Course Syllabus

Welcome to Agronomy 514 at Iowa State University!


Instructor:   Warren L Pierson
Phone: (515) 509-8308

Office Hours: Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules.  Please feel free to contact me at any time (email is best) if you have any questions concerning the Assignment, Discussion or Reflection components of the course.


Modules Office Hours Glossary
Modules Office Hours Glossary

Course Description:  This course will cover the biology and ecology of plants and the basic concepts of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  The course will use these basic principles to examine weed science, entomology, and plant pathology.  This is a required course for the Master of Science in Agronomy degree program and Agronomy Graduate Certificate program.

Course Prerequisites: AGRON 181 or equivalent, AGRON 501, MATH 140, CHEM 163, BIOL 101; AGRON 502 and AGRON 503 recommended.
Restricted to graduate students enrolled in MS Agronomy and Agronomy Graduate Certificate online degree program at ISU. Students from other departments must get permission.

Course Overview

Some of the modules in this course may take more of your time than you have experienced with some of the other courses in the MS Agronomy curriculum. We have a considerable amount of basic biology and ecology to cover in this course for weed, pathogen, and insect pests. Understanding the basic biology and ecology of these organisms is crucial to understanding the management strategies that we will cover in the companion course Agronomy 533 (Crop Protection). To guide you in your time management for this class, I have developed a time frame for modules and assignments (see the Course Calendar).

Module assignments must be submitted by 9 am (Central Standard Time) of the due date (i.e. assignments will be docked as of 9:01 am that day). Late assignment scores will be docked 10% per day late (a 9/10 score becomes 8/10, then 7/10, etc.).  Please work ahead if you know that your study time will be compromised in upcoming weeks. You are encouraged to do assignments and discussion postings several days in advance of their due dates. Read the discussion threads! Information discussed in these discussion threads may form the basis of, or be of great help on future assignment questions.  Also, be sure to check the course calendar weekly for current start and due dates!

Not all modules in this course will take the same amount of time to complete.  Please begin all modules on time to assure adequate time for coverage of the materials.  The modules are listed below.

Module 1. Scope and Concepts of IPM 
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Allan Ciha and Carol Pilcher

Module 2. Strategies for Integrated Pest Management
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Allan Ciha and Carol Pilcher

Module 3. Concepts of Abiotic Disease in Plants
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin and Allan Ciha

Module 4A. Concepts of Biotic Disease in Plants: Fungi

Module 4B. Concepts of Biotic Disease in Plants: Bacteria, Mollicutes, Parasitic Plants, Viruses, and Nematodes
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Allan Ciha and Carol Pilcher

Module 5. Recognition of Major Diseases in Agronomic Crops
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Gary Munkvold, and Allan Ciha

Module 6. Etiology and Pathogenesis (Disease in Individual Plants)
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Gary Munkvold, and Allan Ciha

Module 7. Epidemiology (Disease in Populations of Plants)
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Gary Munkvold, and Allan Ciha

Module 8. Insect Characteristics, Structure, and Function
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 9. The Insect Life Cycle
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 10. Ecology and Role of Insects in Ecosystems
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 11. Insect/Host Interactions and Pest Management
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 12. Concepts of Plants as Weeds
    Developed by Michael Owen and Scott Heuchelin

Module 13. Interaction of Crop and Weed Populations
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin and Michael Owen

Module 14. Weed Identification
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin and Allan Ciha 

Course Objectives

The objective of Agronomy 514 is to familiarize the student with the basic concepts of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and the basic biology and ecology of plant pests. The students are expected to master this background information so that they can:

  • Understand the basis for the pest management strategies presented in the follow-up course (Agronomy 533). The material presented in this course (Agronomy 514) will help you understand "how" and "why" various pest management strategies work.
  • Trouble-shoot pest-management systems in the future. A good knowledge of pest biology is crucial for trouble shooting ineffective management systems or fine tuning a pest management system that is not performing as well as was expected.
  • Become a more well-rounded agronomist. Whether you will have the opportunity to implement IPM strategies in the future or not, knowledge of these systems will aid you in understanding the complex interactions of pests and crops and how these interactions affect agronomic business decisions.

Course Structure

Course Materials Format

The online course materials in Agronomy 514 consist of 15 modules.

Each module is designed to take one week to complete. Your weekly activities will typically include the following:

  • Reading the online modules and utilizing the included learning tools.
  • Reading any required textbook pages and reading current research articles (if available).
  • Completing and submitting each Assignment. Assignments allow you to practice the concepts you have learned in each module.
  • Responding thoughtfully to each Discussion Topic. 
  • Completing and submitting each Module Reflection.

