Agriculture News

December 22, 2016

Purdue Agronomy e-Learning Academy serves need for increased training

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Technology continues to transform agriculture at a rapid pace, with farmers and agribusiness professionals facing a steep learning curve. There is a growing need for skilled workers to fill many newly emerging jobs.

To help fill this need, the Purdue Agronomy e-Learning Academy was formed in 2014. Since then, more than 600 students representing 89 companies from more than 20 countries have completed at least one e-Learning Academy course.

Program courses are taught through dozens of short-form, high-definition video lessons with accompanying reading, graphics, glossaries, downloadable slides and links to additional information sources.

“Working professionals need educational opportunities that they can fit into their work and family schedules,” said Agronomy e-Learning director Bruce Erickson. “The online format offers a way to learn that provides a structured learning environment but also flexibility that fits into their busy schedules.”

Part of the success of the e-Learning Academy is that the companies it serves were instrumental in its design, he said.

“We organized a day with the managers and education specialists of 10 companies in May 2014, a mix of multi-nationals and regional companies,” Erickson said. “We brought to that room a framework for what we thought was needed, but the game plan was significantly modified at the end of that day. And we continue to check back and solicit feedback.”

Agronomy Essentials is the flagship course of the program. Based on feedback from the stakeholder companies, the curriculum takes students step by step through the growing season. Topics include soil and water resources, crop selection and cropping systems, tillage, field preparation and planting, crop growth, nutrient management, diagnostics, pest management, and harvest. Agronomy Essentials was recognized as Purdue’s best professional course for 2015, its launch year and student evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive, Erickson said.

To address the increasing use of information technology in crop production, the Precision Agriculture course was launched in January 2016. The course is led by nationally recognized experts and features presentations by retailers and farmers discussing how they use and benefit from the technologies discussed in the course. Topics include global positioning systems and differential correction, sensors, mapping, variable rate technology, yield monitoring, calibration, telematics and data analysis used in precision crop production.

A graduate of both courses, Tim Lyon, director of sales process and product training for AGCO Corp., said, “The Precision Ag Course was a great build to the basic agronomy understanding I learned from Agronomy Essentials. I loved the farmer perspectives. It made it real for me.”

In his role as the leader of training at AGCO, Lyon stated, “AGCO professionals who have completed these courses have gained a basic knowledge of agronomy and have grown their understanding of customer challenges of crop production. Participants are better prepared to communicate with customers in areas such as plant nutrient/soil fertility, crop and variety planting, crop growth and diagnostics, as well as harvesting and marketing the crop. Better understanding the grower needs and challenges is increasing customer confidence in AGCO and trust as a true partner.”

A third e-Learning Academy course, Nutrient Management, will debut in June 2017. It will explore the intricacies of nutrient cycles and reactions in the soil, plant nutrition, nutrient assessment, soil chemistry and microbiology, and especially getting the correct nutrient applied at the right time, in the correct amount, and in the most effective way.

The next sessions for Agronomy Essentials and Precision Agriculture courses start Jan. 18. Course preview videos and links to registration are available at

The Purdue Agronomy e-Learning Academy is also offering a certificate program. Participants who complete all of the three online courses will be recognized with a framed certificate.  For more information on the e-Learning Academy, contact Project Manager Janine Black at           

Writer: Janine Black, 765-496-0346, 

Source: Bruce Erickson, 765-494-7540,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Darrin Pack, 
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