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The ecology of cropping systems

LB0120 The ecology of cropping systems, 15.0 Credits

The ecology of cropping systems

Syllabus approved



Biology Agricultural science

Education cycle

Master’s level

Advanced study in the main field

Second cycle, only first-cycle courses as entry requirements(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

Equivalent to 120 credits including 75 credits Biology and 15 credits in Agricultural Sciences. English skills equivalent to English B from upper secondary school.


The course aims to provide students with the advanced knowledge needed to make informed decisions about the design and management of cropping systems based on ecological knowledge and insights about economic and social framing conditions. Participants will be able to understand the origin, functions and mechanisms determining the design of current cropping and farming systems from a local and global perspective. This course also approaches synergies and trade-offs between different sustainable development goals (SDGs), with focus on SDGs 2, 12, 13 and 15.

After completing the course, the student will be able to:
- describe and evaluate different types of farming systems (arable, with livestock, mixed systems, agroforestry, etc.) and schools of agriculture (organic, conventional, agroecological, etc.);
- describe and discuss cropping systems in a historical and global perspective;
- identify how specific biophysical processes and agronomic management occur in different cropping systems;
- discuss different types of farming and agricultural sector integration and role into the food system and bio economy with a global perspective;
- understand how farming systems are embedded into and shape landscapes, and how they affect the provision and maintenance of environmental services for the society;
- select appropriate methodologies for communication and extension with farmers, consumers, industry, advisors and authorities;
- translate ecological principles for designing and managing cropping and farming systems;
- design cropping systems that make use of ecological mechanisms to replace external inputs, aiming at an intensification and increase in agronomic and energetic efficiency;
- discuss which requirements need to be addressed by current and future cropping systems, such as mitigation and adaptation to climate change, circular economy, conflicts and synergies regarding access to natural resources, reduction of negative environmental impacts, provision of habitat for biodiversity, etc.;
- describe and discuss how novel technologies can be used to achieve ecological intensification, efficient use of resources and ecologically, economically and socially sustainable agriculture.


The course is based on ecological theory and how it affects the design of cropping and farming systems depending on socio-economic context. The course provides in-depth knowledge of ecological and technical factors that enable ecological intensification with the aim of improve the functioning of the system, increasing the efficiency of the use of natural resources, while reducing negative environmental impacts.
The cropping systems are discussed from a global perspective, including livestock integration, agroforestry and local food systems, with special references to the Swedish agricultural sector.
The multi-functionality of the cropping systems and conflicts between different goals and functions are discussed, especially in relation to the expected societal needs (including SDGs) and challenges from future scenarios.
Case studies and virtual excursions will be used as a method to cover a wide range of edaphoclimatic regions and cropping systems, but also to elucidate the role of different stakeholders in shaping cropping systems and the use of different technologies and practices. Among the stakeholders, farmers will be the focus, but their role will be balanced with the perspectives of other actors such as consumers, industry, advisers and authorities.
The course includes studies of methods for evaluating cropping systems and discussion on the integration of cropping systems into different socio-ecological systems.

The course is structured into themes that are introduced with lectures followed by exercises, literature seminars, and virtual reality excursions (to see cropping systems from other regions). A project work in which the students can define the topic themselves is included.

Formats and requirements for examination

Approved written exams and approved written and oral presentation of project work. Approved participation in compulsory parts of the course.
  • 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 date to which the student has been admitted 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 on this, please refer to the regulations for education at Bachelor's and Master's level.

Responsible department

Department of Crop Production Ecology
Cooperating departments:
Department of Ecology
Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology

Further information

Determined by: Programnämnden för utbildning inom naturresurser och jordbruk (PN - NJ)
Biology field: Ekologi
Replaces: BI1328
There are no Grading criteria posted for this course

Course facts

The course is offered as an independent course: Yes The course is offered as a programme course: Agriculture Programme - Soil/Plant Agriculture Programme - Soil/Plant (270hec) EnvEuro - European Master in Environmental Science Tuition fee: Tuition fee only for non-EU/EEA/Switzerland citizens: 38054 SEK Cycle: Master’s level
Subject: Biology Agricultural science
Course code: LB0120 Application code: SLU-30294 Distance course: No Language: English Responsible department: Department of Crop Production Ecology Pace: 100%