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Course content

This course will provide you with an in-depth specialisation in organic farming and food production systems and it is currently the only specialised MSc in organic and ecological farming in England. You will learn and test the latest approaches in the integrated delivery of soil, crop and livestock, and food supply chain management.

Through a combination of lectures, field trips, seminars, practical classes and research projects you will develop advanced knowledge and skills in:

-Managing organic farming and food production units or businesses in different macroclimatic, agronomic and market contexts

-Agronomic approaches used in organic/biological/ecological/sustainable food production systems

-Underlying principles and standards of organic/biological/ecological/sustainable food production, processing and retailing/marketing systems

-Applied and strategic research underpinning the development of organic and other sustainable farming and food production systems

-A wide range of analytical laboratory methods

You will have the opportunity to attend a 10-day field trip as part of the module on Mediterranean perennial crop production systems in Crete, Greece. The trip is organised in collaboration with ecological farming experts from the Greek National Science Foundation (NAGREF).

As part of your studies you will also undertake a major project, similar to one you might experience in the workplace. You will be supported through training in designing and delivering a laboratory project or field-based investigation. You will collect, analyse and interpret data to produce a thesis reporting your investigation and results in a critical manner.

This research project and thesis may be undertaken at the University, in industry, in Crete as part of existing Nafferton Ecological Farming Group research and development projects, or in another country.

Our staff

You will benefit from being taught by lecturers who are industry experienced and research active. Our research in integrated agricultural production focuses on soil science, plant science and ecology, spanning a range of scales from: pot – plot – farm – landscape.

Strategic research embraces work on:

-Soil quality

-Rhizosphere function

-Plant-soil feedback

-Soil-carbon dynamics

-Nutrient cycling

Applied research addresses issues of:

-Climate change mitigation (including biofuels)

-Ecological (organic) farming systems

-Low-input crop systems

-Agriculture-environment interactions

Professor Carlo Leifert is the Degree Programme Director for MSc in Organic Farming and Food Production Systems. Carlo is a member of the Food Security Network in the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS) and is part of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG). He currently manages EU and DEFRA funded projects focused on improving resource efficiency, productivity and food quality and safety in organic and 'low input' crop and livestock production systems.

Delivery

The course is taught in a block format with a six-week block and then two-week teaching blocks.

You will be taught through:

-Lectures

-Seminars

-Practical and field classes

-Tutorials

-Case studies

-Small group discussions

You will be expected to undertake independent study outside of these structured sessions. Your knowledge and understanding will be assessed through written examinations, coursework, presentations and your final major project.

You can also study through the Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme (CATS). This allows us to award postgraduate level qualifications using credit-bearing stand-alone modules as 'building blocks' towards a qualification. This means that the credits from modules undertaken within a five-year period can be 'banked' towards the award of a qualification.

Facilities

Farms

Our multi-purpose farms provide demonstration facilities for teaching purposes and land-based research facilities (especially in the area of organic production). They are both viable farming businesses.

Cockle Park Farm

Cockle Park Farm is a 262ha mixed farm facility that includes the Palace Leas Plots hay meadow experiment and a new anaerobic digestion plant that will generate heat, electricity and digestate - an organic fertiliser - from pig and cattle manure.

Nafferton Farm

Nafferton Farm is a 300ha farm with two main farm units covering conventional and organic farming systems. The two systems are primarily focussed upon dairying and arable cropping.

Both also operate beef production enterprises as a by-product of their dairy enterprises, although the organic system is unique in maintaining a small-scale potato and vegetable production enterprise.

Laboratories

Our modern laboratories provide important teaching and research environments and are equipped with analytical equipment such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLCs), GCs, CNS analyser (Carbon and Nitrogen analysis), centrifuges, spectrophotometers and molecular biology equipment. Our specialist research facilities include:

  • tissue culture laboratory
  • plant growth rooms
  • class II laboratory for safe handling of human biological samples
  • taste panel facilities and test kitchen
  • thin section facility for soils analysis

We operate closely with other schools, institutes and the University's central scientific facilities for access to more specialist analytical services.

For work with human subjects we use a purpose built Clinical Research Facility which is situated in the Royal Victoria Infirmary teaching hospital and is managed jointly by us and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

nu-food Food and Consumer Research Facility

The NU-Food Food and Consumer Research Facility has undergone a £700,000 refurbishment and now boasts a culinary training suite, a sensory laboratory and food handling facility, all supported by multi-functional rooms and a reception.


Visit the Organic Farming and Food Production Systems - MSc page on the Newcastle University website for more details!

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