PLNT*6240 (W) Colloquium in Crop Production & Management

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

An open discussion course designed to review and critically analyze contemporary issues in crop production and management.

The course will take a systems approach to the study of crop management, emphasizing interactions among management, genotype and environment (GxExM). This course will expand the breadth of knowledge of modern agriculture with a comprehensive study and review of practices in a systems context that enhances crop production, maximize profitability, and to minimize environmental impact. This course is a graduate level cropping systems course for field crops. Classes will be at the main campus in Guelph. During the first class meeting, each student will select a cropping systems topic that is unrelated to their thesis. These topics may be within the areas of intensive management of corn, soybean or wheat, enhancing crop rotation diversity, use of cover crops, nutrient dynamics, increasing soil organic matter, managing soil compaction, integrated pest management, precision agriculture, and others. Specific topics within the aforementioned cropping system components will be provided. On each topic, student will lead a discussion on relevant journal articles, a seminar to the department will be presented, and a term paper written.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Graduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please consult WebAdvisor for course schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
  1. Critically investigate cropping systems using a genotype by environment by management approach.

  2. Develop strategies to read a scientific paper critically and gain maximum value (knowledge) from reading that paper. Prepare professional questions for academic agronomists (for Q&A).

  3. Develop a strong understanding of intermediate/advanced methods or measurements commonly used in the study of crop management and production

  4. Effectively present a seminar using effective visual and oral communication to broaden the knowledge of fellow graduate students and the members of the department.

Lecture Content:

Our first class meeting will be officially during Week 2 of academic semester. At the first class meeting, students will be presented with a list of topics associated with a field crops focus on cropping systems. We will discuss some major expectations for each topic, then each student will select one of the topics and a schedule will be devised for addressing each student-topic through the course. The students may volunteer a time to deliver their topic to the class, or if that fails, we will pick out names from a hat. We will also review procedures on giving effective presentations and seminars.

We will formally commence the student-topics during Week 3 of the academic semester, according to the schedule assigned during our first meeting in the previous week. Starting this week (Week 3), i) the student assigned to Topic One will lead a discussion and literature review with the help of the instructors, ii) will give a draft of the seminar the following week, followed by iii) the final seminar with departmental invite on the week after (i.e., each student-topic will be fully addressed in 3 consecutive weeks followed by a term paper due at the end of the semester). The course of student- topics will overlap with each other through the semester.

Labs & Seminars:


Course Assignments and Tests:

Task Weight % Learning Outcomes
Participation 25% 1, 2, 4
Colloquium Seminar 50% 1-4
Term Paper 25% 1-4
TOTAL 100%  

Colloquium Seminar (50%) Due: Dates to be determined. Learning Outcome: 1, 2, 3, 4

In this exercise the student will select a cropping systems topic from a list, and then in a subsequent week, the student will lead a discussion of published research to the class, where the cornerstones of production, environment and economic impacts will be addressed for that topic. The experimental methods and data will be discussed in each paper that lead to the conclusions. Preparation and delivery of this exercise will constitute 25% of the weight for this section.

For the following week, the student can then use the discussion to construct a draft seminar that introduces the topic and presents a science-based critical review of data. The fundamental challenge is to tell a story that balances generalities and background with some in-depth science. This draft will be critically peer-reviewed by the class. Preparation and delivery of this draft seminar will constitute 25% of the weight for this section.

The final seminar will be given at the next class meeting, and will be 50% of the weight for this section. 

Participation in Rehearsals and Question Period (25%) Due: This will take place during class time each week Learning Outcome: 1, 2, 4
Students are expected to participate in paper reviews and discussion on each topic. Students are expected to be actively engaged in the improvement of their colleagues' seminars. Students are expected to be engaged in the question period after each seminar. Each student is expected to provide specific constructive comments to improve a fellow student's seminar. Each student is expected to ask specific questions during the question period, and make specific comments to add to the discussion during question period. Students that do not actively engage in this process will receive a mark of zero for this section for the week.

A mid-semester assessment of participation will be completed by the 40th class day. This will account for 10% of the course mark.

Cropping Systems Topic Paper (25%) WHEN: Due end of the semester. OUTCOMES: 1 ,2, 3, 4

Students will complete a term paper on their selected topic, which may be a formal write-up of their seminar. No copy and pasting slides will be allowed. Students will select a topic, provide an outline, and a list of references by the 30th class day. This will account for 10% of the course mark. The term paper is due at midnight Friday, April 7, 2023.

Marking rubrics will be available on CourseLink

Final examination:

There is no final examination scheduled for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

Online Journal Articles (Article)
Various scientific articles will be required for reading for class.

Recommended Texts:


Lab Manual:

There is no lab manual.

Other Resources:

Scientific literature, books and some general articles, available online (Google Scholar) and through the library. 

Field Trips:

There are no field trips.

Additional Costs:

There are no additional costs

Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

Grades for the student-topic seminars will be tabulated over a 3-week period according to the seminar schedule. The final seminar will be graded by both the class and instructor(s). The final seminar grade will be calculated based on 50% of the class student peer grade and 50% of the instructor grade

Term Papers are due in DropBox on CourseLink on the last class day in Week 13. Late term papers will receive a 20% reduction in mark for each business day it is late.

Students are expected to participate actively in the discussions. 

Course Policy on Group Work:

All  assignments are to be individual work, conforming with the university policies of academic integrity.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

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