Agro-biodiversity assessment and management

Aims

• To introduce students to agrobiodiversity and its components (genetic, species and habitat diversity) and their relevance for sustainable agroecosystem planning and management. • To introduce students to the concept of functional biodiversity in agroecosystems, its multiple facets and their relevance to policy development. • To illustrate how to evaluate agrobiodiversity at field, farm and landscape scale.  

Prerequisites

Minimum background in genetics, an average background in ecology and a good background in agronomy.
 
  

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students will have: - acquired knowledge on agrobiodiversity, its components and complexity, and be able to place it in a multidisciplinary perspective within the framework of sustainable agriculture; - gained self-confidence in utilising the concept of agrobiodiversity conservation/enhancement for the planning and management of sustainable agroecosystems; - acquired basic skills to carry out a reasoned analysis of the status of agrobiodiversity at field, farm and landscape scales.  

Syllabus

Introduction and definition of different concepts related to agrobiodiversity. Agrobiodiversity and its components: Genetic diversity, species diversity, habitat and management diversity. Functional biodiversity in agroecosystems.  

Content Delivery

The Unit aims to introduce students to the complex and multidisciplinary world of agrobiodiversity in a highly interactive manner. As such, the Unit is composed of (a) standard lectures based on PowerPoint presentations, (b) team work (indoor and outdoor), (c) group discussion and (d) final exam. PowerPoint presentations are organised as to continuously encourage students' interaction with the lecturer, to let them better fix concepts, and gradually acquire confidence in the subject by learning how to place it in the context of the stem disciplines (genetics, ecology and agronomy). Guided team work in the lecture room is organised to set the ground for the field excursion. Specifically, students will construct a survey scheme by choosing which elements of agrobiodiversity (at any level) they deem relevant for its comprehensive understanding at field, farm and landscape scales. The survey scheme will be utilised during the guided team work in the field, whose results will form the baseline information for the individual written essay. A group discussion is held on the morning of the final day for reappraisal of the concepts introduced during the week. It is expected that active participation of students in this phase facilitates fixing of concepts and preparation for the final exam.  

Coursework And Assignment Details

• Before and during the Unit students will be given a selection of teaching material (PDF of scientific papers and reports) aimed to make them gradually acquire confidence with new concepts and place them in the broader context of agricultural sustainability. • Students will also receive a PDF version of lectures. • Students will be actively engaged in team work and group discussion (see point 7 for details), aimed to fix concepts, to prepare for the field excursion, and to critically evaluate results of the field survey (see point 7). All these activities will be guided by the lecturer. • The evaluation of the Unit will consist of an individual written exam composed of 4-5 short essays based on some of the agrobiodiversity aspects presented during the week (including the field survey), which the students will have to place in the context of agricultural sustainability.