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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Home Study Plant Protection

Learn how to protect your plants against disease, weeds and insects.

Learn to protect your plants using appropriate pest, disease and weed control techniques.

A detailed course for horticulturalists, technicians and enthusiastic gardeners.

Study in your own time at your own pace.

Highly experienced and qualified tutors.


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Learn how to protect your plants against disease, weeds and insects.

Understanding the life cycles of insects and weeds and learning how to identify them is important in the protection of plants from disease and insect and the spread of weed species.

This course shows you how to identify diseases, insects and weeds, understand their life-cycles and select and use appropriate treatments. Control techniques are covered in detail using chemical and biological solutions along with safety procedures and practices.

The first step in knowing how to control a pest, disease or weed is to be able to identify it AND the plant which it is affecting accurately.

  • If you get the identification wrong, the method of control is likely to be inappropriate.
  • Identification in fact is the foundation of effective problem control.

This course provides a unique and systematic approach to plant protection, drawing on input from our horticultural experts in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It is unlike other plant protection courses in terms of its international approach. This allows you to benefit from a more diverse range of experts (and their diverse experiences); something that is not often found in other schools.

Course Structure

  1. Introduction - scientific names, terms, diagnosing problems.
  2. Control Techniques - natural & chemical.
  3. Chemicals - characteristics.
  4. Identifying Diseases - symptoms, fungi and viruses, and other pathogens.
  5. Disease Control - life cycle of fungi.
  6. Insect Classification and biology.
  7. Insect Control - how to control pests.
  8. Other Pests - nematodes, snails, millipedes.
  9. Weed Identification and chemical control.
  10. Non-chemical Weed Control.
  • Identify the broad category which a plant health problem belongs to.
  • Explain a range of methods for controlling plant problems.
  • Select appropriate chemical pesticides for different problems.
  • Identify the symptoms of different plant diseases, including most common and some uncommon problems, in your locality.
  • Develop procedures to control specific plant diseases.
  • Identify different insects, including significant taxonomic orders, common pest species, and some less common pest species
  • Determine appropriate methods to control different types of insects.
  • Identify different non-insect pests found in the learner's locality.
  • Determine appropriate control methods for different non-insect pests.
  • Identify different non-insect pests found in the learner's locality.
  • Determine appropriate control methods for different non-insect pests.
  • Manage the control of different types of weed problems.


Problems can be looked at as being in one of three possible categories:

1. NUTRITIONAL -The plant has either too little or too much of one or several particular nutrients available to it.

2. ENVIRONMENTAL -The environmental conditions are not suitable e.g. heavy rain, flooding, frost, snow, hail, sunlight, etc.

3. PATHOLOGICAL -One or several organisms are interfering with the health of the plant (such organisms are called "pathogens").

It requires a great deal of knowledge and expertise to be able to diagnose plant troubles. Do not expect to develop such ability quickly.

The first and perhaps most important skill to develop is an ability to inspect a plant and look for the tell tale symptoms which can provide an indication of what might be wrong.

The table below provides a systematic approach to inspecting plants which you suspect, (or know) might be unhealthy. You should look at each of the "items" one at a time, following the guide given by the "method of inspection" column.






View old and young leaves

-both and underneath above




Leaf drop

Insects -live or dead


View top to bottom, push foliage out of the way. Binoculars for tall plants.

Stem rot

Spots or other markings.


Side shoots

Thin or thick stems.


Stand back and view, look at where strong growth is and direction of buds

Is it balanced

Appropriate or type of

plant (bushy for shrub...strong

terminal growth for tree..etc)

Growth rate


Feel surface of soil, push finger 2-4cm below surface

Remove plant from pot


Hardness, root



Wet/dry spots


View holes at bottom of pot, Remove plant from container,

View surface of soil.

Root tip burn, Rotting,

Distribution of roots -even?

Discolouration of Growing tips



1. Wilting

a/ Insufficient water in the soil

b/ Leaves drying out faster than the water can be taken up (too hot)

c/ Something stopping water going up the stem (eg: borer, disease, etc. in lower part of plant) TAKE


2. Yellow Leaves


a/ Lack of Nitrogen (feed with a nitrogen fertilizer)

b/ Lack of Nitrogen caused by wet soil - wet soil stops nitrogen being taken into the plant (improve drainage or cut watering).

c/ Chemical damage

d/ Soil very dry


a/ Iron deficiency

b/ Other nutrient deficiency

c/ Chemical damage

3. Look to see if damage is distributed evenly over plant.

  • On one side only
  • On the top only
  • On the most exposed parts


4. Look to see if damage has only just happened....or is past?

  • The appearance of the growing tips tells you the current condition.
  • Young shoots indicate a healthy plant overcoming past problems.
  • Excessive side shoots lower down indicates disruption of hormone flow in the plant, or some other problem in the upper parts of the plant.




This is the first correspondence course I have done and I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU. I appreciate everyone's effort in such a professionally-run organisation with seamless administration. The office staff's happy can-do attitude, their fast responses to all queries, tutor Shane Gould's quick turnaround in assignment marking and his supportive and motivational feedback and last but not least, the sound subject guides. Most importantly I hope my thanks and appreciation can be communicated to all the staff who have supported me along the way of my learning! I work full time and study on the weekend but really don't stop thinking about what gardening solution I need in order to answer my assignments every day of the week. Thank you for such a great learning experience and I can't wait to start the second half of my course! Skye

Yes, the course was a very valuable learning experience for me. As a student who studied General Agriculture there was only so much that was taught in relation to plant protection . At present I work with the Crop protection unit and a lot had to be learnt on the job but while doing this course I gain more insights into what I have been doing at work and what I should be doing. The course has actually helped me appreciate my role as an officer attached to Crop protection and Quarantine a whole lot more.

Natisha, Plant Protection Student.






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Meet some of our academics

Marie Beerman B.Sc.,M.Hort.Marie has been involved in horticulture since 2003. She completed a Masters degree in Horticulture at Hannover University in Germany in 2007, and has worked with ACS since 2011 She has co-authored of several ebooks including one on Roses and has a very sound knowledge and experience with horticultural science and research ranging from plant taxonomy and plant breeding to pest, disease and soil management.,
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.

Check out our eBooks

Organic GardeningFor decades farmers have relied upon chemicals to control pests and diseases in order to produce saleable crops. In the ornamental, vegetable and fruit gardens reliance on chemical controls has also been the mainstay for many gardeners.
WeedsThis book helps you understand different types of weeds, and how to control them. Many of the more commonly occurring weeds around the world are both illustrated and described.
Plant Pests & DiseasesAre you one of those people that kill every plant you touch? Perhaps it's not you. Perhaps it's a pest or disease. A little bit of reading might just turn your garden into an oasis. Learn how to identify pests and diseases and bring the spring back into your plant...visit the bookshop to find out more...
What to Plant WhereA great guide for choosing the right plant for a particular position in the garden. Thirteen chapters cover: plant selection, establishment, problems, and plants for wet areas. Shade, hedges and screens, dry gardens, coastal areas, small gardens, trees and shrubs, lawns and garden art.