Required Textbook

  • Agrios, George. 2005. Plant Pathology. Elsevier Science. 5th ed. ISBN 0-12-473276-3
  • Pedigo, Larry and Marlin Rice. 2009.  Entomology and Pest Management. Waveland Press. 6th ed. ISBN: 978-1-4786-22857

Some modules will have required and/or suggested readings in addition to the textbook assignment. These readings will be available to you via the Assigned Readings link at the beginning of the module.  In addition, the module may also  have "Additional Optional Readings".  These are readings that you can quickly skim and use as an optional reference.

Instructor Interactions

Office Hours: Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules, assignments, or discussions.

Email: Feel free to message the instructor via the Canvas Inbox if you have any questions or concerns.  I try to check my phone each day (including weekends) during the semester.  I will return your email as soon as possible.  This semester is likely to present us with special challenges.  If you find that you are facing a delay, please notify me immediately and we can develop an acceptable plan.

Graded Feedback: I will try to return graded assignments, discussion and reflections within 7 to 10 days of the due date.  Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work and look for weekly emails addressing common issues I find while grading your submitted Assignments and Discussions and Module Reflections.

Grading Procedures

Assignments 20 pts ~67%
Discussions 6 pts ~20%
Module Reflections 4 pts ~13%



There is one Assignment each week. Point values for assignment questions vary, depending on the amount of work/time they require. The assignment total 20 points for each module. Check the course calendar for due dates. Points earned will be docked 10% per day starting after 9 am of the due date. 

Discussion Topics

The class will be divided into two or three discussion groups depending on the size of the class. You will only have access to your group's discussion board. 

Discussion Topics are student based and worth 6 points per module. Points are earned through your active participation within your discussion group and are based on your total contribution to the discussion topic. The number of points earned will reflect the quality of your contribution. As students in this program, you come with a range of experiences to draw on for the discussion questions. Use information learned in this class and from other courses you have taken and from your personal experiences. Everyone is expected to participate in discussion postings in each assigned discussion topic.  Instructor will make additional comments and answer questions after discussion is complete. 

Visit the discussion board frequently and respond to your classmate's postings and their comments on your postings. A single posting will NOT result in full points. You will need to make 3 comments for full points on the discussion topic.  One comment should be at least one full paragraph.  The other two comments should be at least 2-3 sentences.

Module Reflection

Module Reflections are due the same day as Module Assignments. Journal entries are worth a total of 4 possible points per module. This submission is designed to help you summarize a variety of information presented in each module, provide you and the instructor your views on what aspects of the module were most helpful and what aspects were perhaps not entirely clear.


Communication Policy

All communication within the course should adhere to university standards of Netiquette at ISU. Specifically, communication should be scholarly, respectful, professional, and polite. You are encouraged to disagree with other students, but such disagreements need to be based upon facts and documentation. It is the instructor’s goal to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect in our interactions. Please contact me if you have suggestions for improving the interactions in this course.

For this course, communication will occur primarily via the Canvas Inbox.  The Course Discussion Topics are an excellent place to post questions and comments relevant to the module or of general agronomic interest. Keep informed—check the Course Discussion Topics frequently and provide updates.  

Be sure to properly configure your Notification settings or commit yourself to checking Canvas daily for new communication.

Additional guidelines apply to communication within your discussion topics. Please review the Discussion Topics section above. I will monitor discussions are they progress and interject as needed. Following the Discussions I will provide summary feedback.

After the Module Reflections have been submitted, I will review them and email each student with a the summary.

Throughout the semester I will remain in contact with students regarding late assignments, helpful hints, or any other course announcements.

I am always available for an appointment by phone.  I am also available by email.  Feel free to message me via the Canvas Inbox if you have any questions or concerns.  I try to check my phone each day (including weekends) during the semester.  I will return your email as soon as possible.

Iowa State University supports and upholds the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom in order to foster a learning environment where open inquiry and the vigorous debate of a diversity of ideas are encouraged. Students will not be penalized for the content or viewpoints of their speech as long as student expression in a class context is germane to the subject matter of the class and conveyed in an appropriate manner.

Feedback Policy

All graded assessments will be returned with feedback approximately 7 to 10 days of the due date. I like to gather all assignments together to grade during one session.  I feel this helps me to provide a better assessment for each module.  Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work and look for weekly emails addressing common issues I find while grading your submissions.

