Also known as an agriculturalist (crops), crop scientist, agricultural consultant, agronomy manager, or crop vet.
This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.
Agronomists play an important role in food production. They look at all aspects of crop nutrition, irrigation, positioning, and rotation to help make sure the harvest is productive, alongside land conservation. An essential part of the role is consideration of crop production and the long-term environmental health of the land.
To do this role, you'll need to apply a high level of scientific knowledge to solve sometimes complex issues relating to crop growth. You'd achieve this in an economically efficient way to ensure profitability while protecting the environment. Other important actions include monitoring, predicting, and recording pests that can affect the health of the crops.
A high level of competency in maths and IT is desired to ensure the best use of specialist software packages to record data and model outcomes.
This role is predominantly an outdoor job requiring frequent farm visits to walk fields and liaise with growers. As an agronomist, you'd gain knowledge and keep up to date through various sources. For example, you'd do much research during winter, including attending industry seminars, conferences, and field trials towards the end of the season. You must also be a good communicator to advise farmers and growers effectively.
Fertiliser and pesticide use is an area of ever-changing legislation and new product development, so you'd need to keep up with the evolving guidance to ensure compliance on the sites you advise. You'd also need the BASIS qualification to advise on pesticides and the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS) to advise on nutrition.
However, not all advice an agronomist gives will be about chemical use. You could also advise on biological control methods, such as the promotion or introduction of beneficial insects. A good agronomist can recognise and explain that, with all forms of intervention, a balance must be struck between the value of the crop and its cost.
Working hours will vary depending on the season and the organisation you work for. Spring is typically very demanding as it's the peak season for crop growth and may require weekend work.
As an agronomist, you could have the opportunity to work in research, as part of a farming company, or with a distribution company. You may even want to establish your own business as an independent agronomist. This flexibility means there is a wide range of opportunities for people to become an agronomist.
As an agronomist, your responsibilities might include:
- Advising farmers on land management and how to improve their crop yields
- Studying soil, water, and other factors which affect crop growth
- Creating chemical treatment plans to keep crops free of pests and weeds
- Recording information on plant growth and environmental conditions
- Collecting and analysing crop yield and financial data
- Keeping up to date with product developments and legislation
- Making nutrition plans to schedule fertiliser application based on soil testing
To work as an agronomist, you should:
- Have a keen attention to detail
- Have a scientific background
- Be organised
- Be passionate about supporting customers to achieve their best
- Have a willingness to learn and try different ideas
- Work well with others as well as on your own
- Be sensitive and understanding
- Be flexible and able to deal with a dynamic workplace
- Have excellent verbal communication skills
You'll usually need a relevant qualification, such as a degree or HND in agriculture, biology, plant science, ecology, or environmental science. Some employers may also look for relevant postgraduate qualifications in subject areas such as soil science, plant genetics, or crop technology.
You'll require a driving licence and a BASIS certificate in Crop Protection (industry qualification for the safe storage and transport of agricultural and horticultural pesticides).
Relevant work experience or shadowing will prove very worthwhile in this role. Your training provider (particularly if an agricultural college or university) might help you with that, or you might ask a local farmer if they can provide you with some. Or you could speak to the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) or Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC).
This role would suit someone motivated, enthusiastic, and committed to making a difference in the industry.
As an agronomist, you’ll have the following competencies for advising the farmer on the scientific aspects of crop growth and soil management to ensure maximum productivity alongside environmental protection.
- Advise farmers on land management and how to improve their crop yields
- Study soil, water, and other factors which affect crop growth
- Create chemical, biological, or technology-based (e.g., precision weeding) treatment plans to keep crops free of pests and weeds
- Record information on plant growth and environmental conditions
- Carry out field trials to solve clients' crop problems
- Collect and analyse crop yield and financial data
- Keep up to date with product developments and legislation
As a guide, an agronomist earns between £20,000 and £65,000. This figure can vary depending on location, nature of business, and level of experience.
As an agronomist, you could progress your career by specialising in precision farming methods, regenerative agriculture, or developing nutrition plans for fruit or vegetable crops.
You could also study for a postgraduate master's degree, like soil science or genetics, and become a consultant.
Courses which can help you on this career path include:
Agriculture professional adviser higher apprenticeship (Agronomy and professional advisor pathway) Level 6 qualification.
Short courses and online study
There are also other opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge, such as short one-day courses and online study.
BASIS and FACTS are both essential, but many companies will support those starting their career with this training.
TIAH Essential Skills
Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in various areas and are a great addition to your CV.