At Plant Production Systems we work on urgent societal issues such as global food security, agricultural and environmental policies, competition for natural resources, food-feed-fuel interactions and global environmental change. We provide grounded, quantitative analysis to understand and respond to these challenges, and to allow the design of sustainable production systems.
Societal problems require analysis at multiple levels, and a key research issue is scaling from the field to farm, region and the global level. Our research and teaching approach combines empirical knowledge and production ecological theory with understanding of farming systems derived from surveys and databases. We start from a process-based understanding of current farming systems to design new systems that contribute to addressing societal problems of global significance. We use various modelling approaches for analysis and exploration based on simulation of crop and animal production, bio-economic optimization and statistical techniques. An interdisciplinary approach is central, as the issues deal with complex human systems. Our focus lies firmly in the natural sciences but close collaboration with groups from social sciences (e.g. economics, rural sociology, communication science) furthers integrated assessment.
If you choose to do your thesis, internship or research practice with us, you will become a member of a group where we strive to maintain a collegial working atmosphere. We inform and engage each other through weekly lunchtime discussion meetings that are attended by all staff and students (both MSc and PhD). We discuss research plans, presentations for conferences, draft papers or key concepts, with substantial time for discussion. MSc students support each other by meeting each week in a thesis ring to discuss research proposals, progress and problems. The thesis ring is led by the students and facilitated by a member of staff.
Our MSc thesis and internship projects use a variety of approaches and methods. Some are predominantly field based, either in the Netherlands, further afield in Europe or in the tropics where we have strong collaborations. Methods used include experiments, surveys, focus group discussions, serious games and quantitative farming system analysis. Other studies are desk-based studies that employ data-science, optimization and simulation modelling. Sometimes a combination of experimental and modelling work is used. We try and link all student projects to ongoing research projects led by staff or PhD candidates to ensure a firm embedding in the work of the group and to provide close supervision and adequate resources.
We highlight the main themes around which our work is organized, together with names of the staff involved. If you are interested in following a thesis at PPS feel free to enquire directly with staff mentioned and also copy your enquiry to Dr. Joost van Heerwaarden -email@example.com – who coordinates the thesis, internship and research practice projects of the group.