Soil Program on Hydro-Physics via International Engagement (SOPHIE)

The objective of SOPHIE is that it supports the realisation of qualified soil hydro-physics (SHP) data, highly needed in EU policy making, coming from EU-wide agreed, preferred, and innovated cost-effective laboratory- and field methods, accomplished through international collaboration.

Soil Hydro-Physics (SHP) properties are THE properties that determine soil-water-interactions:

  1. water flow and water retention, and
  2. with the water flow, the transport of dissolved compounds like nitrogen, phosphates, pesticides, antibiotics, organics, etc. 

Examples of SHP-properties are: Soil water -retention, -(un)saturated conductivity, -shrinkage and swelling, organic matter, texture (particle distribution), structure (soil aggregation/pore structure), density, capillary rise, and alike.

As a result, SHP-properties play an important role in a variety of societal issues that depend on the soil-water condition: Food security (drought and water damage), Agricultural development (precision drainage, irrigation), Salinity and Sodicity (evaporation and capillary rise equilibrium), Soil greenhouse gas emission (N2O, CO2), Nature conservation (wet & dry lands), Sustainable land use/Healthy Soils (function location), Water quality (nutrients/contaminants/antibiotics percolation to groundwater, Flooding (dike stability, infiltration, soil water repellency), Infrastructural damage (soil shrinkage), and alike.

The need for reliable SHP properties is widely emphasized by researchers and consultants. However, concurrently it is recognized that harmonization, and the development of new techniques is difficult to accomplish. This is due to the missing attention and missing direct visibility of SHP properties in the societal topics they address. As a result, current methods remain time-consuming. They need to be improved towards cost-effective ones, and should be sufficiently harmonized to be used on EU-scale research.

There are many opportunities to markedly improve the situation, but these require large-scale adaptation, validation and standardization. One example is the adaptation and innovation towards novel remote and proximal sensing techniques. When they are used in combination with modern field and laboratory techniques, they can lead to standardized SHP-properties, directly usable for fast extending current soil databases like LUCAS, and in large scale studies.

Past events

  • Thursday 20 January 2022 - Saturday 22 January 2022. Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Bondy, FRANCE. Interaction between SHP and biological activity, role of GLOSOLAN, visit IRD-Bondy technical platforms, ring test and developments in reference sample design, development of international SHP-labs for SOPHIE and GLOSOLAN, global FAO ring test.
  • Institute of Agrophysics, Lublin Poland, January 2020
  • Friday 30th of August 2019 from 13.00 to 15.30 – Side event of the Wageningen Soil Conference (WSC), Wageningen Netherlands
  • 11 April 2019 - PICO presentation session EGU2019, Vienna Austria: Oral and screen presentation.
  • 9 April 2019 - Open splinter meeting EGU2019, Vienna Austria: During this meeting we discussed the SOPHIE draft Basic Development Agenda, discussed the follow-up upon the Gembloux workshop regarding the use of reference samples, and inter-laboratory comparisons for hydro-physics measurements, and discussed the organisational structure of SOPHIE.
  • 30 January 2019 - Workshop, ULiège - Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech Belgium: The workshop particularly aimed at facilitating benchmarking of conventional soil hydro-physics measurements between laboratories. This workshop led to interesting new insights and actions.
  • 6 December 2017 - INSPIRATION meeting, Brussels Belgium: Building upon commitment among policy-makers, manufacturers, developers, researchers and users. The Motivation and Approach were underlined almost unanimously during the workshop. Representatives of the International Soil Modeling Consortium (ISMC), the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC), WEPAL, and the other participants indicated their commitment towards developing SOPHIE, and it was concluded that SOPHIE should be extended.

SOPHIE partners