Plant and Soil Science
What will I study?
Study the structure and function of plant production industries in Australia and around the world - including the determinants of production and their implications on land management.
And you'll gain an understanding of soil function and appropriate management plans to promote agricultural productivity and minimise environmental impacts.
You can choose to spend Semester 2 of your second year at Dookie campus, where you can observe a wide variety of farming industries first-hand including cropping, livestock and dairy management, horticulture and viticulture enterprises, as well as support industries such as irrigation management, logistics and food processing operations.
You can also choose to spend your final semester in the Plant and Soil Science major based at Dookie, where you can participate in an industry project, developing skills in project management, problem solving, planning and reporting scientific investigations.
Explore this major
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this major.
- Soil Management12.5
A knowledge of appropriate methods for management of our soils is vital for sustainable food production and environmental health. This subject will provide students with a thorough understanding of key soil chemical, physical and biological processes to enable practical solutions to soil management issues at appropriate scales. The subject will discuss major soil management issues such as: carbon storage; soil acidification; salinity; erosion and sodicity, including soil structure and its maintenance; the use of fertilizers, including composts, biosolids, manures and effluents from intensive animal industries and processing plants; the use of soil testing for maintenance of soil fertility and; offsite impacts of management on air and water quality. The role of the soil microbiome in improving plant productivity and the role of soil organisms in improving soil fertility and promoting nutrient transformations will also be explored. Practicals and excursions will be used to demonstrate methods of soil survey and land capability assessment.
- Plant Health and Improvement12.5
Plant Health and Improvement
This subject outlines the methods used to identify pathogens causing plant diseases, the consequences of diseases for plant productivity; and techniques used in breeding for plant disease resistance. The links between these two areas are explored as plant breeders and pathologists seek novel genetic material capable of resisting or tolerating plant pathogens.
Topics covered include:
- Taxonomy, identification and biology of the main groups of plant pathogens and abiotic causes of plant diseases
- Host pathogen relationships, and the nature of disease resistance and pathogenesis
- Methods to identify pathogens, and development of tools for diagnosis
- Processes leading to plant disease epidemics and their evaluation
- Principles and methodology of plant breeding for disease resistance
- Evolutionary processes and genetic variability of plant and pathogen populations
- World-wide distribution and conservation of plant genetic resources
- Methods of breeding self– and cross-pollinating plants
- Management and integrated control of plant diseases
Practical work includes:
- Identification and diagnosis of common diseases
- Development of skills in research techniques and methodology in plant pathology
- Irrigation and Water Management12.5
Irrigation and Water Management
On completion of this subject students should be able to:
Describe the scale and distribution of the major irrigation systems in south-eastern Australia
Evaluate plant water requirements in terms of water quality and frequency of supply
Apply basic principles of hydraulics to the selection of irrigation systems appurtenances and structures
Assess irrigation systems in terms of efficiency, economy, energy-use and environmental impact
Recognise the advantages and disadvantages of common irrigation systems
Recognise the need for efficient irrigation drainage as well as water supply
The content includes:
Water supply potential for the development of irrigation systems, management planning and operation of water allocations, water law, cost benefit analysis, environmental and energy-use implications of resource utilisation and development, efficiency of irrigation systems and long-term viability
Climatic factors in irrigation development, rainfall, evaporation, evapotranspiration and hydrology
Plant physiology and plant water use, transpiration crop water requirements in terms of water quality and quantity
Soils and water, soil moisture retention and movement, plant root zones and development, infiltration and leaching
Irrigation scheduling, soil moisture measurement
Types of irrigation systems, selection of irrigation systems, irrigation drainage, seepage, surface and subsurface drainage systems, salinity, conveyance and disposal of drained effluent, re-use systems, management of irrigation systems, operations and maintenance requirements
- Sustainable Food Systems12.5
Sustainable Food Systems
The Australian food industry plays an important role in the Australian economy. The industry encompasses a number of segments from agricultural production, food processing and distribution through to retail sales. A key feature of the food industry is its diversity. The future of the industry will be affected by how well it responds to the changing demands of society.
This subject introduces students to food production systems and challenges them to create more sustainable approaches to this production. Topics include, food production in Australia - where it happens and why - how it is changing to meet both the needs of the environment and society, associated impacts on the sustainability of regional communities, trade and policy issues which impact on distribution, global food movements and ongoing changes and innovations in global food markets, as well as resource economics implications in developing and developed countries. Future implications of policy and legislative and other changes will be assessed in terms of their impact on the changing structure of food production in Australia.
- Plant Growth Processes12.5
Plant Growth Processes
The production of plant food and fibre involves the manipulation of plant growth and development to achieve desired levels of yield and quality. This subject considers how crop and pasture canopies grow by acquiring resources from the environment, how plants allocate resources to different growth processes, and how management and environment (including climate change) affect plant production in Australia and worldwide. Plant processes will be presented at the plant, canopy and community level, touching on the wider implications for water and nutrient management as they influence landscape processes such as salinity and soil acidification.
- Ecology and Grazing Management12.5
Ecology and Grazing Management
Pastures and grasslands comprise the dominant vegetation cover across the Australian continent. The way pastures and grasslands are managed is therefore central to the sustainable use of natural resources such as soil and water, as well as the economic development of the pasture-based livestock industries (meat and wool sheep, beef cattle, and dairy).
This subject will include:
- An overview of Australia's pasture and grassland resources
- The population biology of pasture plants, including the growth cycles of annual and perennial plants, and pathways of plant survival
- The major pasture plant species and pasture types, their agronomic and adaptive characteristics and management requirements
- Pasture improvement principles and practices
- Plant and pasture growth processes influencing the accumulation of yield in pastures, and implications for management
- The feeding and nutritive value of pastures and factors affecting animal intake
- The principles and practices of grazing management
- Crop Production and Management12.5
Crop Production and Management
Field crop production is a major component of Australia’s economy, and landholders manage their resources to balance environmental, economic and social demands. This subject discusses how these resources are managed to produce high quality crop products.
- An appraisal of the cropping enterprises in southern Australia - the location, scale and nature of cropping enterprises and their contribution to the national economy
- Growth, development and yield in crop production - definitions and relations between growth and development attributes, yield and yield components, measurement of crop yields, biological and economical yield and harvest index (complemented by field exercises)
- Environmental constraints limiting productivity - climate and growing season, water and nutrient availability
- Agronomic management to optimise production and product quality, including water and nutrient management, soil management and rotations
- Problems and prospects of both dryland and irrigated crop production within farm systems, comparative cost-return analysis, marketing strategies
- Microbiology in Agriculture12.5
Microbiology in Agriculture
This subject introduces students to the diverse world of microbiology and the roles that microorganisms play in all aspects of agriculture, including animal, plant and soil science. The basic structure and biology of microorganisms will be covered, with a focus on bacteria, viruses and fungi. Aspects of molecular biology and genetics will also be introduced. The role that microorganisms play within the environment, in particular relating to plant, animal and soil health, will also be considered. The use of microorganisms in agricultural biotechnology is also discussed, including examples such as genetic modification of plants and the use of microorganisms in the expression of recombinant proteins.