The role of the agronomist is growing and changing as agriculture faces the challenges of the 21st century.
The industry is actively seeking people to join the profession, making it an exciting career choice with huge opportunities.
An agronomist advises farmers on crop production requiring a pragmatic approach with a combination of practical and academic knowledge.
Traditionally, this has involved advice on crop protection, varieties, rotations and soil management. But in recent years agronomy has evolved into a much more scientific process and increasingly agronomists are assisting with issues such as agri-environmental schemes, nutrient management plans, precision farming techniques and cross compliance.
Every farm business is different and this involves working closely with farmers and tailoring plans to their individual requirements and monitoring the financial impact of the changes that they propose.
Agronomists can work as individuals, for independent companies or for manufacturing or distributor companies linked to agro-chemicals, seed or fertiliser.
There are also opportunities to specialise in areas other than cereals, such as vegetables, soft fruit or the amenity sector.
How can I become an agronomist?
There are no specific entry requirements into the sector although an A level in biology and/or a strong interest in science is advantageous.
An agricultural degree is preferred by some employers and some universities offer agronomy/crop management at degree level.
General agricultural knowledge and work experience within the industry is considered most important and a number of companies offer training schemes and bursaries.
BASIS and FACTS qualifications are essential, but are usually taken as part of ‘on the job’ training.
New entrants to the industry can study the BASIS Foundation Award in Agronomy. The foundation level courses are a sound introduction to agronomy, integrated crop protection and crop nutrition.
For some people at the start of their career with limited crop experience and knowledge, it serves as a preliminary course for the BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection Course (Agriculture or Vegetables).
The BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection is a legal requirement for anyone advising on or selling pesticides in the UK.
The FACTS certificate looks at crop nutrition and teaches candidates to write recommendations for fertiliser use, which are both economically and environmentally sound.
Many agronomists continue to improve their knowledge studying advanced courses and go on to achieve the BASIS Diploma in Agronomy.
Excellent inter-personal and communication skills are important, as is enthusiasm, self-motivation and computer literacy.
The job can entail long hours, in all weathers, but there can also be quiet periods. It does, however, offer a varied working environment mainly in the open air.