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Sustainable Land Use in Grassland Agriculture

Module titleSustainable Land Use in Grassland Agriculture
Module codeBIOM562
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Mark Van Der Giezen (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In the search for sustainable grassland systems, self-regulating processes in the soil become increasingly important. For grassland systems, important ecosystem services are the supply of nutrients, soil structure maintenance and water retention. For developing and optimising sustainable grassland systems, insight is needed into the mechanisms by which these may be influenced by management and what it means for the functioning of the soil-plant system.

Interactions between soil and plants can be represented by a cyclic conceptual framework including plant/roots, soil biota and soil properties. The challenge for sustainable grassland is to allow this cycle to function optimally with a minimum of external inputs.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the key concepts in sustainable grasslands, much of the focus will be on the soil and its functional role in nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration and mediation of diffuse pollution. However, the maintenance of plant and wildlife biodiversity is also important and aspects of this will be covered in the module. Finally, the concept of multi-functional landscapes will be introduced, bringing together agricultural and socio-economic drivers in the development of sustainable grassland systems in the future.

The module will be delivered by research-active staff from Rothamsted Research, one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in the world. Teaching will be strongly research-led as Rothamsted scientists will include the latest developments from their research fields into master-class style seminars. Examples include carbon sequestration in grassland systems, nitrogen and phosphorous cycling and grazing management,

Assessments will be strongly focussed on employability attributes such as being able to convey information in a very succinct but professional manner, both orally and in print. This ability is key to careers in industry, academia and government agencies.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss contemporary and evolving concepts in the field of sustainable land use in grassland agriculture
  • 2. Describe in detail novel approaches to the implementation of sustainable land use in grassland agriculture including procedures to mitigate environmental pollution both to air and waters and an understanding of how pathogens may be transmitted in the environment
  • 3. Explain how both above- and below-ground biodiversity impact on sustainable agriculture through land stewardship and land-use change (the concept of ‘multi-functional’ landscapes will be introduced)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of, current problems and/or new insights in sustainable land use in grassland agriculture much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of the field of study
  • 5. Evaluate critically some techniques applicable to research in sustainable land use in grassland agriculture
  • 6. Apply knowledge originally and explain how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline
  • 7. Evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline, and evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate your conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • 9. Tackle and solve problems with self-direction and originality, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • 10. Demonstrate self-direction in advancing your knowledge and understanding and in developing new skills to a high level

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Specific topics covered may change yearly to focus on the latest developments and to reflect the expertise of speakers, but coverage will include:

  • Introduction to grasslands worldwide
  • Development of grassland research in the UK
  • Carbon cycling – introduction to carbon cycling and sequestration in grassland systems
  • Introduction to soil science including soil physics and hydrology
  • Pathogens in grassland systems
  • Nitrogen cycling in grassland systems
  • Trophic interactions in grassland soils
  • The science behind grazing management
  • Diffuse pollution
  • Phosphorus matters in grassland agriculture
  • Climate change scenarios and grassland soil moisture
  • Biodiversity and farm landscapes
  • Multifunctionality in grassland systems
  • Modelling grassland systems

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching15Lectures (15 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study135Guided reading of literature, literature research and revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Problem solving with lecturers15 hours1-8, 10Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Infographic50A3 sizeAllWritten
Elevator pitch502 minutes/1 slideAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
InfographicInfographicAll2 weeks
Elevator pitchElevator pitchAll1 week

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to re-do the original assessment. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

No comprehensive text is currently available, but you will be directed to reading in journals and literature directly relevant to the module, most of which will be available electronically via Exeter Learning Environment (ELE).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Sustainable land use, soil structure maintenance, water retention, sustainable grassland systems

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date