13 March 2023 – Are you a problem-solver who likes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and getting hands-on with real-world challenges? You may be surprised that agronomy could be your calling.
Many people assume agronomy is the same as farming. Some farmers may be agronomists, but it’s not always the reverse. There’s a lot related to farming that doesn’t happen in the field.
What is Agronomy?
Agronomy is the science of growing crops for food, fuel, fiber, and animal feed. And today’s agronomic science involves a lot more than a tractor.
Agronomy students explore plant biology, soil science, weed management, crop production systems, and a host of technologies and informatics that are quickly becoming industry standards, including global positioning systems (GPS); geographic information systems (GIS); drones and robotics; data analytics; and remote sensing.
Agronomy is hands-on, high-tech life science.
7 Signs an Agronomy College Major Is For You
- You’d wilt in a cubicle. Agronomy demands lab knowledge and field experience. No matter which career path you follow, you’ll need an outdoor perspective. Even if you never drive a tractor, field-based agronomy thrives in beautiful outdoor places.
- You want to see and touch your work. “Agronomy is applied biology,” said crop science professor Keith Edmisten. It’s the real-world application of life science that supports fundamental human needs. For those who love to get hands-on, agronomy lets you use all your senses to produce products people use every day.
- You want to be essential. Agriculture produces the products no one wants to be without. There’s job security in that kind of demand. The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency designated 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including food & agriculture, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, agriculture was designated as an essential infrastructure operation for continued work in NC during the state’s 2020 shelter-in-place order. Both underscore the importance of agriculture operations.
- You want a piece of North Carolina’s biggest industry. NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler forecasts agriculture to become a $100 billion industry in the state during his tenure. From biotechnology giants to our state’s 46,000 farms to entrepreneurial crop consultants, over 20% of NC’s labor force works in agriculture. As ag technology expands and food production demand increases, so do the job opportunities.
- You want to make a difference in global challenges. To feed the world’s growing population, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization projects that food production needs to increase 60% by 2050 to feed the expected 9.3B world population. Meeting this global need requires the knowledge, production, and assets to support human life and healthy ecosystems. It’s satisfying work that connects people with our most basic needs. “Our agronomy graduates are prepared to address food, feed, fiber, and specialty crop needs–both local and global–in environmentally responsible ways,” said Bob Patterson, Professor of Crop Science. “Our faculty and students share a common passion for identifying and solving the problems confronting crop producers both in North Carolina and also in other parts of our world to fundamentally address food crop security.”
- You want to start (or continue) a family legacy. Agriculture is an inherited passion in some families, but it’s also contagious. “You don’t need to grow up on a farm to study or even practice agronomy,” said David Crouse, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences’ Director of Undergraduate Programs. “Many of our students who are interested in feeding and clothing the world come from urban areas and can return there to make their mark in agronomy. Some of the largest agri-businesses in the world have major operations nestled in the pine trees between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.”
- You’re good at biology, chemistry, or geocaching and … gaming? Agronomy is rooted in plant science and quickly becoming a high-tech field combining science and technology. “Today’s Agronomist needs to be as comfortable with a computer and data as they are with a tractor and seed,” says Rob Austin, GIS and Precision Agricultural Specialist. “Operating a GPS to collect site-specific soil samples or flying a drone to determine in-season crop performance is becoming commonplace.” Austin teaches these skills and more in his undergraduate course “GIS in Soils and Agriculture.” His students are introduced to technologies that support precision agriculture and learn how to use on-farm data in agronomic decision-making. These technologies are vital tools that equip agronomists for emerging needs in this industry.
What Careers are Available in Agronomy?
What if you don’t want to be a farmer? No problem.
Agronomy may culminate in the farm field, but there is an entire agribusiness industry that requires agronomic expertise — without owning land or farm equipment.
“Agronomy gives you the understanding of what it takes to manage land and produce yield,” said Matt Winslow, Director of Research at Tidewater Agronomics. “Many grads may ultimately become farmers, but agronomy is an excellent way to get the fundamentals of all of the categories involved in agriculture: soil science, weed science, plant physiology, and even chemistry all tie together. In this industry, we all use those principles to grow a good crop, or make the decisions that grow a good crop.”
Agronomy graduates often pursue careers as:
- Plant breeder
- Chemical, fertilizer, and seed sales representative
- County extension agent
- Contract field research advisor
- Crop consultant, advisor, scout
- Farm, grain broker/buyer
- Farm insurance agent
- Natural resources conservationist
- Precision agriculture specialist
- Agri-research technician
Source : https://cals.ncsu.edu/
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