CROP*4220 Cropping Systems

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2022 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.

Welcome to Cropping Systems! In this course we will learn a version of crop science that takes into account the interplay between i) the management decisions farmers make (individual agency) and ii) the larger structural forces beyond farmer control (e.g. climate, soil type, commodity prices). Together, the interaction between these two variables results in a cropping system. In this course we will analyze the design of cropping systems for specific livestock, poultry and cash crop enterprises. We will discuss the major factors that affect crop yields, quality and economy of production such as choice and interchangeability of crops, crop sequence, tillage, pest control, cover crops, harvesting, drying and storage. The goal of this course is to develop a mental toolkit and habits of mind to assist you in agriculture-related careers.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please see WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

At the end of this course, students should be able to:
  1. Explain causes of complexity, diversity and dynamics of field crop production systems.
  2. Identify and describe components of crop production, including how these components are organized and optimized into a production system given constraining factors such as climate, soil type, livestock, species adaptation and morphology, and economics.
  3. Analyze how these components and their interactions influence resource use efficiency, crop physiology, soil properties, carbon balances, the nitrogen cycle, water and air quality and identify feedback mechanisms that producers can manipulate to improve system productivity.
  4. Explain how the above production systems concepts are currently utilized in Ontario, as well as systems used in Western Canada, the US Midwest and other developed and developing regions of the world. 


Lecture Content:

 Topics to be covered in lectures include:
  • Definition of cropping systems - goals and objectives / overview of factors affecting cropping system choice
  • Moisture and temperature effects on cropping systems
  • Soils and cropping systems - soil carbon cycle
  • Soils and cropping systems - nitrogen cycle
  • Biomass/Residue production and effects on field-scale nutrient cycling
  • Livestock production and cropping systems
  • Economics / markets and cropping systems
  • Tillage - objectives, interaction with soil, climate, crop physiology
  • Tillage - no-till systems and alternative tillage approaches
  • Rotations
  • Multiple crop systems
  • Cover crops
  • Precision ag and cropping systems
  • Intensive cropping systems
Labs & Seminars:

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Grade Learning Outcomes Assessed
Quizzes 30%  
Final Exam - Take Home

Every week after Thursday's class, an online quiz will be released on CourseLink for you to complete. It will be due Wednesday morning at 10:30 AM. Cognitive science indicates that re-testing yourself on material you've learned over expanding intervals allows you to cheaply and reliably commit huge volumes of information to long-term memory. This is the impetus of weekly tests.

In total 11 quizzes will be provided (no quiz on reading week and final week of classes). Each quiz is worth 3% of your final grade. Your lowest scoring quiz is dropped when calculating your final grade, so only 10 quizzes are used to calculate final grades.

SH** Happens Clause: You can invoke the clause on one quiz at any time before the due date by emailing me. Once invoked, you are granted an immediate 3-day extension on the quiz. No explanation required.

Final examination:

Please refer to Web Advisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:


Lab Manual:


Other Resources:

Additional readings consisting primarily of peer-reviewed journal articles will be provided on CourseLink.

Field Trips:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies:
Course Policy on Group Work:

Not applicable.

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

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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