AGR*2050 Agroecology

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2022 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course considers the interactions of all important biophysical, technical and socioeconomic components of farming systems and examines these systems as the fundamental units of study. Mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes and socioeconomic relationships are analyzed as a whole in an interdisciplinary fashion.

Fundamental ecological principles are applied to manage agricultural ecosystems. Crop selection and management are viewed as influencing interactions among species and the environment. Adaptation and distribution of temperate zone crops are related to both environmental constraints and human intervention.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
  1. Synthesize current knowledge, published in peer reviewed journals, and draw out the implications for agronomic, social, environmental and economic themes in an essay format (Literacy)
  2. Have an understanding of the basic agroecological concepts, resource, and nutrient interactions that shape an agroecosystem (Global Understanding)
  3. Have the depth and breadth of understanding of the global variables that influence agroecosystem health and agricultural production (Global Understanding)
  4. Learn independently through observation and discussion (Independence of Thought)

Lecture Content:

The course content is divided into three main sections: 
  • the ecology of food production systems
  • the role of animal livestock within the ecosystem
  • basic agroecosystem concepts
The course lecture content and reading assignments are designed to ensure that students:
  • Develop a systems thinking approach in order to understand how environment and agricultural production practices influence an agroecosystem
  • Will be able to critically assess management practices and their potential impact on agroecosystems' biological processes, sustainability and resilience
Topics to be covered in lectures include:

1. Geography: fundamentals of geography, the biosphere, patterns of plant species diversity, seasonality.

 - Learning objective: Understand energy and Earth’s radiation budget.

2. Resources and Productivity: above and below ground resource acquisition and use; mycorrhizae; photosynthetic light utilization by leaves, whole plants, and vegetation; CO2 limitation on photosynthesis; O2 limitations on respiration; water-use efficiency.

- Learning objective: Understand how environmental factors influence net photosynthesis and ecosystem productivity using graphs.

3. Populations, Communities, and Landscapes: structures and dynamics of plant populations and communities; competition; disturbance; stress; succession.

- Learning objective: Explain how population and community dynamics of plants are influenced by disturbance, stress, and species interactions.

4. Agroecological aspects of livestock, aquaculture, and agroforestry

5. Biogeochemistry (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Carbon, and Water Cycles): soil structure and formation; nutrient cycles; anthropogenic effects (e.g., decreased sulfur deposition); mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

- Learning objective: Explain natural and anthropogenic factors that influence soil types, mineral nutrient availability, and plant community characteristics.

7. Biodiversity and Conservation: climate-change impacts, land-use change, fragmentation and edge effects, conservation strategies, biofuels, urban ecology, and human “footprints.”

- Learning objective: Ability to explain trade-offs involved in biodiversity conservation, economic development, and mitigation of climate change.

Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark Learning Outcomes Assessed

Midterm Exam


1, 4

Reading Assignments


1, 4

Final Exam


1, 2, 3, 4

Final examination:

Please refer to Web Advisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

There are no required resources for this course.

Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

All grading is in accordance with the Undergraduate Grading Procedures. In-semester assignments and tests are due on the date specified in this course outline. A signed medical note is required to delay submission of assignments or to allow for change in test date. Late assignments will be penalized 2% per day from date specified within this course outline until the date of submission.

Course Policy on Group Work:

Not applicable.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor.  When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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