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WageningenX: Sustainable Soil Management: Soil for life

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Soil is the earth’s fragile skin that anchors all life. We depend on soil to build our homes and cities, to grow crops for food and raise livestock, to support transportation and enable recreation. Yet we disregard this crucial and precious resource that lies right under our feet. Learn why soil is so important, how it's being threatened and what we can do to protect this natural resource so vital to our lives.

7 weeks
8–10 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
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Starts Apr 12

About this course

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This introductory environmental studies course will explore the importance of soil to life on earth, the issues, processes and societal challenges underlying soil degradation – and what can be done to ensure sustainable soil management for the future. The threats to our soil span deforestation, erosion, overgrazing, use of agrochemicals, compaction, pollution and climate change. Learn what you can do to make a difference in protecting this vital natural resource.

At a glance

  • Institution: WageningenX
  • Subject: Environmental Studies
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    The level of the course is Introductory. The prerequisites are secondary school or a first/second year BSc.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated programs:
  • Associated skills:Erosions, Environmental Studies, Soil Management, Agrochemicals, Soil Science

What you'll learn

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After successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand that soils and sustainable soil management are critically important to life on earth.
  • Appreciate how soils form, their functions and basics of soil degradation.
  • Recognize the threats to and how to care for soil water relations, soil fertility and soil biodiversity.
  • Investigate the effects of and solutions for soil erosion, soil compaction, soil pollution and soil salinization.
  • Comprehend the socio-economic and policy aspects of sustainable soil management.
  • Contribute to discussions and guided-activities about how we all can help protect soil for life.

The MOOC Sustainable Soil Management: Soil for life consists of 11 modules with a study load of about 8 hours per module. Modules 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11 are obligatory for the Verified Certificate. You must also complete two of the _ elective modules _ 5 to 9.

1 Soil formation, functions and threats
Learn about soil functions, soil formation processes and the main soil threats worldwide. You will also learn and practice some soil classification skills.

2 Soil water processes
Discover the importance of soil-water interactions and causes and consequences of reduced soil wettability, compaction and soil sealing. Do at home projects to see these soil threats in your own surroundings.

3 Dynamics of soil fertility
Learn what determines soil fertility, the importance of soil organic matter, and the causes and effects of soil fertility loss and nutrient surpluses and deficits. Start your own experiment and observe the effects of soil nutrients on plant growth.

4 Loss of soil biodiversity
Discover how important soil biodiversity is for soil functions, and learn how to prevent and resolve its loss. Get outside and discover the rich life under your feet using some simple tests!

5 Water erosion
Learn about water erosion, its effects on soil functions, and explore ways to prevent and resolve this threat. You also get to investigate water erosion characteristics in your own environment.

6 Wind erosion
Learn about wind erosion, its effects on soil functions, and ways to prevent and resolve it. Build your own mini wind tunnel to test theerodibilityof some soils and explore the effectiveness of some counter measures.

7 Soil compaction
Discover how compaction of soils in agriculture is a threat to soil function. Learn of measures aimed at the prevention, amelioration, and/or impact alleviation of compacted soils.

8 Soil pollution
Discover the major sources and concerns about soil pollution, how pollutants behave in soil and some soil remediation techniques. Visit a farm/garden store to discover what chemicals are used in your environment.

9 Soil salinization
Learn about the process of salinization, its effects, and how to manage it. Engage in Dr. Ritzema's experiment to discover the impacts of salt on soils and plants.

10 Achieving sustainable soil management
See how human factors and analysis techniques affect soil management decisions. Play the African Highland Farmer Game to experience the challenges in sustainably managing your own plot of land. Share sustainable land management approaches in your country.

11 Final exam
With all you have learned about soil, soil degradation and sustainable soil management, it's time to synthesize the information into your own case study!

Learner testimonials

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"The most valuable thing I've learned from this course is how important the soil is for every living being. We need to protect it for our future generations. I knew that there were negative impacts on our soil, but I didn't expect that there would so many threats that could have negative impacts on our soils."

''Through the course , I learned how to identify soil types, their properties, the different ways we destroy our environment and how much organic matter plays a vital role in growth of good crops.''

''The course was interesting and really changed my perception about Soil. Course materials are rich and the tutors are motivating. I am glad to announce that I began an experiment on soil salinity, an idea motivated by this course.''

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you have questions about the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and/or related online programmes of Wageningen University & Research? To help you find answers to your questions, we created a list with frequently asked questions about enrolling, participating in- and finishing a MOOC.

This course is part of Crop Production and Soil Management Professional Certificate Program

Learn more 
Expert instruction
2 skill-building courses
Progress at your own speed
3 months
7 - 9 hours per week

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