NPLK19001U Modelling of Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Systems

Volume 2020/2021

MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Environmental Science



The course is aimed at master students who would like to specialize in modelling agro-hydrological systems and quantitative agro-ecological system analysis. It provides a mechanistic understanding of the different physical, chemical and biological processes occurring at the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere System, along with their interactions. The covered sub-topics are:


  • Water flow in soils
  • Solute transport (focus on nitrate and pesticide transport)
  • Heat transport
  • Soil organic matter turnover
  • Soil vegetation atmosphere transfer of water and energy
  • Crop growth/Production
  • Management practices


During the course, the Daisy model is going to be the main modelling tool. However, other modelling approaches will also be introduced by the university's lecturers and by guest lecturers. The course includes a series of short theory presentations, each followed by hands-on group exercises during which the students learn how to use Daisy and how to analyze a simple, pre-defined system. Specifically, they learn how to convert measured data to input files, how to run Daisy, and how to extract, analyze and evaluate output. In the second part of the course, the acquired knowledge is applied in the analyses of more realistic agro-ecological systems. The students will have the option to choose one, from a list of pre-defined scenarios, based on current research problems. The students will work in groups, formulate hypotheses based on their chosen scenario and use Daisy to test these hypotheses. During this phase there will be no lectures, but only consultation from the teachers. The students' work will be documented in the form of an individual report.


Learning Outcome

Knowledge, skills and competences obtained during the course:

Knowledge: The students should be able to understand and explain how the Daisy model is built, i.e. the function of its major components and how these components interact with each other. They should also be able to find details on how the model works, as well as to prepare input data and to extract output for model applications.

Skills: Students will be able to apply the Daisy model to traditional agroecological system analysis including the water cycle (e.g. evapotranspiration and runoff), the carbon cycle (e.g. crop production) and the nitrogen cycle (e.g. nitrate leaching). Furthermore, they will be able to use the model for more specialized analysis, i.e. the leaching of pollutants like pesticides or natural toxins to ground water and surface waters.

Competences: The students will be able to extract and analyze relevant figures from model simulations with Daisy, interpret the results of their analyses, and draw the right conclusions. 

Abrahamsen, P. Hansen, S. (2000). Daisy: an open soil-crop-atmosphere system model. Environmental Modelling & Software 15 (2000) 313–330.

 Hansen, S., Abrahamsen, P., Petersen, C.T., and Styczen, M., 2012. Daisy: model use, calibration and validation, Transactions of the ASABE, 55(4): 1315-1333.


Hansen, S, Thirup, C., Refsgaard, J.C. Jensen, L.S. (2001). Modelling nitrate leaching at different scales - application of the Daisy model. In: In: Modelling Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics for Soil Management (Edited by M.J. Shaffer, L. Ma and S. Hansen). Lewis Publishers, 2001.

Knowledge, skills and competences equivalent to what can be obtained from the course "Applied Agrohydrology" is desired.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
Class room teaching with active participation of students by means of exercises and real targeted model work, discussions, group work, etc. The students must bring their own computers.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Class Instruction
  • 50
  • Preparation
  • 56
  • Exercises
  • 30
  • Project work
  • 40
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min
The oral exam is a group examination related to the submitted reports and to the topics covered throughout the course.
During the examination, questions will be asked to each student individually.
Weight: 50% reports, 50% oral exam.
Exam registration requirements

Submission of the course report.


All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

During the examination week of Block 1.


As the ordinary exam.

The course report need to be handed in 3 weeks before the re-exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria defining the perfect exam performance are specified under "Learning Outcome".