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How to Establish a Career as an Agronomist: An Ultimate Guide

Agronomist

Have you always loved potting plants at your home? Do you even talk to them? How would you like to be an expert in soil management and crops typically used in India or even globally? Do you wish to study the science behind traditional agricultural practices? Then a career in Agronomy should suit you. Explore to find what Agronomists do, how they do it, and how to become an Agronomist.

Agronomists are soil and crop scientists who work to improve the productivity of agricultural soil to ensure higher farm yield from the same amount of land. Agronomy deals with the study of crops and the soil in which they grow as well as the influence of climatic variations on agricultural output. As an Agronomist, you will work to ensure the high fertility of the seeds as well as the land.

Why become an Agronomist?

Agronomists are soil and crop scientists who work to improve the productivity of agricultural soil to ensure higher farm yield from the same amount of land. Agronomy deals with the study of crops and the soil in which they grow as well as the influence of climatic variations on agricultural output. As an Agronomist, you will work to ensure the high fertility of the seeds as well as the land.

As an Agronomist, you will be studying soil, seeds, plants, crops, and other agro-based products to better understand farm needs and plan more efficient and effective farming practices. You will be responsible for finding effective solutions for the farming and food industry. You may take samples to make observations, conduct research or field checks, and identify and solve issues associated with plant or soil nutrition, damage caused by insects or wildlife, weather or climate differences, or the use of pesticides, fertilizers, etc.

After completing your education in Agricultural Sciences or related fields, you may be involved in research and developmental activities (lab experiments) in a laboratory setting or you may also do field-based or office-based work including looking for information virtually (on the Internet) or interacting with farmers and agricultural workers to collect real-time production data (their personal experiences and to collect soil or crop samples) for work projects.

Below are some of the specializations you may choose from –

  1. Crops Specialist: Crops Specialists focus on varieties of crops (food – vegetables, cattle feed, turf – rice, wheat, and fiber crops – jute, cotton), their use, benefits over other crop types, commercial factors involved, necessary growth factors, seeds procurement, crop harvest and several other related subjects. Various domains like breeding, genetics, production, and management of crops are involved.
  2. Agricultural Land Use Consultant / Soil Scientist: Soil Scientists apply their knowledge/experience and work on soil chemistry, their components, soil fortification (adding essential value to soil), benefits of certain types of soil over other types, involved operating farming processes, and several other related subjects. They are qualified to assess soils and soil-related data. Various domains like breeding, genetics, production, and management are involved.
  3. Agricultural Climatologist: Agricultural Climatologists play a crucial role in studying and analyzing how certain climatic types influence specific types of crops, plants and cattle including operating methods, depending on geographic location and other factors. They address questions like whether the precipitation is ‘too wet or dry’, the temperature is ‘too warm or cold’ etc.

What does Agronomist do?

As an Agronomist, you will be engaged with one or more of the following roles and responsibilities: –

  • You will be involved in studies and analyses concerning crops (food – vegetables, cattle feed, turf – rice, wheat, and fiber crops – jute, cotton), types of soil, climatic variations and their influence on agricultural activities and processes.
  • You will be working on increasing the productivity, yield & distribution of farm yields by studying the resistance to insects / diseases in crops, most suitable pesticides for a particular crop / soil, creating new and better plant / hybrid products with dedicated research, preservation of desirable qualities in different soil types.
  • You will be involved in developing plans for proper disposal or partial use of animal waste, prevention of soil erosion, and reduction in use of harmful chemicals.
  • You will be observing action of microbes upon soil and living tissues of crop plants.
  • You will be involved in monitoring or performing tests on crop specimens, soil samples, and water for detecting harmful microorganisms or for obtaining information about pesticides, chemicals or infectants.
  • You will be investigating the relationships between varieties of crops with associated climatic (precipitation, temperature etc.) and soil conditions, the effects of pesticides and fertilizers on crops.
  • You will be operating or monitoring the use of a variety of specialized laboratory techniques and equipments.
  • You will be preparing or supervising the preparation of technical reports and compilations based upon research outcomes.
  • You will be coordinating with participating agricultural scientists, agronomists, other biological technologists, technicians, agricultural workers, investors, clients etc.
  • You will be involved in conducting research regarding new technologies, experimental techniques, instruments and laboratory supplies that can improve agricultural standards as well as operating procedures and outcomes.
  • You will be ensuring that no harm is posed to the larger ecosystem while tweaking the traditional agricultural processes during your research or work activities.

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How to become an Agronomist– Eligibility criteria

After Class 11-12, you can go for a Bachelor degree in Sciences (B. Sc) or Integrated M. Sc programs.

After your graduation, you can go for a Master level program (M. Sc) or Integrated Ph. D programs.

You may also opt for post-Doctoral studies after obtaining a Ph. D.

