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How to Become a Plant Scientist: Details You Should Have

Plant Scientist

Plants are one of the most important parts of natural ecology. Life on earth is possible only due to plants. They are a source of food and energy and many other uses too like housing, furniture, materials, medicine, decoration, etc. If you are interested in picking a career related to plants, there are many options like Agriculturists, Horticulturists, Botanists, or Plant Scientist. If you are particularly interested in the research side of all plants used for commercial purpose, plant scientists is a career option you can pick.

Plant Scientists is a specialist who works on crops and plants for human purpose. While a botanist is a broad term, plant scientist is more specific. Botanist is any scientist who studies plants, but Plant Scientist specifically studies plants, trees, crops that are used for agriculture, horticulture, etc. As a plant scientist, you will work to improve the productivity of these plants, help them breed, save them from insect and pest to improve overall economic productivity You will work to come with new technologies to aid production. Some of you will study the soil to improve the production of crops.

Why become a Plant Scientist?

Plant Scientists are the scientist who will work in the field of crop and agriculture management. As a plant scientist, you will work on breeding better crops, improve the production yield of plants, study physiology of plants, etc. You will also study and work on research related to trees, shrubs, nursery plants, their growth in soil, pest management, etc. You will also study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as they relate to plant or crop growth. You will work to maintain the national food supply. You will focus on improving the ways of agriculture, improve the techniques, make agriculture more sustainable. As a plant scientist, you will also work towards the conservation of water and soil.

Below are some of the specializations you may choose from –

  1. Plant Biochemist: Plant Biotechnologists specialise in using scientific tools and techniques like genetic engineering, molecular markers, molecular diagnostics, vaccines, and tissue culture, in modifying living organisms: plants, animals, and microorganisms. A crop biotechnologist is an expert who exports particular trait of one crop to other species of crop.
  2. Plant Ecologist: Plant Ecologists specialise in understanding the distribution of plants. They study the soil, environment, and works of the increasing plantation of agricultural plants in the right environment. They use research to find a new environment where a plant can be grown. They also survey ecosystems and assess the diversity, profusion, and behaviour of the different organisms within them.
  3. Scientist (Plant Genetics & Breeding): Plant Genetics & Breeding Scientists specialise in changing the traits of plants by changing its genes through breeding. Scientists do this to produce new breeds of plants that are economically viable, more productive in terms of agriculture and more resistive to insects’ attack or diseases.
  4. Plant Physiologist: A Plant Physiologist is a scientist who specialises in studying functions of plants. They study Fundamental processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, plant nutrition, plant hormone functions, seed germination, etc.
  5. Agronomist: Agronomists are an agriculture scientist who specialises in using plants for human production of food, fuel, fibre, etc. They do research on seeds, fertilizers, soil, plant breeding, technologies to ensure plants can be used in an optimal way. Agronomists are involved in various agricultural issues like producing food, creating healthier food, managing the environmental impact of agriculture, extracting energy from plants, crop rotation, irrigation and drainage, plant breeding, plant physiology, soil classification, soil fertility, weed control, and insect and pest control.
  6. Horticulturist: Horticulturists specialise in cultivating of plants for fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. They work in the field of plant conservation, landscape restoration, soil management, landscape and garden design, construction, and maintenance.

What does Plant Scientist do?

As a Plant Scientist, depending on your field of specialisation, you would have the following roles and responsibilities:

  • You will educate farmers and landowners about the ways in which they can best utilise the land, promote healthy growth of plants and avoid the problem of erosion. They will give them recommendations for the same.
  • You will develop methods and products that are environmentally safe to eliminate weed, crops diseases or insect pests.
  • You will communicate research or project results to other professionals or the public or teach related courses, seminars, or workshops.
  • You will conduct experiments to develop new or improved varieties of field crops, focusing on characteristics such as yield, quality, disease resistance, nutritional value, or adaptation to specific soils or climates.

How to become a Plant scientist – Eligibility criteria

To become a plant scientist you need –

Undergraduate studies after school:

To become a plant scientist, you should complete your schooling with Biology, Chemistry, and Physics and join for an undergraduate course of Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology / Zoology/ Botany / Fisheries/ Dairying / Plant Science / Plant Biotechnology / similar field, etc.  

Alternatively, you can study Horticulture / Agriculture / Floriculture / Forestry / similar field in 4 years B.Sc. course.

Post Graduate studies:

After finishing graduation, you can take the M.Sc. course in the various field of Plant Science. At this level you will study any of the following specializations like Agriculture, Horticulture, Floriculture, Bioinformatics, Plant Ecology, Nematology, Phytochemistry, Plant Biochemistry, Plant Biology, Plant Biotechnology, Plant Breeding & Genetics, Plant Genetic Resources, Plant Microbiology, Plant Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Plant Physiology, etc.

Doctoral Studies:

The Plant Scientist is a specialised scientist, and thus research becomes an important part of the pathway. Thus, after completing Post Graduate Studies, you can choose to take a Ph.D. in Vegetable Science, Fruit Science, Sericulture, Bioinformatics, Plant Ecology, Nematology, Phytochemistry, Plant Biochemistry, Plant Biology, Plant Biotechnology, Plant Breeding & Genetics, Plant Genetic Resources, Plant Microbiology, Plant Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Plant Physiology, etc.

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Educational Fees

The educational fees for becoming a plant scientist in India can vary depending on the institution and the program you choose. Generally, a Bachelor’s degree in plant sciences can cost anywhere between INR 50,000 to INR 2 lakhs per year. A Master’s degree in the same field can cost between INR 1 lakh to INR 3 lakhs per year. For pursuing a Ph.D. in plant sciences, the fees can range from INR 10,000 to INR 1 lakh per year depending on the institution. Additionally, there may be other costs associated with textbooks, laboratory fees, and accommodation. Some universities also offer scholarships and financial aid to deserving students.

Job Opportunities

Most of the universities and college will hire you as a professor at the position of Junior Professor or Assistant Professor. If you are into research, then you will be hired at the position of research associate. Ph.D. research fellows will be hired as a Junior Research Fellow.

Research laboratories and Research Institutes will hire you as a scientist/scientist officer with the lowest grade (Grade C).

Plant Scientist at private organizations into agrarian solutions, agriculture products, MNCs using the plant as raw material, herbal product companies.

You can find job opportunities at the following facilities:

  • Agricultural Research Organizations and institutes.
  • National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries
  • Agriculture, Plant Science, and related colleges and universities.
  • Research centres and laboratories like National Institute of Plant Research Genome.
  • Fertiliser Plants
  • Private agrarian solutions companies like Cropdata Technology Private Limited.
  • Herbal Products company like toothpaste manufacturers, Patanjali, Dabur, etc.

Salary of plant scientist

At the entry level, you can join as a research associate with a basic salary of Rs. 25,000 INR to 30,000. As a doctoral research fellow (junior research fellow) you would be earning around Rs. 35,000 to 38,000 per month. At the entry level, as a Scientist (grade C) you would be earning around Rs. 80,000 to 100,000 per month. As an assistant professor, you would be earning anything between Rs. 65,000 INR to 70,000 per month. As a scientist in private companies, you will earn anything between Rs. 25,000 to 1,00,000 per month.

At the junior level with a work experience of 2-6 years, you would be earning anything between Rs. 1,20,000 INR to 1,40,000 per month.

At the middle level with an experience of 10-12 years, you would be earning anything between Rs. 1,40,000 to 1,90,000 per month as a scientist and Rs. 1,20,000 INR to 1,60,000 as a professor.

At the senior level of over 15 years of work experience, you would be earning anything between Rs. 1,60,000 to 2,00,000 per month as a professor and Rs. 2,10,000 to 2,50,000 per month as a Scientist.

Career progression in plant scientist

Research laboratories will hire you as a scientist/scientist officer with the lowest grade and the grade changes from low to high. In India, grades are “Scientist “C” as the joining level and then D, E, F, G, H and finally DS. A senior-level scientist can also get into administrative positions like Principal Scientist, Assistant Director, Deputy Director, Director, etc.

The career growth in university and college states from Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor, Professor and Professor Emeritus. Professors can also get administrative positions such as Director/Dean/Vice Chancellor, etc.

If you are recruited as a research associate (JRF and SRF), then you will go on to become a Doctoral Research Fellow, then Post-Doctoral Research Fellow and then Scientist in Progressive Grades.

If you join a private organisation in the field of agriculture, fertilizers, etc. as a research scientist, then you will move to senior research scientist and principal scientist with work experience.

Agricultural is still the primary source of livelihood for 58% of the Indian population. The share of Agriculture in GDP is around Rs. 17.67 trillion. With over 130 crore people depending for food, agriculture is by far one of the most important industry in India. With limited scope in an increase in agriculture land, the reforms to improve sector come through scientific reforms. Thus, the role of plant scientists, agriculture scientists have been acknowledged. Even Government has initiated Agri-Udaan as a way to promote agriculture start-ups. While the Government has seen the vision of doubling farmers income by 2022, they can only be achieved by implementing more reforms in agricultural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, warehousing, and cold storage. Many of these reforms require a large number of agriculture scientists.

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