Qualification - Advanced Certificate In Applied Management (Crops)

Course CodeVBS001
Fee CodeAC
Duration (approx)900 hours
QualificationAdvanced Certificate

Distance Learning Course - Learn to Manage Crop Production

This Advanced Certificate develops both the skills required to manage a horticultural farm (e.g. market garden, orchard), and also the knowledge in the identification, growing, processing and marketing crops and crop related products. This course involves seven units, plus a 200 hr workplace project.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Qualification - Advanced Certificate In Applied Management (Crops).
 Business Operations VBS006
 Management VBS105
 Marketing Foundations VBS109
 Office Practices VBS102
Stream ModulesStudied after the core modules, stream modules cover more specific or niche subjects.
 Crops I (Outdoor Plant Production) BHT112
 Protected Plant Production BHT223
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 1 of the following 11 modules.
 Herb Culture BHT114
 Commercial Organic Vegetable Growing VHT241
 Commercial Vegetable Production BHT222
 Cut Flower Production BHT221
 Fruit Production - Warm Climate BHT217
 Fruit Production -Temperate Climate BHT218
 Hydroponics I BHT224
 Nut Production BHT219
 Viticulture BHT220
 Mushroom Production BHT310
 Warm Climate Nuts BHT308

Note that each module in the Qualification - Advanced Certificate In Applied Management (Crops) is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

CORE UNITS Click on each module for more details

Office Practices
Develops basic office skills covering use of equipment, communication systems (telephone, fax, etc) and office procedures such as filing, security, workplace organisations, etc.

Business Operations
Develops knowledge of basic business operations and procedures (eg. types of businesses, financial management, business analysis, staffing, productivity, etc) and the skills to develop a 12 month business plan.


Develops knowledge of management structures, terminology, supervision, recruitment and workplace health and safety.

Marketing Foundations.

Develops a broad understanding of marketing and specific skills in writing advertisements, undertaking market research, developing an appropriate marketing plan and selling.


The three specialist units include:

1. Outdoor Plant Production

2. Protected Plant Production

3. Another Crops Modules chosen from the following options:
  • Cut Flower Production
  • Fruit Production
  • Commercial Vegetable Production
  • Nut Production
  • Mushroom Production
  • Berry Fruit Production
  • Viticulture

Fees do not include exam fees

Selected Module Outlines

Outdoor Plant Production

This course has ten lessons.

  1. Crop Production Systems To explain different cropping systems and their appropriate application for the production of different types of crops.
  2. Organic Crop Production To evaluate and explain organic plant production, and the requirements in at least two different countries, to achieve organic certification.
  3. Soils and Nutrition To understand the function of soils and plant nutrition in outdoor cropping systems.
  4. Nursery Stock Production Describe the commercial production of a range of nursery stock.
  5. Tree Fruit Production Describe the commercial production of a range of tree fruit crops.
  6. Soft Fruits Production To develop an understanding of the techniques used to produce a range of soft fruits.
  7. Vegetable Production To develop an understanding of the techniques used to grow a range of vegetables.
  8. Cut Flower Production To develop an understanding of the commercial production of outdoor cut flowers.
  9. Herbs, Nuts and Miscellaneous Crops To develop an understanding of the commercial production of herbs, nuts and other miscellaneous crops.
  10. Crop Production Risk Assessment To understand the risks that may occur in outdoor crop production.

Protected Plant Production

This course consists of 10 Lessons:

  1. Structures For Protected Cropping
  2. Environmental Control
  3. Cladding Materials And Their Properties
  4. Irrigation
  5. Nursery Nutrition
  6. Relationship Between Production Techniques And Horticultural Practices
  7. Horticultural Management In A Greenhouse: Pests And Diseases
  8. Harvest & Post Harvest Technology
  9. Greenhouse Plants
  10. Risk Assessment


This is normally done after completing all of the other modules. It is intewnded as a "learning experience" that brings a perspecive and element of reality to the Modules you have studied. The school is very flexible in terms of how you achieve this requirement, and can negotiate to approve virtually any situation which can be seen as "learning through involvement in real life situations that have a relevance to your studies"

Some of the options, for example might be:

Option 1. Work Experience
This involves working in a job that has relevance to what you have been studying. For some students this may be a job they already have. (In some instances, credit may be even granted for work prior to studies). In other instances, this may be either paid or voluntary work which is found and undertaken after completing the other modules. Proof must be provided, and normally this is done by submitting one or more references or statements from an employer. It may also be satisfied by a discussion between the employer and the school in person or on the phone. The must be an indication that you have skills and an awareness of your industry, which is sufficient for you to work in a position of responsibility.

