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Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems

Through working with case studies in practice this course facilitates students to get familiar with all aspects of farm systems and livelihoods. The aim is to well understand the interdependency as well as specific aspects of productivity and sustainability, crops and livestock, social, economic and institutional dimensions of small scale farming systems in a local and global perspective. By working with small holder cases from different countries and different ecological settings, the student will be exposed to different kind of agricultural systems that adapt to very different situations, socio-economically as well as ecologically.

The course Agroecology Basics, 15 credits is recommended as prior study.

Course evaluation

Additional course evaluations for LB0109

Academic year 2022/2023

Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems (LB0109-20071)

2022-11-01 - 2023-01-15

Academic year 2021/2022

Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems (LB0109-20051)

2021-11-02 - 2022-01-16

Academic year 2020/2021

Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems (LB0109-20088)

2020-11-02 - 2021-01-17

Academic year 2019/2020

Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems (LB0109-20006)

2019-11-01 - 2020-01-19

Syllabus and other information


LB0109 Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems, 15.0 Credits

Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems


Agricultural Science Biology

Education cycle

Master’s level


Title Credits Code
Single module 15.0 0101

Advanced study in the main field

Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirementsMaster’s level (A1N)

Grading scale

5:Pass with Distinction, 4:Pass with Credit, 3:Pass, U:Fail The requirements for attaining different grades are described in the course assessment criteria which are contained in a supplement to the course syllabus. Current information on assessment criteria shall be made available at the start of the course.



Prior knowledge

Knowledge equivalent to 120 credits, including 90 credits in one of the subjects/educational areas Social Science, Natural Science or Technology, and English 6.


The aim is to provide applied and holistic understanding of agricultural production systems; how components and processes in production systems interact with each other and their surroundings. On completion of the course, students will be able to:

- Evaluate and discuss the productivity, sustainability, inputs and outputs in agroecosystems

- Explain and discuss different agroecological perspectives on the balance and interaction between crop and livestock production

- Describe and explain how farming interacts with the diverse environmental, social, economic and institutional dimensions of sustainable development in agriculture and food systems

- Identify, evaluate and propose solutions to problems relevant to the individual production system, i.e. a farm.


The course introduces students to agroecological principles and perspectives on production systems via case studies, lectures, scientific literature, student-led seminars, study visits and student assignments performed individually and in groups. Work with farm cases is an important pedagogic component. Students will be trained in how to describe and explain the interactions between farming practices and the social-ecological conditions that influence the sustainability of agricultural production in a holistic food system context.

The course explores the roles of ecological principles and processes such as competition, diversity, facilitation, nutrient cycling and trophic interactions for the functioning and resource use efficiency of production systems. Students will use agroecological concepts and tools to investigate how production components such as crops, animals, soil, technological equipment, infrastructural settings, economic and social settings, cultural norms and other formal or informal institutions interact and influence decision-making and production conditions in the studied systems. Students will also be introduced to different frameworks and methods to evaluate the sustainability of agricultural production systems.

The course will deal with fundamental agronomic production issues in agroecological contexts, with focus on ecosystem services related to crop production, soil processes such as soil fertility building, nutrient cycles and sustainable pest management. Design of diverse and multifunctional systems will be discussed in terms of environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Scheduled seminars, study visits and presentations are mandatory.

Formats and requirements for examination

To obtain the course credits, a pass in the written examination and assignment work, plus approved participation in compulsory course components will be required. If a student fails a test, the examiner may give the student a supplementary assignment, provided this is possible and there is reason to do so.

If a student has been granted targeted study support because of a disability, the examiner has the right to offer the student an adapted test, or provide an alternative form of assessment.

If this course is discontinued, SLU will decide on transitional provisions for the examination of students admitted under this syllabus who have not yet been awarded a Pass grade.

For the assessment an independent project (degree project), the examiner may also allow a student to add supplemental information after  the deadline for submission.  For more information, please refer to the Education Planning and Administration Handbook.
  • If the student fails a test, the examiner may give the student a supplementary assignment, provided this is possible and there is reason to do so.
  • If the student has been granted special educational support because of a disability, the examiner has the right to offer the student an adapted test, or provide an alternative assessment.
  • If changes are made to this course syllabus, or if the course is closed, SLU shall decide on transitional rules for examination of students admitted under this syllabus but who have not yet passed the course.
  • For the examination of a degree project (independent project), the examiner may also allow the student to add supplemental information after the deadline. For more information on this, please refer to the regulations for education at Bachelor's and Master's level.

Other information

The right to take part in teaching and/or supervision only applies to the course instance which the student has been admitted to and registered on.

If there are special reasons, the student may take part in course components that require compulsory attendance at a later date. For more information, please refer to the Education Planning and Administration Handbook.

Additional information

The course uses concepts and skills that are taught and trained in the course Agroecology Basics. It is therefore recommended, although not a formal prerequisite, that students take Agroecology Basics prior to this course.

