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Agronomy is the science of the successful growing of certain land crops, whether it is under dry land conditions or irrigation. Crops include: corn, maize, grain sorghum, peanuts, sunflower, cotton, sugar cane, forage crops and fruit.

Agronomists develop and implement production systems so that economical production is maximized without harming the environment.

They investigate field-crop problems and develop new and improved growing methods for higher yields or better quality. They advise farmers about the best crops and cultivars, crop rotation, fertilizers, field drainage, irrigation, and harvesting techniques and provide information on plant diseases, weed killers and the biological control of insect pests.

Aspects such as the choice of crop and cultivar, preparation of soil, planting of crops, irrigation, protection of the harvests and the harvesting and grading of all agricultural crops are all studied by agronomists. The aim is to effectively manipulate the interaction between plant and environment through the use of correct management practices.

Soil is cultivated and fertilised according to the conditions each crop demands of the soil. Agronomists take climatic conditions of specific regions into consideration since this determines which cultivar should be planted, as well as the planting-time and planting-techniques that should be used.

Plants need to be protected against weeds, diseases and insects. If crops are irrigated, the right amount of water at the right stage of development needs to flow. Finally, crops need to be harvested at the right stage with the correct harvesting techniques to ensure the best quality.

Some agronomists become representatives of manufacturers and show farmers the most effective uses for new products. Some travel to neighbouring countries to help the people increase their food production by means of new techniques.

Other agronomists work on developing new types of grain, legumes, and grasses with techniques that will increase and improve food production and help replenish soil.

Satisfying Aspects
- working outdoors
- helping others
- variety of work
- opportunities to travel

Demanding aspects
- working in remote areas
- sometimes working in unpleasant weather conditions
- frustration with failed research

An agronomists should:
- have interest in agriculture - soil and plants in particular
- enjoy nature and working outdoors
- have scientific interest
- have good aptitude for biology
- have ability to communicate ideas clearly, both in speech and in writing
- have good interpersonal skills, able to work well with people
- be practical and able to adjust well to change
- be enthusiastic and responsible
- have patience and perseverance

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences, Geography, Agricultural Sciences

Degree: The minimum requirement is a four-year BSc (Agric) degree with Agronomy or Plant Production as a major subject - US. Other subjects that may be taken are Plant Physiology, Soil Science, Plant Diseases and Meteorology - UFS, UP, Fort Hare, UKZN, US, NWU.

- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
- Manufacturers of fertilisers, weed killers and agricultural implements
- Seed and plant producers
- Teaching institutions such as universities and agricultural colleges
- Agricultural co-operatives
- Self-employed (consultant)

Career possibilities include research, agricultural extension, education and training, as well as the management of agricultural projects.

Agricultural Research Council
P O Box 8783
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 427-9700 Fax: (012) 342-3948

Department of Agriculture
Private Bag X250
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 319-7328

Agri SA
P O Box 1508
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 322-6980 Fax: (012) 320-0557