Faculty-led Inquiry into Reflective and Scholarly Teaching (FIRST)


Date of this Version


Document Type



Basche, Andrea. "AGRO 204: Resource Efficient Crop Management" (2019). UNL Faculty Portfolios, 142. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/prtunl/142


Resource Efficient Crop Management (Agro 204) is a high enrollment course taken by a diverse range of student majors across the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Learning outcomes focus on teaching crop management principles and processes, systems-thinking, data analysis, synthesizing current information, and evidence-based decision-making. This benchmark portfolio critically assesses student learning toward these outcomes, with an emphasis on a particular assignment that required students to work with the farming simulation platform, APSIM. The Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) is a freely available computer program that is an internationally recognized simulator of agricultural systems. In five course periods throughout the semester as well as through online videos and materials, students were introduced to the APSIM platform. The assignment assessed in this portfolio required students to set up their own “experiment” with a hypothesis that could be performed and analyzed using the APSIM platform. Ninety-one percent of student responses in the assignment demonstrated that students were able to explain a process underpinning crop management (such as differences in crop water use with different crop rotations) which was a major goal of this assignment. In addition, a post-assignment survey found that 67% percent of students agreed with the statement that “The simulations helped me understand the interaction of controllable and uncontrollable factors that affect yield.” Based on the simulations, students reported how they discovered a range of new potential management understandings, from the impact of planting dates, soil types, climate change and crop rotations on various agronomic outcomes such as crop yield or nutrient loss. Many students further reported gaining awareness of the software and related platforms such that they could envision using such a platform to recommend crop management decisions to others or for use with their own farming operations. A pre- and post-assignment survey revealed that students gained confidence in hypothesis development, data analysis, and evidence-based decision-making from the course. Many students reported challenges with the computer program, and a number of improvements will be made in the future to facilitate student experiences and learning.