Study an engineering and mechanics correspondence course online. Learn about the different applications used in the horticulture and agriculture industry.

Course Code: BSC205
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Study Engineering Solutions for Agriculture and Horticulture

If you use appropriate machinery and equipment, work efficiency can be greatly increased on a farm, garden or any type of land management situation. This course will assist you in managing farm land, equipment and operations effectively.

Farm engineering is a broad practice which covers things like surveying land, managing soil and water, understanding and designing machinery and farm structures, and ensuring that farm products are used wisely. The course has been developed to show you the possibilities, and give you a foundation for discovering the best solution for any job that might confront you in horticulture, or agriculture. Apply appropriate, and innovative engineering solutions, to improve efficiency and productivity in agriculture and horticulture.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Surveying
    • Linear Surveying
    • Triangulation
    • Determining Slope
    • Contouring
    • Traversing
    • Grid Systems
    • Levelling Terms
    • Levels - Dumpy, Quickset Dumpy, Cowley, Abney
    • Levelling Staff & Use
    • Levelling Procedure
  2. Earthworks
    • Construction Machines & Techniques – Bobcat, Front-End Loader, Tractor, Backhoe, Pick, Bulldozer, Explosives, Shovel
    • Earthworks - Cut & Fill, Excavate, Contouring, Swales, Levelling
    • Cultivation Machinery - Ploughs, Cultivators, Harrows, Scarifiers
    • Calculating Volume of Earth to be Moved or Removed
    • Moving Existing Earth
    • Tool Requirements
    • Case Study - Construction Procedure for a Playing Field
    • Soil Degradation – Erosion, Salinity, Acidification, Compaction, Chemical Residues
    • Importing Soils - Checks & Use
  3. Water Management
    • Irrigation Systems
    • Nursery Irrigation Equipment - Watering Cans, Sprinklers, Trickle Irrigation, Capillary Watering, Automatic Systems
    • Water Supply - Quality, Treatment, Sources
    • Pumping Mechanisms - Piston Pumps, Centrifugal Pumps, Rotary Pumps
    • Filters & Other Treatments
    • Scheduling Irrigation
    • Watering Container Plants
    • Pulse Watering
    • Maintenance Of Watering Systems
  4. Environmental Control
    • Effects Of Carbon Dioxide
    • Atmosphere Control
    • Greenhouses
    • Framing Materials
    • Covering Materials
    • Temperature Control
    • Benching
    • Shade Houses
  5. Chemical Applications
    • Applying Herbicides & Pesticides
    • Sprayers
    • Calibration - Pressure, Chemical Mixing, Knapsack Sprayers
    • Sprayer Maintenance
    • Safe Chemical Use - Considerations, Use, Storage, Safety
    • Choosing The Correct Chemicals To Use
    • Principles Underpinning Farm Chemical Use
    • Material Safety Data Sheet - MSDS
    • Safe Chemical Storage
    • Optimal Conditions For Safe Chemical Use
    • Environmental Contamination
    • Pesticide Application Records
    • Protecting Outdoor Structures
    • Painting Your Outdoor Furniture
  6. Fencing & Walls
    • Fencing Terminology
    • Types Of Fences - Traditional Wire, Semi-suspension, Suspension, Electric Fences
    • Types Of Timber Fence - Panels, Slats, Pickets
    • End Strainer Assemblies - Box End, Post & Stay
    • Ways To Use Fences
    • House Fencing
    • Pool Fencing
    • Gateways & Gates
    • Barriers & Walls
    • Walls - Rock/Rubble, Brick, Concrete
    • Retainer Walls - Brick, Concrete, Crib, Timber
    • Ways To Use Walls
    • Trellises
    • Timber - Features, Preservation, Storage
    • Hedges
  7. Mechanisation
    • Farm Machinery
    • Vehicles
    • Tractors
    • Harvesters
    • Mowers
    • Ride On Mowers
    • Hedge Trimmers - Types, Use, Maintenance
    • Chain Saws - Types, Use, Maintenance
    • Mulching Machines
    • Cultivators
    • Milking Machines
    • Tree Spades
    • Soil Mixing Equipment
    • Conveyor Belts
    • Potting Machines
    • Seeding Machines
    • Planters & Drills
    • Harvesters - Potato Harvesters, Carrot Harvesters, Grading Machines
  8. Engineering Efficiency
    • Engineering Efficiency
    • Cost
    • Quality of Product
    • Replacement Parts/ Servicing
  9. Developing Engineering Solutions
    • Handling Equipment
    • Trays, Boxes, Pallets
    • Trolleys & Wheelbarrows
    • Trailers
    • Fork Lifts
    • Tractor Loaders
    • Continuous Conveying Systems
    • Conveyor Belts
    • Pumps
    • Monorails
    • Hoppers
    • Safety & Comfort of Staff


  • Explain surveying, including basic principles and techniques, appropriate for horticulture and agriculture
  • Determine earthworks required for an agricultural or horticultural site
  • Determine appropriate water management for an horticultural/agricultural site.
  • Determine technological solutions for environmental control problems, in rural or horticultural situations.
  • Explain the operation of equipment commonly used to apply pesticides and other chemicals in both horticultural and agricultural workplaces.
  • Determine appropriate fencing to use for different purposes; including security and restricting the movement of animals, pests or traffic, in agricultural and horticultural situations.
  • Explain the operation of machinery commonly used to mechanize manual tasks carried out in horticulture or agriculture.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of engineering applications in agricultural and horticultural workplaces.
  • Determine procedures for improving work tasks in agricultural and horticultural situations.

