Course Syllabus

Welcome to Agronomy 503 at Iowa State University!

Instructor: Dr. Erik Kabela

Office Hours: ​Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules, review of key Module content, assignment issues/questions, and preparation for exams.


Course Overview

Course Description: Applied concepts in climate and agricultural meteorology with emphasis on the climate-agriculture relationship, the microclimate-agriculture interaction, and crop risk management. Basic meteorological principles are also presented to support these applied concepts. Required course for the Master of Science in Agronomy degree program and Agronomy Graduate Certificate program.

Course Prerequisites: AGRON 181 or equivalent and MATH 140. Restricted to graduate students enrolled in MS Agronomy and Agronomy Graduate Certificate online degree program at ISU. Students from other departments must get permission.

Weather is a risk factor and sometimes loss multiplier in all that occurs in agriculture. Highly productive agricultural regions have developed as soil and climate have determined the type of vegetation that can be grown and cropping systems that can be used. Despite favorable weather conditions and fine-tuned practices in highly productive regions, adverse weather will reduce yield in some years. This course will provide you with an understanding of how weather and climate interact with agriculture and some basic analysis tools that can be used to manage the risk of possible yield losses from adverse weather.

This is the only course in the Master of Science in Agronomy Program that covers climatology and meteorology. This course is recommended as one of the first in the program because it touches on several topics crossing disciplines. It explains how climate and weather impact agriculture from small-scale effects, such as air movement along on a leaf, to large-scale effects, such as how temperatures in the Pacific Ocean affect temperature and precipitation in the Corn Belt. Our intent is to generate from these concepts practical knowledge that can assist with real-world risk management. For example, the coursework provides illustrations of how to evaluate yield impacts using freely available yield and climate data.

The course is structured in 15 Modules. Most modules have two parts: a) an application of agricultural meteorology and b) a pure meteorological concept. This is an attempt to provide a broad, yet, practical view of how weather and climate work and how they affect crops. Topics then carry over into other courses. For example what climates exist and their location are imperative to understanding why cropping systems exist where they do. How climate is changing and its impact on agriculture are discussed several times in the program. New information about these topics is likely to occur while you are in the program.

Downloadable podcast videos for the course

Course Objectives

  • Understand how weather and climate interact with agriculture, 
  • Be able to explain fundamental meteorology, agricultural meteorology, and climate concepts, and 
  • Know some basic analysis tools that can be used to assess and manage the risk of possible yield losses from adverse weather.

Course Structure

Your ability to use a web browser, input assessment responses via text-editing software such as Microsoft Word, and access all the technologies will directly influence your success in the course. If you have not already done so:

  1. Visit the MS Agronomy website and look for the section titled "Browser and Computer Compatibility Test: Your Results". Ensure your computer passes all areas of the test. This will ensure your ability to fully utilize the online course materials.
  2. Then, visit the MyCanvas Student guide developed by Iowa State University. Complete the first module, called “Getting Started in Canvas”, to learn about Canvas’s technical requirements and which browser you should use for Canvas.

Online Course Materials Format

The online course materials in Agronomy 503 consist of 15 modules and a midterm and final exam.

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

  • Reading the online modules and utilizing the included learning tools.
  • Reading any required textbook pages.
  • Completing and submitting each Assignment. The assignments are designed to provide practice with concepts in the modules and, in some cases, to inspire deeper thought.
  • Responding thoughtfully to each Discussion Topic. The Discussion Topics are designed to help you gain perspective on how the concepts in the module might be applied in various situations.
  • Completing and submitting each Module Reflection. The reflections are designed to help you think about the module concepts as a whole, to consider how module concepts apply to practical applications, and to let me know what is still unclear to you and/or if something has sparked an interest and you want assistance finding resources to learn more about the topic.
  • Asking questions during Office Hours, as needed.

Required Textbook

Aguado, E. and Burt, J. Understanding Weather and Climate. 7th edition, October 2014. Prentice-Hall.

You may be able to save money by purchasing an earlier edition. If you do so, the page numbers will differ and you will need to find the reading assignment for a given module based on its description rather than the page numbers. Note your instructors do not have access to earlier editions of the text.

Instructor Interactions

Office Hours: ​Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules, review of key Module content, assignment issues/questions, and preparation for exams.

Email: Feel free to message the instructor via the Canvas Inbox if you have any questions or concerns.

Discussions: Instructor interacts with discussions of a topic has run its course and a new direction in discussion is needed. Instructor may ask additional questions. Feel free to draw the instructor into the discussion with a question. 

Graded Feedback: All graded assessments will be returned with feedback within 7 days of the due date. Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work.

Grading Procedures

Assignments 50%
Discussions 15%
Module Summary and Reflections 5%
Least Understood Discussion Post 2.5%
Midterm Exam 12.5%
Final Exam 12.5%
Professionalism 2.5%

The percent breakdown for grades is:

A 93+
A- 90 to <93
B+ 87 to <90
B 83 to <87
B- 80 to <83
C+ 77 to <80
C 73 to <77
C- 70 to <73



Worth the points listed for each assignment. There is one assignment each week. Check the course calendar for due dates. 

