Soil and water are among the most important resources on our planet. Soils are heterogeneous mixtures of air, water, inorganic and organic solids, and microorganisms (both plant and animal in nature). They support the earth's ecosystems, by providing a habitat for plants and, ultimately, all terrestrial life. Dr. Roy W. Simonson well captured our motivation to explore and better understand this essential system: “The soil is the link between the rock core of the earth and the living things on its surface. It is the foothold for the plants we grow. Therein lies the main reason for our interest in soils.”
The Department of Soil and Water Sciences seeks to conduct high impact fundamental and applied research at multiple scales to ensure that our science addresses immediate problems and anticipates future challenges.
Immediately after the Hebrew University was established in 1925, its scientists devoted themselves to the most urgent task of finding groundwater. Their successful efforts made it possible to transform barren areas into rich agricultural land even before the State was founded in 1948. In the early 1950s, the Faculty of Agriculture established the Soil and Water Department to commence research on new systems of irrigation which would reduce water use, on the breeding of plants that require small quantities of water for growth and/or have high tolerance to brackish water, on projects for water conservation and more economical water use, and on maintaining and preserving soil properties and fertility under conditions of intensive use. In the 1960s, the founder of our department, prof. Shlomo Ravikovitch, along with his research group, classified and mapped Israel's soils, for which he was awarded the 1984's Israel Prize in Agriculture. As Israel's use of treated wastewater for irrigation intensified, many research initiatives were devoted to understanding the effects of water quality on soil properties, and on crop well being.