How Machinery Can Be used for Forage Harvesting

Grasses, processed for either hay or silage for animal feed, or maize, wheat, millet etc for human consumption, need to be harvested in the most cost effective way for the farmer.
You should consider the harvesting of grasses, or any crops, does not always involve powerful machinery in every instance. For example, the absolute simplest harvesting devices still in operation in some countries are manual tools like the sickle and scythe. These tools are not used in developed countries where access to modern equipment is available. Nonetheless, where the sickle and scythe are still used, the shape and size of the sickle can vary considerably, thus altering the effectiveness of the sickle performance. A scythe is basically a sickle with a long wooden handle which is swung strongly from a standing position and cuts on impact.
Mowers, although traditionally used for grass cutting operations, can be adapted for use in harvesting cereals such as wheat. Generally two types of mowers are used:
  1. Cutter bar mowers
  2. Rotary mowers
The cutter bar mower has two plates; one is stationary whilst the other plate moves backward and forward against the stationary plate. This can be described as a shear action, cutting the crop like using large scissor cutting motion. This razor-like cut, promotes faster crop regrowth and subsequent quality. The name cutter bar comes from several units of these are mounted on a bar – aptly named the cutterbar. The cutterbar slides along the ground on a form of skid known as shoes. The shoe positioned closest to the uncut crop is called the outer show, whereas the show closest to the tractor is simply the inner shoe. It is the outer show which acts as a divider for separating the crop width to be cut at any one time (that is, from the uncut crop).
The cutter bar mower works extremely fast with an approximate working speed of 300 km per hour, producing a very clean cut to the crop, (please note, that not all cutter bar mowers work at this speed, new modern day industrial farming equipment suppliers will be able to tell you more about the cutter speed of the different mower on the market). Some cutter bar mowers can cut the crop very close to the ground – as little at 2cm from the soil surface. Of course this is beneficial as it does not waste any of crops thus ensuring your have the highest potential income from the harvested yield.
Rotary mowers have one or more rotating blades mounted horizontally. Generally rotary mowers are used for cutting down weeds, stalks and brush.
Forage Harvesters
There are essential components of a typical forage harvester.
These are:
  1. A pick-up device to pick up the crop that has been cut by the mower/harvester (note some harvester may have its own mower attachment).
  2. An auger or elevator to carry the cut crop to the chopping unit
  3. A chopping mechanism which can be either a cylinder or flywheel (the cylinder with spiral blades chops the forage against a fixed blade, whilst the flywheel has a heavy circular plate with a number of blades on it, the material is chopped against a fixed steel plate).
Windrowers look like a small combine harvester but they don’t have a bin on the back for carrying threshed grain, the crop that is windrow is just cut and simply laid in a row for a harvester to pick up when the crop has dried down, or for a hay baler to pick up if you are dealing with a forage crop.
Hay Conditioners
When a crop is cut, a hay condition crushes and crimps stems to speed drying to an 18-20% moisture level. There can be significant losses in crop condition when field drying. Field-cured hay may be stored, baled or chopped and then stored indoors or compressed as stacks or bales.
Round bales can be large, weight up to 600kg. 
Balers (round or square)
In hay harvesting, after the grass is cut and dried, it should be collected and stored in bundles. A baler is machinery designed to pick up the hay and compress it into bales. A typical baler will usually have 3 components to it:
  1. The pick up reel – when this rotates the hay is lifted and pushed into an auger moving the crop towards the bale chamber.
  2. Bale chamber –The crop is pulled into the bale chamber by the active motion of packer arms, it is within the central chamber that compression of the hay takes place.
  3. Ram and ram knife – the actual compression of the crop is carried out by the motion of the ram. Imagine the ram being similar to the piston of a combustion engine; finally the ram knife cuts the compressed crop at the desired length (predetermined before commencing the process).
There are so many different balers available for purchase, whether it is to suit the commercial producer or hobby farmer. In baling, the bale should be formed in even layers. Netting or twine is used to prevent the bale from disintegrating. Also this leads to tidy storage and easy manoeuvrability of the bales.


Who should study this course?

People about to enter or are working in the rural, horticulture or agriculture industry, and will be operating the associated machinery. The course also teaches students about water and environmental management, fencing and chemical application.


Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. I

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