General agronomy

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The learning objectives are to:
- Obtain an integrated view of factors that contribute to crop management and of crop utilisation in cropping system.
- Know and understand crop management techniques and their effects on productivity and environment.
- Know and understand the techniques to set up, manage and evaluate cropping systems in terms of productivity, sustainability and control of environmental impact.
- Know and understand crop management techniques of some important arable crops.
Based on the basic disciplines of previous semesters, in this course the student knows and understands agronomic management techniques of cropping systems. This body of knowledge, integrated by more specific disciplines acquired later on, is a key tool to carry out a productive, environmental and economic evaluation of cropping systems.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course the student will be able to:
- Quantitatively and temporally define a crop management protocol.
- Compare and choose tillage techniques, including conservation agriculture practices.
- Prepare a nutrient management plan.
- Calculate a simple soil organic matter budget.
- Prepare a weed management plan.
- Define the crop management protocol of a few arable crops, taking into account the constraints set by soil, climate and yield targets.
- Communicate this knowledge in writing and orally.
- Acquire autonomously new knowledge in this domain (e.g. know and understand crop management technique of an arable crop not covered in this course).
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Dear students,
if the virus emergency will continue in academic year 2021/2022, lectures and practicals might be delivered online. I will provide updated information before the start of the semester.

Whatever the teaching methods will be, no changes will be made to the programme, the references and the exam type (the exam will be carried out online if it will not be possible to do it in the classroom).
Course syllabus
1. Introduction to agronomy (1 CFU).
Definitions of agriculture and agronomy. Plant production; growth; development. Production levels. Growth over time of the leaf area and of the aerial biomass of herbaceous crops.

2. Soil structure and soil-water relations (0.5 CFU).
Soil structure: factors that contribute to keeping together or separating aggregates; influence of management practices (contribution of organic matter, mineral fertilizers, irrigation water; vegetation; tillag and compaction). Crust formation. Water-soil relationship: partioning of the soil volume; partioning of soil porosity; water content; water potential and its components; water retention curve; saturation, field capacity and wilting point; infiltration rate; useful rain; water balance. Behavior of soils of different texture.

3. Tillage (1 CFU).
Definition. Purposes of tillage. Tillage classification. Soil tillage and water content: cohesion, plasticity, adhesiveness; their variations with soil moisture; shrinkage limit, plasticity limit, liquid limit. For each tillage operation, this presentation scheme is followed: action, structure of the tool, effect on soil and residues, relation with other tillage operations, advantages and disadvantages. Plowing with a traditional moldboard plow. Subsoiling. Hoeing. Harrowing. Rolling. Weeding. Plowing depth. Plowing techniques. Plowing date. Conservation agriculture: definition, available techniques, advantages and disadvantages. No tillage. Minimum tillage. Notes on machinery used in conservation agriculture. Management of crop residues.

4. Fertilization and nutrient management (2 CFU).
Purpose of fertilization, importance. Essential and non-essential nutrients. Response of crops to fertilization. Role of the soil. Liebig's law. Optimal dose of nutrient. Diagnosis of nutrient deficiencies: chemical analysis of the soil and plants; visual diagnosis. Nitrogen fertilization: mineralization rate and crop removal rate; apparent agronomic efficiency; real efficiency; effectiveness; factors that affect efficiency; estimation of the nitrogen dose with the balance method (with exercises). Phosphate and potassium fertilization: concept of assimilable phosphorus and exchangeable potassium; estimate of the doses of phosphorus and potassium to be applied. Date and method of application of mineral fertilizers. Mineral fertilizers: classification; title; nitrogen fertilizers; phosphate fertilizers; potassium fertilizers. Organic fertilizers: nutrient content and their behavior in the soil; selection criteria; animal manure (composition, characteristics, apparent nitrogen efficiency, environmental risks, treatment, distribution in the field, outline of the legislation).

5. Soil amendment (0.5 CFU).
Objective of the amendment. Importance of organic matter and factors that influence its presence in the soil. Humic balance. Amendments. Manure. Green manure.

6. Weed control (1 CFU).
Definition of weeds and their importance. Classification of the weed flora based on the propagation mechanism; seed dormancy; soil seed bank and its dynamics; potential flora and real flora. Classification of the flora based on the duration of the cycle. Management of weeds: prevention, eradication and control. Weed control: concepts of integrated control; intervention thresholds and required period of absence of weeds. Mechanical, physical (flame weeding), crop control, biological control. Chemical control: advantages and disadvantages; foliar and soil application; environmental fate of herbicides applied to the soil and environmental and management factors that affect their effectiveness (soil water content, organic matter content); factors that affect the effectiveness of herbicides for foliar application. Contact and systemic herbicides. Mechanisms of action of herbicides. Selectivity of herbicides. Date of application: pre-sowing, pre-emergence of the crop, post-emergence of the crop.

