HORTICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY - DISTANCE LEARNING COURSE
" I have never found the staff at any other learning institution as supportive as the staff at ACS. This gives one a lot of peace of mind and confidence to go on - at every squeak from my side, you guys have always been there, immediately to sort me out. The feedback on my lessons has always been really good and meaningful and an important source of my learning. Thanks!..."
- Student with ACS
"Having completed the Advanced Hydroponics Course, I have since gone on to open my own successful hydroponics retail shop, now in its third year of trading"
LEARN HYDROPONICS, PLANT CULTURE & PROPAGATION
A 700 hr accredited course that develops knowledge and skills in the application of modern technology to horticulture; with particular emphasis on hydroponics and plant breeding.
- Gain essential skills for employment or running your own business
- Students learn a wide variety of skills from plant culture to hydroponics and propagation
- Study at home and save time and money
- Learn from the experts
The course includes 6 Core Units and 3 Stream Modules. Core units include Introduction to Plants, Plant Culture, Soils and Nutrition, Plant Identification and Use, Propagation & Pests, Diseases and Weeds. This course is similar to other C12CN002 horticulture certificates in its introductory (core) units, but devotes 50% of the course to topics specifically related to horticultural technology.
This course is written and taught by leading international experts including John Mason, author of Commercial Hydroponics (now in it's 8th printing) and Dr Lyn Morgan, author and commercial hydroponic consultant.
Accreditation: International Accreditation and Recognition Council (I.A.R.C.)
Students must complete and pass all of these core units.
1. Introduction to plants
The purpose of this study area is to explain the binomial system of plant classification and demonstrate identification of plant species through the ability of using botanical descriptions for leaf shapes and flowers.
- Describe the relevant identifying physical features of flowering ornamental plants.
- Demonstrate how to use prescribed reference books and other resources to gain relevant information.
- Dissect, draw and label two different flowers.
- Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves.
- Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar.
2. Plant culture
The purpose of this study area is to demonstrate the ability to care for plants so as to maintain optimum growth and health while considering pruning, planting, and irrigation.
- Describe how to prune different plants.
- Demonstrate how to cut wood correctly, on the correct angle and section of the stem.
- Describe how to plant a plant.
- Demonstrate an awareness of different irrigation equipment, sprinklers, pumps and turf systems available by listing their comparative advantages and disadvantages.
- Demonstrate competence in selecting an appropriate irrigation system for a garden, explaining why that system would be preferred.
- Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each.
- Explain the need for regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment.
- List factors that should be considered when comparing types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.
3. Soils and plant nutrition
The purpose of this study area is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to identify, work with, and improve the soil condition and potting mixes, and to evaluate fertilisers for use in landscape jobs to maximize plant growth.
- Describe the soil types commonly found in plant culture in terms of texture, structure and water-holding and nutrient holding capacity.
- Describe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.
- List the elements essential for plant growth.
- Diagnose the major nutrient deficiencies that occur in ornamental plants and prescribe treatment practices.
- Describe soil pH and its importance in plant nutrition.
- Describe the process by which salting occurs and how to minimise its effect.
- Conduct simple inexpensive tests on three different potting mixes and report accordingly.
- Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.
- List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers.
- Describe fertilizer programs to be used in five different situations with ornamental plants.
4. Introductory propagation
The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds. Other industry techniques such as grafting and budding are also explained.
- Demonstrate propagation of six (6) different plants by cuttings and three from seed.
- Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
- Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating both seed and cuttings.
- Describe the method and time of year used to propagate different plant varieties.
- Describe and demonstrate the steps in preparing and executing a variety of grafts and one budding technique.
- Explain the reasons why budding or grafting are sometimes preferred propagation methods.
5. Identification and use of plants
The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's range of plant knowledge and the plant use in landscaping and the ornamental garden, and the appreciation of the different optimum and preferred growing conditions for different plants.
- Select plants appropriate for growing in different climates.
