Agronomist

Agronomy is the science of the successful growing of certain land crops, whether it is under dry land conditions or irrigation. Crops include: corn, maize, grain sorghum, peanuts, sunflower, cotton, sugar cane, forage crops and fruit.


Agronomists develop and implement production systems so that economical production is maximised without harming the environment. They investigate field-crop problems and develop new and improved growing methods for higher yields or better quality. They advise farmers about the best crops and cultivars, crop rotation, fertilisers, field drainage, irrigation, and harvesting techniques and provide information on plant diseases, weed killers and the biological control of insect pests.

Aspects such as the choice of crop and cultivar, preparation of soil, planting of crops, irrigation, protection of the harvests and the harvesting and grading of all agricultural crops are all studied by agronomists. The aim is to effectively manipulate the interaction between plant and environment through the use of correct management practices.

Soil is cultivated and fertilised according to the conditions each crop demands of the soil. Agronomists take climatic conditions of specific regions into consideration since this determines which cultivar should be planted, as well as the planting-time and planting-techniques that should be used.

Plants need to be protected against weeds, diseases and insects. If crops are irrigated, the right amount of water at the right stage of development needs to flow. Finally, crops need to be harvested at the right stage with the correct harvesting techniques to ensure the best quality.

Some agronomists become representatives of manufacturers and show farmers the most effective uses for new products. Some travel to neighbouring countries to help the people increase their food production by means of new techniques.

Other agronomists work on developing new types of grain, legumes, and grasses with techniques that will increase and improve food production and help replenish soil.


Personal Requirements

  • interest in agriculture - soil and plants in particular
  • enjoy nature and working outdoors
  • scientific interest
  • good aptitude for biology
  • ability to communicate ideas clearly, both in speech and in writing
  • good interpersonal skills, work well with people
  • practical and able to adjust well to change
  • enthusiastic and responsible
  • patience and perseverance


Employment

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
  • seed and plant producers
  • harvest insurers
  • universities and agricultural colleges
  • agricultural co-operatives
  • self-employed, as a consultant

Career possibilities include research, agricultural extension, education and training, as well as the management of agricultural projects.


Getting Started

  • read agricultural journals
  • speak to an agronomist about this type of work
  • find vacation work on a farm or with an agricultural business


Bursaries


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