Agronomy

Introduction

Over the past 50 years, global food production has trebled, largely as a result of advances in agronomy.  In spite of this, if the world is to adequately feed its growing population, food production needs to be trebled yet again over the next 50 years! Today, food and energy shortages loom large across the world.

Agronomy is the applied aspects of both soil and plant sciences dealing with field crops and pastures.  It is therefore, directly responsible for the production of most food and fibre consumed and utilised by people and livestock, and thus, is fundamental to productive and sustainable agriculture and livestock production. Agronomy includes aspects such as plant breeding, crop and pasture establishment and persistence, plant nutrition, plant protection (weed, insect and disease ecology and management), and farm design. At the University of New England, agronomy is linked closely to studies of soil chemistry, soil physics, soil biology and soil water use.

There are some formidable challenges for the agronomist in meeting the future demands for food security without significant environmental costs. Climate change, pesticide resistance and water supply are obvious challenges, but the rising cost of fertiliser, fuel and the potential competition for carbon between food, biofuels and soil health are likely to intensify. There is a great need for energy and water efficient agricultural systems. Research and training in agronomy will be essential in providing innovative solutions to these challenges.

Why Study Agronomy at UNE?

UNE is one of Australia's leading university providers of undergraduate and postgraduate agricultural education, consistently receiving an enviable five-star rating for student satisfaction and being uniquely located with ready access to cropping, horticulture and pasture field sites for teaching and research. We have over 150 students taking agronomy units each year taught by lecturers with a broad range of expertise across crops, pastures, soils and farming systems. In addition to teaching into interdisciplinary units we provide a sequence of specialised agronomy units to take the student from the basics of the ecology and adaptation of agricultural plants (crops, pastures and weeds) to solving complex real-world agronomic problems caused by variable climatic conditions, nutrient deficiencies, crop diseases, weeds, insect pests, physiological disorders and pesticide damage.

We also train postgraduate research students to PhD level in a diverse range of fields including plant nutrition and fertiliser management, crop and pasture production, plant breeding, weed, disease and insect pest ecology and management, horticulture, and organic agriculture.

Because of the central role of agronomy in many environmental and agricultural issues we work closely in our teaching and research with staff and students from other disciplines at UNE as well as with government agencies and industry. We have been involved in the Cotton and Weed Cooperative Research Centres and are the providers of specialised courses at the Graduate Certificate and Diploma levels for the cotton and grains industries. Students studying agronomy at UNE benefit because of these linkages and expertise.

Units

AGFD200 - Barley to Beer: Food Security

AGRO211 - Identification and Adaptation of Agricultural Plants
AGRO223 - Agricultural Ecology and Crop Physiology
AGRO311 - Plant Protection
AGRO321 - Crop Production
AGRO422/522 - Integrated Weed Management
AGRO501 - Organic Agriculture - Principles and Practice
AGRO514 - Plant Biosecurity

AGSY300 - Grazing Systems

COTT300/400/500 - Applied Cotton Production
COTT301/401/501 - Cotton Crop Protection

GRNS300/400/500 - Agronomy of Grains Production
GRNS301/401/501 - Grain Crop Protection
GRNS202/302/402 - Grains and the Environment
GRNS203/303/403 - Grain Farming and the Industry Systems

ERS501 - Applied Research Skills in Environmental and Rural Science

SCI500 - Research Methods in The Sciences

Other units under Soils and Agricultural Systems also cover various other aspects of Agronomy.

Careers

There is a marked shortage of agronomy graduates and so agronomists find ready employment in a diverse range of jobs particularly associated with the grazing and cropping industries.  Positions are being filled in:

  • agronomic advisory work with government departments of primary industries, agricultural produce companies and private agricultural consulting firms;

  • banks, pastoral firms and stockfeed, chemical and fertilizer companies:

  • farm, feedlot and other property management;

  • media work;

  • Commonwealth departments and agencies such as Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and ABARES;

  • plant breeding companies, agricultural marketing groups, livestock societies and machinery manufacturing companies;

  • Catchment Management Authorities, Landcare and other natural resource management organizations;

  • research with universities, CSIRO and other government and research agencies; and

  • education with secondary schools, TAFEs, universities and other training providers.

Facilities

UNE has a new state-of-the-art glasshouse complex and several properties on which research and teaching are undertaken, the closest of which are adjacent to the campus, with farming equipment suitable for small and large scale agronomic trials. There are excellent laboratories for plant nutrition and crop protection research.  Analytical facilities include ICP-OES, ion chromatograph, Carlo-Erba-MS CNS analyser, NIRS, GC-MS and HPLC. We have a range of field and laboratory equipment for measuring soil structure, soil mechanical properties, and soil water (neutron probes, TDR, capacitance probes, pressure plates).

Contacts

For general and administrative enquiries, AskUNE.

For further information about studying Agronomy, contact:

Professor Brian Sindel
Phone: +61 2 6773 3747
Email: bsindel@une.edu.au