NPLK19002U Experimental Soil Analysis

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programmme in Environmental Science

MSc Programme in Global Environment and Development


The course is organised as a serie of experimental soil analysis exercises in the laboratory (”hands on”). Based on the students own experimental data, reports including data treatment will be part of the course. The course is organised as an experimental continuation of the course "Soil, Water and Plants" or equivalent basic soil science course.

The purpose is for the student to be able to master and evaluate the methods in experimental determination of fundamental physical and chemical soil properties of soil. Likewise, to increase the students knowledge of processes and properties for soil quality, sustainable plant production and the environment.

Two main parts will be covered during the course: soil physics and soil chemistry.

Soil physics:
Determination of particle size distribution and soil classification. Characterisation and regulation of soil structure. Determination of soil mechanical properties, compaction and soil strength. Characterisation of gas exchange in soil: diffusivity and air permeability.

Water retention properties and soil pore size distribution. Water and air capacity, plant available water. Water movement, water infiltration and soil drainage. Hydraulic conductivity.

Solute transport related to water movement and hydrodynamic dispersion. Leaching of solutes. Thermal properties and heat transport in soil.

Soil chemistry:
Properties for soils classification, sampling and sample conservation of dry and moist soils.

Determination of pH, alkalinity, exchangeable cations, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and base saturation.

Organic carbon, humic acid, organic nitrogen, nitrate, and ammonium. Fractionation of soil phosphate pools. Extraction of iron and aluminium oxides: crystalline and amorphous.

Learning Outcome

The aim of the course is to get knowlegde and be able to master the methods used for physical and chemical characterisation of soil in the laboratory. With the hands on training also increase the knowledge of properties and processes in soils essential for soil quality, plant production and environment. After completion of the course, the student is expected to be able to:

Be able experimentally to quantify and critically assess key soil physical and chemical properties of importance for plant growth and environmental protection.
On the highest level have knowledge and overview of the range of key soil physical and chemical properties common for Danish soil types.
Be able to identify scientific challenges in this field.

Conduct central experimental soil analyses.

Evaluate and explain the relationships between land use and physical/chemical soil properties, and vice versa.
Explain fundamental scientific laws, principles, concepts and methods within the course topics.

Evaluate and assess which experimental methods and principles to be used to characterise the soil as a growth medium for plants, and in relation to the risk of pollution of soil and water as consequence of plant production or other land use. 
Apply and chose the correct mathematical mechanistic and statistical models to describe own experimental results, and use the models to predict relevant properties of the soils studied, including critical assessment of limitations to the models applied.  

Identify and determine essential soil physical and soil chemical aspects of the concept soil quality, interpret experimental results and draw appropriate conclusions.

see Absalon for the course literature
The latest version of the Practice compendium prepared by the teachers can be found online in Absalon.

Completed courses in Soil Science equivalent to 7.5 ECTS.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
Lab exercises two days, data treatment and report writing per week in small groups. The teaching is interactive as the teachers usually introduce the theoretical background and the practical conditions for the lab exercise to be conducted. Results are discussed and brought into perspectives in relation to the aim of the course. Training in oral presentation and discussion of key topics is hereby integrated in the exercises.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Field Work
  • 5
  • Laboratory
  • 52
  • Seminar
  • 12
  • Exam Preparation
  • 36
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Collective feedback on oral presentation of reports.
Continuous feedback on individual experimental exercises in the laboratory, and processing of results

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min
Type of assessment details
Oral exam with 20 minutes preparation.
Exam registration requirements

Completed and accepted minimum 75% of the reports for exercises in each of the two main topics, and participated with presentation in the final seminar.

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

Week 9 in the course block


As the ordinary exam.

If the student did not fulfill the requirements for the ordinary exam, then the student should have completed and accepted all the reports for exercises in both of the two main topics: soil physics and soil chemistry 3 weeks before the exam. The experimental data will be provided when needed.

Criteria for exam assesment

In order to obtain the grade 12, the student should convincingly be able to demonstrate knowledge, skills and competences as described under the description of objectives