The ecology of cropping systems
The course is given during the spring 2024.
What we choose to grow and what methods we are using matters to sustainably feed the world. “The ecology of cropping systems” course gives you the opportunity to understand how crops are produced, and how to develop sustainable solutions in agriculture based on knowledge on ecological processes and the reality faced by farmers in Sweden and in other regions. The course will prepare students for future roles as experts in crop production and as environmental specialists with good understanding of agricultural production systems.
This is an interesting time for agriculture. Crop production of today depends to a large extent on external inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The main trend during close to a century has been intensification with specialization and increasingly larger fields. In several ways, we have reached the limits for this approach, and we can no longer increase the productivity by using more fertilizers and pesticides without seriously depleting the natural capital, polluting and contributing to climate change. The simplification of agricultural systems reduced wildlife natural habitats, which often feedback to reduce species that are important for our crops, like pollinators and natural enemies to pest insects and plant pathogens. A transformation of the whole food system, including agriculture, is called for.
The good news is that we have a good opportunity to change this. If you take this course you can contribute to a sustainable future and cropping systems that promote ecological processes, and recognize the need for socially and economically viable farming, both in the short and long term perspective.
Cropping systems include crops, crop sequences and management techniques used. The cropping systems varies throughout the world and there are many examples of sustainable solutions already practiced. Such solutions that are often based on ecological processes, which means that costly inputs (commonly fossil fuel based) are replaced by ecological services. Designing and managing such cropping systems require special skills and the ability to adapt to the local biophysical and socio-economic conditions. Typical suitable practices promote soil fertility and efficient use of resources and include diverse crop rotations, adapted tillage, crop mixtures, cover crops, agroforestry, flower strips etc. The integration of these practices into economically, socially and environmentally sustainable cropping systems across the globe, is a challenge humanity needs to take on.
The course has a special focus Sweden, but uses successful examples from across the globe to increase understanding about dependence and adaptation to local environments, as well as providing ideas for the development of Swedish agriculture. By the end of the course, students should be able to describe and discuss cropping systems and their dependence on their biophysical and socio-economic context, as well as how cropping systems can be design to deliver food, feed and other services viably, considering economic, social and environmental perspectives.
The course has a strong production focus, since increasing quantitative and qualitative demands for agricultural products is a major motivation for this course. It is important to find cropping systems that can provide us with sufficient amounts of food, feed, fibres and fuel products, while benefitting ecological and social sustainability.
At this course you will have many possibilities to engage in debate. Share your experiences. Put your assumptions to test. Consider your own role. We are all part of the agricultural system - your choices in the supermarket influence both farmers and the landscape.
This course suits anyone that want to give evidence-based advice to farmers and policy-makers and influence future agriculture and food systems. We also welcome biologists that are interested in broaden their perspectives on agriculture. According to our experience, a mix of backgrounds is beneficial for learning, considering the multifaceted present and future demands on cropping systems. This course will demonstrate that agriculture can both cause and solve environmental problems depending on how it is done.
The course is given Agriculture Programme - Soil/Plant, Agriculture Programme - Soil/Plant and EnvEuro - European Master in Environmental Science. But it is also offered as an independent course.
The course is given during the spring 2024.