Soil/Plant Scientist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Conducts research in breeding, physiology, production, yield, and management of crops and agricultural plants or trees, shrubs, and nursery stock, their growth in soils, and control of pests; or study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as they relate to plant or crop growth. May classify and map soils and investigate effects of alternative practices on soil and crop productivity.

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster Plant Systems pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Communicates research or project results to other professionals or the public or teaches related courses, seminars, or workshops.
  • Conducts experiments to develop new or improved varieties of field crops, focusing on characteristics such as yield, quality, disease resistance, nutritional value, or adaptation to specific soils or climates.
  • Develops new or improved methods or products for controlling or eliminating weeds, crop diseases, or insect pests.
  • Provides information or recommendations to farmers or other landowners regarding ways in which they can best use land, promote plant growth, or avoid or correct problems such as erosion.
  • Develops environmentally safe methods or products for controlling or eliminating weeds, crop diseases, or insect pests.
  • Investigates soil problems or poor water quality to determine sources and effects.
  • Conducts experiments investigating how soil forms, changes, or interacts with land-based ecosystems or living organisms.
  • Conducts research to determine best methods of planting, spraying, cultivating, harvesting, storing, processing, or transporting horticultural products.
  • Investigates responses of soils to specific management practices to determine the effects of alternative practices on the environment.
  • Studies ways to improve agricultural sustainability, such as the use of new methods of composting.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Exposed to hazardous situations involving possible injury such as cuts, bites, stings, and minor burns more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Arboriculturist -- Cultivates and manages trees, hedgerows and shrubs and includes all aspects of felling, preserving, planting and protecting trees and also provides information and advice on specific tree-related issues.
  • Botanist -- Researches and studies the physiology, heredity, environment, distribution, and economic value of plants for application in such fields as agronomy, forestry, horticulture, and pharmacology.
  • Floriculturist -- Cultivates flowers or flowering plants.
  • Plant Physiologist -- Studies anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and ecology of plants in the context of the natural environment, agriculture, forestry, horticulture and biotechnology.
  • Agriculturist -- Uses knowledge of agriculture to produce food and fibers.