Crops like corn, wheat and soybeans are important to the food chain. Agronomists, or plant and soil scientists, use their knowledge and skills to improve and sustain these and other crops. They study the effects of soil health and the environment on plant growth, and figure out how to deter pests, control plant diseases and grow hardier plant species. Agronomists work for governments, research institutions and farmers, so customer service is also an important part of the job.
Soil Health and Nutrition
Healthy soils are essential to crop growth. Agronomists monitor soil conditions and evaluate parameters such as organic matter, compaction, drainage and moisture content. They collect soil samples to determine if the soil has a proper level of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Sample collection and testing are important because the presence of nutrients is not something that can be assessed visually. Depending on analysis results, agronomists may make recommendations on soil modifications, including adding agricultural chemicals and fertilizers.
Weed, Pest and Disease Control
Agronomists also work to control insects, weeds and diseases that impact crop growth. Weeds take water and soil nutrients from crops and rob them of needed sunlight. Insects and disease destroy crops. Agronomists make regular field checks to inspect and monitor the overall health of crops and look for signs of infestation or damage. They determine the right method of control for weeds, pests and disease. They may recommend certain herbicides and insecticides, or the use of crop rotation or certified seeds.
Strong and Hardy Hybrids
Agronomists work with other agricultural scientists to explore and create plant variations or hybrids to improve crop yields. Plant hybrids bring value to agriculture because they are more resilient and disease resistant. The genetic make-up of hybrid plants reduces the occurrences and severity of common crop diseases, thereby improving crop production. Agronomists use their knowledge and understanding of plant diseases, plus scientific research, to develop and grow plant varieties that are hardier and more beneficial to crop growers.
Customer Assistance and Education
Agronomists provide customer consultations regarding sustainable crop growth and crop management. They may deliver educational seminars, workshops and presentations to keep their customers informed about new or improved yield improvement techniques, including the use of hybrids, new soil management practices and insect control products. In order to provide timely and accurate advice to the agricultural community they serve, agronomists have the duty to keep abreast of new and developing agriculture trends.
- O*Net Online Resource Center: Summary Report for 19-1013.00 - Soil and Plant Scientists
- West Virginia University: Division of Plant and Soil Sciences - Agronomy
- Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: Soil Organic Matter
- Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: Plant Nutrients
- Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: Monitoring the Crop for Pest Damage
- Photo Credit Putu Sayoga/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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