AGR*2500 Field Course in International Agriculture

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 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 introduces students to a wide range of tropical and subtropical agricultural production systems and issues. The course is comprised of a weekly 3 hour evening lecture and a ten day field trip to Costa Rica where students will visit corporate and individual farms, and university and government research stations. The field trip occurs during Reading Week in February. This course must be recorded as part of your Winter course selection. A student fee will be assessed to cover transportation, lodging and meals in addition to tuition and compulsory fees. Students must identify their interest in taking this course by contacting the instructor before the October course selection period of the previous year. For information regarding fees, see the Department of Plant Agriculture Website.

The lecture series preceding the field component of this course will provide students with the theoretical background to understand the unique characteristics, challenges, and benefits of tropical agriculture, as well as information on many of the specific crops and animals that they will see.  This theoretical component will be complimented through experiential learning during the ten day field trip where students will travel by bus on a route through the Central Valley, the Caribbean Lowlands, the Central Cordillera and the Pacific west coast of Costa Rica.  This route will expose them to humid tropics, tropical savanna and high altitude tropical agroecological zones. Visits to both small and large farm operations, the  Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), and a biological research station will expose students to a very wide range of tropical (and some temperate) crops and livestock production systems, the natural environment of the tropics as well as environmental management issues.

Pre-Requisites: (AGR*1110 or AGR*1250) or registration in International Development
Restrictions: Registration in BSC(AGR)or BA.ID or Minor in Agriculture Instructor consent required.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Tuesday 7:00PM-9:50PM, Room 059 McKinnon

Field component in Costa Rica Friday February 17th Feb 2020 to Sunday 26th Feb 2023

Learning outcomes:

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Synthesize current knowledge, published in peer reviewed literature on selected tropical agricultural systems and related development issues and draw out the implications for agronomic, social, environmental and economic themes (Literacy)
  2. Have an understanding of the biological, environmental, socio-economic and cultural forces that shape agricultural production systems in the tropics and the implications of these forces on global development (Global Understanding)
  3. Have a depth and breadth of understanding of the variables that shape tropical agricultural production (Depth and Breadth of Understanding, Global Understanding)
  4. Learn independently through observation and discussion in a different socio-cultural environment (Independence of Thought)
Course Objectives
  1. Familiarize participants with the nature and range of crops and agricultural production systems found in tropical regions
  2. Develop participants’ skills for evaluating tropical production systems from efficiency, environmental, social and economic viewpoints.
  3. Visit corporate and individual farms, university and government research stations in Costa Rica.
  4. Interact with local farmers and specialists on production and environmental issues


Lecture Content:

Specific Lectures will cover:

  • Course and field visit organization
  • The historical and biophysical context of agriculture and natural resource management in Costa Rica
  • Oil palm, cocoa and coffee cultivation.
  • Banana, pineapple, sugar cane cultivation.
  • Livestock, PES, vegetables and La Selva and the rainforest
  • Pre-departure briefing
Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Assessment Percentage Learning Outcome Assessed
Daily Journal 40% 1, 2, 3, 4
Active Participation and Engagement During Lecture and Field Trip 20% 2, 4
Daily Monitor Write-Up 20% 1, 2, 3, 4
Pre-Departure Quiz 20% 1, 2, 3


For each day of the trip, individual students will be designated and provided with additional reading materials to provide background on the content of that day. Following the pre-departure course lectures on the topic, the designated individuals will prepare 15 to 20 questions to explore during their day’s visits which will be shared with the group the evening before. 

All students will maintain a notebook synthesizing for each day the learning points from their own daily field observations including observations on land use and changes between the stops as well as information generated from their own and other individual’s questions.  Each participant will submit by e-mail to the instructors a typed word document summarizing their observations based on their daily journal and including any relevant photos, maps and diagrams for each day of the trip except for the day upon which they are part of the designated group.  The participants designated for a specific day will submit a combined report for that specific day including any relevant photos and diagrams to the instructors by the deadline.

Active Participation, Engagement During Class and Field Trip

During the course sessions and field trip students will be evaluated based on their information exchange with farmer hosts, tour guide(s), instructors and fellow participants.  Successful information exchange consists of effective and courteous listening, questions and discussion.

Pre-departure Quiz

The pre-departure quiz will evaluate students' understanding of lecture material to better prepare them for the field component.  This quiz will be composed of multiple choice and short answer questions that cover the bio-geographical characteristics of tropical climates, the specific challenges and opportunities of agriculture in the tropics, as well as the biology, agronomy, and other aspects of specific crops that will be seen during the trip.


Final examination:

There is no final examination for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts


Recommended Texts


Additional Resources

CourseLink Reading lists comprising web-accessible and other references for each topic area of the course will be provided to participants on CourseLink.

Field Trips

The field component will take place between 17th February and 26th February 2023. Students will fly from Toronto to San Jose, Costa Rica and travel by bus on a route through the Central Valley, the Caribbean Lowlands, the Central Cordillera and the Pacific west coast which covers the Humid Tropics, Tropical Savanna and High altitude Tropical agroecological zones. Visits to both small and large farm operations and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) will expose students to a very wide range of tropical (and some temperate) crops and livestock production systems, the natural environment of the tropics as well as environmental management issues. The cost of the field trip is $3,300 in addition to normal University of Guelph fees. Students offered a place must confirm their registration with a $300 non-refundable deposit (cheque only – payable to the University of Guelph) by 1st November 2022. The balance of the trip cost ($3,000) is payable by cheque on or before Monday 9th January, 2023.

Additional Costs

Students are individually responsible for the costs of their travel document (passport), travel health insurance (required) and trip cancellation insurance (optional) and any personal expenses. The course cost covers all transportation, accommodation, meals in Costa Rica and exit visa.


Course Policies:

Grading Policies

Any assignments submitted after the specified due date without prior instructor approval or medical/ compassionate reason shall be subject to a 5% penalty for that item’s grade.

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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The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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