Agronomy BAG306

Learn broad acre farming of arable crops, broad leaf and cereal crops

This course was developed by agricultural scientists and farmers with decades of practical experience and students are tutored by highly qualified and experienced tutors who understand plant science, agronomic techniques and farming practices.

This is a course developed for farmers, farm workers, technicians, managers and people in service industries that supply the farming sector.

Course Duration: 100 hours

Course Structure

  1. Introduction to Agronomic Practices
    • Introduction
    • Crop Types
    • Plant structure and Function
    • Transpiration rate
    • Selection Criteria for Plants
    • Understanding monoculture
    • Row Crops
    • Cover Crops
    • Crop Operations
    • Planter types
  2. Culture: What Influences Crop Growth?
    • Soils
    • Problems with soils
    • Loss of soil problems
    • Erosion
    • Salinity
    • Soil sodicity
    • Soil acidity and alkalinity
    • Improving soils
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Plant nutrition
    • Nutrient deficiencies
    • Organic fertilisers
    • Soil life
    • Insect Pests
    • Diseases
  3. Crop Husbandry Practices
    • Operations
    • Identifying weeds
    • Ways to control weeds
    • Spraying
    • Irrigation
    • Chemical crop protection
    • Preparing plant pathogens for microscopic observation
    • Culturing Pathogens
    • Natural pest and disease control
    • Physical controls
    • Organic sprays and dusts
  4. Seed and Seed Management
    • Seed storage
    • Types of seed storage
    • Seed vigour testing
    • Dormancy factors affecting germination
    • Germination treatments
    • Types of media
    • Media derived from rock or stone
    • Media derived from synthetic materials
    • Organic media
    • Diseases
    • Salinty build up
  5. Arable Cereal Crops
    • Cereal crops
    • Zadock scale
    • Wheat
    • Barley
    • Oats
    • Triticale
    • Sorghum
    • Maize
    • Rice
    • Millet
    • Sugar cane
    • Ryegrass
    • Hay and Silage
    • Quality control
    • Storage and handling
    • Hydroponic fodder
  6. Arable Broadleaf Crops
    • Characteristics of broadleaf crops
    • Oil crops
    • Chickpeas
    • Narrow-leafed lupins
    • Canola
    • Faba beans
    • Cover crops
    • Common legumes
  7. Harvesting
    • Crop preparation for harvest
    • Crop harvest equipment
    • Forage harvesting equipment
    • Cereal harvesting equipment
    • Root crop harvesting equipment
    • Grain storage
    • Contract harvesting
  8. Crop Management: Special Project
    • Crop management from planting to post harvest handling

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Good Agronomic Crop Production Starts With Proper Soil Management

Nutrient management (NM) is a well-recognised term in farming communities however it is not always well-understood. Farmers are often under-informed or ill-informed and either use too much fertiliser or under use, or use the wrong type of fertiliser, or apply it at the wrong time for the wrong reason.

  • Under use compromises profitability and soil fertility.
  • Over use can have disastrous effects on the soil (salinity and pH changes etc.) and also on our waterways. E.g. algal bloom is a symptom of fertiliser leaching impacting on the environment, far beyond the farm.

Best Practice Nutrient Management (BPNM) can be used by farmers to improve yields, lower costs through correct use of fertiliser, improve profits, and reduce the effects of overuse on the environment. Soil fertility involves many factors other than the macronutrients and micronutrients that we think of when we talk about fertiliser; the soils texture, structure, water holding capacity, oxygen and biological activity and properties all influence its fertility. Many countries have guidelines to Best Practice Nutrient Management – in some countries (e.g. USA) you need a licence to apply fertiliser on farms. In others the guidelines are there (backed by scientific evidence), but they are not enforced.

In recent years some countries are also offering Nutrient Stewardship programs to better advise farmers, agronomists and other farm consultants on Best Practice Nutrient Management.

What needs to be considered before we apply fertiliser?

