Analysing Sustainability of Farming Systems


About this course

The sustainability of our agricultural systems is hotly debated. Real and/or perceived crises are everywhere (nitrogen, climate change, biodiversity, soil degradation, and so forth) and the opinions on how these problems should be solved (organic, regeneration agriculture, zero-till, precision agriculture, smaller farms, local production, ...) are extremely varied and not always based on sound scientific evidence. This course tries to bring data and thorough analysis back into the discussion. We present sustainability analyses of relevant processes in crops, cropping systems and grasslands. The time horizon extends from days to several growing seasons, and the analyses include balances of water, nutrients and carbon. We look at emissions and the external effects of such emissions. Students will learn about natural agro-ecological and socio-economic determinants of cropping systems; multiple cropping systems including intercropping, crop rotations and agroforestry; long-term carbon, water and nutrient balances of agro-ecosystems and an integrated farm level simulation. During the assignments, the student will use different dynamic models and tools.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • Identify the agro-ecological and socio-economic determinants of farming systems
  • Explain key sustainability issues in farming systems such as soil degradation, water depletion and environmental pollution
  • Evaluate the choice and use of sustainability indicators in farming systems
  • Interpret carbon and nutrient balances of farming systems
  • Assess the water balance components of a cropping system and explore options to improve its water productivity
  • Use relevant dynamic models as tools for sustainability evaluation of farming systems
  • Construct an evidence based argument by writing an essay on a sustainability issue in farming systems

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
PPS20306 Systems Analysis, Simulation and Systems Management; CSA20306 Plant-Soil Interactions.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    10 March 2025

    • Ends
      2 May 2025
    • Term *
      Period 5
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 9 Feb 2025
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University