Crop Nutrition

What Does it Take to Become a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA)

Cristie Preston, Ph.D.

Cristie Preston

Cristie Preston, Ph.D.


Senior Agronomist

Agriculture has always been an integral part of Dr. Cristie Preston’s life. She grew up in southwest Virginia and had interest in crop and animal agriculture since an early age. Once she began college, she initially chose to study animal science but switched to soil science. Dr. Preston attributes her decision partly to an influential professor who told her, “You can’t understand animals until you understand what they eat.” She received a Bachelor of Science degree in animal science and a Master of Science degree in crop and soil environmental science from Virginia Tech. Dr. Preston holds a Ph.D. in agronomy, focusing on soil fertility from Kansas State University. While completing her advanced degrees, Dr. Preston conducted more than six years of field and lab research. Dr. Preston has experience in laboratory research measuring volatility loss from urea-based fertilizers. Her field research has focused on phosphorus availability and the interactions with tillage and placement. She also has extensive experience in working with large data sets and analysis. Her main priority is helping growers to identify yield-limiting factors and fix those issues as cost efficiently as possible.

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The CCA program was established in 1992 by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) to provide a benchmark for practicing agronomy professionals in the US and Canada.

The process itself is split into 2 parts: the international and the local board exams.

  1. The international exam competency areas are nutrient management, soil and water management, pest management, and crop management.
    1. The international exam is meant as a generalized exam to test the general knowledge of the individual seeking certification.
    2. Additional study material can be purchased through the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI).
  2. The local board exams follow the same competency areas as the international exam, but the local exam focuses on application of general principles to local conditions.
    1. For example, here we will discuss the objectives generally covered in the Tri-state CCA Exam of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana for corn and soybean.

Once you pass the exams, submit proof education requirements, and have a supporting reference, there are several requirements to keep good standing as a CCA, specifically keeping up with continuing education credits (CEU).