By Deon Schlechter
WINDHOEK – Every day, everyone is affected by agronomy. The food you eat, the coffee you drink, the ethanol-based gas in your car, the natural fibres of the clothing you wear—all are products of agronomy and the work of agronomists.
What is agronomy? The answer to this question formed part of last week’s workshop of the Management and Leadership Expert cc where farmers were trained in three important sectors of Namibian agriculture, namely Farm Management, Agronomy and Dairy Farming. 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 (fertilisers) 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 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.
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.