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What is Agronomy?

Aerial View Of Agricultural LandEvery day, everyone is affected by agronomy. The food you eat, the coffee you drink, the ethanol-based gas in your car, the grass on the golf course, the natural fibers of the clothing you wear—all are products of agronomy and the work of agronomists.

Agronomy is a science and a practice that looks at agriculture from an integrated, holistic perspective. In agronomy, it’s important to understand the properties of the soil and how the soil interacts with the growing crop; what nutrients (fertilizers) the crop needs and when and how to apply these nutrients; the ways that crops grow and develop; how climate and other environmental factors affect the crop at all stages; and how best to control weeds, insects, fungi, and other crop pests.

If that weren't enough, another huge consideration in agronomy is how to grow crops effectively and profitably while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.

In short, growing crops requires collaborations among many, many fields, including the traditional soil, plant, and weed sciences, as well as related disciplines such as ecology, entomology, climatology, and economics. The best crop production methods are always grounded in scientific research. As a result, they are by nature continually evolving and improving.

What is an agronomist?

Agronomists are plant and soil scientists who develop innovative farm practices and technologies that not only boost crop yields but also control pests and weeds and protect the environment. Agronomists are also professional practitioners, educators, and advisers who work directly with farmers, companies, and others in the ag community to implement the latest methods and tools for growing crops profitably and sustainably.

Agronomists play critical roles in issues of global concern, such as food security.

But the reach of agronomists and agronomy doesn’t end on the farm. Agronomists also play critical roles in issues of global concern, including food and water security, air quality and climate change, soil loss and degradation, health and nutrition, and many others.

Gold Of The PalouseAgronomists Feed the World

Close to one billion people in the world, or one in nine, don’t have enough food to lead healthy lives. Most malnourished people—but not all—live in developing countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Global hunger is way too high. But the proportion of hungry people in developing countries has declined during the past 50 years even as population has increased. Research begun in the 1940s by agronomists worldwide led to the Green Revolution of the 1960s. The result was dramatic increases in the production of wheat, rice, and other staple crops.

Agronomists formed the backbone of the Green Revolution. They applied the latest scientific research in genetics and agriculture to develop new varieties of crops. These superior crops had desirable genetic traits that helped them resist diseases and adapt to a variety of growing conditions. They also benefited from improved agricultural techniques used by farmers in the United States and other nations.

View and download the related educator activity:

Chapter 1 - Corn: Your Preference is the New Variety