Section 3: Systems Approaches to Managing our Food
Authors of this section are Heather Karsten, Pennsylvania State University, and Gigi Richard, Colorado Mesa University
Summary and Overview
In this section:
- Module 7: Soils and a Systems Approach to Soil Quality
- Module 8: Pests and IPM
- Module 9: Climate Change
- Capstone Project: Stage 3
This third section of the course presents a systems perspective of agricultural systems, it advances student understanding of soil and crop science and management, introduces climate change, and investigates how human agricultural practices influence agroecosystem dynamics. In Module 7, students are introduced to soil quality, and how both soil tillage and crop management practices influence and can improve soil quality. In Module 8, agricultural crop pests (insects, weeds and pathogens) and the methods employed to manage pests are introduced, as well as some of the challenges and the opportunities to sustainably manage pests, with an emphasis on integrated pest management (IPM). Module 9 introduces the science of global climate change, as well as key climate projections for key variables that influence food production. Then, in the capstone project week of this section, students explore each of these topics in their capstone region.
Strengths of the Section
This section advances student understanding of soil, crop, and climate science and its interdisciplinary application to agricultural science. The section also highlights the importance of systems thinking for understanding agroecosystem processes and dynamics needed to inform management of soil, crops, and pests for more sustainable food production and climate adaptation. Modules 7 and 8 explore the value of interdisciplinary, systems thinking for understanding soil, crop, and pest population dynamics and management. In Module 9, the coupled natural-human systems are examined through climate change science, and the projected impacts of climate change on food production, and opportunities for food system resilience. In all of the modules, students examine and analyze authentic and credible, real world data and observe and employ spatial and temporal analytical skills in the course reading materials, learning activities, assessments; and embedded spatial data websites and online reports.
Section 3 is the third four-week section of the 15-week introductory level, undergraduate biological and Earth sciences course first taught as the Future of Food. This section follows and builds on concepts introduced in the first two sections that introduce the coupled human-natural systems, types of human-constructed food systems, and some key natural agricultural system components: water, soils and nutrients, and crops. It was developed as part of this semester-long blended or online course, however just this section could be utilized in similar courses after students have been introduced to soil and crop science and water resources used for food production; individual modules can also be taught in other courses.
Module 7: Soils and a Systems Approach to Soil Quality
- Students will be able to describe different types of cropping systems types, soil tillage practices, and indicators of soil quality.
- Students will be able to interpret the effect of cropping systems and soil tillage approaches on soil conservation and quality.
- Students will be able to distinguish which crop and soil management practices promote soil health and enhanced agroecosystem performance.
Module 8: Pests and Integrated Pest Management
- Students will be able to describe types of major agricultural insect pests, the benefits of insects, challenges associated with pest control, the effect of trophic interactions that contribute to pest control, and the scientific basis for IPM to control agricultural pests over the long-term.
- Students will be able to describe key characteristics of weed and pathogen pests; how integrated pest and weed management can contribute to long-term successful weed and pest management, and some transgenic pest management technologies and their impact.
Module 9: Climate Change
- Outline the basic science behind human-induced climate change and the contribution from agriculture.
- Compare various potential impacts of climate change on our global and local food systems.
- Select strategies that enhance the resilience of food systems in the face of a changing climate.
- Module 7: Soils and a Systems Approach to Soil Quality - introduces soil quality or soil health, indicators of soil quality, as well as cropping systems, tillage practices, and crop and soil management systems approaches for soil quality.
- Module 8: Pests and Integrated Pest Management - introduces three types of agricultural insects, weeds, and pathogens pest, integrated pest management, and some of the transgenic crop technologies developed to reduce crop pests.
- Module 9: Climate Change - explores climate change, the role that agriculture plays in human-induced climate change, and the impacts that climate change may have on agriculture. Adaptation strategies for agriculture are also discussed.
- Capstone Project 3 - students gather information about system stressors and management, including the soil and cropping system, major pests, agrobiodiversity, climate projections and the potential future for their assigned region.
This section has three modules; each module has a formative and summative assessment that are described in linked module pages (see links above).