85857 - Soil Physics

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Marco Bittelli

  • Credits 6

  • SSD AGR/02

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, the student has acquired the knowledge of physical and chemical principles governing the exchange of mass and energy in the soil, the plant and the first atmospheric boundary layer. The student is able to: measure the basic physical variables of the soil, quantified through the use of mathematical models of the main terms of the water balance of crops. The student has acquired skills related to the hydrostatic and hydrodynamic state of the soil, the thermal state, and solute transport for the quantification of environmental pollutants flows.

Course contents

1. General Principles of soil physics; properties of solid, liquid and gaseous form; (Total teaching unit: 2 hours)

2. The solid phase; properties of primary and secondary minerals, particle size distribution; (Total teaching unit: 4 hours)

3. Specific surface area and properties' surfaces; adsorption models; (Total teaching unit: 2 hours)

4. Structure; models describing the structure, simplified models, fractals (Total teaching unit: 2 hours)

5. The gas phase, gas flows in the soil. (Total teaching unit: 4 hours)

6. The soil thermal state (heat flow and thermal properties of the soil) (Total teaching unit: 4 hours)

7. The liquid phase, the main properties of water (thermal, mechanical and electromagnetic) (Total teaching unit: 6 hours)

8. Hydrostatic (water content and water retention curve); Campbell and van Genuchten functions; (Total teaching unit: 4 hours)

9. Hydrodynamics (water flow in the saturated and unsaturated zone); equations of conservation of mass; agronomic applications of hydrostatics and hydrodynamics (water balance of the soil, irrigation and drainage) (Total teaching unit: 6 hours)

10. The movement of solutes in agricultural land; law of convection-dispersion;
agronomic applications of the movement of solutes (soil salinization, effect of solutes on soil and crops, fertilizing, flows of organic and inorganic pollutants into ground and surface waters). (Total teaching unit: 6 hours)


Book: Soil Physics with Python


Teaching methods

The course consists of lectures (40 hours) accompanied by exercises (20 hours) practices in the laboratory and in the field to give the student the opportunity to practice on certain topics. As part of its practice, guided tours may be provided to companies, research centers or other universities.

Assessment methods

The evaluation of the course takes into account jointly the level of knowledge and skills acquired by the student in relation to the contents of all the teachings.

The assessment of learning occurs through one final exams, finding that the acquisition of knowledge and skills expected by conducting a written test lasting 3 hours without the aid of notes or books.

The written test consists of 6 questions. Each question allows for a maximum of 5 points. To be eligible to take the oral exam must be obtained in the written test a minimum score of 18 points, then solve or answer at least 4 questions.

The student is also asked to prepare a final project for the course, developed by using the computer codes and/or laboratory data used or collected during the course.

Teaching tools

Computer, projector, PowerPoint presentations, video / DVD, computer programming, field trips.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Marco Bittelli