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Unit of study_

AGRI2001: Plant Management in Agroecosystems

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

World population is projected to reach 9 billion within 50 years and food production needs to double in a sustainable manner in order to feed human population. This profound challenge will be met by improving our knowledge and management of agroecosystems. This unit of study is designed to provide an introductory understanding of the biology and management of plants in dryland agroecosystems, with a focus on major Australian broad acre crops. Dryland agroecosystems can be defined as ecosystems modified for the purpose of producing crops, pastures and animals in environments where water limits productivity during part of the year (and are typical in Australian agriculture). These agroecosystems are characterised by regular agricultural interventions, such as cultivation, sowing, nutrient, weed, pest and disease management, and harvest. The program will involve developing an understanding of the interactions between the environment, crops/pastures and agricultural management in dryland agroecosystems. The model for describing and analysing agroecosystems will be centred on a typical cropping cycle, with an emphasis on cereals. You will gain knowledge and skills on crop physiological, growth and development responses to the combined climatic, edaphic, biotic and management factors in the growing environment. The unit will also provide a sound understanding and analysis of the practical farming framework in which this knowledge is applied through weed, disease and pest management, approaches to managing climate variability and precision agriculture. There will be a focus on assessing the effects of climate and weather in dryland agroecosystems, especially on understanding crop-water-nutrition relationships. Successful students will be able to appreciate and analyse the most important limitations to crop production and yield in Australia and how those limitations can be minimized or overcome through science-based planning and agronomic management practices.

Unit details and rules

Unit code AGRI2001
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

Understanding of experimental design and analysis including dependent and independent variables, random and representative sampling, t-tests a simple designs and interpretation of univariate analysis.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Brett Whelan,
Lecturer(s) David Guest,
Michael Walsh,
Daniel Tan,
Rosalind Deaker,
Brett Whelan,
Tanya Latty,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Record+) Type B final exam Exam
Proctored written exam
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Online task Quzzes
Completed in Canvas
30% Multiple weeks 30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Crop Report
Written report
30% Week 13 2 A4 pages plus separate reference list
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO4 LO5 LO7 LO9
Type B final exam = Type B final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Three short-answer quizzes: Quizzes that reinforce the topics covered in the previous weeks.
  • Report: The report is designed to support you in integrating your growing understanding of crops and their response to the environment, and being able to describe and discuss this understanding in a clear manner. The report topic will be discussed in class early in the semester.
  • Exam: The exam will consist of a combination of short-answer and essay type questions to cater for different learning styles. All lectures, tutorials and practical sessions are exam-relevant.
Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction; 2. Major Australian crops Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Major Australian crops and their identification Tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Climate and Australian crop management systems Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Climate and Australian crop management systems Tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 03 Sowing and crop establishment Lecture (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Understanding cereal growth stages Field trip (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 Crop growth and development processes Lecture (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Crop growth and development Tutorial (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 06 Crop nutrition Lecture (2 hr) LO4 LO5
1. Crop nutrition; 2. Crop growth simulation Tutorial (3 hr) LO4 LO5
Week 07 Crop disease and management Lecture (2 hr) LO7 LO9
Crop disease and management Tutorial (3 hr) LO7 LO9
Week 08 Weeds and weed management Lecture (2 hr) LO7 LO9
Weed interference Tutorial (3 hr) LO7 LO9
Week 09 Biological nitrogen fixation Lecture (2 hr) LO6 LO9
Legumes, nodules and nitrogen fixation Tutorial (3 hr) LO6 LO9
Week 10 Entomology and crop pest management Lecture (2 hr) LO7 LO9
Entomology and crop pest management Tutorial (3 hr) LO7 LO9
Week 11 Spatial variability in resources and production Lecture (2 hr) LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Advanced crop growth stages Field trip (3 hr) LO3 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 12 Grain quality, markets and marketing Field trip (3 hr) LO2 LO9 LO10 LO11
Week 13 Precision agriculture management options Lecture (2 hr) LO8 LO9 LO10 LO11

Attendance and class requirements

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

You should use a variety of sources including texts and journal articles in your learning and preparation for the exam. Other resources will be available on the Unit of Study LMS website.

Use the unit’s reference texts to further your understanding of course content:

  • Pratley J (Ed.) (2003) Principles of Field Crop Production. 4th edition. Oxford University Press: Melbourne, Australia. Freely available here:
  • Marschner P (Ed) (2012) Marschner’s Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants, 3rd edition. Elsevier, London
  • Anderson WK, Garlinge JR (Eds) (2000) The Wheat Book. Department of Agriculture Western Australia: South Perth, Australia.
  • Whelan, B.M., Taylor, J.A. (2013) Precision Agriculture for Grain Production Systems. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, Australia.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. explain the defining features of dryland agroecosystems
  • LO2. assess the value, and extent, of importance dryland crops
  • LO3. identify key crop growth stages and the importance in agroecosystem management
  • LO4. evaluate the relationship between crop growth and soil and aerial environments and the importance of water and water-use efficiency
  • LO5. analyse the physiology of crops - including germination, vegetative and reproductive growth and development, transpiration, and mineral nutrient acquisition and use
  • LO6. evaluate the value of biological nitrogen fixation and crop rotation in agroecosystem management
  • LO7. assess the importance of integrated methodologies for weed, disease and pests management in cropping systems
  • LO8. recognise and justify approaches and technologies for managing spatial and temporal variability in farming systems
  • LO9. review the benefits of an integrated systems approach to managing agricultural systems
  • LO10. discuss and rank the importance of sustainability issues in dryland farming systems
  • LO11. develop and articulate management options that will increase crop productivity per unit area and rainfall to produce long-term, sustainable profits, while at the same time preserving natural resources such as water, soil and biodiversity.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.

Work, health and safety

Completion of the Canvas module “Zoonosis Awareness” is compulsory.

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


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