Crop Scientist

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Crop Scientist


Even staunch meat eaters agree -- without plants, we would have no food. We use plants for grain, to feed egg laying chickens and dairy cattle, to fatten up pigs and cattle destined for the dinner table. No one on Earth can live without plants, and so farmers grow huge bunches of them, called crops, which are harvested and processed for sale all at once. Crops ensure that we have a regular, dependable food source available to us whenever we need it.

Crops, however, are subject to disease, insect infestation and damage due to pollution and weeds. Crops can even be affected when soil is over-tilled or damaged in some other way. Crop scientists work closely with farmers and other scientists in an effort to protect our food source from dangers.

They work in a number of ways. Some study genetics and breeding in an effort to create stronger, more pest and disease resistant plant life. Others focus on promoting healthy and pollutant-free seeds. Others educate farmers on the importance of soil conservation and crop rotation management, while others develop new fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. There are many opportunities for crop scientists to make their mark on the world of agriculture.

Crops are an integral part of modern life. Crop failures worldwide would result in international starvation. We need crop scientists, and no matter if they work in genetically engineered, chemically enhanced grain production or on an organic, all-natural farm, they are working towards a world where everyone has enough to eat.
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  Interests and Skills  
Crop scientists need to be interested in the science of insects, soil, weather and plants. They should have a love of the outdoors, and enjoy helping others solve problems. They need to have strong organizational skills, good communication (and listening) skills, and should be able to work alone as well as part of a team. Crop scientists should be analytical in their thought processes, and creative enough to use their imagination when working through a problem.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Respond to questions from individual farmers, farming associations, government agencies and the general public about health of food, soil and environment
  • Provide farmers with appropriate news, information or developments
  • Visit farms and production sites for evaluations
  • Give individual assessments
  • Conduct information sessions, seminars and workshops with large numbers of farmers
  • Develop new pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • Discover new ways to grow and protect crops, as well as protect the environment
  • Demonstrate new products or services
  • Carry out applied and field research into environmental conditions, product effectiveness and animal nutrition and health
  • Crop scientists all have very differing days, due to the broad spectrum of work done by these scientists. While some spend all day in a government test farm, looking at the possibilities of environmentally-friendly herbicides, others may be in the head office of a major cereal distribution company, discussing genetically modified corn and its resistance to insects. Their objectives are always the same, however--they are looking for the most cost effective, environmentally sound way of achieving their clients' goals. They travel throughout the country assessing farm land and crop health, as well as around the world to conferences and training sessions with international agriculturists.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Crop scientists work outside on fields and pastures, as well as inside research labs and board rooms, giving seminars and information sessions. They work for federal and state governments, farming associations, universities and colleges, and independently as advisors to individual ranchers and farmers. They work alone, as well as in a team of other scientists.
  • They may work long hours, especially if they must travel. They don't have to work weekends or evenings very often, unless they are making a presentation, or are en route to their next project.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Crop scientists can specialize in many different areas, so there should always be opportunities for advancement and exploration of other areas of agricultural study. They can work for research companies, or start up a private business of their own, in agricultural counseling, or otherwise. They can write books and articles about agriculture, become environmental advocates or start up their own organic farms.

  Educational Paths  
Crop scientists need to have a background in agriculture. While it is helpful to have grown up in an agricultural community, it's not a requirement--a genuine interest in the science is enough. Crop scientists have a bachelor's degree in agriculture or environmental/earth science, and then specialize in crop science through experience or a master's degree. Other supporting subjects would be botany, biology, soil science, and zoology.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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