CSA-30806 Research Methods in Crop Science

Course

Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Tutorial42
Practical56
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. TJ Stomph
Lecturer(s)JE Hofman
drs. MJ Bakker
dr. ir. E Heuvelink
prof. dr. NPR Anten
Y Ji
A Morales Sierra
dr. ir. TJ Stomph
ing. PEL van der Putten
drs. CA Langeveld
ME Kaiser
Examiner(s)dr. ir. TJ Stomph

Language of instruction:

English

Assumed knowledge on:

HPP-21306 Crop Ecology; MAT-20306 Advanced Statistics; Basic Knowledge on Crop Modelling and Crop Management.
We also assume skills in Excel. A useful recap for the statistical knowledge can be found in the course Syllabus, chapter 2-4.

Continuation courses:

Thesis Crop & Weed Ecology, Thesis Crop Physiology; Thesis Horticulture and Product Physiology.

Contents:

Crop experiments are a fundamental part of research aimed at sustainable increases in food production, and many crop science professionals are involved either in conducting crop experiments or interpreting their results. The course teaches the theory and skills involved in crop experimentation. Emphasis is on acquiring advanced research skills in designing, conducting and analysing crop experiments within a coherent research framework, always coupling experimental design and methods to statistical theory and publication of the results. The course builds on knowledge and skills in statistics and reporting obtained in the BSc phase.
The theoretical underpinning of the methodology of crop experimentation is described in a syllabus. Theory covers the most common statistical designs and methods used in crop experiments (including 3-factor experiments and split-plot experiments with contrasts); the methodology of field experiments and experiments under controlled conditions, experiments in containers, observations and sampling considering sources of variation and errors; and scientific reporting.
Actual practices are illustrated using experiments, an excursion around research facilities, scientific papers, instructions, and seminars on on-going PhD research. Skills are trained in work sessions, practicals, self-study, and by providing feedback on deliveries. Topics of training include experimental design and set-up, sampling and observation techniques, data evaluation, statistical analysis of crop experiment data, drawing conclusions from this analysis, and high-quality presentation of research results. At the end of the course knowledge and skills of students is assessed through different tests and by writing a research report that is simplified version of an MSc thesis, thus making students familiar with requirements associated with such a thesis.
At the end of the course the students will have insight in the methodology of crop experimentation and are able to use this knowledge to design adequate research methods and experiments. They understand the effects of the choices made during designing on the value of the data obtained and the conclusions that can be drawn.
They are able to discern the individual steps in a research process; can apply proper practices in conducting experiments and taking observations; are able to manage, evaluate, and statistically analyse experimental data and present, interpret and describe the results; and compile the description of the individual research steps and outcome in a coherent report, using conventions as for scientific journals.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- describe important methodology and good practices in crop experimentation, and explain their rationale;
- list the consecutive steps needed to transform a problem to type of experimental data needed and apply them for a crop experiment;
- list the iterative choices to be made in designing crop experiments and observations, explain the rationale and (statistical) consequences of the choices, choose and describe appropriate methods, and construct a brief experimental plan;
- apply proper practices for sampling and data collection and have insight in the impact and pitfalls for the reliability of the outcomes;
- arrange, evaluate and statistically analyse experimental data and present, interpret and describe the results of the statistical analysis of crop experiments;
- compile the description and outcome of the individual research steps in a coherent high-standard report, using conventions as in scientific journals (for writing and contents).

Activities:

- work sessions and discussions;
- practicals and papers;
- computer practicals.

Examination:

- acquisition of specific research skills (30%) is tested by teachers evaluation and two computer tests (10% each);
- final assignments (35%) on theory (10%, written or computer);
- designing experiments and evaluating data (15%, written and/or computer) and statistics (10%, computer);
- individual research report on one of the experiments carried out during the course (35%);
- portfolio (brief experimental plan, data file, journal, report, review) tests, assignments and report are all open-book and individual.

Literature:

Syllabus and ringbinder can be obtained from the WUR-shop.
Course guide is available in Brightspace.

ProgrammePhaseSpecializationPeriod
Restricted Optional for: MOAOrganic AgricultureMScA: Agroecology1AF
MPSPlant SciencesMScB: Greenhouse Horticulture1AF
MPSPlant SciencesMScA: Crop Science1AF
MPSPlant SciencesMScC: Natural Resource Management1AF