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Sustainable Soil Management: Soil for life

26,424 people completed this program


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.

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!

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Sustainable Soil Management: Soil for life
7 weeks
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