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 Agricultural Science and Policy I  posted by  member7_php   on 3/4/2009  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Agricultural Science and Policy I

Fall 2006

Student Analyzing soil in ASPI lab at Tufts Training farmsite. (Image courtesy of K. Merrigan, Ph.D.)
Highlights of this Course

Highlights of this course include:

    * Major biological, chemical and physical components of the agricultural systems
    * The scientific basis for understanding these systems and their management
    * How has science influenced policies related to agriculture, food safety and environment in the United States?
    * How have the policies evolved over time in the US?
    * What has worked and what has not; what are the reasons and what are the consequences?
    * Beyond science, what other factors influence policies?
    * How do we link what we learn to ecological agriculture?
    * How do we use what we learn for policy analysis?

Course Description

This course highlights the relevance of natural resource conservation for ensuring healthy agricultural, food and environmental systems, as well as the various approaches for implementing it. This course, the first of two semesters, focuses on soils, water, air and energy. The second semester delves into plant nutrients, plant- pest interaction, crop breeding, and livestock production.

Classroom discussions and debates explore the present status of natural resources and their management practices in the context of scientific evidence and policy making. These are complemented with field laboratories and trips to research stations and farms.  This improves understanding of the scientific concepts and provides additional exposure to the forces driving American agriculture

Popular Content

    * Soil Quality Site Description
    * Clean Water Report 1 - Readings Session 14
    * Units of Measurement [PDF - 33.7 KB]
    * Final Paper:Stymieing Soil Erosion on Hillsides in Honduras [PDF - 117 KB]
    * Major Crops of the U.S.



    * To understand the scientific underpinnings of policy issues related to soils, water, air, biomass forestry and energy, especially those involving the environment.
    * To apply this understanding to the analysis of current controversies and debates regarding these issues.


There will be four quizzes pertaining to the units with every quiz accounting for 12.5 percent of the grade. The final paper and class presentation counts for the remaining 50 percent.

Required Text Books

   * The 'course packet' supplied consists of relevant chapters from various books, newspaper articles and documents, some of which are downloadable from the web.
    * Dust Bowl, The Southern Plains in the 1930s. Donald Worster. Oxford University Press ( 25th anniversary edition, 2004).

Final Paper Assignment - Guidelines

   1. Pick a country other than the United States or Canada # Pick one of the following policy goals:
   2. Reducing soil erosion
         1. Conserving irrigation water
         2. Reducing agriculture's emissions of greenhouse gases
         3. Reducing agriculture's net consumption of fossil fuels
         4. On behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources, design a set of policies and programs to achieve your chosen policy goal

This should include background on the current situation, your policy goal(s), specific governmental actions to reach your goal(s), monitoring to assess progress towards the goal(s), a timetable for achieving the goal(s), and possible barriers that may be encountered. If there are data gaps or research that should be undertaken in pursuit of the goal(s), describe the data collection and research projects needed.

Half of you will present your report orally during the last week of class; all of you will hand in the written paper, 20-25 double spaced pages, the following week. (We are following this procedure because there isn't enough time to have everyone give an oral presentation. Those who do not do so this semester will do so for the final assignment of the spring semester.)
Notes on final assignment:

   1. Your first task should be to ascertain that adequate information is readily available about your chosen country. Choose your country early enough so that if adequate information is not available, you still have plenty of time to choose another one.
   2. While we are on the topic of information sources: do not rely exclusively on the Web. Granted, the Web is a very convenient source of excellent information, but it should not be your sole source. In particular, it does not eliminate the need for books, which often will be more suitable for supplying the broad context for the issue you have chosen. In contrast, the Web will usually be better for highly specific and very recent information, such as the latest statistics. Therefore, you should draw on a diversity of sources. Beyond Tufts' own holdings, the interlibrary loan system does a good job in getting books from other libraries, and will conveniently deliver them to the Health Sciences library. Moreover, you can search other libraries' catalogues online, as well as submit your ILL requests online. Therefore getting any books you might need is very easy and fast.
   3. Hand in the first part of the assignment: a description of the current situation, covering: 1) the seriousness of the problem; 2) the main features of agriculture in that country that contribute to that problem; and 3) current policies (if any) dealing with that problem. (suggested length: 10-15 pages). Include a list of sources used so far.
   4. Your proposed programs and policies should be realistic, i.e., feasible in light of existing infrastructure, expertise, funds, likely political constraints, etc.

Session   Type Title  
1 Lecture Overview of the Course  
2 Lecture Soils: An Overview of Policy Issues, Players and Resources  
3 Lecture Soils: Basic Concepts  
4 Lecture Soils: Problems and Soil Improvements  
5 Lecture Soils: USDA Conservation Programs  
6 Lecture Soils: Structuring Policies to Create Change  
7 Lecture Soils: Erosion and Tillage  
8 Lecture Soils: The Dust Bowl  
9 Lecture Water: The Hydrological Cycle; Drought  
10 Lecture Water: Irrigation Technology  
11 Lecture Water: Irrigation Policy; History and Economics  
12 Lecture Water: Wetlands: Swampbuster and Mitigation Banking  
13 Lecture Water: Water Pollution  
14 Lecture Water: Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts  
15 Lecture Air: Pollution Caused by or Affecting Agriculture  
16 Lecture Air: Clean Air Act, Methyl Bromide  
17 Lecture Air: Greenhouse Gases and Ozone-Depleting Gases  
18 Lecture Air: International Agreements on Greenhouse and Ozone-Depleting Gases  
19 Lecture Forestry, Biomass and Energy: Forest policy  
20 Lecture Forestry, Biomass and Energy: Agroforestry  
21 Lecture Forestry, Biomass and Energy: Agriculture's Use of Energy  
22 Lecture Forestry, Biomass and Energy: Agricultural Biomass  
23 Lecture Forestry, Biomass and Energy: Policies and Local Food Initiatives  
24 Lecture Class Presentations  
25 Lecture Class Presentations   Tell A Friend