The job role of an agronomist is more exciting than ever before, as agriculture changes to meet evolving food supply issues. To meet these challenges, the agricultural industry is offering great opportunities to those who are committed to developing a long-term career in agronomy.
What is agronomy?
Agronomy is a term used to describe the science surrounding the growing of crops. An agronomist must develop and implement production systems, to ensure farms are able to achieve maximum production levels without causing any damage to the environment.
By using a combination of practical experience and academic knowledge, an agronomist is able to advise farmers on the best methods of crop production. In many scenarios, this could be advice about crop varieties and rotations, soil management or crop protection.
The future of agronomy
The role of agronomists is continually evolving as technology develops and demands change. Agronomy is gradually moving towards a very scientific approach as farming begins to involve new agri-environmental schemes, precision farming techniques and cross compliance issues.
Every agricultural business is unique, with each farm facing different challenges and financial constraints. As the pressure increases on producers, agronomists are having to work closely with farmers to create bespoke plans which suit their individual needs.
What are the career opportunities?
Agronomy is quite a flexible career choice, with some people working as self-employed individuals and others for independent agronomy companies. It is also possible to work within companies linked to agricultural production, such as agro-chemical manufacturing, seed companies and fertiliser developers.
Although many agronomists will be heavily involved with cereal production, some choose to specialise in a particular area, such as soft fruit or vegetables.
What will an average day as an agronomist involve?
An average day will depend on the exact role an agronomist is employed in. For example, they may be required to visit farms to observe crop growth, or they could be based in a laboratory where they will carry out experiments in an effort to improve yield, durability and longevity.
It is important to maintain an excellent knowledge of the latest agricultural practices, so time will be spent communicating with farmers and the research community. This knowledge will be transferred to farming clients to ensure excellent levels of production and environmental sustainability.
When visiting farms, an agronomist will collect crop samples, monitor the characteristics of the soil and observe water levels. This information will then be used to help the agronomist decide upon the most responsive crop management techniques required to improve production. Once a management plan is finalised, the agronomist will be responsible for communicating the findings to farmers and other relevant businesses.
The role will vary slightly for senior agronomists, as they are better suited to management roles. The daily responsibilities of a senior agronomist will include maintaining an effective workplace for the team, managing projects and budgets and also overseeing the activity of the agronomy team. This could also involve visiting farms to supervise fieldwork, liaising with key stakeholders or taking part in quality assurance tasks.
What qualifications do I need to become an agronomist?
Although there are no specific entry requirements to train as an agronomist, it is advisable to hold A-levels in science-based subjects. There are some universities which offer degrees in subjects such as crop science and agronomy. These can be excellent routes into agronomy as many employers will prefer to employ those who hold a degree. Alongside academic qualifications, it is advisable to gain practical agricultural experience.
Once you begin working as an agronomist you will need to complete the essential BASIS and FACTS qualifications. These can be completed while working, so will provide a flexible route to qualification. Those new to the industry should begin with the BASIS Foundation Award. This will provide a great introduction to agronomy and aspects such as crop nutrition and crop protection.
If you have limited agricultural experience or knowledge, this preliminary course is a useful step towards completing the BASIS certificate in crop protection. Depending on your preferred area of work, this can be tailored to standard agricultural crops or vegetables. It is a legal requirement for anyone selling or advising on the use of pesticides in the UK to hold a BASIS certificate in crop protection.
The FACTS certificate will provide students with a sound understanding of crop nutrition. This will enable those who hold the certificate to provide recommendations for the use of fertilisers, which are considerate to the environment and the finances of the business.
As you work your way through these qualifications and gain valuable work experience it is possible to study a variety of advanced courses. Most agronomists will eventually complete the BASIS Diploma in Agronomy.
What personal skills will assist with a career in agronomy?
An agronomist will work with a variety of people on a daily basis, so brilliant inter-personal skills are essential. In addition, you should be enthusiastic, keen to learn and self-motivated. There will be large periods of time when you will be working outdoors in all weathers, so you will need resilience and find it enjoyable to be outside. Although most working hours will be Monday to Friday from 9am until 5pm, the industry is not predictable so flexibility will be required.
What is the average salary for an agronomist?
The starting salary for an agronomist will vary between £20,000 and £26,000 per annum. However, as an agronomist gains experience and qualifications the salary does increase. Many agronomists build relationships with clients in the industry and the demand for their services can push their salary to between £35,000 and £45,000 per annum. A senior agronomist can expect to earn in the region of £50,000-£100,000. Many companies will also provide benefits such as a company car, health insurance and a generous pension scheme.
As agronomists are in such high demand, we are pleased to be able to offer a variety of agronomy jobs. If you are interested in finding out more about becoming an agronomist or the potential positions we have available, please contact our experienced team today.
If you are looking for a new job or to progress your career, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are worldwide recruitment experts in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk
Alternatively, if you are a client looking to expand your team, whilst using a professional recruitment / headhunting solution, then please call us today on 01905 345155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk