At the conclusion of this course, the student should be able to:
1. Relate the methods of scientific investigation to agricultural productivity.
2. Define the nature of scientific inquiry.
3. Describe the values, themes, methods, and history of sustainable agriculture regionally and
4. Define sustainable agriculture.
5. Describe the characteristics of a natural ecosystem.
6. Compare and contrast the properties of natural ecosystems, sustainable agroecosystems, and
7. Define soil health and evaluate the role of management practices in building soil health in
ecological agriculture systems.
8. Discuss the principles and strategies of sustainable agriculture.
9. Optimize the use of water to promote an ecological use of resources.
10. Summarize the ecological roles of plants and their functional relationships to an
11. Assess an agroecosystem for its level of sustainability based on indicators of a sustainable
12. Prescribe ways of converting to a sustainable system through the redesign of a conventional
13. Discuss the goals and components of a community food system.
14. Identify career opportunities and objectives in sustainable agriculture.
I. What is Sustainable Agriculture?
A. Problems associated with industrial agriculture/food systems.
B. Characteristics of sustainable agriculture.
C. Defining sustainability
D. Regenerative agriculture
E. Contrast sustainable and regenerative agriculture systems
F. Case studies of regenerative farming systems
II. Agroecology and the Agroecosystem Concept
A. Ecosystem definition
B. Ecosystem components - biotic and abiotic
C. Ecosystem processes
D. Ecological differences between natural systems, industrial agriculture, and sustainable
E. Ecosystem services and agriculture
III. Soil Health and Management
A. Soil health defined
B. Material composition of healthy soils
C. Soil structure
D. Soil food web
E. USDA soil health principles
F. Management practices for improving soil health
IV. The Evolution of Agriculture: Domestication and Genetics in Agroecosystems
A. Historical development and spread of agriculture
B. Centers of origin for crop and livestock species
C. Adaptation and natural selection
D. Plant traits selected by agriculture
E. Livestock traits selected by agriculture
F. Importance of Agrobiodiversity
G. Genetic vulnerability
H. Distinguish among open pollinated, hybrid, landrace, genetically modified and transgenic
I. Grassroots approaches to preserving agrobiodiversity
V. Water Management in Agriculture
A. Soil water storage and availability
B. Soil plant atmosphere continuum
C. Reducing evaporation in agriculture
D. Principles of rainwater harvesting
E. Earthworks and tanks for rainwater harvesting
F. Calculating potential rainwater catchment on structures
VI. Cropping Systems
A. Ecological relationships
B. Understanding ecological relationships among different plant types as a basis for cropping
C. Ecological interference
D. Ecological impacts of cover crops
E. Crop rotations
F. Agroforestry systems
VII. Livestock Systems: Animals in Sustainable Agriculture
A. Roles of animals in natural ecosystems
B. Integrated livestock systems
C. Beneficial roles of animals on an integrated farm
VIII. Ecological Pest Management
A. Biodiversity and pest management
C. Economic threshold and pest management
D. Principles of ecological pest management
IX. Alternative Agriculture Approaches
A. Factors that promote conversion to ecological management
B. Principles of ecological management
C. Levels of conversion to ecological management
D. Organic certification
E. Sustainable certification for wine grapes
F. Case studies of ecological conversion.
X. Evaluating Sustainability in Agroecosystems
A. Indicators of sustainability in agriculture
B. Developing an on farm evaluation of agroecosystem sustainability
XI. Food Systems
A. Food system defined
B. Food security
C. Food deserts
D. Community food systems: goals and components
E. Examples of regional food systems
XII. Field Trips to Farms Practicing Regenerative Management in the Local Region
1. Reading (15-30 pages per week)
2. Research project to develop an ecological design for an on-farm project
A. PowerPoint presentation to class about research topic (12 - 15 minutes)
B. Outline as first draft of research presentation
C. Written summary of research topic
3. Lead a class discussion on scientific article or class reading in sustainable agriculture
4. Written evaluation of a local farm's level of sustainability, using the indicators of a sustainable
system (3 pages)
5. Written case study on regenerative farming system (3 pages)
6. Written case study on community food systems (3 pages)
7. Prepare annotated bibliography of references for research on ecological farming practices
8. Quizzes, midterm, final exam
Agroecology: The ecology of sustainable food systems. 3rd ed. Gliessman, Stephen. CRC Press. 2015
Web-based materials and various short readings/essays provided by instructor