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2009 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – Agriculture



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in Agriculture. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2009 Higher School Certificate examination, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This document should be read along with the relevant syllabus, the 2009 Higher School Certificate examination, the marking guidelines and other support documents which have been developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of Agriculture.

Teachers and students are advised that, in December 2008, the Board of Studies approved changes to the examination specifications and assessment requirements for a number of courses. These changes will be implemented for the 2010 HSC cohort. Information on a course-by-course basis is available on the Board’s website.

General comments

Teachers and candidates should be aware that examiners may ask questions that address the syllabus outcomes in a manner that requires candidates to respond by integrating their knowledge, understanding and skills developed through studying the course. It is important to understand that the Preliminary course is assumed knowledge for the HSC course.

Candidates need to be aware that the mark allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper) are a guide to the length of the required response. A longer response will not in itself lead to higher marks. Writing far beyond the indicated space may reduce the time available for answering other questions.

Candidates need to be familiar with the Board’s Glossary of Key Words which contains some terms commonly used in examination questions. However, candidates should also be aware that not all questions will start with or contain one of the key words from the glossary. Questions such as ‘how?’, ‘why?’ or ‘to what extent?’ may be asked or verbs may be used which are not included in the glossary, such as ‘design’, ‘translate’ or ‘list’.

Paper 1

Section I

Question 1

  1. Better responses named a process that occurred at X, for example harvesting, shearing, pasteurisation, and then outlined the process.
  2. Better responses named a marketing strategy at Y, for example value adding or promotion, and described the marketing strategy.
  3. Better responses described the relationship between supply and demand of their named farm product on the price paid by consumers. These responses also usually provided specific examples to help illustrate the answer.

Question 2

    1. Better responses identified 50 kg/ha as being the rate of fertiliser application that gave maximum dry matter yield in grasses.
    2. Better responses recognised that legumes produce their own nitrogen and are thus less responsive to nitrogen fertiliser than are grasses. They gave relevant details of the nitrogen fixation process. Weaker responses did not make the link between legumes and nitrogen fixation.
  1. Better responses linked the overuse of fertilisers to runoff into waterways, algal blooms, eutrophication and the subsequent impacts on aquatic life. Many also stated that the application of fertilisers caused an increase in soil acidity. Weaker responses typically identified an impact of fertilisers on the environment without providing relevant detail or simply outlined the effects of fertiliser usage on plant growth.

Question 3

  1. Better responses identified the control in the trial as an application rate of 0 (zero) litres per hectare.
  2. In the best responses, candidates stated that the role of this control was as a nil treatment to provide a basis of comparison for the treatments and that it indicated that the differences in results were due to treatment effect and not just normal variations.

    Mid-range responses demonstrated a general understanding of the basis of comparison.

  3. Better responses calculated the cost of 1 litre of Chlorothalanil as $30 per litre. Weaker responses did not ascertain the fixed application cost from the data in the table, considering the application rate of 0 had no associated cost.
  4. Better responses clearly outlined two factors required for consideration and related these to the decision whether or not to apply a fungicide on chickpeas.

    Mid-range responses outlined factors. Weaker responses simply stated a number of factors and provided no explanation.

Section II

Question 4

    1. In better responses, candidates named all months from April to September or stated months where the temperature ranged from 0–10ºC. Weaker responses did not identify the full range of correct months.
    2. In better responses, candidates understood from the data given that millet was a summer growing crop and that October sowing allowed optimal growth and productivity. They recognised that germination and growth were different processes and that soil temperature is not the only factor in choice of sowing time. Weaker responses simply identified a relationship between temperature and germination and/or re-presented the data provided.
  1. Better responses identified a method used and demonstrated an understanding of the genetics behind the process. They were illustrated with a productivity trait or quality. Weaker responses named a method or identified parts of the process involved but did not outline the generic basis of the method.
  2. Stronger responses discussed the advantages and disadvantages of introduced pastures, providing examples and discussing their use and impact on sustainable production systems. Weaker responses listed the characteristics of the introduced pastures systems but did not discuss their role or impact in pasture production systems, for example to increase carrying capacity, provide soil nitrogen, reduce soil structure decline. Some weaker responses did not distinguish between pastures and crops.

Question 5

    1. In better responses, candidates identified a trend from the graph or compared the optimum to at least one other live weight with a lower lambing percentage.
    2. In better responses, candidates showed clearly how a management practice would assist farmers to manage ewes to an optimum weight to maximise lambing percentages. Weaker responses often re-stated weights and lambing percentages from the graph or identified a management practice but failed to provide enough detail for this management practice.
  1. Better responses included the identification of two differences (usually shade and sticking rate) and explained how these differences affected the animals and linked this to the variation in growth rates for each pen. Weaker responses identified differences without linking these to effects on growth rate.
  2. Better responses displayed an understanding of hormones and their role in both reproduction and behaviour. These responses also provided diagrams and a number of examples.

    Mid-range responses gave general outlines of the role of one or more hormones on either reproduction or behaviour.

    The weakest responses reflected limited understanding of the hormones involved in animal reproduction and behaviour. Some weaker responses described other animal hormones not involved in reproduction.

Section III

Question 6

  1. Better responses clearly identified a form of change in farm ownership and described the changes. The best responses described the effect that the change has had on production, society or the industry.

    Weaker responses did not describe a change in the nature of ownership, but discussed a change in the same form of ownership, for example farmer to farmer.

  2. Better responses clearly identified and discussed strategies which are used to manage the risk associated with changing costs as well as those used to reduce the risk of irregular levels of income.

