The agronomy of broad acre crops has changed dramatically over the past two decades with expanding farm size, adoption of more sophisticated technology, a better understanding of the crop and pressure to reduce the environmental impact of farming.
The aim of this module is to provide a sound understanding of the agronomic principles and techniques used to produce cereal, oilseed and potato crops.
The module will cover crop establishment, nutrition, growth regulation, weed control, disease control and pest control. The range of agronomic methods used will be described and the rationale behind the different approaches explained. The issues of practical husbandry, environmental impact and business profitability will be linked and discussed in balance with the principles of crop production. The effect of different agronomic practices will be described from using practical, first-hand experience in commercial fields and in large plot field trials carried out at ADAS and Warwick HRI. Machinery and equipment used to carry out agronomic operations will be demonstrated. Laboratory classes will be run to develop an understanding about the effect of different agronomic practices on the state of the plant. Research methods for testing the effects of agronomic methods will be explained and demonstrated, again using real examples in field trials at ADAS and Warwick HRI.
- Demonstrate knowledge of agronomic methods in use today and appreciate the rationale for their use in terms of effects on the crop, environment and profit.
- Demonstrate the ability to assess critically the best agronomic strategy for different crops grown in different environments.
- Analyse ways in which different agronomic methods may be used to minimise the environmental impact whilst maintaining or increasing profitability.
- Communicate the range of agronomic practices used, explaining the choice of the most appropriate method for different situations. Be able to set up experiments to test agronomic practices.
- Crop establishment: Methods including the type of soil cultivations employed, methods of seed drilling, sowing date, choice of seed rate, seed dressings, pest control (slugs, birds, insects).
- Weed control: Methods of cultural and chemical control. Most appropriate timings and chemical groups for different weed species. Methods of predicting the level of weed seed dormancy. Strategies for minimising resistance to herbicides. Practical classes to demonstrate different weed species and field experiment visits to demonstrate the impact of different weed control strategies.
- Nutrition: Methods of estimating crop nutrition requirements. Methods for applying fertilisers and manures. Effects on the environment including nitrogen vulnerable zones. Field experiment visits to inspect fertiliser spreading machinery and to assess the effect of different fertiliser regimes on crop growth.
- Disease control: Methods of cultural and chemical control. Optimum timing, rates and chemical groups for different diseases. Strategies for minimising resistance to fungicides. Practical classes to demonstrate different weed species and field experiment visits to inspect machinery for spraying fungicides and to demonstrate the impact of different weed control strategies.
- Pest control: Methods of monitoring pests. Use of pest thresholds. Optimum timing and chemical groups for different pests. Impact on beneficial organisms. Practical pest identification tests. Use of equipment for monitoring pests.
- Growth regulation: Rationale behind the requirement to regulate growth and minimise lodging. Chemicals used and optimum timings. Field trials to demonstrate the effect of growth regulator chemicals.
- Experimental methods for evaluating the effects of agronomic practices and demonstration of large scale field experiments.