Academic Integrity Policy

The class will follow ISU's policy on academic dishonesty. Anyone suspected of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Students Office. It is your responsibility to understand ISU's policy on academic plagiarism. All Discussions and Exam Questions will be screened for plagiarized content. There are several resources available to help you avoid committing academic misconduct.

Disability Accommodation

Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sect 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If you have a disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please contact the instructor to set up a meeting within the first two weeks of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your need. Students (who believe they have a current and essential need for disability related accommodations) need to communicate with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) SAS may be able assist students who require reasonable accommodations (e.g., access to alternative media, assistive technology). 

Student Accessibility Services website
1076 Student Services Building
2505 Union Dr Ames, IA 50011-2030
phone: 515-294-7220

Harassment and Discrimination

Iowa State University faculty are committed to supporting students and to maintaining an environment
free of sexual violence and gender-based discrimination. If a student chooses to confide in a faculty or
staff member regarding an issue of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, all faculty and staff
are obligated to report this disclosure to the university’s Title IX Coordinator. Students who have
experienced sexual violence can choose to disclose their experience confidentially to the following
resources: ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support) at 515-292-0500; ISU Student
Counseling Services at 515-294-5056; and Thielen Student Health Center at 515-294-5801

Supporting Student Health and Wellness

Iowa State University is committed to proactively facilitating all students’ well-being.  We welcome and encourage students to contact the following on-campus services for their physical, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, environmental, financial, social, and/or emotional needs:

  • Student Wellness call 515-294-1099 or via website (;
  • Thielen Student Health Center call 515-294-5801 (24/7 Medical Advice) or via website (;
  • Student Counseling Services call 515-294-5056 or via website (;
  • Recreation Services call 515-294-4980 or via website (
  • Students dealing with heightened feelings of sadness or hopelessness, thoughts of harm or suicide, or increased anxiety may contact the ISU Crisis Text Line (Text ISU to 741-741) or contact ISU Police Department 515-294-4428.

COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements

COVID-19 health and safety requirements

At Iowa State University, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are always significant considerations.  With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for all ISU community members to recognize that it will take a community-wide effort to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.

Individuals who are feeling sick or symptomatic, contact their instructor or supervisor, take care of themselves, and seek medical care if necessary. Students who are feeling sick or symptomatic should contact their local medical professionals. The university is expecting instructors to implement flexible attendance and makeup policies and simultaneously expecting students to use this flexibility for appropriate absences only.  

  • Employee Assistance Program
  • ISU Employee Wellbeing
  • Student Counseling Services  is a free service available to ISU students. Student Counseling Services is currently offering Telehealth (virtual) appointments for students. If you need support, please call Student Counseling Services at 515-294-5056 and they will assist you. Intake paperwork is done electronically and then appointments will be over video. Hours include 8am-3pm, Monday-Thursday. If a student is experiencing a crisis, Student Counseling Services is available 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday. Call to get started.
  • COVID Recovery Iowa (free counseling and support). The State of Iowa has received federal funding from FEMA to offer free virtual counseling and assistance to those affected, in any way, by COVID-19. COVID Recovery Iowa provides counseling, virtual activities, referrals and help finding resources to any Iowan seeking assistance or a listening ear.


COVID-19 health and safety requirements

This mandatory syllabus requirement provides primary guidance to on-campus activities.  It does provide essential information on university policies and expectations if you are on campus.  It also provides useful links for additional guidance that you may need if you are faced with a COVID-19 health and safety concern.

Students are responsible for abiding by the university’s  COVID-19 health and safety expectations.  All students attending this class in-person are required to follow university  policy  regarding health, safety, and face coverings:

  • wear a cloth face covering in all university classrooms, laboratories, studios, and other in-person instructional settings and learning spaces. Cloth face coverings are additionally required to be worn indoors in all university buildings, and outdoors when other people are or may be present where physical distancing of at least 6 feet from others is not possible.  Students with a documented health or medical condition that prevents them from wearing a cloth face covering should consult with  Student Accessibility Services  in the Dean of Students Office.
  • ensure that the cloth face covering completely covers the nose and mouth and fits snugly against the side of the face.
  • practice physical distancing to the extent possible.
  • assist in maintaining a clean and sanitary environment.
  • not attend class if you are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • not attend class if you have been told to self-isolate or quarantine by a health official.
  • follow the instructor’s guidance with respect to these requirements. Failure to comply constitutes disruptive classroom conduct. Faculty and teaching assistants have the authority to deny a non-compliant student entry into a classroom, laboratory, studio, conference room, office, or other learning space.

These requirements extend outside of scheduled class time, including coursework in laboratories, studios, and other learning spaces, and to field trips.  These requirements may be revised by the university at any time during the semester.

