Skip to main content

Unit information: Principles of Agricultural Production and Sustainability in 2014/15

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Principles of Agricultural Production and Sustainability
Unit code BIOLM0014
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Memmott
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

The aim is to provide an advanced introduction to sustainable methods of food production. This remit includes sustainable agricultural intensification, agri-environmental schemes, organic farming, land sparing and genetically modified crops. The role of legislation, subsidies, and environmental policy in shaping agricultural systems will be discussed, and emerging crops such as biofuels will be considered alongside traditional food crops. The likely impacts of climate change on agricultural systems will be discussed, alongside potential mitigation measures. The course perspective will be global.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Explain and evaluate the key principles and practices of sustainable agriculture.
  2. Describe how climate change is likely to impact on agriculture and how mitigation measures may ameliorate its impact.
  3. Describe emerging crops and practices.
  4. Discuss what sustainable agriculture might look like in the future.

Teaching Information

Lectures (12 hours), problem-solving practical (5 hours).

Assessment Information

Formative: feedback will be given after a problem solving practical in which students, working in groups, are allocated a viewpoint (farmer, farming advisor, seed merchant, ecologist, supermarket), along with a farming scenario and they have to reach a decision on a pest control strategy for a farm (different types of farms will be allocated to the different groups).

Summative: a two-hour written exam (100%).

Reading and References

  • Ronald PC & Adamchak RW (2008). Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food. Oxford University Press.
  • Garnett T & Godfray HCJ (2012). Sustainable intensification in agriculture: Navigating a course through competing food system priorities. Food Climate Research Network and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford.
  • Casselberry E (2011). Sustainable Living, Vol. 1: Sustainable Agriculture Including Organic Farming, Permaculture, Crop Rotation, Aquaponics, Forest Gardening, Urban Agriculture and More. Aquaponics Books.
  • Letourneau DK & Bothwell SG (2008). Comparison of organic and conventional farms: challenging ecologists to make biodiversity functional. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6: 430-438.
  • Phalan B, Onial M, Balmford A & Green RE (2011). Reconciling food production and biodiversity conservation: land sharing and land sparing compared. Science 333: 1289-1291.
  • Trewavas A (2001). Urban myths of organic farming. Nature 410:409-410.