Question 7

  1. Better responses provided the key links between land use practices and soil salinity levels. Mid-range responses identified land use practices that resulted in soil salinity.
  2. Better responses explained the factors and the implications of these for the farmer’s decision-making.

Question 8

  1. Better responses included the key steps in photosynthesis. The best responses linked the key steps to specific examples of growth in plants (for example, elongation of stems, cell division).
  2. Better responses described techniques to manage plant interference and related this to improvement in plant productivity. The best responses provided a value judgement on the techniques described.

Question 9

  1. Better responses outlined nutritional requirements (for example protein, fats, carbohydrates) for a named animal. They also explained the link between each of those requirements and the function they have in the animal.

    Some weaker responses made general statements such as ‘feed is needed for growth’ but did not name a specific nutritional requirement. Other weaker responses named a nutritional requirement but did not link the requirement to the function it has in the animal’s metabolism.

  2. Better responses accounted for more than one impact that publicity has on animal production systems. These responses also made a judgement on the value/outcome of this impact on animal production systems.

Paper 2

Question 1 – Agribusiness

  1. Better responses provided characteristics and features of the research methodology used in the study.
  2. Better responses compared these organisations, identifying similarities and/or differences. Mid-range responses outlined the features of the nominated advisory services.
  3. The best responses included a judgement on the value of the impacts of international markets on farm businesses. Mid-range responses described how features impact on farm business.

Question 2 – Animal management

  1. Better responses identified a study of a current technique/technology, and stated reasons why the data was collected.
  2. Better responses outlined the relationship between a vaccine and an animal’s immune system, and how this prevented disease. They also gave examples of vaccines.

    Mid-range responses related the vaccine injection to the body’s response. Weaker responses outlined the process of injecting an animal with a vaccine.

  3. Better responses provided a detailed account of a technique that is available to farmers to manipulate animal reproductive efficiency, identified features of the technique and provided a judgement on the value of this technique.

    Mid-range responses described the technique with some features but did not provide a judgement. Weaker responses only named a technique and outlined the technique briefly.

Question 3 – Horticulture

  1. The best responses described methods of presenting results and linked the results to the horticulture industry.

    Weaker responses reiterated the question without naming a study or providing an example of how the results of a study were reported.

  2. Better responses clearly linked the characteristic to a use in horticulture.

    Weaker responses sketched in general terms the features or physiology of plants and did not clearly provide a link to a horticultural use.

  3. Better responses provided a well-written, clearly defined example of a post-harvest handling technique such as a cooling chain process or the influence of a changing market on fruit production. These responses provided examples within the horticulture industry that dealt with market influences or post-harvest processes and placed a value on the resulting change in production systems.

    Weaker responses did not provide examples or a link to the impact on production systems and generalised the influence of supply and demand in the marketplace.

Question 4 – Innovation and diversification

  1. Better responses named an experiment and described features of the findings from a study. Weaker responses identified a study but provided no features of the findings.
  2. Weaker responses provided features of the innovation rather than the marketing technique, or failed to use features or compare their effectiveness.
  3. Better responses provided some environmental, occupational health and safety and animal health (POCTA) requirements and described some of the requirements of marketing organisations. They provided a judgement on the value of meeting such requirements.

    Weaker responses were more general and could not separate institutional or legal requirements.

Question 5 – Plant management

  1. The better responses provided characteristics and features of the way data was analysed in a specific study.

    Weaker responses provided considerable information describing a trial but did not address any aspect of data analysis.

  2. The better responses related the uptake and movement of soluble plant nutrients by diffusion from the soil solution across concentration gradients in cells and membranes of plants.

    Mid-range responses addressed nutrient movement into roots via osmosis. The weaker responses identified the presence of nutrients in the soil.

  3. The best responses provided a detailed account of techniques and provided an in-depth judgement against various criteria.

    Mid-range responses identified and describe two suitable techniques to manage soil moisture, for example irrigation, mulching, stubble retention.

Question 6 – Sustainable management

  1. Better responses demonstrated an understanding of the importance of water regulation in Australian agriculture and explained the implications of such regulations.

    Weaker responses tended to use more urban examples of water regulation that were not relevant to agricultural production systems.

  2. Better responses described strategies employed in the development of a whole farm plan or catchment management program. They made a clear judgement on the value of the plan, program or individual strategies.

    Weaker responses did not demonstrate an understanding of the difference between the whole farm planning process and short- to medium-term farm planning, or the difference between catchment management and on-farm water catchment/storage strategies.

Optional research project

In the best responses, candidates produced a detailed and well-structured research report with appropriate statistical analysis. They drew appropriate conclusions from the data collected and made meaningful recommendations from the research question and findings. Better projects were also accompanied by process journals that clearly detailed the progress in developing and conducting the research. Better projects were correctly formatted and included a well-spaced margin and appropriate and consistent font size. Better projects not only presented relevant literature reviews but also related their own findings back to those of other researchers. These projects were well organised and demonstrated a clear understanding of the role of the literature review in a research project.

Weaker projects contained incorrect spelling and/or grammatical errors. Weaker responses lacked sufficient research depth to qualify the results, often citing a single or limited reference source such as Wikipedia. In the weaker projects, candidates who provided some statistical analysis had difficulty explaining or interpreting the results with accuracy. Confusion in terms of treatment variables resulted in candidates attempting to study a number of variables rather than investigating the effects of one, leading to difficulties in results interpretation. Understanding the significance of statistical analysis and interpreting results to support recommendations is an important component of scientific investigations. Weaker projects presented poor referencing with no clear link from the text to the details in the reference section. Website references were not dated. Candidates are reminded that a website provides a window to a publication – the publication should be cited, not the website.


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