The Plant Production Systems group is responsible for a wide range of courses, from introductory courses to advanced postgraduate specialist subjects. All courses have a modular, flexible set-up and use a variety of teaching methods: lectures, practicals, computer-based tools, discussion groups, etc.. Our BSc and MSc thesis topics usually relate directly to the above-mentioned projects and students are in most cases guided by staff and PhD students.
The courses in which PPS staff participate are (for periods in which courses can be taken see the Study Handbook of the university):
- Introduction Plant Sciences (NEM-10306); An introductory course dealing with aspects of crop cultivation, plant breeding and crop protection. Complex agro-ecosystems are analysed and major processes distinguished. These processes are subsequently studied to understand them and to see to what extent they can be managed in order to develop a (more) sustainable agriculture. The leading theme in this course is the effect of various limiting biotic and abiotic factors on the potential production of crops.
- Introduction to the Life Sciences (PDQ-10306); A course that introduces the principles of the natural sciences, taking the various phases of the production chain as guide. After an introduction on agriculture and land use, the principles of plant production are presented. Next, fundamentals of storage, processing, packing, consumption and environmental impact are treated. In close collaboration with the ‘Consumer Technology and Product Use' and 'Environmental Systems Analysis' groups.
- Cropping Systems and Knowledge of Crops (CWE-10306);A descriptive course with several practicals and computer-based tools dealing with the top 100 crops of the world. In close collaboration with the Group Crop and Weed Ecology.
- Integrated Natural Resource Management in Organic Agriculture (SOQ-33306); This course focuses on the judicious management of natural and human resources for sustainable organic agriculture, involving different agro-ecological regions of the world, different institutional environments and multiple stakeholders and criteria. Emphasis is on the interaction between field – farm and regional scale in a quantitative manner. Attention is given to the contribution of INRM to environmental services, environmental and social impact, conservation of landscape and nature, and animal health and welfare. The course is in close collaboration with other groups.
- Analysing Sustainability of Farming Systems (PPS-30806); Starting with an introduction on farming systems analysis, relevant sustainability indicators are analysed at farm scale relating to crops, cropping systems, grasslands and the interaction with livestock. Insight is gained into: natural agroecological and socio-economic determinants of cropping systems; multiple cropping systems including intercropping, crop rotations and agroforestry; long-term carbon and nutrient balances of agro-ecosystems; soil degradation and its determinants, energy and tillage. The student will use relevant dynamic models and tools for spatial analysis including GIS, to understand the trade-offs and synergies between different farming strategies and land uses.
- Quantitative Analysis of Land Use Systems (QUALUS) (PPS-30306); An integrative and methodological course dealing with approaches to explore and evaluate future agricultural production and land use systems. Using Multiple Goal Linear programming models, options for land use at farm and regional scale are generated. Each option depends on emphasis put at a particular land use objective. In close collaboration with many other groups.
- Crop Ecology (HPC-21306); This course builds on CWE-10304 and PPS-20304 and deepens the knowledge and insight in environmental and crop physiological aspects of crop production, as that takes place both in the field and in the greenhouse, given technological and societal possibilities and objectives. Both experimental and modelling approaches are used together.
- Quantitative Aspects of Crop Growth and Plant Production (HPC-23303); This course is a subset (3 ects) of Crop Ecology (HPC-21306). It is meant for our foreign guest students who arrive in September in Wageningen to help them learn the principles of crop ecology early in the year: the full course Crop Ecology is scheduled at the end of the academic year (period 5).
- Models for Ecological Systems (INF-31806) (up to 2011: Models for Forest and Nature Conservation (INF-31806)); These courses introduce tools to the student that can help judge whether a model is trustworthy or that probably major mistakes occur in the model or in its program code. Such knowledge is often needed in situations where one will use models developed by other people or groups. How to design, build, analyse, and use simulation models forms part of the course. Some complex real world models will be analysed with the tools learned.
- Sustainable Development: Integrating Worldviews, Disciplines and Practices (YSD-50306); A course dealing with unifying concepts taken from different disciplines and underpinning sustainable development. Theory and practice will be connected through simulations on management of common natural resources, management of a company and effects of policy decisions on people-planet-profit. Students are challenged to reflect on paradigms behind beta and gamma sciences, and on the role of science/scientists, among other things.
- Systems Analysis, Simulation and Systems Management (PPS-20306); A conceptual and methodical course teaching the principles of systems analysis and simulation, with an emphasis on biophysical and ecological process descriptions. Depending on the specific objective, systems are analysed and captured in quantitative simulation models. Studying model behaviour in comparison to real world behaviour allows testing of hypotheses and increases knowledge.
- Life Sciences for Communication Scientists (COM-34806);In this course, social scientists explore the rationality of technical scientists and learn how to interpret their research results. They gain more insight in the role and interaction between life scientists, communication officers, media, policy makers, stakeholders and general public, and reflect upon the societal relevance, risks and ethics of research and communication.
- Global Food Security (YSD-50806); This course deals with different aspects of food security ((food availability, access, nutritional security), from different angles (history, policy, agronomy, food aid, agrifood chains, GMOs, organic etc.) and different scales (global, national, household, individual). Three weeks of lectures will be complemented by a critical assessment of a movie, by experimental learning when playing a farmer in the africulture game. Based on what you learned you will spend 3 weeks on an assessment of causes of food insecurity in Zambia, judge proposed interventions by FAO on their impact and finally design your own interventions. Students will organise a public debate on food security issues. Apart from generally applicable theory the course focuses on Africa as an area of low food security.
- Modelling Biological Systems (PPS-21306); In this course first and foremost the reasoning is addressed of how to come from a biological system to a simplified representation: a model. And, what is the biological meaning of parameters in such models. Another important objective is to generate a strong awareness that a theoretical approach should be in balance with an experimental approach to study biological systems. To illustrate all this biological phenomena such as saturation and attenuation, equilibria (including stability and attractors), cycles and chaos, randomness, and pattern formation in ecology are analysed during the course.
- Orientation Plant Sciences I (CSA-10806); This course starts with a debate between two scientists on an actual issue related to Plant Science, e.g. "Are biofuels going to be produced at the expense of food supply to the poor?". This is the starting point for gaining insight in the relevant processes to answer such questions by lectures, self study, group discussions, presentations and written reports. Crop ecological and physiological aspects are connected to plant production at field and farm scale, considering rotations, plant nutrition, plant protection and economic aspects. The course covers theory and facts on agro-ecology in its full scope.
- Orientation Plant Sciences II (NEM-10806); During mini-internships and excursions students will experience the work of a plant scientist as a professional. To further develop insight and skills in the scientific, technological and societal aspects of plant sciences a self-defined project will be carried out. The students will write a scientific report about their project. An additional, major aspect of this course is to obtain knowledge of crops and to recognize the most important crop species and their raw products.
- Agroforestry (FEM-22803); The concepts and principles of agroforestry systems are introduced using examples from throughout the world. Agroforestry has been transformed from a collection of descriptive studies into more scientific and analytical approaches, based on process-orientated research. A series of lectures and discussions focuses on the ecological processes and environmental interactions that underpin agroforestry. Students work in groups to address key agroforestry hypotheses during this 3 ECTS course.
- Ecology II (NCP-20503); This course is complementary to and runs parallel to Ecology I (NCP-10503) and consists of a practical and a literature survey. In the practical students use data gathered in the field and the lab to study key ecological principles and processes. The course is completed with a literature survey in which students use scientific literature to answer their own research question.