Land Evaluation
Reference IHBIOW01000009
Taught in Elective Course List for Master of Bioscience Engineering: Soil and Water ManagementLijst keuzevakken voor Master in de bio- ingenieurswetenschappen: land- en waterbeheerSecond Year of Master of Physical Land Resources (Interuniversitary: UGent - VUB) - Main Subject: Soil Science
Theory (A) 30.0
Exercises (B) 30.0
Training and projects (C) 0.0
Studytime (D) 135.0
Studypoints (E) 5
Credit contract? Access is determined after successful competences assessment
Examination contract? This course can not be taken through this kind of contract
Credit contract mandatory if Exam contract? Separate credit contract mandatory
Retake possible in case of permanent evaluation? Yes
Teaching Language English
Lecturer Ann Verdoodt
Department WE13
Co-lecturers Eric Van Ranst
Key Words

Theory: oral examination (closed book) with more emphasis on general comprehension of the basic principles, boundary conditions, and scope of application of the different land evaluation tools than on encyclopedic knowledge. Exercises: written examination (open book) on 2 or 3 applications of the discussed land evaluation tools, the permanent evaluation consists of the training in the application of these tools by individual reporting.

Position of the Course

Building on general insights in soil science, this course aims to provide the students with an overview of the different methods that can be used to determine the land suitability and soil quality for agrarian land uses. The students learn how to use the basic terminology and concepts and how to judge and apply the existing methods. Interpretation of results is oriented towards land use planning, yield forecasts, estimations of the population supporting capacity and soil protection policies.


A land evaluator assesses the suitability of a piece of land for different kinds of land use.

In a short introduction, the definition of land and land evaluation is explained within the actual context of challenges, strategies and policies required for a sustainable use of the limited natural resources. Next, some basic concepts and principles defined in the FAO Land Evaluation Framework are outlined, followed by an in depth discussion on land characteristics and land qualities: the data sources and their interpretation. These concepts are illustrated using examples from land classification methods designed for agriculture, grazing, forestry, engineering and taxation purposes.

In the second part of the lecture notes, several existing qualitative and semi-quantitative land evaluation tools are outlined and discussed. The qualitative tools include the fertility capability classification and land suitability classifications for rainfed and irrigated agriculture. Conversion of these qualitative, physical land classifications into yield data allows to perform an economical land evaluation as well.

The third part of the lecture notes is devoted to concepts in productivity estimation and crop growth modelling. Application of these principles is illustrated in the chapters describing the agro-ecological zoning project and a semi-quantitative crop growth model. More advanced applications of land evaluation science such as population supporting capacity estimations, fuzzy logic applications, and soil quality assessments are illustrated in some case studies.

Starting Competences

Successfully pass the main subject course “Soil Science” or having acquainted these competences in another way.

Final Competences

  • Understand and correctly use the specific terminology and principles in land evaluation techniques when communicating with experts.
  • Explain the selection and evaluation of different land characteristics or land qualities as they are used in existing land evaluation techniques.
  • Critical discussion of the basic concepts, advantages/disadvantages, boundary conditions, and output quality of existing land evaluation techniques.
  • Apply existing land evaluation techniques and estimate or calculate the land suitability or expected yields.
  • Know how to select the most relevant soil characteristics and how to design evaluation criteria in new land evaluation assessments.
  • Judge the environmental and socio-economical uniqueness of each land evaluation study, and translate it into adapted land evaluation techniques.
  • Be aware of new evolutions in land evaluation
The endterms as such are not merely oriented towards encyclopedic knowledge but towards insights in land suitability assessment for sustainable land use. In addition, the students acquire a critical attitude towards existing methodologies and tools, taking into account the impact of boundary conditions, scale effects and the final quality of the output.

Teaching and Learning Material

Cost: 20.0 EUR
An English syllabus will be made available during the first lectures, at a total estimated cost of 20.0 EUR. There are no obligatory handbooks. During the course of the lectures, an electronic version of the slides will be deposited at the Minerva site.


  • Sys, C., Van Ranst, E., Debaveye, J. and Beernaert, F. (1991, 1993). Land Evaluation. Part I, II and III, Agricultural Publ. N° 7, ABOS, Brussels (being revised)
  • Pearson, C.J., Norman, D.W. and Dixon, D. (1995). Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity. FAO Soils Bulletin 72. FAO, Rome. (
  • World Bank, UNEP, UNDP (1997). Land Quality Indicators and Their Use in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. FAO Land and Water Bulletin n° 5. FAO, Rome. (
  • Verdoodt, A. and Van Ranst, E. (2003). A Two-Level Crop Growth Model for Annual Crops. Ghent University, Laboratory of Soil Science, Ghent (available in library)
  • FAO (2003). AEZWIN. An interactive multiple-criteria analysis tool for land resources appraisal (CD-ROM). FAO Land and Water Digital Media Series n° 15, FAO, Rome. (available in library)
  • FAO (2003). Global agro-ecological assessment for agriculture in the twenty-first century (CD-ROM). FAO Land and Water Digital Media Series n° 21, FAO, Rome. (
  • FAO (2007). Land evaluation. Towards a revised framework. FAO Land and Water Discussion paper n°6. FAO, Rome. (

Course Content-Related Study Coaching

Personal coaching before and after the lectures and during the guided exercises. Feedback about the corrected applications during the guided exercises.

Teaching Methods

Demonstration, Lecture, Lecture: plenary exercises, Seminar: coached exercises

Evaluation Moments

period aligned and permanent evaluation

Calculation of the examination mark
Theory: period aligned evaluation (50%)
Exercises: period aligned (45%) and permanent (5%) evaluation

If the student did not pass in the first session, the marks of the permanent exercises are transferred and only the period aligned examinations are retaken.

Students who eschew period aligned and/or non-period aligned evaluations for this course unit may be failed by the examiner.

Evaluation Methods

Examination methods in case of periodic evaluation during the first examination period:
Written examination, Open book examination, Oral examination

Examination methods in case of periodic evaluation during the second examination period:
Written examination, Open book examination, Oral examination

Examination methods in case of permanent evaluation during the first examination period:

Extra information on the examination methods
Theory – period aligned examination: oral examination (closed book) with more emphasis on general comprehension of the basic principles, boundary conditions, and scope of application of the different land evaluation tools than on encyclopaedic knowledge.
Exercises – period aligned examination: written examination (open book) on 2 or 3 applications of the discussed land evaluation tools.
Exercises - permanent evaluation: application of the discussed land evaluation tools during coached exercises with individual reporting. The permanent exercises will not be retaken in the second examination period.

  Back to the highest level index Go to the general info section Go to the help pages Search the site Nederlandse versie / Dutch version Back to the previous page Back to the top of the page