

ii. Saline irrigation laboratory report (25%)

1st Attempt: 2-hour exam (40%)

Resit: Similar to 1st Attempt, with continuous assessment mark(s) and/or exam mark carried forward with an opportunity to resit either or both, depending on what was failed in the first attempt.

Formative Assessment

The field trips, tutorials and practical sessions will provide opportunities for student-student and student-instructor interaction.  Formative assessment will be provided during these interactions.


Students will get generic verbal feedback on each laboratory report and during tutorials in relation to progress on tasks.  Each student will receive individual feedback and a grade for each laboratory report.  Feedback will be provided as written comments. 

Course Learning Outcomes


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