CSA-32806 Modelling functional diversity in crop production


Studiepunten 6.00

Course coordinator(s)ing. H Drenth
dr. JB Evers
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. L Bastiaans
prof. dr. NPR Anten
ing. H Drenth
JE Hofman
dr. JB Evers
dr. ir. W van der Werf
Examiner(s)dr. JB Evers

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

HPP-21306 Crop Ecology is advised.

Continuation courses:

MSc Thesis Crop and Weed Ecology.


The last century, agriculture has been characterised by control and specialization: monocrops being grown with intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. But environmental concerns, disease and pest resistance to pesticides and finite availability of resources call for a change in strategy. Diversity both in terms of utilizing different crop species and in combining different ecology-based management practices may provide an alternative. Yet, the mechanisms that drive the relationship between species diversity and functioning ecosystem functioning remain poorly understood. Also, we have limited knowledge on how these relationships can be used in combination with diversity in crop management to create productive, resource-efficient and resilient crop systems. This course focusses on this knowledge gap.

The first part of the course deals with what we can learn from natural systems, and analyzes the mechanisms that drive relationship between diversity and ecosystem functioning. The focus will be on resource sharing between neighbouring plants. The second part addresses how this knowledge about effects of species diversity can be utilized in agricultural systems, looking at resource sharing between different species in a mixed cropping situation. Finally, the third part focuses on diversity in management options in the suppression of weed growth, taking into account the interaction between crop and weed plants and how this plays a role in integrated weed management (weed control through a combination of methods extending beyond herbicide use).

To determine to which extent diversity in crop species and crop management can be functional, computer simulation models have become an indispensable tool for researchers in this field. This course therefore has a heavy modelling component, as all three parts outlined above will contain modelling practicals in addition to measurements on plants in the greenhouse. Simulation models will be used for the analysis of plant-plant interaction and the consequences of management decisions. Therefore, during the course, you will be taught the principles of both functional-structural plant modelling using the modelling platform GroIMP, as well as mechanistic modelling of crop-weed interactions, using the modelling platform FST.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
understand key concepts in community ecology, ecological and physiological aspects of plant-plant interactions and population dynamics;
have introductory knowledge of two advanced crop modelling techniques;
measure and interpret plant traits in simple greenhouse experiments in the context of light sharing and functional diversity in crops;
integrate knowledge using novel plant growth modelling techniques, interpret model output, and address questions on functional diversity in crops by combining model output and experimental data;
link research on natural and agricultural systems and thus bridge the gap between environmental and production oriented research.


This course features a number of assignments, which will be carried out in groups of 4 students. Participation in these assignments is compulsory and group deliverables will be graded. For each assignment, the criteria for quality of the deliverable will be clearly communicated in Brightspace.


- a written test with open and multiple choice questions (60%, minimum grade 5.5);
- assessment of the assignments (40%).


The literature consists of the contents of the lectures and assignments, plus reading material posted in Brightspace which is clearly marked as exam material. Any other reading material can be regarded as background information for further reading.

Keuze voor: MOAOrganic AgricultureMScA: Spec. A - Agroecology4WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScC: Spec. C - Natural Resource Management4WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScA: Spec. A - Crop Science4WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScE: Spec. E - Plant Pathology and Entomology4WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScA: Spec. A - Crop Science4WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScC: Spec. C - Natural Resource Management4WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScB: Spec. B - Greenhouse Horticulture4WD
MCLClimate StudiesMScC: Spec. C - Ecological and Agroecological Systems4WD
MOADDSpec. Agroecology DDMSc4WD