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New concentration in College of Agricultural Sciences

March 7, 2014

An undergraduate degree concentration in soils, land use and climate change is one of the newest areas of study in the College of Agricultural Sciences at CSU.

The concentration will provide students with specialized technical skills in agricultural greenhouse gas management and inventory as well as train students to think critically, address new and emerging issues, and become versatile in multidisciplinary settings.

Major change in agricultural education

This concentration represents a major change in agricultural education, in its combination of innovative scientific content with technical skills and through its incorporation of multiple disciplines, from economics and policy to atmospheric sciences, into agricultural education.

Recent research has demonstrated that the majority of new agricultural students do not come from farming or rural backgrounds, and many are not interested in becoming farmers. Instead many are challenged by the interesting new questions concerning agriculture, the environment, and global climate change. Job opportunities for these students tend to be favorable, relative to other majors, and strong connections between the college and industry have led to increased placement percentages. Because climate change is largely considered to be an emerging discipline, the number of courses offered by institutions across the country has not yet met demand.

Students are interested in global challenges

“We know that students are interested in global challenges such as climate change and environmental impacts,” said CSU Professor of Soil and Crop Sciences Francesca Cotrufo, who received a federal grant to design this concentration. “We believe that understanding the interactions between soils, land use and climate change are essential to sustainable agricultural production. Our Department of Soil and Crop Sciences works to prepare students to meet the fascinating challenges of tomorrow by providing the required fundamental knowledge and applied skills to be competitive in the new job environment.”

This concentration is just one example of the efforts in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and College of Agricultural Sciences to connect educational programs and breakthrough research with pressing global needs.

Students enrolled in the concentration will take entry-level courses such as chemistry and agricultural economics and will move quickly into more advanced coursework in global environmental politics, geospatial applications in natural resources, and soil ecology. The new curriculum is designed to be both innovative and interactive. Courses will blend multiple-discipline content (soil science, climate change science and economics) with creative instructional delivery such as interactive lectures, hands-on laboratories and problem-based discussions which involve quantitative reasoning and data interpretation.


In addition to providing students with a deep understanding of soils and soil processes, this concentration will be highly multidisciplinary. Beyond courses focused on soils (pedology, soil ecology and microbiology), students will be exposed to current global challenges, discuss agricultural/environmental economics and policy, and acquire technical skills. The capstone courses will blend several disciplines (soil science, climate science, economics, etc.) through coursework, integrating both content knowledge and skills.

More information

For more information on the concentration, visit the website.

Three $1000 scholarships will also be available to students enrolled in the concentration. For information on the scholarship application process, visit the website.