Advanced Soil Physics - Autumn 2018

Name of course: Advanced Soil Physics

ECTS credits: 5

Course parameters:
Language : English
Level of course : Master level, but PhD’s are welcome
Time of year:  20 – 26 August 2018
No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: Students are taught intensively for 7 days, 12-14 hours per day using a mixture of lectures and theoretical/practical exercises. We expect preparation prior to the course. Participating all seven days is mandatory.
Capacity limits: minimum 8 – maximum 24 

Objectives of the course:
The course is designed to give the student an in-depth understanding of the soil as a three-phase system (solid, liquid, gas). A basic knowledge of soil science and physics as a discipline is assumed. On this basis, the aim is to provide a quantitative description of soil architecture and the physical processes in the soil pore system. The course will give a fundamental understanding of the methods used to describe soil properties and soil physical processes including those responsible for transport and leaching from the vadose zone to ground water and/or the aquatic environment.

Learning outcomes and competences:
At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

On completion of the course, participants should be able to describe and discuss:

  • soil physical properties (texture, structure, porosity, stability)
  • soil flow mechanisms
  • the principles behind soil transport of dissolved and particle-bound nutrients and pollutants
  • soil hydraulic parameters and their use in a model context
  • the effects of structural changes on soil physical processes
  • the phenomenon water repellency and its implications
  • classical and sensor-based methods for soil mapping
  • and implement a quantitative assessment of a soil’s carrying capacity in relation to its strength

Compulsory programme:
Pre-assignments, participation in all lectures, laboratory experiments, field work, field trip, assignments, exam, and course report.

Course contents:
The course starts with a review of soil structure, including the interaction between mineral particles, organic material and soil biomass in a self-organizing system. The structural stability is described both for soil as an undisturbed, three-dimensional medium (soil mechanical properties) and for wet or dry fragmentation (e.g. aggregate stability and clay dispersion). Soil pore structure is described in relation to its water and air content and includes a thorough review of the concept of water potential. There is focus on describing and understanding soil water-holding and water-transporting properties and their importance for soil physical characteristics and also as a medium for plant growth. In this connection the most up-to-date measuring methods and modelling concepts covering oven-dry to saturated conditions will be reviewed. The latest knowledge on diffusive and convective transport of water and air is presented in relation to both pore characterisation and important transport processes in soil, including the principles on matrix vs. preferential flow. The role of soil as a filter will be thoroughly explained.

In this connection there will be focus on the transport and degradation of dissolved and particle-bound substances in soil water (both nutrients and pollutants such as pesticides). These are described with the integration of the processes for ad- and desorption and colloid mobilisation. Phenomena such as water repellency in soil, resulting in preferential flow of water, will be covered and so will the principles regarding temperature conditions in the soil. There will be focus on the effect of scale and on the spatial variability of the soil physical properties and processes. Mathematical models describing the physical processes will be presented. Sensors and techniques for prediction and mapping of soil properties will likewise be covered.

Participants are expected to have a basic knowledge of soil science and soil physics. 

Name of lecturers:
Lis Wollesen de Jonge, Mogens H. Greve

Type of course/teaching methods:
Lecture, Classroom instruction, Supervision

Articles, reviews and handbooks in English.

Course homepage:

Course assessment:
Prerequisites for examination participation
Students must have participated in the mandatory course programme.
Written report (10 pages) based on tasks that include data from lab or field exercises.

Department of Agroecology

Special comments on this course:
The course is an off-campus course and held at Aarhus University Foulum. 

20 – 26 August 2018 

Aarhus University FOULUM


Deadline for registration is 15 March 2018.


If you have any questions, please contact Lis Wollesen de Jonge, e-mail: