98835 - Applied Pedology

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Blended Learning
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Planning and management of agro-territorial, forest and landscape (cod. 8532)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

• Understand and use the methodological components and procedures of soil information systems to identify landscape units and soil sampling methods, and to define pedological units;

• Draw up soil maps for various applications (i.e., maps derived for zoning, terroir, vulnerability, etc.) in national and international pedo-environments;

• Evaluate the application of specialized geopedological methods in the simulation of territorial scenarios.

Course contents


Students accessing this course must have a good preparation in the fundamentals of pedology and the basic notions of soil (bio) chemistry. Students will also need to have a good understanding of the main climatic, biotic (e.g., humification, nutrient cycle) and abiotic (e.g., lithology, relief) factors that influence ecosystems and the development of 'pedo-diversity'.

Practical content of the teaching unit (total teaching unit 24 hours)

  1. Introduction to the structures that operate at international level for the study, knowledge and dissemination of the soil resource, availability of soil information in regional, national and international databases (e.g., ISRIC, FAO, GloSIS, etc.).
  2. Introduction to GIS techniques (QGIS, SAGA and elements of R) for the study of soil characteristics and construction of a zoning, digital mapping of soil properties, Land Capability and Land concept Suitability, Land capability classification for forestry.
  3. Introduction to the use of remote and proximal sensing data and images (e.g., multi- and hyperspectral data, VIS-NIR-SWIR) for the interpretation of soil characteristics.

Contents of the laboratory teaching unit (total 16 hours):

Data will be distributed to resume cartography fundamentals and build various types of case studies in a GIS environment:

  1. Use of GIS technology and modelling to measure soil degradation, with examples on soils and climatic environments of various types.
  2. Introduction to hydropedology and terrain analysis tools applied to soil erosion and geomorphology analyses.
  3. Concepts of geostatistics and pedometrics in SAGA environment, and introduction to R packages and SoLIM environmenst.


The use of material distributed by the teacher made available online on the University repository (Insegnamenti OnLine) and lecture notes will be fundamental.

Consultation of the following texts is recommended for further information on the topics covered in class:

  1. McBratney, A.B., Minasny, B., and Stockmann, U. (eds.) (2018). Pedometrics. Springer.
  2. Zhang, G.L., Brus, D., Liu, F., Song, X.D., and Lagacherie, P., (2014). Digital Soil Mapping Across Paradigms, Scales and Boundaries. Springer.
  3. Boettinger, J.L., Howell, D.W., Moore, A.C., Hartemink, A.E., and Kienast-Brown, S. (2010). Digital Soil Mapping: Bridging Research, Environmental Application, and Operation. Springer.
  4. Lagacherie, P., McBratney, A.B., and Voltz, M. (2006). Digital Soil Mapping: An Introductory Perspective. Elsevier.
  5. Soil Geographic Databases: https://www.isric.org/explore/soil-geographic-databases

Teaching methods

The course uses theory lessons integrated with GIS laboratories for pedological applications. The GIS laboratory explores tools for the construction of maps of the landscape units, the creation of databases of the pedological and chemical-physical characteristics of the profiles, the construction of the soil map and the related legend. The laboratories will make use of data and case studies with various applications and purposes.

Students will need to have a good understanding and use of English since part of the teaching material used will be provided in that language.

The course adheres to the University's project on experimental teaching innovation through a hybrid format (Blended), with methodological integration between face-to-face (40%) and distance teaching, the latter for 60% of the total duration of the teaching.

Assessment methods

Learning will be assessed through a combination of:

  1. A technical report (compiled by using GIS techniques);
  2. A written exam.

Students will explore a series of scenarios to which they will have to apply adequate diagnostic tools. On one or more of these scenarios, questions will be formulated on which to build a technical report of geopedological assessment in a GIS environment. This report (submitted in written form, including dataset used) will present the discussion of the suggested solutions with the development of adequate maps and quantitative evaluations. The final evaluation is expressed out of thirty points after the written exam which, in addition to highlighting the skills acquired, will also consider the results achieved in the drafting of the technical report.

Teaching tools

During the course, personal computers (or laptops), video projectors, digital presentations (in Power-point or alternative environment), online communication and collaboration platforms (e.g., Teams, Zoom, etc.), online learning platforms (e.g., Kahoot, MS Forms, etc.), didactic material for reading and exercises with instructions for laboratory activities, and various internet sites for the use of soil data.

Office hours

See the website of Marcello Di Bonito


Clean water and sanitation Climate Action Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.