  • The application of fertiliser also needs to be profitable – if crop yields are not improved through application, then potential profits from future crop harvests are lost. 
  • Soil pH: the pH of the soil influences a plant’s ability to uptake available nutrients. Soil water holding ability: fertilisers cannot be up-taken by plants without water. Some soils become hydrophobic (water repellent) especially dryland farming areas. Without addressing this problem, the use of fertiliser is redundant and wasteful. 
  • Soil compaction and drainage – soils need aeration and moisture at the right levels before fertiliser applications can be meaningful to soil fertility and plant growth.
  • Needs: the right fertiliser at the right time and at the right rate means that we also need to understand the actual fertility of the soil before application of more fertiliser. Soil testing for pH and nutrients content and choosing the right NM plan to suit the outcome is a sound approach.

A handy slogan for Nutrient Management that can be used globally is known as ‘4R’:

  • Right source
  • Right rate
  • Right time
  • Right place

Using the 4R approach requires an understanding of soils and how soil structure, texture and soil chemistry influences soil fertility. It requires a combination of the techniques discussed previously: soil tillage techniques, building soil humus, protecting soils from erosion, salinity and acidity. A Nutrient Management plan requires commitment, management, planning, evaluation and revaluation farmers need to be informed and flexible to devise the right plant to suit their needs.


As the name suggests, fertilisers are designed to make the soil more fertile by adding nutrients for plant growth. They may be organic (manure, compost etc.) or inorganic (muriate of potash, superphosphate etc.), and include soil conditioners such as lime and gypsum which make more nutrients available for plant uptake.

There are a tremendous variety of different fertilisers available, each with a different use. Using the wrong fertiliser or the right fertiliser at the wrong rate, can create problems in your garden rather than overcome them.

The variables include:

  • Relative proportions of each nutrient
  • Actual concentration of the nutrient (this is different in different types of fertilisers)
  • Solubility
  • Period of time over which the nutrient will be used
  • What else is with the nutrient? (e.g. nitrogen applied as potassium nitrate will also supply potassium)
  • Method of fertiliser application - to roots or foliage? Broadcast on the soil surface or buried in holes? In liquid or dry powder form? Watered in or not?
  • Type of soil — will the fertiliser hold in the soil or be leached out?
  • Type of plant and time of year - will the plant use the fertiliser quickly? Is it growing rapidly?

Cereal Crops

To successfully achieve high yields in cereal crops, agronomic practices need to be correct. Cereal crop production can be influenced by many factors such as irrigation layout, growing the right crop for the right climate, soil structure, and timing of fertiliser application, stubble retention, good rotation practices and weed control.

These factors can greatly influence the yield potential of many cereal crops including wheat and sorghum.

Zadock Scale

To understand the growth stages of cereal crops one must become familiar with the Zadock Scale. The Zadock Scale was developed by a Dutch scientist Jan Zadock and is now commonly used by agronomists for crop management decisions and research scientists for crop research. The Zadock Scale goes from 0-99. You can find Zadock Scales on the internet and in Agronomy books. Take the time to get acquainted with these.

Having looked at the comprehensive list and description for each stage, we will now look at a snap shot, of the different stages. It is not essential to know exactly what each stage is, however it is very useful to know for instance that Z14-Z21 is early tillering, or at the Z35-Z45 stage the crop is starting to boot. This is all important because there will be times when you will be reading a document that refers to a cereal crop by the Zadock stage, and rather than thinking “what stage are they talking about” you can go back to the link above or look at the table below and get an idea of what crop stage they mean. Some herbicide and fungicide labels will specify a particular Zadock stage for application, so having this background knowledge is important. The Zadock growth stage applies to many cereal crops (eg. wheat, barley, oats, and triticale).

With your new knowledge of the Zadock Scale, we will break it down into the key stages. After emergence you will refer to the crop by the number of leaves present, until the plant develops 5 leaves. For example when inspecting a newly emerged crop you could be looking a 2-3 leaves per plant. Some herbicides are safe to apply once the crop has reached 2 leaves, some herbicides cannot be applied once the crop has reached the 5 leaf stage. Once the crop has developed 5 leaves you would then refer to the crop as early tillering. Usually during this stage if timely rainfall occurs, the secondary roots develop.

Who should do this course?

  • Anyone who works on a broad acre farm, growing cereal, oil, fibre or other crops on a large scale
  • People who supply services, equipment or materials to support crop farming
  • Agriculture students who want to develop a broad based foundation in agronomy
  • Entrepreneurs interested in investing in agronomy
  • Farmers looking to diversify the crops they are growing 

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Fee Information (S2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $781.66  1 x $710.60
B 2 x $416.96  2 x $379.05

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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