FTE-50806 Conservation Agriculture


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work4
Excursion (one day)8
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)drs. APHM Janssen
Lecturer(s)dr. RGM de Goede
dr. ir. L Bastiaans
dr. ir. J Postma
prof. dr. KE Giller
prof. dr. ir. PWG Groot Koerkamp
ing. DJM van Balen
drs. APHM Janssen
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. PWG Groot Koerkamp

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Basic knowledge on soil and water dynamics, soil chemistry, biology and agronomy is expected. Students are expected to be able to understand and apply basic equations describing the relations between parameters. The course is meant for students in the final year of their BSc phase.

Continuation courses:

SOQ-33306 Integrated Natural Resource Management in Organic Agriculture; SOQ-31806 Nutrient Management.


This course examines the concept of Conservation Agriculture (CA). CA is a system based on integrated management of available soil, water and biological resources, combined with as little external inputs as feasible. CA relies on three principles, which must be considered together for appropriate understanding, design and application:
1. a (semi-)permanent organic soil cover in order to protect the soil physically from sun, rain and wind and to feed the soil biota;
2. minimal disturbance to the soil through no or reduced tillage, and;
3. crop rotations to optimize the use efficiency of natural and external resources.
Additionally CA emphasizes the use of controlled traffic and precision agriculture technologies to reduce soil disturbance and enhance input use efficiencies.Application of the principles of CA is spreading worldwide. CA can be seen as a potentially powerful basket of technologies, applicable in a wide range of environments to achieve sustained production, reduce environmental and economic risks and protect land and water resources. On the other hand, CA has its limitations and is not the solution to all problems farmers are faced with.
CA demands a different, unconventional way of making choices on crops and crop rotations. Alternative and additional factors for taking decisions on how to manage the farm need to be considered. CA claims to be beneficial in terms of reduction of soil erosion and water run-off and the sustained provision of ecosystem services (e.g. water storage and supply under conditions of water surpluses and shortages; retention of nutrients; reduction of soil-borne pests and diseases; sequestration of carbon). The course critically addresses the above issues by discussing and studying the various components of CA, with special emphasis on management and soil. It will analyse the bottlenecks in application of CA in order to find an explanation of the successes as well as the risks and failures.
Course components:
- introduction of the concept;
- the history and application of Conservation Agriculture in different contexts;
- design of systems;
- crop rotations;
- soil physical aspects;
- biological soil quality and ecosystem engineers;
- cover crops and crop residues;
- soil fertility management;
- weeds and weed control;
- novel technology and management for different farm types;
- disease resistance and control of diseases and pests;
- climate change mitigation.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand the key principles of conservation agriculture;
- evaluate the effects of CA on soil properties and soil ecosystem services;
- appraise and quantify CA in order to apply its principles in management strategies guided by different scenarios or goals;
- judge the feasibility of the CA concept under given agro-ecological, climatic and socio-economic conditions.


- classroom lectures;
- design a location specific conservation agriculture production system;
- practical using computer models;
- debate;
- excursion.


- written exam (closed book) 50%;
- design case work (group work) 50%;
The overall grade must be 5,5 or higher, partial grades must be 5,5 or higher to pass. Partial grades will remain valid for 2 years from the date of examination.
The excursion, debate and practical exercises have to be attended in order to pass the course..


Literature will be provided through Brigthspace.

Compulsory for: WUSACBSc Minor Sustainable Agriculture and Consumption6WD