Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences


At present, there is a paucity of highly qualified people who have the requisite academic, practical and translational skills in agronomy and plant pathology needed for the sustainable production of affordable, nutritious and safe food for an expanding world population. The aim of this course is to generate M-level graduates with the breadth and depth of knowledge needed, and identified, by the agricultural, commercial and policy sectors as they strive to improve crop productivity while maintaining the integrity of ecological processes. The course, which encompasses topics of local, regional, national, and international significance, will generate a pipeline of graduates with the appropriate qualifications for employment in colleges and universities, in extension provision, in R&D, as consultants in agribusiness and as aides to policy makers. At the same time, the course will provide a mechanism through which existing staff in industry, government and allied agencies can gain further training as part of their continued professional development. Through a process of consultation with industry and government agency representatives on our Steering Committee, and input from staff at Exeter University and BBSRC North Wyke, we have identified four key areas that we believe represent the cornerstones of a comprehensive teaching programme in Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. These are (1) agronomics, (2) plant pathology, (3) translation of research into the commercial sector and, (4) the cultural, political, economic and market contexts of food production, supply and consumption. These keys areas will be addressed via four core taught modules (BIOM562 Sustainable Land Use in Grassland Agriculture; BIOM563 Crop security; POLM076 Research and Knowledge Transfer for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture; POLM075 Political Economy of Food and Agriculture), and delivered by research-active academics at Exeter, research staff at North Wyke, scientists from FERA, and a LEAF farmer. Agronomics (1) will be delivered though the complementary modules BIOM562 and BIOM563, incorporating plant breeding and genetics (including genetic modification), soil science (soil fertility, hydrology), plant physiology and nutrition, pest control and pesticides, biofuel crop production, and weed science. Plant pathology (2) will form a significant element of BIOM563 and will include plant health and biosecurity, the identification and control of crop and storage pests and pathogens, and the management of emergent diseases. BIOM563, and to a lesser extent BIOM562, will have a substantial focus on biotechnology. The creation of impact from research, the contribution of research to the UK economy, science and entrepreneurship, engagement with the agricultural sector, and equitable and ethical use of biotechnology form the basis of cornerstone (3), and will be delivered through module POLM076. Cornerstone (4) will be covered by POLM075. An additional core module (BIOM509 Professional skills) will equip the students with the transferable skills needed to deliver science to a wider audience. While the focus of the course is on plant agriculture, aspects of animal food production will also be covered in POLM075 and in the optional module BIOM520 Fisheries Science. Additional optional modules available to the students are BIOM542 Environmental Biotechnology, BIOM506 Genomics, Transcriptomics and Proteomics, and SOCM010 Introduction to Genetics and Society. This choice of modules will allow participants to extend their knowledge of biotechnology or to focus on the ethics of genetics in society. The taught components of the course represent 50% of the overall learning programme. The remaining 50% is represented by a 6 month research project or a dissertation drawn from a wide range of subjects including biochemistry, molecular plant pathology, biofuels (in the laboratory of an Exeter academic), field projects at North Wyke or placements with F


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