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Agrologists study commercial and native plant communities and livestock production in order to improve yields, while at the same time advocating sustainable farming and ranching methods. Agrologists may also study farm, urban, and wilderness interfaces to find solutions to the challenge of competing demands on the land base, for example wildlife habitat, timber, recreation, urban expansion, and livestock. Most agrologists work as members of a team alongside other scientists and agriculture experts.
At a glanceImagine it is a brisk, breezy autumn morning and you are standing in the middle of a rough pasture full of alfalfa and tall fescue grass. You have just purchased this pasture and intend to begin grazing sheep here next spring. But you are an agrologist, so you know it isn’t as simple as fencing in the pasture and letting loose a flock of sheep. You know there are a number of factors you must measure and consider in order to determine how and when you can begin using this pasture as part of your growing sheep farm. That’s why you are here today; you are going to start collecting samples and surveying the pasture so you know what work must be done if you hope to use this patch of land next spring. As an agrologist, you know what this field needs to become a suitable pasture for your sheep. You can easily see that the fence must be repaired in spots and a small shelter built, but that can be done with a few weeks’ work. What you are more interested in is harder to see, namely the nutrient levels of the grass and alfalfa stands. You are collecting samples from the pasture and will test their contents to determine if your grazing sheep can acquire all the necessary dietary nutrients from the pasture alone or if they will need supplements. You are also checking if any plants are infected with fungi or bacteria that could be toxic to your sheep. In addition, you’re evaluating the pasture’s general health and the abundance of growth, which will give you an indication of how many sheep can be pastured here and for how long. This will also help you estimate the age of the pasture stands and when you must reseed the grass. Finally, you are checking to make sure there is adequate fresh water for your sheep and keeping an eye out for signs of predators, such as coyotes, that could threaten the flock. In your job as an agrologist, you have spent a lot of time evaluating pastures and range-management plans for other ranchers, so you are confident you can do a good job with your own land.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an agrologist:
- Communicate with the research community to develop and extend new technologies and practices to producers for their agricultural businesses.
- Advise farmers and livestock producers on cropping and livestock practices that will improve their economic returns as well as protect environmental sustainability.
- Design and evaluate plans for land use, including the use of Crown land by livestock producers or plans to improve a degraded land base.
- Foster the use of best management practices for farming and livestock production techniques, for example pest and weed control and strategies for reducing disease.
- Collect and analyze samples and interpret the results.
- Work with producers to encourage soil testing and plant analysis to determine crop nutrient needs and match fertility programs with those needs.
- Participate in technology transfer and training activities.
- Prepare and conduct advisory information sessions and lectures for farmers, livestock producers, and other relevant groups.
- Evaluate crop performance as affected by weather, pests, and management practices, and on occasion give evidence for insurance purposes.
- Strategize and collaborate with other stakeholder groups on land-use issues.
Work environmentAgrologists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing reports and articles
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
- Researching new technology and new advancements in agriculture and preparing recommendations
- Participating on committees for policy development, regulation development, and research and educational program development
- Inspecting and testing crops, soils, and livestock, and problem solving with producers
- Making presentations to farmers, agriculture businesses, etc., and participating in field tours and training sessions
- Responding to requests from clients
Where to workThere are a number of places agrologists can find employment. They include:
- Agriculture consulting and farm management firms
- Banks, agribusinesses, and farms
- Environmental consulting firms
- Federal, provincial/territorial, or municipal government departments
- Colleges and universities
- Foreign aid agencies and international agriculture projects
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as an agrologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Soil Science
- Natural Resource Management
- Environmental Management