Option 2. Project
This project may be based on applications in the work place and specifically aims to provide the student with the opportunity to apply and integrate skills and knowledge developed through various areas of formal study.

Students will design this project in consultation with a tutor to involve industry based activities in the area of specialized study which they select to follow in the course. The project outcomes may take the form of a written report, folio, visuals or a mixture of forms. Participants with relevant, current or past work experience will be given exemption from this project if they can provide suitable references from employers that show they have already fulfilled the requirements of this project.

Students will be assessed on how well they achieve the goals and outcomes they originally set as part of their negotiations with their tutor. During a project, students will present three short progress reports. These progress reports will be taken into account when evaluating the final submission. The tutor must be satisfied that the work submitted is original.

Other Options
Workplace learning hours may also be satisfied through attending or being involved with meetings conducted by industry bodies such as professional associations; or attending seminars which are attended by industry professionals. Any opportunity for observation and networking may be seen as a valid option.

Consider Your Crop Options

Managing a crop starts with choosing what you grow. Some crops may be well suited to the resources that you have at your disposal, and others might not. If you choose a crop that is easy to grow, it might not be as easy to sell and if you choose one that is easy to sell, it might not be so easy to grow.

Some growers choose their crops based upon what they 'want' to grow, rather than what is likely to be most profitable. There are literally thousands of possibilities to choose from. Even if you decide to grow citrus, you need to consider, what type of citrus. If you decide to grow vegetables, you need to decide what cultivar, when to plant it, how much of it to grow, and what growing method to use. Apart from growing it, you also need to manage the finances, manpower, equipment and tools, marketing, and record keeping as well, if the operation is to be successful. This course provides the broad foundation for all of these things.

Here are some broad options to consider:

Citrus trees require a large area, take at least three years from planting to production of any worthwhile crop, full production takes a lot longer; trees can remain productive for a hundred years or more.  There has been a boom in citrus fruit production in some countries due to the demands for packaged orange juice etc.  Another development in the past decade has been a steady trend towards mechanisation in the citrus industry (you may consider lack of finance a serious limitation to efficient production of citrus. You might need to mechanise in the future to be competitive!) Citrus fruit keep and transport well.  Products include fresh fruit, juice, marmalade, rind/peel, and some canned and candied fruits.  Small areas of ½ acre or so have been a productive unit in the past.  

Berries can be highly productive for the area cultivated.  A couple of acres of berries can support a small family.  Tree fruits may require 20 acres or more to bring a similar return.  Most berries produce good crops within the first few years (blueberries are an exception, taking several years to begin giving any significant crop).  Some berries last only a few seasons (e.g. strawberries).  Fruit doesn't keep fresh for very long. Products include: fresh fruit, jams, syrups and some frozen fruit.

Most require a relatively large area for a worthwhile crop.  Most nuts grow on trees and take at least 4 years from planting to the time when significant crops are produced (some 10 years or more).  Keeping qualities are good if kept dry.  Require at least a couple of acres to produce marketable quantities.

Require a medium to large area (more than berries, not as much as nuts or citrus).  Most of the world grape crop is dried or used for wine; less than 10% is eaten as fresh fruit grapes.  Growing for drying is only worthwhile in low rainfall areas; growing for wine can be profitable in a wide range of areas (high to low rainfall). Dried fruit or wine will keep well, but fresh fruit does not keep very long at all.  Vines require a lot of attention and take several years before coming into bearing. 

These include apples, pears, quinces etc.  An average apple orchard supporting a family might be between 25 and 35 acres.  Smaller acreages can provide a profitable sideline.  Will grow in a wide range of areas on a wide variety of soils provided reasonably drained and watered, with temperatures which include reasonably cold nights during winter (commercial orchards are found across a much greater variety of climates than some other fruits).  Keeping quality up to 6 months or so in cold storage.

These include apricots, peaches, plums etc.  These are a little less hardy than pome fruits, but still adaptable to a wide range of conditions. Drainage is more critical.  Fruit does not keep as long as pome fruits.  It is important to get the appropriate variety to suit your particular climate. Both stone and pome fruits take up to 5 years to come into commercial bearing from planting time. VEGETABLES A small to medium space is needed. Some vegetable farms can be profitable on as little as an acre or two.

Some vegetables can be a very worthwhile as a cash crop, but market forces are volatile in the vegetable industry.  It is best to grow several different types of vegetable at once (unless growing for a contract).  This way, if prices drop on one crop, you may still make a profit on another crop.  Cultivation is intense (a lot of attention is required to be given to the plants).  One method of decreasing the risk (and possibly increasing profit) is to grow in a plastic tunnel house (i.e. an inexpensive greenhouse), this way the crop matures early.

The cut flower industry is bigger than most people realise.  A wide variety of plants can be grown for cut flowers, some take a lot of expertise to grow; others are relatively easy.  Some produce very high profits relative to the area they require ... others need many acres to have any chance of bringing similar profits.  Some cut flowers are perennial crops, producing for many years from the same plant (e.g. roses) ... others produce only one crop and then must be replanted (e.g. stocks).  Some cut flowers (e.g. orchids) can produce a high return per flower, and if cultivated intensively, relatively little land is needed for a viable business. Others produce smaller return per flower (e.g. daffodils) and may require a lot more land for comparatively the same income.

Cultivation required is relatively higher than other horticultural crops (e.g. weed control, feeding, watering, pest control, pruning etc).  Keeping quality is usually not good (with some exceptions).  Violets, for example, must be sold as soon as harvested, though orchids will keep for a few weeks.  Recent research into holding some flowers by cool storage or freezing has shown flowers can be stored for periods beyond what was previously thought possible.

These  provide a double headed return: you can sell the flowers as well as the bulbs.  Returns can be good, particularly with some types (e.g. tulips, hyacinths, gladioli) but market demand does vary and prices fluctuate.

There is always demand for nursery plants, though demand may be affected by economic and environemntal situations.  Drought has at times affected nursery sales. This has led to breeding and promoting drought tolerant species and  promoting drought tolerant gardens. As a consequence drought is less likely to have such dire consequences today on sales as it did in the past. In commercial horticulture, even in the depressed  times,  food plants are still supplied to orchards and market gardeners and landscapers still plant gardens (especially in housing developments to meet development requirements), etc.

The nursery industry comprises growing plants three main ways:

  • The first method has been to grow loose rooted plants (plants which are grown in the ground and dug up at time of sale - roots may be surrounded by soil or perhaps free of soil, either way not in a container).  
  • The second method has been to grow annual and vegetable seedlings in trays or punnets (here many plants are grown in the one container).  
  • The third method has been growing single plants in a single container.  This 'container plant' branch of the nursery industry is the area which the majority of the nursery industry is concerned with today. Container plants can be small or large. Nurseries that supply small sized plants can be viable on smaller sites than those supplying large advanced size plants.

Herbs can produce a wide variety of saleable products, including the plants themselves, can be obtained by growing herbs.  These include; dried herbs, oils, herbal sprays, powders, potpourri essences, seed, herb teas etc. This is a minor horticultural industry, nevertheless an expanding industry.  Herbs are currently in vogue, and while this situation remains, there is profit in growing herbs and herb products on a small scale.  Herbs are highly productive for the area they require.

The commercial feasibility of small scale production of fibres is questionable in many countries and climates.  There are some plants which will produce fibres in cooler climates:  New Zealand Flax, Kadzu Vine, Jerusalem artichoke, Chugar vine, reeds, rushes etc.  Cotton requires a warm climate.  There may be more value in raising a sheep or two for fibre than growing horticultural crops on a small scale. OILS and

Many plant oils and essences have value in industry.  Most are usually grown on a medium to large scale, though some are rare and expensive and may have value on a small scale.  Know your market before you start (eg: Some seed oils such as sunflower may be uneconomical to grow on small scale ... but some perfumes/herbs could be more worthwhile).  Uses for these products include; cooking oils, perfumes, medicines, tans and dyes, lubricants, fuel oils, concentrated foods (vitamins etc).

Production of grass seed, vegetable and flower seed is well organised, often mechanised and competitive.  These types of seeds may not be economical to grow on a small scale.  Production or collection of tree and shrub seed is perhaps a more promising area to consider.

Wheat, corn, barley and other grains are grown mostly on larger farms to supply both human and stock foods.

Plants can be grown for a variety of other uses not mentioned above: timber, cane, tea, coffee, rubber etc.  Most of these things are usually grown on a large scale and may not be economically feasible on small properties.



  • Those working in crop growing and want a management role
  • Those looking to start up a crop growing farm
  • Those already working in the industry that want to extend their knowledge





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