Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 2 x 1 hour lectures per week
Practical 4 x 3 hour practicals during semester


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  30%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   70%
Supplementary Assessment Students are required to re-take the element(s) that led to failing the module  100%

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

1. Outline the aims and objectives of organic farming and identify the regulations governing organic farming in the European Union and the UK;
2. Describe the role of soil organisms and organic matter (carbon) in maintaining soil fertility, and identify appropriate soil and organic residue management practices;
3. Identify appropriate sources of major crop nutrients (N, P, K) and the factors influencing their cycling and utilisation in organic farming, prepare nutrient budgets;
4. Identify the main ecological principles governing cropping systems and their application to rotation design and polycultures (intercropping), as well as weed, pest and disease control;
5. Discuss the role and integration of livestock and forage production in organic farming systems;
6. Identify the key factors influencing livestock nutrition, health, housing, welfare, breeding and rearing in organic systems and assess their impact on livestock performance;
7. Discuss the role of the market and other factors influencing the physical and financial productivity of organic farming;
8. Discuss the factors influencing the adoption of organic farming and the conversion process
9. Discuss the contribution of organic farming to food quality, environmental and social policy objectives and outline the policy measures which have a direct influence on the extent and adoption of organic farming in the European Union.


To describe and analyse the objectives, principles and practice of organic farming systems in temperate zones.


The module provides an introduction to the objectives, principles, practices and performance of farming systems which rely primarily on management of the ecology of the farm to achieve agricultural production objectives, while reducing or eliminating the use of agro-chemical inputs and non-renewable resources for environmental and sustainability reasons. Topics covered include: Organic farming: definitions, objectives, organisations, legislation, standards; Soil biological activity and soil management; Carbon cycling: organic matter and residue management; Nutrient cycling - nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus; Cropping design principles; Rotations, green manures and polycultures; Crop protection - weeds, pests and diseases; Crop examples - wheat, potatoes, grassland; Role of livestock in organic farming; Livestock nutrition, health and alternative therapies, housing (behavioural and welfare issues), breeding and rearing; Livestock examples - milk and sheep; Marketing organic food; Financial performance of organic farming; Conversion costs and support; Organic farming and society; food quality and the environment.

Reading List

Altieri, M (1995) Agroecology - the science basis of sustainable agriculture. 2nd Intermediate Technology Publications; London Primo search Baillieux, P and Schrape A (1994) Organic Farming Green Europe 2/94 European Commission, Brussels Primo search Balfour, E B The Living Soil and the Haughley Experiment 1976 Universe Books; New York Primo search Blake, F (1994) Organic Farming and growing Crowood Press, Swindon Primo search Chamberlain, A.T., Walsingham, J.M. and Stark, B. Organic meat production in the '90s. Proc. Conf., Reading University, September 1989 1989 Chalcombe Publications Primo search Francis, C.A., Flora, C.B. and King, L.D. (eds) (1990) Sustainable agriculture in temperate zones John Wiley, New York Primo search Lamkin, N.H. and Measures, M. (1995) 1995/6 Organic Farm Management Handbook University of Wales, Aberystwyth Primo search Lampkin, N.H. Organic Farming 1990 Farming Press, Ipswich Primo search Lampkin, N.H. and Padel, S (eds.) (1994) The economics of organic farming - an international perspective CAB International, Wallingford Primo search Mollison, W. (1990) Permaculture: a practical guide for a sustainable future Island Press, Washington D.C. Primo search Newton, J (1992) Organic grassland Chalcombe Publications, Canterbury Primo search (1997) Standards for organic food and farming Soil Association Organic Marketing Co. Ltd., Bristol Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5