Agronomists are scientists who look for ways to increase soil productivity
(in other words, to raise more food on the same amount of soil). They also
work to improve the quality of seed and the nutritional value of crops.
Agronomists are concerned with the principles and practice of soil management
and field crop production.
Agronomists conduct tests so they can figure out the best way to use land.
Typical duties include measuring soil salinity and nutrient levels, performing
statistical analysis of data and planting crops.
"I plant, harvest and care for the growing crop, and I take notes on the
crop as it grows," explains Andrea Westedt. She is a production research agronomist
Agronomists work in the agriculture industry as farm managers, farm chemical
and fertilizer store managers, sales representatives, field and lab technicians,
crop management consultants, and as soil and water conservationists and inspectors,
notes the Penn State website.
Agronomists also work outside the agriculture industry. For instance, they
may have jobs at financial institutions, farm management services firms and
food processing companies.
They may do soil testing, land appraisal or work in planning and management
positions. They may even act as consultants to golf courses!
Cynthia Grant is president of an agronomy society. "I think it is really
important to recognize the wide range of jobs in agronomy. They range from
university professors to research scientists to people working for fertilizer
dealers or herbicide companies."
Want to help the environment? Agronomists can help develop environmentally
friendly programs that help the Earth. "I was awarded a contract to recycle
the yard trimmings into compost," says Mary Matava. She is an agronomist and
owner of Agri Service.
"We currently process 150 to 200 tons per day and are in the process of
setting up another facility in the Coachella Valley."
Love working outside? Or do you prefer the office life? Agronomists, depending
on their specialty, can choose between inside and outside duties.
You could perform statistical analysis on the computer one day and plant
crops the next. Most agronomists work outdoors or in laboratories. Those who
work in sales and management do much of their work inside.
"My work ends up about 50 percent office and 50 percent fieldwork," says
Agronomists do spend time outside, studying crops and taking samples. So,
future agronomists must be prepared to walk long distances and stay physically
"Good health is a must for inspecting crops. A great deal of walking and
hiking is involved in field studies," says Matava.
Many agronomists work for federal and state governments at research stations.
They can be employed as plant breeders, plant pathologists and soil surveyors.
Technology is having an impact. "Agriculture is undergoing a revolution
in products and information. Biogenetics is creating new opportunities for
alternative crops," says Dave Major. He is a past president of an agronomy
Another technology that is in its infancy now is "precision agriculture."
This technology incorporates variable rate technology, geographic information
systems, global positioning and remote sensing.
This will allow farmers to farm much more accurately.