If you dream of working in the corn fields of Kansas, the rice paddies of China, the cotton fields of North Carolina, the forests of British Columbia, the coffee fields of Costa Rica, or the grape vines of Napa Valley, the study of agronomy is a good way to get you there.
Agronomists, or agrologists, are experts in soil management and field crop production. They study the science and technology of utilizing plants for food, fuel, feed, and fiber and also how to make crops and soils more profitable and more sustainable.
Agronomists study botany, meteorology, soil science, crop science, plant genetics, physiology, biotechnology, and other forms of science to help them understand how plants interact with the environment. They learn about weather and climate to see how it affects plant growth and development. These scientists study a variety of things to help make sure there is food in the grocery store and on everyone's table. This is a growing field because food crops and better agricultural techniques are vital to accommodate a booming world population.
Agronomists study many of the foods that you eat regularly such as tea, rice, coffee, corn, and wheat. They also explore how to create more nutritious foods for cattle and chicken. Through research, agronomists find ways to help produce larger crop yields, develop more resistant crops, generate more effective and safer fertilizers and pesticides, improve the nutritional value of foods, conserve the soil of various forests, or produce new types of plants that are stronger and better for the environment and for the general public. One example of a new plant is triticale, which is a hybrid of rye and wheat.
Every agronomist has a niche. One agronomist may try to grow a better wheat crop, others may try to combat weeds, cross breed seeds, or eliminate pests. They may specialize in crop rotation, irrigation, drainage solutions, plant breeding, soil classifications, soil fertility, pest control, soil conservation, or bigger harvests. See: Irrigation Jobs
Solving agronomy issues takes years of hard work. Problems must be found, monitored, and explored before experiments and failures can find solutions. It is a long scientific process that keeps agronomists very busy.
Agronomists work as consultants, researchers, and teachers. Their research is highly valued by the agricultural industry. Small advances in agronomy can have huge, positive financial impacts. Their office is the fields, pastures, forests, and wildlands of the world or the high-tech laboratories of large research universities. They work hand in hand with farmers, botanists, and other people whose lives are devoted to the green industry. See: Farming Jobs, Green Jobs
If you are interested in a career in agronomy, start your education at university or at agricultural schools. Explore different areas that interest you. Some options are crop science, soil and water science, range management, crop consulting, or organic farming. Be sure to join the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) or the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). Both the ASA and the SSSA have certifications for Crop Advisor, Professional Agronomist, and Professional Soil Scientist/Classifier. These certifications are necessary for any agronomist's resume.
Certification can help lead to jobs in colleges, agricultural companies, or even the United States Department of Agriculture. When you land one of these jobs, you can plan to make $28,000 to $85,000 per year. Most agronomists average $51,000 per year. But they can sleep well because they know their work helps put food on the plates of people all over the world.
Agronomists focus their careers on making sure that our environment can provide for its population. By studying problems, they are finding solutions that improve our lives and ensure that you can always buy corn at the grocery store.
Quick Facts About Agronomy
Job Title: Agronomist
Description: Study of utilizing plants for food, fuel, feed, and fiber to make crops and soils more profitable and more sustainable
Employers: Universities, Agricultural Companies, USDA
Pay: $28,000 to $85,000 per year, $51,000 per year is average