Module: Sustainable Agricultural Intensification

Module details

  • Module code

  • Module leader

    Tom Overbury
  • Module Level

  • Module credits

  • Min study time

    150 hours
  • Contact hrs

    36 hours

Module content

Sustainable Agricultural Intensification seeks, by definition, to achieve more food produced from the same land, reducing negative environmental impacts and providing positive societal, economic and environmental benefits. This module evaluates, through examples, the need to secure ‘more from less’ in an increasingly sustainable manner.

Examples are taken from large and small-scale farming enterprises in the tropics and temperate regions, including protected agriculture systems. The challenges of sustainable intensification are examined through field scale production; greenhouse systems; tree and bush plantation systems; and intensive indoor and outdoor animal farming. The importance of innovation will be highlighted through new science and technology development, including breeding and biotechnology adoption, and protected agricultural systems.

Module outcomes

To achieve credit for this module, students must be able to:

  1. Describe and explain the main drivers for change in modern agri-food systems globally, underpinning the need to consider greater intensification.
  2. Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of large scale and intensive farming examples, for future sustainability.
  3. Assess a complex agricultural system, through an understanding of competing aims and requirements for optimising productivity against the background of economic, environmental, social and safe food considerations.
  4. Give a considered opinion of the potential positive contributions of new innovation and enterprise approaches to intensive agriculture whilst understanding the sustainability requirements.


Assessment Description Weighting
Coursework Farm Assessment 60%
Examination Exam (2 hours) 40%

Assessments may differ in 2020/21 due to adjustments for Covid-19. Please check Gateway for the latest regulations.

Key texts

Students should be familiar with the following content:

  • Conway, G. and Waage, J. (2010). Science and Innovation for Development. UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS). London.
  • Cook, S., Silici, L., Adolph, B. and Walker, S. (2015). Sustainable intensification revisited. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Issue Paper. IIED, London.
  • FAO. (2014). Climate-smart agriculture: sourcebook. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Rome.
  • Lal, R. et al. (ed.). (2015). Sustainable intensification to advance food security and enhance climate resilience in Africa. Springer International Publishing.
  • Oborn I., Vanlauwe M.P., Thomas R., Brooijmans W. and Atta-Krah Kwesi. (Eds.) (2017). Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture. An integrated systems research approach. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, London.
  • Ringler, C., Cenacchi, N., Koo, J., Robertson, R.D., Fisher, M., Cox, C.M., Perez, N.D., Garrett, K. and Rosegrant, M.W. (2013). Sustainable agricultural intensification: The promise of innovative farming practices. In Global food policy report. (2013). Marble, A. and Fritschel, H. (Eds). Chapter 4, 43-52. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington.
  • Stoll-Kleemann, S. and O'Riordan, T. (2015) The sustainability challenges of our meat and dairy diets. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. 57:3, 34-48
  • Tanner, C.P. (2015). Food Security and Scarcity: Why Ending Hunger is so Hard. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Zurek, M., Keenlyside P. and Brandt K. (2015). Intensifying agricultural production sustainably: A framework for analysis and decision support. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Climate Focus, The Netherlands.