In accordance with university policy, instructors may use a face shield while they are teaching as long as they are able to maintain 8 feet of physical distance between themselves and students during the entire instructional period.  Some form of face covering must be worn at all times in learning spaces regardless of the amount of physical distancing.

Faculty may refer matters of non-compliance to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action, which can include restrictions on access to, or use of, university facilities; removal from university housing; required transition to remote-only instruction; involuntary disenrollment from one or more in-person courses; and other such measures as necessary to promote the health and safety of campus.  

It is important for students to recognize their responsibility in promoting the health and safety of the Iowa State University community, through actions both on- and off-campus.  The university’s faculty asks that you personally demonstrate a commitment to our Cyclones Care campaign. Iowa State University’s faculty support the Cyclones Care campaign and ask you personally to demonstrate a commitment to our campaign. Your dedication and contribution to the campaign will also protect your family, classmates, and friends, as well as their friends and families.  Our best opportunity for a successful fall semester with in-person learning and extramural activities requires all of us to collaborate and fully participate in the Cyclones Care campaign.

Religious Accommodation

If an academic or work requirement conflicts with your religious practices and/or observances, you may request reasonable accommodations. Your request must be in writing, and your instructor or supervisor will review the request. You or your instructor may also seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance.

Study Tips

  • Start each module on the date indicated on the calendar (or sooner). I am trying to work 1-2 weeks ahead of this class and provide you with the most up-to-date information surrounding each topic.  You will need to complete one module every 4-5 days. As a general rule, allow about 6 to 8 hours per module (4 hours to do the module + 2 hours to do assignments and participate in discussions + 2 hours for text readings. Some modules will take longer than 2 hours to read.). Spread your study time over several days. Work ahead when you know that you will be out-of-town or unable to do a module during its designated week.
  • Do each "In Detail" as you come across its link in the module. "In Detail" sections contain required information. Also visit each FYI page, so that you know where this supplementary information is located.
  • Do each Study Question and Try This! as encountered. They are designed to enhance your learning, to provide opportunities to apply the information presented, and to let you evaluate your understanding of the material. They often expand on the concepts.
  • Assignments and Discussion Topics may be done as they appear or after you finish the module and readings. Be sure to submit all assignments and discussion postings on time! While you may work ahead (if necessary), the most interactive environment occurs when all students are on the same module.
  • Interact with your classmates and instructor. Discussions on the discussion board can be used for anything relating to IPM or other pertinent agronomic topics. Many current events will occur while the course is in session, and they can provide good discussion and learning situations for everyone.
  • Do the text readings. Readings from the text and modules complement each other and are required unless listed as "Additional Optional Readings." Although these readings are optional, they provide additional information to reinforce the concepts presented in the module. At the minimum, you should at least "speed read" or skim these readings.
  • Something unclear? Consult with your instructor and/or classmates.


Category Description Action

Course Content Support

Questions related to course content or grading should be directed to the course instructor. Instructor via Canvas Inbox

Student Support

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is an organization dedicated to supporting, promoting, and enhancing teaching effectiveness and student learning at ISU.

Self-guided orientation which you may find useful.

Self-Guided Orientation

Canvas Technical Support

If you experience any technical issues while using Canvas, contact the Solution Center. The Solution Center's hours are posted on their website.

Solution Center

Technology support

For all other technical issues, contact Agron DevLab Support. The Agronomy Development Lab staff is guaranteed to respond to requests within 24 hours during regular business hours. All requests made during the weekend will be addressed first thing Monday morning.

If you have any technical issues while using the University Library's Course Reserves system, please contact the The Library's Help Desk hours are posted on their website.

Agron DevLab Support

Writing Support

The MS Agronomy program has built a Writing Guide to help answer some of the questions you may have while working on your courses.

Deborah Burns is available for one-on-one consultations and can assist you with any part of the writing process. Schedule an appointment with Deborah through the CELT's website (Links to an external site.)  or via email.

Writing Guide

CELT Website (Links to an external site.)  or email.

Library and research support

Anita Kay is the liaison librarian to the Department of Agronomy. She can help find any article, book or any other piece of information that you want assistance finding.  Anita has also built a really useful Agronomy Research Guide (Links to an external site.) .

Anita Kay
Agronomy Research Guide (Links to an external site.)

Department Contact

Contact Dr. Mary Wiedenhoeft, Associate Chair for Academics in Agronomy, if issues persist after working with the support systems listed above.

Dr. Mary Wiedenhoeft

Return to top

Course Summary:

Date Details Due