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What They Do

Soil and Plant Scientists Career Video

Insider Info

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 in Idaho.

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 Matava.

Agronomists do spend time outside, studying crops and taking samples. So, future agronomists must be prepared to walk long distances and stay physically fit.

"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 society.

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.

At a Glance

Study the complex relationship between plant life and soils

  • You'll do much of your work outside, studying crops and taking samples
  • You need to be in good health
  • There are many levels of work and educational requirements vary


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