NPLK14020U Sustainable Agricultural Development Pathways

Volume 2017/2018

MSc Programme in Agricultural Development
MSc Programme in Sustainable Development in Agriculture (Agris Mundus)


The course addresses the challenge of increasing food production in developing countries, while conserving the key natural resources. 
The course addresses key resource constraints in a constructive, non-dogmatic and case-specific way. In 5 topical sessions, the course investigates Water use; Nutrients and soil quality; Breeding and GMO's; Pests and Insects; and Climate smart agriculture.
In each session, the mechanistic basis is presented, in order to understand and evaluate potential and constraints for increasing food production while conserving resources. The mechanistic base in then applied semi-quantitatively at farming system level in a series of case-specific scenarios, under varying soil, climate and socioeconomic conditions. Trade-offs and interrelationships are emphasized at the farming system level.
The course will qualify students to discuss sustainable development pathways, with a mechanistic, quantitative understanding of biological and chemical processes, but applied to farming system level. There is an element of "myth-busting" in the evaluation of various interventions applied, quantitative potential. The course emphasizes the diversity of farming systems, climatic and market conditions, and hence relevance of various solutions.
Students will write one individual assignment during the course, which forms 30% of the final mark.

Learning Outcome

Knowledge of main arguments for or against agronomic development paradigms (GMO, Agro-ecology, Organic etc).
Overview of main constraints for agronomic development and yield gaps globally
Overview of resource availability (water, nutrient, land) globally and cost of access.

Mechanistic understanding of factors which control water and nutrient use efficiency in crops.
Understanding of plant beeding potential for tropical crop production with and without GMO's.
Ability to analyse trade-offs between selected agricultural interventions, yield benefits, environmental benefits and labour consumption.
Ability to evaluate carbon mitigation potential of selected farming systems

Ability to discuss relevance of various agricultural development interventions under a variety of climatic, edaphic and socioeconomic conditions.
Ability to analyse farming systems agronomically
Ability to make recommendations for sustainable agricultural development pathways for specific system types

Scientific papers. Further information will be available on Absalon.

BSc level in agriculture, biology, geography or similar. Fundamental plant/crop science background recommended.
Tropical Crop Production recommended prerequistite course
Lectures, Exercises, Individual and group asignments on exploring and presenting pre-defined cases.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Guidance
  • 12
  • Lectures
  • 54
  • Preparation
  • 48
  • Project work
  • 30
  • Seminar
  • 8
  • Theory exercises
  • 50
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written examination, 2 timer under invigilation
Three topical group reports during the course.
One individual written assignment during the course on a topic within the course frame.
2 hour written exam with calculations, designs, concept development, analysis and discussion.
Examination: The three topical reports count 30%. The individual written assignment accounts for 30% and the written exam for 40% of the final grade.

The individual assignment is submitted in week 8 of the course
Exam registration requirements

Participation in 3 mandatory exercises during course.

All aids allowed

NB: If the exam is held at the ITX, the ITX will provide computers. Private computers, tablets or mobile phones CANNOT be brought along to the exam. Books and notes should be brought on paper or saved on a USB key.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
several internal examinators

As the ordinary exam.

An individual assignment is handed in 2 weeks before re-exam if the requirements is not fullfilled.

Criteria for exam assesment

Assignment is evaluated based on the following criteria:
Level of academic detail and mechanistic understanding of selected processes
Ability to discuss specific mechanisms in relevant context of chosen farming systems
Ability to reflect on barriers for implementation and applied perspectives for food production.

Ability to answer the questions and complete the calculations in the written exam.