- Select plants appropriate to use for shade, windbreaks, as a feature, and for various aesthetic effects.
- Categorise priorities which effect selection of plants for an ornamental garden.
- Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different microclimates within the same area.
- List and analyze the situations where plants are used.
6. Pests, diseases and weeds
The purpose of this study area is develop the student’s ability to identify, describe and control a variety of pests, diseases and weeds in ornamental situation, and to describe safety procedures when using agricultural chemicals.
- Explain in general terms the principles of pest, disease and weed control and the ecological (biological) approach to such control.
- Explain the host‑pathogen‑environment concept.
- Describe a variety of pesticides for control of pests, diseases and weeds of ornamental plants in terms of their active constituents, application methods, timing and rates, and safety procedures.
- Photograph or prepare specimens, identify and recommend control practices for at least five insect ests of ornamental plants.
- Photograph, sketch or prepare samples, identify and recommend control practices for three non‑insect ornamental plant health problems (e.g. fungal, viral, bacterial).
- Describe the major ways in which diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial and nematode) affect turf, the life cycle features that cause them to become a serious problem to turf culture and the methods available for their control.
- Identify, describe and recommend treatment for three different weed problems.
- Collect, press, mount and identify a collection of ten different weeds, and recommend chemical and non-chemical treatments which may be used to control each.
- List and compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of different weed control methods.
There are ten lessons as follows:
- How a Plant Grows
- Hydroponic Systems
- Nutrition & Nutrition management
- Plant Culture
- Hydroponic Vegetable Production
- Hydroponic Cut Flower Production
- Solid Media vs Nutrient Film
- Greenhouse Operation & Management
- Special Assignment
There are eleven lessons as follows:
- How the Crop Plant Grows
- How to Run a Small Evaluation Trial
- Harvest and Post Harvest
- Lettuce, Salad Greens and Foliage Herb Crops
- Cucurbits (Cucumber and Melons)
There are 7 lessons in this module as follows:
- The Scope and Nature of the Plant Breeding Industry
- Introduction to Genetics
- Gamete Production, Pollination and Fertilisation in Plants
- Mono Hybrid and Dihybrid Inheritance in Plants
- Systematic Botany and Floral Structures
- Practical Plant Breeding Techniques
- Current Developments in Plant Genetics
What about Organic Hydroponics?
How feasible is organic hydroponics? Many hydroponic growers would like to have their produce certified organic because the term organic is embedded in the public psyche as synonymous with produce which is grown without the use of dangerous chemicals and which is generally tasty and wholesome. As we have already seen though, organic crops are those which derive their nutrients from organic fertilisers such as manures and `naturally occurring’ fertiliser salts. Organic matter is converted by soil organisms, in what is generally a slow process of decomposition, into plant usable forms. It therefore takes some time for them to become available for plants to use. In solution, they don’t dissolve well, if at all, since they depend upon the action of soil organisms to break them down. As such, this makes them less useful for hydroponics where refined nutrients in solution are readily absorbed by plants.
In hydroponics, nutrients are applied directly to the plant root zone in the form of a solution which does away with the need for soil and soil organisms. The use of organic-type fertilisers do not meet with standards for traditional hydroponic food production because they are not regarded as pure or concentrated enough. Organic growing on the other hand does not permit the use of `man-made’ or synthetic refined fertilisers even though they are more pure than the majority of organic fertilisers. Instead, organic fertilisers must be unrefined. Whilst there have been organic nutrient solutions developed for use in hydroponics these are often expensive, technically difficult to use, and many need supplementation with additional fertiliser salts.