7. Introduction to arable crops. Wheat. Maize (2 CFU)
Importance and classification. The most cultivated species and productions in Italy, Europe and the world. The BBCH development scale. Importance of cereals and their botanical classification. Corn and wheat: diffusion and importance; systematic classification; morphology; biological cycle; environmental needs; rotation; varietal choice and genetic improvement; preparation of the seedbed; sowing; fertilization; weed control; pest control; irrigation; harvest and conservation; product quality and use.

8. Starting from the academic year 2017/2018, students can hold optional seminars on topics agreed with the professor. Each seminar has a duration of 15 minutes. Seminars are held during normal lecture time because they are of interest for the other students too. Seminars are evaluated with a score up to 3, which contributes to the final mark.
Prerequisites for admission
- Mathematics, chemistry, physics
- Botany
- Plant physiology
- Crop ecology: ecosystems and agroecosystems; meteorology; water balance, soil-water relationships
- Soil science: texture and structure; biogeochemical cycles
Teaching methods
There will be:

(a) Lectures to present and discuss all topics of the programme
(b) Practical exercises in the classroom to prepare a nutrient management plan
(c) Field visits in farms, to directly observe soils, crops, tools, and to discuss the concepts related to tillage, fertilisation and weed control with farmers and advisors.

All the activities contribute to reach the expected learning outcomes, favoring the student's thinking about interconnections between soil, crop, atmosphere and management. The practicals in the classroom will contribute to acquire the techniques to prepare a nutrient management plan. The practicals in the field will allow the students to prove their newly acquired abilities, by discussing with experts like advisors and farmers.

There will also be facultative seminars held by the students (see at the end of the programme for more details).

On moodle there are: slides; text, data and answers of practicals; additional teaching material (e.g. videos, articles).

Attending the lectures and the practicals is strongly encouraged.
Teaching Resources
The material is the same for students who attend the classes and for students not attending. These are the most important sources.

Ceccon, P., Fagnano, M., Grignani, C., Monti, A., Orlandini, S., 2017. Agronomia, 1a ed., EdiSES, Napoli.

Di Fonzo, N., 2007. Il grano, Bayer CropScience. ed, Coltura & Cultura. Milano.

Maggiore, T., 2007. Il mais: botanica, storia e arte, alimentazione, paesaggio, coltivazione, ricerca, utilizzazione, mondo e mercato, Coltura & Cultura. Bayer Crop Science.

Coltivazioni erbacee. 1: Cereali e proteaginose, 3a ed., 2000. , Scienza e tecniche delle produzioni vegetali. Pàtron, Bologna.

On moodle the material to be used for each program topic is clearly indicated: besides these books, other references are provided (articles, videos, web sites, book chapters).

Articles and book chapters suggested on the ARIEL platform

The material is suggested for free consultation by the students; they are not used during lectures and practicals.

Grignani, C., 2016. Fertilizzazione sostenibile. Principi, tecnologie ed esempi operativi, Collana Edagricole Università e Formazione. Edagricole-New Business Media, Milano, Italy.

Casa, R., 2016. Agricoltura di precisione, Collana Edagricole Università e Formazione. Edagricole-New Business Media, Milano, Italy.

Loomis, R.S., Connor, D.J., 1992. Crop ecology: Productivity and management in agricultural systems. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK

Villalobos, F.J., Fereres, E. (Eds.), 2016. Principles of Agronomy for Sustainable Agriculture. Springer International Publishing, Cham, Switzerland. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-46116-8
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam is written. It is made of eight short questions on the whole programme and exercises. The optimal length of an answer ranges from a few lines to a whole page written by hand, depending on the question or exercise. The exam lasts 1.5 hours. The mark is assigned by averaging the marks of each answer.

The evaluation is expressed on a 18-30 scale, and considers: a) the use of adequate language; b) the correctness of the contents; c) the completeness of the answers. Missing contents reduce the mark. Excess contents are not evaluated. In the exercises it is important to use the proper order of magnitude for the variables and the parameters. Units must always be specified.

A pocket calculator can be used for the exercises.

An oral exam is not planned.

The intermediate exam (not mandatory) has the objective to help students to gradually assimilate the programme. Students who have passed the intermediate exam must pass a final exam on the whole programme (a written examination of one hour).

There will:
- Two exam dates at the end of each semester (Jun-Jul, Jan-Feb)
- An exam date during the intermediat exams period (Apr, Nov)
- An exam date in September
AGR/02 - AGRONOMY AND FIELD CROPS - University credits: 8
Field activity: 12 hours
Practicals: 12 hours
Lessons: 52 hours
Professor: Bechini Luca
Educational website(s)
By making an appointment.
In my office (Via Celoria 2, Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali - Agronomia, 1st floor above "Aula 1")