Agronomy and Crop Science
Over the last few years, the French ran out of violet garlic, and the Italians faced a basil crisis when hailstones the size of golf balls smashed the main crop in Liguaria and there was an acute pesto shortfall. The recent warm winters and wet summers in Britain have contributed to a decimated rhubarb crop and the price of bread, cereals and vegetables soaring.
A recent Stern review of climate change highlights, with the utmost gravity, the consequences of global warming and of doing nothing to reduce global carbon emissions. The report points to temperature rises that will transform the physical geography of the planet and the way we live, to increasingly frequent floods, disease, storms and water shortages, massive disruption to agriculture and global food shortages. If the global temperature increases by four degrees centigrade, Stern predicts that Australian agriculture will end, half the Arctic tundra will disappear, and agricultural yields in Africa will be down by 35 per cent: up to three million more people will die of malnutrition.
International agriculture is currently developing fast, bringing an increasing demand for agriculturalists and crop production specialists such as agronomists with technical expertise and an understanding of the global conditions in which agriculture operates. The work of crop experts to secure food supplies for an increasingly hungry world is reflected in the debate on genetic modification of crops, The urgency to develop new crops as biofuels to replace fossil fuels similarly highlights our dependency on the earth's produce and thus on agronomists and crop scientists to solve some of these problems.
There are specialist degree courses in Crop Science and Agronomy, while crop science may also be studied in agriculture, horticulture, plant science, ecology and other courses in higher education.
Example areas of study
The following list will give you an idea of the subjects that you may be able to study but it is important to check that the focus of the course matches your interests. Make sure that you check with the institutions that you wish to apply to before you submit your application.
- Genetics and plant breeding
- Environmental sciences and policy
- Plant biology, anatomy, physiology and growth
- Plant biotechnology
- Soil and plant nutrition
- Soil science and soil management
- Organic soil management
- Crop protection
- Pests, diseases and weeds
- Field vegetable production
- Fruit and vegetable crop production
- Glass and nursery production
- Floriculture and ornamental plant production
- Grass and forage crops
- Crop product quality and marketing
- Crop management - arable, horticultural, forage and forest
- Crop environment interactions
- Tropical crop production
- Crop production science
- Livestock and crop systems
- Agricultural mechanisation and buildings
- Agroeconomics and business management
- Agricultural and food marketing
- Research methods
Some career possibilities
Graduates can go into a range of careers in the agriculture and horticulture industries in the UK and abroad, including commercial companies supplying fresh and processed produce, grain, seeds, fertilisers, agrochemicals, animal feedstuffs, farm management, field trials management, and also work as specialist agronomists, for example with crop protection companies. Postgraduate research and further study leading to a higher degree is another option.
What do I need to get on a course?
Entry requirements for courses in this sector vary substantially so you will need to check that your predicted grades and qualifications are suitable. Make sure that you check with the institutions before you submit your application. The list below will give you an idea of what you may need:
- UCAS Tariff: 120 - 260 points. A science subject may be required.
- A-level: DD - BCC. A science subject may be required
- SQA Highers: CCC
- SQA Advanced Highers: DD - CCC> A science subject may be required
- Irish Leaving Certificates: CCCC - BBBBC
- International Baccalaureate: 26 - 28 including chemistry and / or biology
- BTEC National Diploma: MMM - DMM in a relevant subject
For your application or interview, evidence of the following could be useful:
Work experience in agriculture/horticulture in the UK or abroad (usually essential or highly desirable) or work shadowing an agronomist, visits to agricultural and horticultural crop-growing businesses etc
Interest in food production and supply issues, for example food miles.
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