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In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 40, 31 December 2022 - 06 January 2023

Become an Agronomist Help Farmers Meet Future Challenges

 

Ranjana Singh

 

If we look at global trends, the range of products derived from agriculture is now staggering. From exotic fruits and vegetables, plants that aide the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry, crops that yield biofuels, to vegan meat and vegan leather, consumers have more varied demand than ever. Additionally, with the increasing emphasis on food security, poverty alleviation efforts, and climate change mitigation, sustainable agronomic practices to increase crop productivity has become an inalienable part of development goals. Therefore, as the agriculture sector works to feed the ever growing population, meet the demands for new and different products while averting the perils of over-exploitation of resources, agronomists are in demand more than ever before.

 

Who is an Agronomist? 'Agronomy' has been derived from the Greek derivatives 'Agros' and 'nomos' which respectively mean 'field' and 'management'. Therefore, Agronomy is basically the science and technology behind maintaining conditions in the field that are conducive for a great harvest of crop. Agronomy considers the whole range of influences on crop production, including climate and adaptation, soil, water and water availability, crop genetics, the properties of the soil and how the soil interacts with the growing crop; what nutrients the crop needs; the ways that crops grow and develop; and how best to control weeds, insects, fungi, and other crop pests. Non-biological considerations such as economic requirements and consumer and farmer behavior also inform agronomic practices, as do environmental constraints. An agronomist develops efficient farming and crop growth practices that allow farmers to maximise their crop production. An agronomist may specialise in different areas such as soil science, plant genetics, sustainable development and research. While their day-to-day tasks may vary, most soil and crop scientists have the following responsibilities:

·         Conducting R&D (research and development) of methods to improve the production of different variety of crops.

·         Interacting with local farmers to discuss different cropping practices and farm improvements

·         Monitoring plant growth and plant health.

·         Soil testing to determine a crop's nutrient requirement.

·         Identifying methods to protect plants from stressors.

·         Developing environment-friendly ideas and farm practices.

·         Assisting in seeds testing, sourcing and selection.

·         Examining crops for signs of diseases.

·         Maintaining records of key findings and colleting samples to improve next-generation crops.

·         Comparing research results with already published studies to find viable solutions to problems

·         Sensitising farmers and related groups on crop research information.

Where do we Find Agronomists?: Agronomists often specialise in areas such as irrigation/water science, soil fertility, plant breeding, plant physiology, crop management, economics, and pest control, but have the capability of addressing and integrating all of the multiple areas impacting crop production. Therefore, we can find agronomists in the laboratories of agricultural research institutes, educational institutions, private companies, in the farms, as educators and as advisers to governmental and nongovernmental organisations working in the domain of agriculture and allied activities. Agronomists in private industry usually work for companies that sell agricultural products or services, such as seed companies, agro-chemical companies, and fertiliser companies. They may also work for consulting firms that advise farmers on how to use these products. Agronomists in government work for local, state, or federal agencies. They may help develop and implement policies to protect the environment or to ensure the safety of food products. Agronomists in educational institutions conduct research or teach courses in agronomy, crop science, and soil science. Agronomists also play crucial roles as advisers and policy makers dealing with critical issues of global concern, including food and water security, air quality and climate change, soil and water conservation, rural communities and economic growth, health and nutrition, wildlife conservation and many other areas of public concern.

How to Become an Agronomist? : Agronomists typically need a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. However, some research positions may require a master's degree. Agronomists who wish to teach at the college level must have a doctorate. The following are the basic steps one need to take in order to pursue a career in Agronomy.

·         Complete 10+2 with Science and Mathematics

·         Pursue an undergraduate degree in agriculture or a related field: One of the most common degrees is Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, which is a three-year undergraduate programme. Admission to these courses usually happens through an entrance examination. Many colleges conduct their own unique admission tests while others have to follow the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) route.

·         Complete your master's degree: A Master of Science degree can be beneficial for agronomists who want to enter the field of research. To get admission in an M.Sc. degree course, you typically need a bachelor's degree in agriculture, agronomy or a related subject.

·         Internship: By undergoing an internship, one can gain experience and learn about the job roles and responsibilities in an organisational set up. There are various companies, educational institutions and government agencies that hire graduates as interns. Most internship positions will involve working with a senior agronomist or working as a research assistant in a lab.

·         Get certified: If you do not have a degree in agriculture or a related field but still want to become an agronomist, the best route for you is to join the India CCA (Certified Crop Advisor) progamme. The CCA programme is a training, evaluation and certification programme for agriculture professionals with the objective of strengthening the agricultural extension system of the country. The India CCA programme under the umbrella of the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) programme has been developed by the collaboration of American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) under Cereal System Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) - a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development and the World Bank. The local administrator of the program is the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP) who works in collaboration with the India CCA Board and CCA program manager

·         Search and apply for jobs: After gaining the requisite qualifications, experience and certification, you can create a CV detailing your key skills related to agronomy. Look for job openings and file your applications.

Skills-set Required to Become an Agronomist

·         Understanding of agricultural economics: Understanding the economies of scale of the agriculture sector and the farmer's expected cost and revenue can be essential for crop scientists. It can be key to know how farmers manage their enterprise, marketing and production risks to affect their bottom line. Employers sometimes prefer candidates with mastery of agricultural economics, as it helps in finding the most viable solution to an agricultural problem.

·         Analytical and mathematical skill: Being able to gather and analyse data related to agriculture is an important skill for an agronomist. Having a background in maths or statistics is valuable, as you may have to calculate input rates, field area, equipment calibration and set valid field comparisons. When hiring a crop scientist, employers often prefer candidates who can integrate collected data and derive meaningful insights from it. Data analytics is becoming an increasingly important part of agriculture as farmers become more interested in using data to make decisions about what crops to plant, where to plant them, and how to manage them once they are planted. Agronomists who are able to use data analytics to make better decisions about farming will be in high demand, as farmers will want to hire professionals who can help them get the most out of their crops.