Responsible department

Department of Biosystems and Technology

Further information

Determined by: Programnämnden för utbildning inom landskap och trädgård (PN - LT)
Biology field: Övriga biologikurser
Replaces: LB0098

Grading criteria

There are no Grading criteria posted for this course

Litterature list

LB0109: Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems, 2022-2023

Recommended literature related to specific date and lecture (There could be few changes in lecture schedule and literature list before the course starts)

Lecture topic



Sustainability and challenges for agriculture

Gliessman 2015 (chapters 22-23), Rockström et al. 2009, Steffen et al. 2015, Wezel 2017


Cropping systems and food diversification

Hufnagel et al. 2020


Transition to agroecology

Geels and Schot, 2007, IPES-Food, 2016

Ecosystem services to and from agricultural systems

Bommarco et al. 2013, Van Huylenbroeck et al. 2007


Integrated weed management

Buhler 2002, Gliessman 2015 (chapter 11)

Soil, quality, fertility and health

Robinson et al. 2013


Ecological mechanisms of ecosystem services

Bommarco et al. 2013, Isbell, 2017

Sustainability assessment tools, including TAPE

FAO 2013 (SAFA), FAO 2019 (TAPE), Schader et al. 2014, Pelzer et al. 2017


Beneficial biotic interactions and nutrient cycling

Gliessman 2015 (chapters 3, 8, 9, 11), Bedoussac et al 2015, Steffen et al. 2015


Wilson et al. 2016


Agriculture’s climate impact and sustainability in a food system perspective

Poore and Nemecek 2018, Röös et al. 2016


Animal welfare

FAO, 2001

Integrated pest management

Hokannen and Menzler-Hokkanen 2020


Social aspects in livestock

Algers, 2011


Crop and livestock production

Algers, 2011, Gliessman 2015 (chapter 19)


Agricultural/rural development policies

European commission (CAP), Wästfelt 2018 (chapter 9)


Markets and welfare

Eriksen 2010, Gliessman 2015 (chapter 24), Morse 2010


Global production and trade


Urban and peri-urban agriculture

Benis and Ferrao 2018, Olsson 2018 (chapter 14)


Ethical issues in agriculture

FAO, 2001

Course literature LB0109, Agroecology and Sustainability of Production Systems, 2022-2023

Compulsory reading

Books/book chapters

FAO, 2013. *SAFA Guidelines, *Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems. Version3.0. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Gliessman, S.R., 2015. Agroecology: the ecology of sustainable food systems. 3rd ed. CRC Press. (Course textbook, 405 p)

Morse, S., 2010. Sustainability. A biological perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. **Chapter 5: **Socio economic dimensions of sustainability.

Olsson E.G.A., 2018. Routledge handbook of landscape and food. Chapter 14: Peri-urban food production as means towards urban food security and increased urban resilience.

Wästfelt, A., 2018. Routledge handbook of landscape and food. **Chapter 9: Shifts in agriculture praxis: farm modernization and global integration. **

Articles and reports

Algers, B., 2011. Animal welfare – recent developments in the field. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 6 (010), 1-10.

Benis, K and Ferrao, P.2018. Commercial farming within the urban built environment- Taking stock of an evolving field in northern countries. Global food security,y 17:30-37

Bedoussac, L. et al., 2015. Ecological principles underlying the increase of productivity achieved by cereal-grain legume intercrops in organic farming. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 35, 911-935.

Bommarco, R., et al., 2013. Ecological intensification: harnessing ecosystem services for food security. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 28, 230–238.

Buhler, D.D., 2002. Challenges and opportunities for integrated weed management. Weed Science, 50, 273-280.

Eriksen, H. T., 2010. Small places, large issues. London: Pluto Press. Chapter 12: Exchange and consumption, and chapter 13: Production, nature and technology (pages 184-219).

European Commission. The Common agricultural policy (CAP) at a glance.

FAO., 2001. Ethical issues in food and agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

FAO, 2019. Tool for agroecology performance evaluation (TAPE)-process of development and guidelines for application: Test version.

Geels, F.W. and Schot, J., 2007. Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy, 36, 399-417

Hokannen, H.M.T. and Menzler-Hokkanen, I., 2020. Improving the efficacy of biological control by ecostacking. In Y.Gao et al. (eds), Integrative Biological Control, 3-16.

Hufnagel, J., et al. 2020. Diverse approaches to crop diversification in agricultural research. A review. *Agronomy for sustainable development *40 (14)

IPES-Food., 2016. From uniformity to diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems. International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food systems. (section 2 and 3b)

Isbell, F., 2017. Benefits of increasing plant diversity in sustainable agroecosystems. Journal of Ecology, 105, 871-879.

Pelzer, E. et al., 2017. Design, assessment and feasibility of legume-based cropping systems in three European regions Crop & Pasture Science, 68, 902-914.

Poore, J. and Nemecek, T., 2018. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360, 987–992.

Robinson, D.A. et al., 2013. Natural capital and ecosystem services, developing an appropriate soils framework as a basis for valuation. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 57, 1023-1033.

Rockström, J. et al., 2009. Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2):32

Röös, E. et al., 2016. Limiting livestock production to pasture and by-products in a search for sustainable diets. Food Policy, 58, 1-13.

Schader, C. et al., 2014. Scope and precision of sustainability assessment approaches to food systems. Ecology and Society 19(3):42-

Steffen et al., 2015. Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 347 (issue 6223).

Wilson, H.M., et al., 2016. Agroforestry-The next step in sustainable and resilient agriculture. Sustainability 8, 754

van Huylenbroeck, G. et al., 2007. Multifunctionality of agriculture: a review of definitions, evidence and instruments Living Reviews in Landscape Research, 1, 1–38.

Course facts

The course is offered as an independent course: Yes The course is offered as a programme course: Agroecology - Master's Programme Food and Landscape Tuition fee: Tuition fee only for non-EU/EEA/Switzerland citizens: 38060 SEK Cycle: Master’s level (A1N)
Subject: Agricultural Science Biology
Course code: LB0109 Application code: SLU-20008 Location: Alnarp Distance course: No Language: English Responsible department: Department of Biosystems and Technology Pace: 100%