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Last modified: 31 Aug 2021 09:31

Course Overview

This advanced soil science course provides additional teaching of physical, chemical and biological properties of soils in the context of food security and climate change. You will learn a variety of processes that affect soil productivity, accompanied by practical sessions that will teach relevant analytical methods. Students are introduced to modelling of agricultural impacts on soils and the environment, particularly in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration, so that mitigation strategies can be assessed.

There are two practical sessions with assignments, a debate and a final exam.

Course Details

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

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

What other courses must be taken with this course?


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.

In light of Covid-19 this information is indicative and may be subject to change.

Contact Teaching Time

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

Teaching Breakdown

  • 1 Practical during University weeks 16, 16 - 17
  • 2 Practicals during University week17
  • 1 Tutorial during University weeks 15 - 16, 15 - 16
  • 2 Tutorials during University week17
  • 3 Tutorials during University weeks 18 - 19

More Information about Week Numbers

Summative Assessments

Alternative Assessment

Debate (25%)

Practical (25%)

Lab work (10%)

Online exam (40%)

Alternative Resit Assessment

Students will repeat whichever elements of the assessment were failed or not completed at first sitting; the marks for elements already passed will be carried forwards.

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
FactualRememberILO’s for this course are available in the course guide.

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