Another issue facing the notion of organic hydroponics is that often water, nutrients and growing media are not recycled and therefore contradict the philosophy of organic. One solution to this is the growing popularity of aquaponics systems. A simple system typically comprises of a fish tank, a bio-filter, and a hydroponic growing bed in a recirculating system. Water is recycled and organic fish waste is used to feed the plants having first passed through a bio-filter of beneficial bacteria which convert the fish waste into soluble nutrients for plant uptake.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FOR HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS
While it has been proven that `organic hydroponic’ systems are certainly possible using the correct nutrient inputs and natural growing mediums such as coconut fibre, composts and other materials, obtaining official organic certification for such a soilless operation is another matter. It seems that whether a certain soilless production system is considered organic depends entirely on the country in which the system is located and the opinion of the local organisation carrying out the certification. In many countries around the world organic certification is only given to systems that use soil, however other countries have a much broader opinion of what constitutes `organic’ and in these cases organic hydroponics has become a certified reality.
So there are huge inconsistencies around the world today – the exact same soilless hydroponic system can be considered to be organically certifiable in one county and totally non organic in another country.
For example in many states in the USA, there are certified organic hydroponic greenhouses in operation which are legally `organic’ and can label their produce so. However in Canada and most other countries any form of hydroponics is absolute and totally not organic as soil must be part of the system. Certified organic hydroponic producers in the USA still have to adhere to strict rules about what inputs and nutrient sources they can use in their soilless systems, and most use a soilless media base of composts, coconut fibre, perlite and vermicasts, however some organic hydroponic growers have set up using only solution culture systems such as NFT (Nutrient film technique).
ACS follows the old fashioned idea that “the student comes first”. Our staff are told to treat every student as an individual and respond promptly to their enquiries; and the facilities we have developed and continue to develop, are all focused on that goal. Facilities include:
- Offices in two time zones (UK and Australia) –which means an international team of academics are responding to students 5 days a week and 16 hours a day.
- An online student room with unique resources that are only available to students studying our courses, including online library.
- Bookshop offering quality downloadable e books
- A data base of 20 million words of unique information written by our staff over 3 decades that can be drawn upon if needed by academics for use in supporting our students.
- Systems that ensure assignments are tracked, marked and returned to students, fast -commonly within a round 1 week & rarely more than 2 weeks (note: many other colleges take longer).
- The school is active in social networking and encourages students to connect with us and each other.
- No automated handling of student phone enquiries. When you call you get a real person; or leave a message and a real person will call you back within a day, but more commonly within an hour or two.
- No additional charges for extra tutor support over the phone or email.
- Free careers advice for graduates –It is our policy to provide support and advice to our students even after they graduate. If a graduate needs help with getting a CV together, or advice on setting up a business or looking for work; they only need ask.
- The quality of academic staff is higher than many other colleges.
How our Courses Differ
- Courses are continually improved –we invite feedback from all graduates and change courses immediately the need is detected.
- Courses are relevant to the whole world –we try hard to teach make the learning transferable to any region or country because the world is increasingly a global economy
- Courses written by our staff, teach different skills to standard courses; giving a unique mix of skills and knowledge to provide a career advantage. Do you want an accredited certificate and the same skills as 100 other job applicants; or one of our courses with skills that no other applicants have?
- Certificates and diplomas are longer. They teach you more, and our qualifications have built a reputation amongst academics and industry as being a very high standard for this reason.
- We are focused on helping you learn in a way that improves your capacity to understand your discipline, apply knowledge, and continue learning and developing your capabilities beyond your course.
These things cannot be always said of other colleges.
Study alone can never guarantee career success; but a good education is an important starting point.
Success in a career depends upon many things. A course like this is an excellent starting point because it provides a foundation for continued learning, and the means of understanding and dealing with issues you encounter in the workplace.
When you have completed an ACS course, you will have not only learnt about the subject, but you will have been prompted to start networking with experts in the discipline and shown how to approach problems that confront you in this field.
This and every other industry in today’s world is developing in unforeseen ways; and while that is unsettling for anyone who wants to be guaranteed a particular job at the end of a particular course; for others, this rapidly changing career environment is offering new and exciting opportunities almost every month.
If you want to do the best that you can in this industry, you need to recognise that the opportunities that confront you at the end of a course, are probably different to anything that has even been thought of when you commence a course.