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Facoltā di Scienze Agrarie e Alimentari Universitā degli Studi di Milano
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General Agronomy
Code: G260A-
Teacher:  Luca Bechini
CFU subdivision: Lectures: 6,5
Practices in classroom: 0,75
Other: 0,75
Basic aims:  Gain an integrated view of meteorological, edaphic and biological factors which contribute to crop production. Understanding the effect of agronomic interventions on factors of production.
Ability to understand the reasons of different cultivation paths in open fields under different conditions of climate, soil and availability of resources and different goals in terms of production and environmental impact.
Acquired skills:  Knowing how to diagnose the state of the agroecosystem by integrating visual assessments and assessments based on measurement of chemical or physical variables related to atmosphere, soil and crop. Being able to identify the need of soil arrangement or interventions to improve soil fertility before cultivation. Knowing how to define the quantitative aspects of interventions and their timing of a cultivation path.
Course contents:  Aims and methods of agronomy. Role of meteorological variables in crop production: radiation, temperature, humidity, wind, hydrometeors. Defence of crops against bad weather and improvement of microclimate at crop level. Physical properties of soils. Soil erosion, waterlogging, practices to reduce erosion and waterlogging. Irrigation methods and water quality. Tillage: purposes and types. Fertility of soils and fertilization management. Weed flora and weeding. Seeds, production and control. Tutorials: a day on farm, calculation of fertilization plans.
Program:  Introduction: agronomy and its field of study; short history of agriculture: from the Neolithic revolution to the agricultural revolution, green revolution and related changing of agronomic strategy; carrying capacity of the planet to the human species and food security; the disputed land (food vs. feed vs. fuel).
Agro-ecosystems: the ecosystem, its components and its laws; chains and food webs; the ecological dynamics; ecosystems to agro-ecosystems: auxiliary power and changes to the soil, biotic community and productivity; functioning and regulation of the agro-ecosystem; high and low energy input agriculture; organic, integrated and conservative agriculture.
Development and growth of the plant: phenology; production; growth functions: Liebig’s law of the minimum, Mitscherlich’s curves, the complex models.
The climate and its elements: the solar radiation: features, functions, photoperiod, effects on productivity; the temperature: changes, degree day, frosts and means of defense, damages from heat; atmospheric pressure and winds; the air humidity; the hydrometeors: dew, frost, rain, hail, snow, indices and climate diagrams.
Tillage: the agricultural soil and fertility; the basic physical characteristics for tillage: texture, structure, plasticity, cohesion and adhesion; plowing: tools, time, mode; the other main preparatory tillages: milling, digging, scarifying; the preparatory complementary tillage: rolling, weeding, leveling the surface; the cultivation tillage: scarifying, weeding, hoeing, ridging, the regime of no-till and minimum tillage.
Fertilization: nutrients, ionic exchange, colloids and absorbency of the soil; acid soils and their correction; alkaline soils and their correction; the soil organic matter; the organic fertilization: green manure, meadow, manure and slurry; mineral fertilization: quantitative and qualitative response of crops, nutrient balance, efficiency, distribution methods.
The cropping systems: monoculture and polyculture; rotations: historical background, principles, types, advantages and limitations; intercropping: types, purposes, technical aspects.
Weed control: characteristics of weeds and damage to crops; indirect means of struggle; direct methods of struggle: physical, mechanical and biological; chemical weed control: herbicides and their mode of action, efficacy and selectivity, application methods, reflections on agronomic practices, health and environmental impacts.
Tutorials: movie and discussion on agriculture in the face of the environmental and social challenges; the recognition of plant species using the dichotomous keys; the experimental designs in field trials
Field activities: agronomic tests to seed c/o INRAN-ENSE; cereal crops and horticultural biological; cultivation of cereals without tillage
Prerequisites:  Knowledge of differences between monocotiledon e dycotiledon plants. Basic of photosynthesis. Basic of plant respiration. Basic of role of N, P and K in plants. Basic elements of conversion among measurement units. Basic of geometry (surfaces and volumes computation). Basic of chemistry.
Preparatory instructions:  General biology and genetics. General and systematic botany. General, inorganic and organic chemistry. Physics. Mathematics . Data statistical analysis. Fundamentals of computer use. Crop biochemistry and physiology. Soil science. Soil chemistry. Soil microbiology.
Learning materials:  Giardini L. - Agronomia Generale, ambientale e aziendale - Collana: Scienza e Tecniche delle produzioni vegetali n. 1- Patron Editore 2002, V ed.
Other info:  A written examination on all topics of the course is followed by an oral examination.
Program of General Agronomy (pdf version)
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