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Soil conservationists help farmers and other land managers make the best use of the land without causing harm. They identify and work to minimize threats to soil health, for example wind erosion, storm runoff, and nutrient depletion. Soil conservationists improve management practices to protect land and implement strategies for sustainable use.
At a glanceImagine standing outside on a chilly spring morning, your work boots damp from last night's light frost. You are standing in front of a group of area farmers, poised to begin your demonstration. It is early spring and these farmers are already preparing to begin seeding their crops next month. As a soil conservationist, you have invited these farmers to your seminar to discuss techniques for conserving soil, thereby increasing the productivity of their farms. These farmers understand how vital rich, fertile soil is to their operation, so they value your knowledge and suggestions for maintaining the land. As a soil conservationist, you will spend the day with these farmers, demonstrating new techniques and sharing new ideas for conservation and sustainable farming practices. You've brought them to a test plot to demonstrate zero-tillage seeding. Most of these farmers have heard of reduced or zero till, but you want to show them first-hand how little soil is lost if you aren't ploughing or cultivating every time you seed in the spring. For most of these farmers, zero till would mean new, costly equipment, but from a conservation and business standpoint, the long-term benefits are worth it. After the tillage demonstration, you will discuss other conservation practices these farmers can implement in order to reduce soil erosion and nutrient depletion, for example crop rotation and moisture management strategies. Through the course of the day, you will pass on a number of good ideas for conservation and management practices that the farmers can use to protect the productivity of their soil.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a soil conservationist:
- Research and test soil management practices such as crop rotation, reforestation, and reduced tillage.
- Communicate with farmers and land managers and make suggestions for conservation techniques.
- Review plans from land developers to ensure proper erosion control and runoff management measures have been taken.
- Develop management practices to make the best use of available moisture.
- Design and oversee the construction of soil conservation structures.
- Monitor land use to evaluate the effectiveness of land-use practices and plans.
- Analyze study results to determine the action required to maintain or restore proper soil management.
- Generate cost estimates for different conservation practices based on the needs of land users, maintenance requirements, and the life expectancy of specific practices.
- Participate in environmental impact assessments.
- Produce reports and deliver presentations to clients regarding conservation practices.
- Collaborate with communities to develop watershed- or landscape-based management plans according to federal or provincial legislation on soil conservation, environmental health, and water quality.
- Manage projects and supervise technical and professional staff.
Work environmentSoil conservationists work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Doing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting
- Using Geographic Information Systems software for making or adjusting maps
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field
- Researching new technology and advancements in soil conservation
- Participating on committees for policy, regulation, and research and educational program development
- Inspecting and testing crops and soils, and problem solving with producers and land managers
- Monitoring water control structures, for example ponds, irrigation systems, and small dams
- onducting trial evaluations and comparing the impacts of different crops on the environment
- Making presentations to farmers, agriculture businesses, and other groups, and participating in field tours and training sessions
- Responding to requests from clients
Where to workThere are a number of places soil conservationists can find employment. They include:
- Crop consulting and farm management firms
- Seed or horticulture companies
- Federal, provincial/territorial, or municipal government departments
- Colleges and universities
- Conservation agencies
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a soil conservationist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Soil Science
- Natural Resource Management
- Land Reclamation