Soil physics applied to Agronomy and Environment

lbres2103  2021-2022  Louvain-la-Neuve

Soil physics applied to Agronomy and Environment
4 credits
30.0 h + 15.0 h
General knowledge in soil science : texture, structure, composition, etc.
Main themes
- Characteristics of a porous medium
- Water retention and water potential in soils
- Flow of water in saturated and unsaturated media
- Techniques for characterizing water content, water potential and hydraulic conductivity
- Introduction to solute transfer
- Transfer of gas and heat in soils
- Soil Mechanics

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1 a. Contribution de l'activité au référentiel AA (AA du programme)
    M1.2 ; M1.4 ; M2.2 ; M2.3 ; M2.4 ; M6.5 ; M6.8
b. Formulation spécifique pour cette activité des AA du programme
    At the end of the course, the student will be able to:
    - Explain the factors that determine the physical properties of soil
    - Master the basic techniques of characterization of soil physical properties
    - Explain the impact of soil physical properties on the retention and flow of water, the transfer of gas, heat and dissolved substances, and mechanical properties of soils
    - Establish the profiles of total water potential from baseline data
    - Establish the basis for modeling the dynamics of soil water in space and time, and applying Darcy's equation to estimate steady water flow
    - Associated with a given type of soil, depending on texture and structure, the physical properties that correspond to it, and interpret soil physical data
    - Describe the principle of operation, advantages and disadvantages of conventional methods and instruments used for the characterization of soil physical properties
    - Extract soil samples in situ and characterize the basic hydraulic properties in the laboratory
    - Write a report according to scientific standards and critically and consistently analyze results
    - Contribute effectively to collegial data acquisition, analysis and writing of the results and conclusions.
Lectures :
    - Reminder regarding the characteristics of a porous medium
    - Retention of water in soil, capillarity, water retention, hysteresis
    - Potential of water in soils: gravitational, matrix, hydrostatic, overburden, osmotic, barometric potential
    - Techniques for characterizing water content and water potential
    - Water flow in soils under steady saturated and unsaturated conditions : laws of Poiseuille, Darcy Equation and Richards equation
    - Techniques for characterizing the hydraulic conductivity curve
    - Equation of water transport in soil: Examples of analytical solutions
    - Introduction to solute transport in soils
    - Transfer of gas and heat in soil : processes
    - Mechanical properties of soils , compaction, and characterization techniques
    Practicals :
    - Sampling of soil
    - Measurement of bulk density
    - Measurement of infiltration : constant head infiltrometer and permeameter
    - Characterization of the water retention curve
    - Calculation of water potentials
    - Calculation of water balance
Teaching methods
- Classes, largely illustrated by photos, schematics and exercices
-  Inverted classrooms, based on Videos from the MOOC 'L'eau et le sol' (in French) (water retention and flow in soils)
- Practicals in the lab and in the field
- Exercise solving sessions
- Feedback on practicals report around mid-semester
Evaluation methods
Report of practicals (40%)
Oral exam based on solving of exercises (written preparation) (40%)
Oral exam based on 3 theoretical questions (no préparation) (20%)
Other information
This course can be given in English.
Online resources
MOOC "L'eau et le sol"
Ouvrage de référence :
- "Environmental Soil physics", D. Hillel
- Transparents des cours sur iCampus
- MOOC "L'eau et le sol" (EDX)
Teaching materials
  • Transparents sur Moodle
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [120] in Agricultural Bioengineering

Master [120] in Environmental Bioengineering

Master [120] in Forests and Natural Areas Engineering

Master [120] in Chemistry and Bioindustries

Master [120] in Agriculture and Bio-industries