Various private/public educational establishments offer these or related courses:

  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Agronomy
  • Crop Sciences
  • Soil Sciences
  • Agricultural Biochemistry
  • Agricultural Biotechnology
  • Agricultural Chemicals
  • Agricultural Chemistry
  • Organic Farming
  • Plantation, Spices, Medicinal and Aromatic Crops
  • Post Harvest Technology
  • Seed Sciences & Technology
  • Agricultural Entomology
  • Agricultural Microbiology
  • Agricultural Physics
  • Agroforestry
  • Brewing Science
  • Floriculture
  • Floriculture & Landscape Architecture
  • Fruit Science
  • Horticultural Entomology
  • Horticultural Plant Pathology
  • Horticulture
  • Irrigation Science
  • Landscaping (Horticulture)
  • Sericulture
  • Vegetable Science
  • Water Sciences & Technology
  • Watershed Management
  • Weed Science

Educational Fees

To become an agronomist in India, one needs to have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Agronomy or related fields such as Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering, or Plant Sciences. The educational fees for these programs can vary depending on the institution, location, and the program’s duration. On average, a Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy can cost anywhere between INR 50,000 to INR 2 lakhs per year, while the cost of a Master’s degree can range from INR 1 lakh to INR 3 lakhs per year.

Job Opportunities

You may be involved in research-based roles working in a laboratory (Research and Development) or in an office (virtual research on the Internet – secondary research) for various private and Government run companies. There are various multinational companies like DuPont India, Rallies India Limited, Lemken India Agro Equipments Private Limited, John Deere, Monsanto India etc. which operate in the Agriculture and Agro-based products sector.

You can find work in colleges, universities, research institutes, agricultural / agri-based production companies or allied companies, agri-testing laboratories, market research consultancies etc. as:

  • Agronomist
  • Crop consultant
  • Agronomist Sales
  • Lab Technician
  • Food development technician
  • Soil & Water conservationist
  • Soil classifier
  • Crop Production Specialist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Farm Manager
  • Fertilizer Plant Manager
  • Land Use Consultant
  • Market Analyst
  • Government Land Use Instructor
  • Soil Management Specialist

Salary of an Agronomist

In the entry-level jobs: you may expect about 15,000.00 – Rs. 45, 000.00 or more per month.

After having 1-6 years of experience, you may expect about Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 60, 000 per month or more.

After having 6-12 years of experience, you may expect about Rs. 30,000.00 – Rs. 1, 50,000 per month or more.

In the senior level jobs, with 13+ years of work experience, you may expect to get about Rs. 80,000 – Rs. 2, 00,000 per month or even more depending upon your position and the company you are working with.

There is a lot of demand abroad for experienced Agronomists abroad in the Life Sciences and Biotechnology field, especially in the competitive era today where every company has to stay ahead in the fight. Analysts are being recruited for office-based work even after they complete their Ph. D being in the age range of 40-50. After having 2-5 years of work experience, you can earn about Rs. 50,000 – 80,000 or more per month in such market research-based jobs and after having, 7-12 years of work experience, you can earn about Rs. 1, 50, 000 – 3, 00, 000 or even more per month

Career progression in Agronomist

From entry-level positions you may progress to be Senior Soil Scientist, Research Lead, Project Supervisor, Lead Scientist, Primary Competitive Intelligence Head, Secondary Competitive Intelligence Manager, Market Research Chief or in similar positions.

If you are in the Academia, you may progress to become a full-time professor and later a Senior Lecturer or the Head of Department in various universities or research institutes.

You may also write books related to your research domain and on allied subjects addressing various topics of popular interest or otherwise.

The road ahead for this career pathway seems uphill. Agriculture and allied industries constitute a situational priority of the Indian Government especially when the population is burgeoning. By 2022, the Agriculture Export Policy aims to increase India’s agricultural exports to 60 billion US Dollars if under optimistic growth scenario. The country is also the world’s 2nd largest fruit producer after China. Indian Food and Retail market is expected to reach 482 billion S Dollars by FY 2020. The Food Processing sector in India is expected to generate employment for over 9 million people countrywide by 2024. By 2020, the global Packaged Food market will be worth approximately 3.03 trillion US Dollars.

The Indian Life Sciences industry is expected to sustain a growth rate of 11 to 12% and reach around 8 times its current size to grow to approximately 200 billion US Dollars by 2030. This growth trajectory is expected to remain more or less uniform throughout this period. This will contribute to the country’s trade balance 5 to 6 times more than it does now to an approximate amount of 60 billion US Dollars by 2030. This will also help in neutralizing India’s energy imports to a decent 15% (approx.) by 2030. The Indian Biotechnology industry has the potential to grow to a decent size of 100 billion US Dollars by 2025. Biopharma is so far the largest sector contributing about 62% of the total revenue distantly followed by bio-services (18%), bio-agri (15%). Britain and India will witness a research partnership of 544 billion US Dollars by 2021. Engineering R&D (Research and Development) together with the product development market in India is predicted to grow at a rate of 10.67% compounded annually to reach 42 billion US Dollars by 2022.

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