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Agronomy integrates all disciplines of crop production, from variety selection to harvesting, and from soil management to entomology. Agronomists often act as the liaison between producers and crop researchers, reviewing detailed research findings and incorporating these into the recommendations they pass on to farmers. Agronomists see to it that new developments in crop varieties, disease and pest control, crop rotation, and tillage systems are implemented into farmers growing operations.
At a glanceImagine walking into a bright yellow field of chest-high canola bordered only by a bright blue summer sky. The afternoon sun is warm on your face as you shield your eyes to take a closer look at this crop. You are an agronomist and your specialty is canola. Today you are out with a local farmer visiting his fields. He is having a problem with his canola: areas of the field are failing. He has asked you for help in determining why this is happening and for advice on how to ensure this won't happen next year, when he re-seeds the field. As an agronomist, you are a link between the research community that studies crops such as canola and the farming community, so naturally farmers turn to you when their canola begins to fail. You will spend several hours examining the crop, looking for signs of what is killing the plants: is it a disease, an insect, a weed, or a problem in the soil? You take careful notes of your observations, which you will compare later to scientific journals and reference books and discuss with your peers to help you pinpoint the cause. Lucky for you, you?ve seen something similar to this case before and suspect the culprit is a disease specific to this variety of canola. It is too late for sections of this crop, but before seeding next spring, you will help this farmer select a different variety of canola that is resistant to this disease. You will discuss a production package with the farmer that includes variety selection, tillage, seeding rate, optimum seeding date, fertilizer, pest control, and harvest. You will take all the positive results from canola researchers and turn that into the package best suited for this farmer and his fields.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an agronomist:
- Communicate with the research community to learn of the latest methods for controlling disease, weeds, and insects.
- Advise farmers on cropping practices that will improve their economic returns as well as protect environmental sustainability.
- Evaluate new crop cultivars and their potential in a grower's cropping program.
- Foster the use of best management practices for farming techniques, for example the practice of growing crops and ground-cover plants to minimize soil erosion.
- Monitor the effects of soil characteristics, water levels, and water drainage on plant growth and implement crop management practices in response to these factors to enhance production.
- 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 and other relevant groups.
- Evaluate crop performance as affected by weather, pests, and management practices, and on occasion give evidence for insurance purposes.
Work environmentAgronomists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Doing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting
- 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
- Participating on committees for policy development, regulation development, and research and educational program development
- Inspecting and testing crops and soils 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 agronomists can find employment. They include:
- Crop consulting and farm management firms
- Seed or horticulture companies
- Agricultural chemical or fertilizer companies
- Federal, provincial/territorial, or municipal government departments
- Colleges and universities Foreign aid agencies
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as an agronomist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Soil Science
- Applied Science
- Environmental management