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Sustainable Plant Systems


This course addresses MSc and PhD students at ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The seminar is organized by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center.

Date and Location

Two workshop afternoons usually in October and December (fall term) with an online phase in between. ETH Zurich Zentrum, room tbd

7 October & 2 December 2022 (14:00 – 18:00)


•    Dr. Franz Bender, Plant-Soil-Interactions Group, Agroscope
•    Dr. Carole Epper, Agroscope
•    Dr. Frank Liebisch, Agroscope
•    Dr. Melanie Paschke, Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (PSC), ETHZ
•    Dr. Gurbir Singh Bhullar, FIBL


In the future, society will have to feed nine billion people, therefore agriculture, including food, waste and resource management have to interact hand in hand towards the use of fewer resources.

The seminar focuses on current agro-ecological systems, farming system research and an understanding of current food systems and food system policies.

How can we transform our food systems and move beyond existing paradigms to develop innovative and sustainable agriculture production and sustainable food chains? Where does current research indicate directions for transformation of current practice and how can we assess and analyse them through research?

The seminar is set up as a blended‐learning seminar, i.e. a combination of face‐to‐face meetings and self‐organized learning with provided online learning material.

The seminar comprises two workshop afternoons (normally October and December; online phase in between) and an intensive, structured self-study and group work phase on case studies in between the workshops. Theoretical input (via e-learning) will emphasize on the environmental dimensions of sustainability. Case studies will link to the environmental, societal and economic dimensions of sustainability.

Learning objectives

Participants will be able to:  
•    Review issues of sustainability in the context of plant science research and literature on sustainable agriculture and the food system
•    Phrase their own visions for sustainability in plant sciences based on case studies from research groups active in agro-ecology and the food system
•    Review indicators for evaluation of sustainability in the case study

Grading and Credit Points

2 Credit Points for PhD and Master students. Based on 8 days of work (= 60 learning hours).

Submission of two assignments. Group work presentation and written synthesis report.
If participation or performance is regarded as insufficient, individual improvement of the study performance may be required. The overall module grade is calculated as the average of the individual course grades. A minimum average of 4.0 is required to pass the module. If one of the courses is not passed:
•    The course(s) may be repeated (only possible in the fall term of the following year).
•    The student may take an oral exam (30 minutes) with two of the organizers. The exam takes place at the end of the term break of the winter semester. The date will be communicated separately.

Syllabus for the seminar

Due dates


Recommended workload distribution [h]


Keynote, Topic presentations, Activities / Start of self-studies 4
  Self-study of online material 12
Nov Online: Submission of two assignments 4
  Group work 36
Dec Group work presentation and synthesis report 4
  Total 60


Weiterführende Informationen



PSC PhD program