Gary L. Hein
Date of this Version
Striegel, A. S. 2021. Intricacies in Agronomic Management: The Role of Interdisciplinary Education. Doctor of Plant Health Doctoral Document. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
As a science, agronomy is built upon the connection of inter-disciplinary fields of study. Management (M) of various discipline considerations (and their subsequent interactions) can be influenced by and have significant effects on genetic by environment (GxE) expression. This has led to the promotion of GxExM systems. However, optimizing GxExM programs requires extensive, interdisciplinary knowledge. To evaluate interdisciplinary training provided in undergraduate education, 11 four-year universities were selected in the United States that offer baccalaureate degree majors in agronomy or crop science. Surveys of undergraduate programs of study were conducted, with all required coursework separated into general degree components (general education, agronomy major, agronomy option, free electives). Agronomy-related coursework was subsequently separated into 20 subcategories and ranked by total credit requirements. Averaged across universities, survey results indicate an average of 71.4 ± 8.4 credits are available for agronomic training. Most universities provide robust academic training within the subcategories of soil science and soil fertility (8.8 ± 0.8 credits), crop production and crop science (6.9 ± 1.4 credits), and business and economics (5.4 ± 1.1 credits). Course requirements within the crop protection category (entomology, plant pathology, weed science, and integrated management) were significantly reduced in comparison, ranging from 2.8 ± 0.3 to 3.5 ± 0.4 credits. Seven of the 11 universities did not require coursework on integrated management systems. Time constraints present within undergraduate education presents significant challenges in addressing these concerns because adding additional coursework requirements is not a pragmatic solution. Three mitigation strategies are presented: (1) increased emphasis on experiential learning opportunities through diverse internship experiences; (2) development and further refinement of capstone courses with a focus on integrated management systems; and (3) promotion of co-curricular courses as electives to further advance and reinforce classroom concepts. Implementation of these strategies can help address student knowledge gaps, and enhance the ability to develop and implement comprehensive GxExM management programs.
Advisor: Gary L. Hein