by Matt McIntosh
Farming is both an art, and a science. For the science part, many farmers turn to trusted professionals in order to build on their own knowledge and experience.
Those professionals are called agronomists – that is, individuals who use a scientific approach to help farmers solve problems and improve production in the field.
Biology and chemistry combined
The science of crop production is called agronomy. As the name implies, an agronomist is someone who studies and applies agronomy.
Being an agronomist involves analyzing a myriad of different things in the field. This includes the type of insects present, soil characteristics, climactic characteristics, topography (what the landscape looks like), weed and disease pressure, crop variety, and more. Agronomists also have to stay up-to-date on what products, equipment, and new research findings are available to farmers in order to do their jobs more effectively.
By understanding such subjects and how they interact with one another, agronomists try to give farmers a better idea of what’s happening in their fields and why – as well as what could happen if different strategies were employed. Overall, agronomists act as a second set of eyes and ideas to compliment the expertise of their farming clients.
Some of these things can be done through the phone, tablet, or computer. However, a lot of agronomic work requires the agronomist to physically visit the field in question. Scouting for insect pests, determining if the crop is mature enough to harvest, or taking soil samples to measure nutrients are just three of many examples.
Providing a link between research and farming
Agronomists can work for specific companies, as independent business people, or as public research and extension professionals. Like other business advisors, farmers generally pay a fee to the agronomist or company for their services. Demand for agronomists is high, and many people find fulfilling careers in the field.
Agronomists help link farmers with researchers. They consult with farmers and inspect fields to analyze why some parts of a farm are not working and then develop solutions to help. Agronomists not only provide suggestions on the types and amounts of fertilizer for different soil types, how to manage pests and which crops to grow in a given year, but they also help with future planning to ensure farms are sustainable in the long run.