#DitchTheDesk: What is Agronomy?

Photo of an agronomist with an ipad looking at plants: What is Agronomy?

Do you dream of breaking free from the ordinary and embracing a wilder side? We invite you to join the #DitchTheDesk movement and embark on a journey to reshape the very fabric of our planet with a fulfilling career in agri-food.

Looking for a hands-on career that combines data, technology and communication? Agronomy enables you to utilise communication skills by liaising with farmers, analytical skills through interpreting complex data to enhance crop yield, and offers hands-on work in the field, bridging the gap between scientific innovation and practical farming.

What is Agronomy?

Agronomy is the scientific study of soil management and crop production. It combines a broad range of practices that ensure soil health, water conservation, pest control, and optimal crop yield. Agronomists do more than work in the fields; they combine practical know-how with cutting-edge science to boost food production and protect the environment. Their hands-on approach, whether through genetics or organic farming, makes them essential players in building the future of agriculture.

The Importance

  • Sustainability: Agronomists play a crucial role in developing farming techniques that promote soil health, conserve water, and reduce reliance on chemical inputs. This approach safeguards our ecosystem while enhancing food production.
  • Climate Change Resilience: As experts in soil and plant interaction, agronomists devise strategies to make crops resilient to changing weather patterns and climatic extremes. They contribute to maintaining food supply stability despite environmental challenges.
  • Nutrient Management: By understanding the complex relationship between soil, water, and plants, agronomists help optimise nutrient use, enhancing crop yield while minimising waste and environmental impact.
  • Food Security: Agronomy is essential in the challenges around feeding a growing global population, developing innovative ways to increase productivity without sacrificing quality or sustainability.
  • Research and Innovation: The constant evolution of pests, diseases, and climatic conditions necessitates continuous research. Agronomists are always exploring new frontiers, from crop genetics to precision farming technologies.
  • Bridging the Gap: Agronomists bridge the gap between farmers and scientists, turning research into practical farming methods, thereby enhancing productivity and sustainability while fostering mutual understanding and collaboration.

The Skills

In the UK, aspiring agronomists can complete BASIS and FACTS training to become certified. BASIS (British Agrochemicals Standards Inspection Scheme) training focuses on safe and effective use of pesticides and fertilisers, while FACTS (Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme) provides education on proper nutrient management. Together, these programs equip agronomists with essential knowledge in crop protection, soil fertility, and environmental compliance, aligning with industry standards and best practices.

These training courses are generally open to anyone interested in pursuing a career in agronomy or a related field. These courses are designed for individuals working within the agricultural industry, including farmers, advisors, and those involved in the sale and supply of fertilisers and pesticides. While there may be prerequisites or recommendations for certain levels of education or experience, the training is intended to be accessible to a wide range of participants

The skills required to become a certified agronomist suit a range of talents and abilities:

  • Understanding and Appreciation: Embracing the balance of nature and human needs, developing an appreciation for the environment, and understanding the basic principles of soil and plant interaction.
  • Problem-Solving and Adaptation: Applying critical thinking to devise strategies and solve problems related to weather patterns, crop health, and more. Adaptability to changing conditions is key to successful farming practices.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Working closely with farmers, scientists and other professionals, translating complex ideas into practical solutions, and fostering cooperation and shared understanding between various stakeholders.
  • Technology Integration: A willingness to learn and utilise modern tools and methods, such as basic GIS or remote sensing technologies, to enhance efficiency and sustainability.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Demonstrating a commitment to environmentally responsible practices, recognising the importance of sustainability in agriculture, and developing an understanding of ecological balance.
  • Education, Guidance and Empathy: Sharing knowledge with farmers and the community, offering advice and education on best practices, and possessing strong communication skills to translate scientific concepts into actionable advice. Being able to empathise with the many challenges farmers and growers can face and the pressures they are under as a result of this are key!
  • Science and Data Analysis: Employing analytical skills to interpret scientific data, understand soil and crop patterns, and make informed decisions. This includes a willingness to learn the fundamentals of soil science, plant biology, and data interpretation, translating these insights into on-the-ground agricultural methods.