Learn to Grow Different Crops, Different Ways
- Learn to manage Production Horticulture; scientifically, profitably and sustainably
- Commence studies any time
- Study from home, anywhere in the world and at your own pace.
The world is changing faster than ever; and the difficulty with choosing any course, is to know whether a job will be waiting for you when you finish your studies. Graduates in everything from photography to IT are starting diplomas and degrees when demand for graduates is high; but by the time they complete their studies, the world has often changed and the promise of a lucrative career has disappeared.
Crop Production has one BIG ADVANTAGE!
Demand for food will never diminish so long as population numbers grow. As people become more affluent, the market for more expensive and diverse foods also increases.
This course gives you lays a foundation for career opportunities which are as close to a sure thing as anything you can find to study in today's world.
Note that each module in the ADVANCED DIPLOMA IN HORTICULTURE (CROPS) VHT009 is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
How Are Crops Grown
Every crop is different. Tree crops are often grown in plantations devoted 100% to just growing that crop; but they may also be grown with a different crop between the rows; or animals grazing underneath the trees.
Vegetables may be grown in large paddocks; but might also be grown in rows inside greenhouses, or using hydroponic techniques. There are many different growing techniques, and hundreds, if not thousands of different types of crops, which you need to learn about, and understand; if you are to be properly informed about how to work in crop production.
Consider Olive Trees
Olives do not like their roots to be overly wet, so good drainage is very important. In a commercial grove it is best to water each tree thoroughly once a week. For young trees apply about 10-20 litres of water per tree. As trees mature their root systems tend to go deeper and it is better to apply less water over a longer period of time so that it filters down to the roots. Careful irrigation can help to overcome trees from only bearing large crops in alternate years. Also, olives which are irrigated will produce fruits much sooner. Non-irrigated trees can take 20-30 years to bear fruits.
Although little fertiliser is needed for trees to produce fruit, commercial growers often apply fertilisers to boost yields. Concentrated fertilisers are too intense and should be avoided. Olives only really need a nitrogen supplement and so composted animal manure, such as chicken manure, is a good choice because it provides a steady release of nutrients.
Manures can be applied after the fruits have been cropped and the trees have been pruned. As a general rule of thumb the amount of fertiliser can be increased each year until a tree reaches 5 years of age. After this age, you can still apply fertiliser but maintain the same quantity. For a one year old tree apply a 1kg bag. Increase by 1kg for each year so that a 5 year old tree receives a 5kg bag. Don't apply it all at once. Spread out the applications of fertiliser for each tree over a 6 month period.
Pruning should be done each year after the fruits have been harvested. Depending on the region and the olive variety this can be any time from late autumn through to early spring. Pruning helps to rejuvenate the tree so that it produces more fruits the following season. Fruits always grow on one-year old wood. Any crossing branches inside the tree canopy should be removed to allow air and light to penetrate to encourage new growth. The trunk should be left clear of branches to about 1-1.2m above ground level.
When training a young tree it is good practice to select three to four well positioned laterals to form the basic canopy framework. Allow the canopy to develop from this with only minimal pruning. In mature trees unproductive wood and older wood can be pruned out to stimulate new productive wood growth. To help with harvesting trees can be kept to around 4-5m tall. Olives can also be grown as fans against walls. Removal of outward facing stems will stimulate the production of more laterals.
When choosing an olive variety to grow, consider your local climate. Those which generally crop later or which have softer fruits are not a good option for areas which experience frosts or very cold winters.
Olive fruits mature from green to black and they may be cropped when still green depending on the flavour sought. The final flavour will be influenced by not only the variety but also how mature the fruit is, the irrigation regime, and (much like grapes) the earth in which they are grown.
Whether you produce animals or harvest plants, the basis of any farm is still its plants. For a farm to remain sustainable, certain minimum productivity levels must be maintained, using preferred plant species on an ongoing basis. These plants may be pasture species, fodder crops, grain, vegetables, fruit or other harvested plants
Choosing What Crops to Grow
Choosing the best crop to grow, involves matching a knowledge of the available cultivars, with an understanding of the growing conditions (soil, water, climate, etc).
If you are able to choose cultivars that perform best under the conditions they grow under; you will have higher productivity; and most likely, higher profitability.
- What crops are currently in demand? You need to attempt to gauge future demand, particularly if you are looking at growing crops that are long-term investments and may take several or more years to reach a marketable stage (eg. tree fruits, nuts, timber). Also look at the "stage" of demand for a crop. Is it a new, growing market, or is it one that everyone is "getting into" (resulting in a possible glut on the future market)? Select crops that are in high demand, where possible, to remain economically sustainable.
- Which crops are suited to growing in your locality? Some alteration to the soil and climate of the area may be beneficial in the long term. Examples are the introduction of windbreaks to prevent erosion, installing irrigation systems, or the creation of a microclimate to encourage growth of a particularly suitable plant.
- What resources do you have to produce different crops? This could include suitable land, equipment, staff, materials, or the financial backing to obtain these. Investment in equipment and materials must also be balanced with the amount of return you can expect.
- What expertise or knowledge do you have with regard to growing different crops? Can you obtain that knowledge? For new or experimental crops, determine what information is available on their culture and find out what grower support exists (eg. Department of Agriculture). Trying crops new to your area or still in an experimental usage stage can be costly but it has the potential to be very rewarding. Overseas research can often shed light on the suitability of the crop for your area. Start small and work up to larger production numbers if the results are good.
- How will the crop under consideration work with other crops? For instance, is there a market for a suitable companion plant? What crops should it be rotated with? What effects will this have on the soil and on the economics of growing this plant? Can the crop be marketed easily in conjunction with other crops you produce?
- What will you be using the crop for? If you are considering crops for your own subsistence, is this the cheapest and easiest way to obtain the crop? If you are using it for stock feed, is this the cheapest or easiest way to obtain suitable stock food?
- Is the crop sustainable? Many crops can only be grown with large inputs of fertilisers and pesticides. Choose crops that are suitable for your soils and the surrounding ecology.
How Do You Make the Right Choice?
This takes knowledge, experience and an awareness of the current state of play in the industry.
- Some successful growers may acquire this ability over many years (even decades) working in the industry
- Others may pay big money, to employ experts as consultants or managers.
- Undertaking this course is a way of speeding up your acquisition of these attributes.