·         Technical skills: Technical skills are the ability to understand and operate complex equipment, software and machinery. An agronomist invariably needs to have an understanding of the various technical and technological interventions and systems used in an agricultural farm, laboratory or agribusiness set up

·         Communication skills: Effective communication skills can help agronomists convey their ideas clearly and concisely as they need to frequently interact with farmers, scientists and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector. They also use communication skills to explain scientific concepts to the public and the media.

·         Problem-solving skills: Agronomists use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to issues that affect crop production. They may use their problem-solving skills to find ways to increase crop yields, reduce the need for pesticides or find ways to improve soil quality

·         Teamwork and Leadership skills: Agronomists often work in teams with other professionals, such as soil scientists, plant pathologists and engineers. Leadership skills can help them manage and motivate a team to complete a project or task. Leadership skills can also help them in mentoring and training new agronomists.

Work Environment and Challenges: Agronomists work in a variety of settings, including farms, greenhouses, nurseries, educational institutions, and research laboratories. They may also work in offices, where they spend time writing reports, analysing data, and preparing proposals. Some agronomists travel to other countries to study foreign agricultural systems and to consult with other agronomists. The work can be physically demanding, and agronomists may be exposed to hazardous materials, such as pesticides and herbicides. They may also be exposed to extreme weather conditions, such as heat, cold, and dust

Popular Courses in Agronomics

B.Sc. (Agriculture) Agronomy: Course Highlights

Program Full Name : Bachelor of Science in Agronomy

Program Level : Undergraduate Degree

Duration of the Program: 4 Years

Examination Type: Semester

Eligibility: 12th PCM/PCB

Admission Process: Entrance Test

M.Sc. Agronomy: Course Highlights

Program Full Name: Master of Science (Agriculture) in Agronomy

Program Level: Post Graduate Degree

Duration of the Program: 2 Years

Examination Type: Semester

Minimum Eligibility: Bachelor's degree in science with Biology, Maths and Chemistry as main subjects Admission Process: Entrance Test/ Merit Based

PhD Agronomy: Course Highlights

Course Level: Doctorate

Full-Form: Doctor in Philosophy in Agronomy

Duration: 3 years

Examination type: Semester

Eligibility: Masters Degree

Admission Process: Merit/Entrance Based

 

Top Indian Colleges and Universities Offering Education in Agronomics

·         Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana

·         Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad

·         GBPUAT, Pantnagar

·         Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore

·         Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur

·         ICAR - Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi

·         Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri

·         Anand Agricultural University, Anand

·         Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Samastipur

·         Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur

·         Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli

·         IVRI Deemed University, Bareilly

·         CCS HAU, Hisar

·         Birsa Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Ranchi

·         Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (Deemed to be University), Prayagraj

·         ICAR NDRI, Karnal

·         UBKV, Cooch Behar

·         Central Agricultural University, Imphal

·         BAU, Bhagalpur

·         ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Andheri

·         Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University, Hyderabad

·         Information Technology Cell, Junagadh

·         Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Haringhata

·         GADVASU, Ludhiana

·         Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agriculture University, Bikaner

·         Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

·         Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat

·         Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture & Forestry, Nauni

·         Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar

·         Csk Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University, Palampur

·         Mahatma Jyoti Rao Phoole University, Jaipur

·         Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology, Meerut

·         Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth, Parbhani

·         Lovely Professional University, Phagwara

·         University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru

·         Chandra Shekhar Azad University Of Agriculture & Technology, Kanpur

·         KAU, Thrissur

·         Amity University, Noida

·         Siksha 'O' Anusandhan (Deemed to be University), Bhubaneswar

·         University of Calcutta, Kolkata

·         Khalsa College, Amritsar

·         University of Agricultural Sciences, Sports Arena, Dharwad

·         RVSKVV, Gwalior

·         Mewar University, Chittorgarh

·         Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology, Udaipur

·         Vellore Institute of Techno-logy, Vellore

·         Navsari Agricultural Univer-sity, Navsari

·         Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

·         Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University, Palanpur

(The list is purely indicative)

 

Over the past 60 years, India has changed from a traditional, subsistence oriented agriculture to one based on science and technology. The journey of India's agriculture sector had certain key phases that started with the creation of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), followed by coordinated agronomic trials, fertiliser experiments and soil conservation research. The establishment of State Agricultural Universities and the introduction of coordinated research programmes on high-yielding varieties (HYVs) further strengthened agronomic research and interventions. Further, the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), was established, leading to the development of a national system of Farming Systems Research (FSR). In 1972, ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the SemiArid Tropics) - an international organisation which conducts agricultural research for rural development, was established with its headquarters in India's Patancheruvu. One of the mandates of ICRISAT was to develop the concept of integrating the management technologies for various components of climate, soil, water and crops with a farmers' perspective. Following this, mechanisms for strengthening on-farm research were emphasised so as to provide stronger linkages between researchers, extension workers and farmers. In all these developments, agronomists had crucial roles to play. In present times, while India has made steady progress in bridging the gap between the problems and solutions of its agriculture sector, the country's focus is now shifting towards prioritising more sustainable ways of farming. Hence, pursuing a career in agronomy is not only a great way to contribute towards the modernisation and growth of the agriculture sector but also to enter the ever-growing market of green jobs and play an active role in tackling climate change.

 

(The author is an educationist and entre-preneur. She can be reached at reach.ranjanaS@gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal