CSA-10306 Crops and Cropping Systems


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work8
Excursion (one day)8
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. WJM Lommen
F Kuipers
Lecturer(s)HD Halm
drs. CA Langeveld
ing. HCA Rijk
dr. ir. WJM Lommen
dr. SM Driever
Examiner(s)dr. ir. WJM Lommen

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety


World-wide, a huge diversity of crops is grown in different environments to provide man with food and other agricultural products. Different cultivation and management techniques applied by farmers lead to an even wider variety in cropping systems and resulting agro-ecosystems. In four modules and an excursion, this introductory course covers the morphology of the most important crops and their products, the basic processes determining growth and development of these crops, the most important ecological relations in agro-ecosystems and effects of crop type and external factors on these relations, and how these are managed in diverse cropping systems.
Students learn to use this knowledge for recognising the most important crop species and raw crop products world-wide; for understanding and quantifying how external factors and different cropping systems affect crop growth, yield formation and other processes in agro-ecosystems; and for analysing and understanding how very diverse factors affect the development and status-quo of important cropping systems. The course is suitable for students with only limited biological knowledge.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- name common crop and grassland plants and/or their harvested parts by their common name and genus, and describe their use, crop type and the climate zone they grow in;
- identify a selection of the most important crop and grassland species and their products by using vegetative, generative and other characteristics and by applying biological knowledge, and describe their value for use, quality characteristics, product type, reproduction characteristics and common practices in crop cultivation;
- describe and correctly use important terms and parameters in the field of study and list the approximate values of the parameters;
- describe which ecological processes play an important role in the functioning of agro-ecosystems, and which factors determine the diversity in cropping systems in different climate zones;
- explain how radiation, water, temperature, soil and crop affect different ecological processes in agro-ecosystems at different integration levels;
- apply the obtained knowledge to quantify the functional relationships in agro-ecosystems, especially with regard to external factors and nutrient cycles;
- apply the knowledge and skills to analyse a cropping system.


- lectures (module 1) treat food production and agriculture world-wide, principles of growth and development of different crop types, ecological relations in agro-ecosystems in different climates - especially interactions between soil, plant and atmosphere -, and factors determining the diversity in cropping systems. Students listen, watch, make notes, ask questions, answer questions raised by the teacher and do short assignments. Work sessions and computer practicals in-between the lectures of this module train students in quantifying effects of external factors on crop production and on changes in processes within different cropping systems through short questions and calculations, individually or in small groups;
- in a case study (module 2) students analyse a cropping system of their choice, present their work to fellow students, and provide feedback and corrections to fellow students;
- a practical treats applied taxonomy, spread of crops, biodiversity, generative and vegetative recognition of crops (module 3), real-life demonstration of effects of (a)biotic factors in agro-ecosystems on crop plants (module 3), and the most important crops according to a taxonomical classification and a classification according to designated use of the crop (module 4). Students practice recognition of these crops with living plant material, crop products and computer exercises. In addition, some small experiments are carried out to demonstrate effects of environmental factors on crop perfomance;
- an excursion helps in gaining the required knowledge on cropping systems. Students read information, prepare questions, observe, listen, ask questions and write a brief report in small groups. 


- written exam with open and multiple choice questions (40%);

- plant recognition test (40%)

To help you to better understand and master the offered study materials self-tests can be made. As a reward you can earn study miles. This results in a maximum of 1.5 bonus points on top of your score for the plant recognition test. The bonus can only be added if the score for the plant recognition test is at least 5.0. The final mark of the plant recognition test (=score + bonus) cannot surpass 10. 

- group presentation and supporting material on a cropping system (20%);

- adequate digital open-book test on indicated chapters of module 3 (Workbook 1);

- adequate group report on one of the excursion topics;

- adequate individual assignment on nutrients;

The final mark for the entire crop knowledge part of the course needs to be 5.5 minimum (either ≥ 5.5 score alone or sum of: 5.0 score for the plant recognition test + 0.5 study miles bonus →  5.5 ). The written exam needs a mark of 5.0 minimum. Their average should be 5.5 minimum


A set containing a lecture syllabus, practical handbook, two workbooks and an excursion guide can be obtained from the WURshop.
Study guide and other course material per module and topic are available in Brightspace.

Compulsory for: BILInternational Land and Water ManagementBSc6WD