Assignments will be deducted points for lateness. Late assignments will be deducted 20% of the total points for each day it is late.  An assignment 5 days late or later will receive 0 points (100% reduction).  If problems arise, such as troubles uploading assignments or confusion regarding the assignment questions, contact the instructor, preferably a few days before the assignment is due.  When uploading Excel or Word documents, prior to uploading, save the document and reopen it to be certain all of the content has been saved and has the format asked for in the assignment question.  Then, upload it to Canvas.

Writing clearly is essential to your professional life. Poor writing will result in point deductions. Composing your answer in Word and posting to the appropriate venue is STRONGLY encouraged. This allows Word to check your spelling and grammar and allows you to save your work in case something is lost.

Discussion Topics

Worth 5 points. Discussion points are assigned for three actions: (i) creating a discussion post that ends with a question for others to address (2 points); (ii) posting substantive responses to at least two other posts (2 points); (iii) posting your initial discussion post by Friday at 8:00 AM in order to provide ample time for meaningful conversation (1 point). Posts made after the Monday 8:00 AM deadline will be given zero points.

Module Reflection

Due the same day as module assignments. Module reflections are a total of 2 possible points per module. The reflection is designed to help you reflect on the module, evaluate its usefulness to you, and provide feedback for us. Reflections submitted after the Monday 8:00 PM deadline will be given zero points.

Midterm Exam

Includes information from Modules 1 through 7, inclusive. Following the exam I will provide a summary of the class scores.

Final Exam

Covers Modules 8-15 but will draw on concepts you learned in the first seven Modules. Following the exam I will provide a summary of the class scores.


Practice and polish your professionalism. Professionalism includes respectful and courteous interactions with classmates and instructor, your active participation in discussions, clear and logical expression of ideas and thought, and general esprit de corps. Because writing quality is an important part of your professional development, apply good writing skills on all of your discussions and assignments. Points may be deducted from assignments and discussion posts if professionalism is not followed. Need a refresher on grammar or other writing mechanics? Check out the ISU online Writing Help Center. Cite your sources! Plagiarizing published information is unethical and will be reported to the Dean of Students.


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 the instructor if you have suggestions for improving the interactions in this course.

Use the Course Questions forum in Canvas (or e-mail) to ask questions, share an interesting article or observation, or comment on current and relevant events. Keep informed—check the discussion board frequently. I will monitor the discussion board and my email during "regular business hours" and you can expect a response within one business day.

General announcements will be posted to the Announcements section of the Learning Management System (Canvas).

Additional guidelines apply to communication within Discussion Topics. Please review the Discussions section shown above.

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

Feedback Policy

All graded assessments will be returned with feedback within 7 days of the due date. Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work.


All deadlines are posted on the Course Calendar in Canvas.

Need extra time to meet a deadline? Explain the situation to your instructor IN ADVANCE and accommodation can be made. The explanation doesn't need to be extensive. The important factor is to attempt to notify the instructor ahead of time.

Contact Information for Academic Issues

If you are experiencing, or have experienced, a problem with any of the above statements,  email

Study Tips

  • Start each module on the date indicated on the calendar. Complete one module each week. 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). 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 not get behind!
  • Do each In Detail as you come across its link in the module. In Details contain required information. Also visit each FYI page for additional information.
  • 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 expand on the concepts discussed in the module.
  • 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.
  • Discussion Participation. You will be assigned to a discussion group of 4-6 students. You are required to contribute your own original answer to the assigned discussion topic. You are then required to check your group's discussion, read postings by your group members, and make substantive replies to at least 2 of their postings. (Simple comments such as "Good point, Mary" are welcome but will not count as substantive replies.) See the "Policies and Expectations" page  for information on how discussions are graded.
  • Discussion Summaries. For each discussion topic, one member of your group is required to summarize your group's discussion and post that summary in the DT summary forum. The summary is expected to communicate the highlights of your group's discussion in just a few sentences (no more than 150 to 200 words) and in the summarizer's own words. Think of the summary as providing a brief report on a meeting to a colleague or supervisor. Your summary should provide a clear, accurate, and complete account of the discussion. Focus on the main points made in your group's discussion—who said what is irrelevant.
  • Interact with your classmates and instructor. Discussions on the discussion board can be used for anything agronomic, climatic or weather-related. Many events can happen as the course evolves and provide good discussion and learning situations for everyone.
  • WebEx Meetings. WebEx is an on-line meeting software program that allows for video, audio and text exchange. On occasion, the instructor may use WebEx to provide updated or supplemental course information not included in the on-line modules. These meetings will be recorded, so you can access them if unable to attend. The new content will be posted in Canvas as supplemental information under Office Hours Recordings. The meeting dates and times will be posted on the Course Calendar, along with an email reminder. Email with any technical difficulties.
  • Do the text readings. Readings from the text and online modules compliment each other and are required unless listed as "Suggested Readings." Although suggested readings are optional, they provide additional information or reinforce the concepts presented in the module-another opportunity to learn.
  • 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.

Email for aid with any of these topics. Here is a self-guided orientation which you may find useful.

CELT: Online Learner Support

Student Support
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

If you have any technical issues while using the University Library's Course Reserves system, please refer to the Library's FAQ page.

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.

Course Reserves FAQ


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.

Ms. Amy Pollpeter is available for one-on-one consultations and can assist you with any part of the writing process. Schedule an appointment with Amy through the CELT's website or via email.

Writing Guide

CELT's website or via 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

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Course Summary:

Date Details Due