Skip to main content
Select Source:

Agronomy

AGRONOMY

AGRONOMY. Agronomy embraces the branch of agriculture that deals with the development and practical management of plants and soils to produce food, feed, and fiber crops in a manner that preserves or improves the environment. The term "agronomy" represents the disciplines of soils, crops, and related sciences. In the soils area, specialties include soil microbiology, soil conservation, soil physics, soil fertility and plant nutrition, chemistry, biochemistry, and mineralogy. Specialties in the crops area relate primarily to plant genetics and breeding, crop physiology and management, crop ecology, turf-grass management, and seed production and physiology. Researchers in agronomy often work in close cooperation with scientists from disciplines such as entomology, pathology, chemistry, and engineering in order to improve productivity and reduce environmental problems. Even though less than 2 percent of the U.S. population are farmers who actively produce farm crops, the need for agronomists by other segments of society is increasing.

In the United States, field crops consist of those plants grown on an extensive scale, which differs from horticultural crops, which are usually grown intensively in orchards, gardens, and nurseries, but the distinctions are disappearing. Some of the major agronomic crops grown in the United States are alfalfa and pasture crops, peanuts, corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, sorghum, oats, barley, and rice. Soil management aspects of agronomy encompass soil fertility, land use, environmental preservation, and non-production uses of soil resources for building, waste disposal, and recreation. Agronomists who work as soil scientists play extremely important roles in helping preserve water quality and preserve natural environments.

Agronomy is not a new field. As early as 7000 b.c.e. wheat and barley were grown at Jarmo, in present-day Iran. One could argue that the first farmers were in fact agronomists. In prehistoric times, humans shifted from foraging to cultivating specific crops, probably wheat or barley, for their food value. At harvest time, plants with easily gathered grain were selected first. This natural selection eventually made these food plants better adapted to continued cultivation because they were more easily harvested. Throughout the centuries, selection also occurred for other crop characteristics, such as taste, yield, and adaptation to specific soils and climates. The goal of today's production agronomists is essentially the same: to improve the quality, adaptability, and yield of our most important crops.

The Science of Agronomy

There are both basic and applied aspects of agronomy. Agronomists examine very basic components of soils and crops at subcellular or molecular levels. For example, at the basic level, agronomists use sophisticated techniques to unravel the genetic makeup of major crops in order to change their adaptation, nutritive value, or to breed medicinal benefits into agronomic crops. Genetic improvement is an area where major breakthroughs are likely to occur. Agronomists have developed highly specialized computer models of crop growth in order to better understand how environmental and management components affect the way crops grow. These models help in the development of such things as precision fertilizer application techniques, which provide the crop with the correct amount of nutrients at the correct time in its life cycle. This technique helps reduce fertilizer overapplication, which is costly to the farmer, and may increase groundwater pollution. Models of how chemicals move in the soil also help assure proper application of animal manures, municipal waste, and soil amendments necessary for crop growth. Molecular components of soil constituents are studied to determine basic interactions affecting plant growth and nutrition, and soil and water quality.

Crop Production and Soil Management

Crop production consists of integrating all aspects of the field environment to assure an economically feasible and environmentally sound system of growing crops. At the applied level, agronomists use basic research information to help manage crop production systems and soil and water conservation programs. Agronomists provide a wealth of information to farmers to assure the soundness of their production programs.

Environmental and economic conditions vary dramatically, and crops must be adapted to the soils and climate for efficient crop production. Crops such as wheat grow best in the Great Plains of the United States, because wheat is well suited to the soils, rainfall, and length of growing season of the area. Likewise, crops such as cotton and peanuts are best adapted to the southern United States because these crops require warmer temperatures, a longer growing season, and more rainfall than does wheat.

Applications of sound principles of soil management are key to maintaining a healthy environment. Agronomists aid in identifying environmental risks and devise methods of reducing these risks. Management techniques developed by agronomists include terracing, strip cropping, and reduced tillage methods to reduce soil erosion. Developments in Global Information Systems (GIS) and site-specific technology are being used by agronomists to more precisely manage how, when, and where to apply soil amendments and fertilizers. GIS is also extremely useful in identifying type and extent of pest infestations. This helps reduce environmental pollution by pinpointing when and where to apply pest control and reducing the amount of pesticides used in crop production.

International Agronomy

Agronomy is an international discipline. Many of the problems, issues, and challenges faced by societies around the world are universal in nature, and require international cooperation. For example, a major problem facing the developed world is that of how best to use our land resources. Within the developing world, the same problems exist. The questions of how much and which land should be saved for food and fiber production and which land should be used for nonagricultural uses must be addressed by both developing and developed societies. Agronomists play a crucial role in assessing land quality to assure an environmentally friendly use of land. Studying how plants adapt to differing climates and environments has allowed plant scientists to increase food and fiber production in regions of the world where the necessities of life are most limited. Knowledge gained and disseminated by agronomists in the developed world has helped improve the human condition in the developing world. For example, plant geneticists and breeders use similar hybrid and variety development techniques in both developed and developing countries. Through plant breeding, for example, agronomists have developed high-yielding rice that is adapted to tropical climates. Breakthroughs in gene transfer permit plant breeders to improve grain quality and nutritional traits. These techniques have also contributed to increased production efficiency by genetically incorporating into food crops increased pest resistance and by broadening their range of adaptation.

See also Agriculture, Origins of; Agriculture since the Industrial Revolution; Horticulture; High-Technology Farming.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Leonard, Jonathan N. The First Farmers: The Emergence of Man. Waltham, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1973.

Miflin, B. "Crop Improvement in the 21st Century." Journal of Experimental Botany 51 (2000): 18.

Pierce, Francis J., and Peter Nowak. "Aspects of Precision Agriculture." In Advances in Agronomy. Edited by Donald L. Sparks. Vol. 67. New York: Academic Press, 1999.

United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington, D.C. Available at www.usda.gov/nass/aggraphs/graphics.htm.

James J. Vorst

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Agronomy." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Agronomy." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/food/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

"Agronomy." Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/food/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Agronomist

Agronomist

An agronomist is a professional who practices, or does research in the area of, agronomy, which is the art and science of managing field crops and the soils beneath them. Agronomy emerged early in the twentieth century when this component of agriculture involving the growing of plants was separated from animal husbandry. It has continued to evolve as subcategories develop within the crop and soil sciences, such as the study of forage crops, tropical cropping systems, weed science, and turf science and management (the growth of grasses for golf courses and parks).

Seed science and technology, agro-forestry (the growth of timber in plantations), agricultural economics and engineering, and the nutrition, physiology , and ecology of crop plants are other interests of agronomists. They also often concentrate on soil conservation and the structural, chemical, and physical properties of soil that affect the growth of crops. Because of this extensive diversification, professionals working in these fields now often use the specialty to define their occupation rather than the broader designation of agronomist. All of these disciplines contribute toward increasing the productivity of farmlands, enhancing the quality of the agricultural product, and improving the economic efficiency of farming practices.

Because farming cannot always occur under optimal plant growth conditions, many agronomists focus on the utilization of marginal habitats and problems occurring in the less-industrialized countries. These include conditions such as fields under frequent water deficiency, where dry-land farming practices can be utilized, and farming on nutrient-poor soils. Others seek to make plants grow under saline conditions; in extremely hot or cold environments; or in habitats with abbreviated growing seasons. Many of these challenges can be resolved through traditional plant breeding or the application of biotechnology.

These scientifically based aspects of the profession require undergraduate college study. In the United States, this is frequently at federally established land-grant universities. Many of these individuals become farm managers or owners, county agricultural agents, or work in industry or the federal government. Students interested in these subjects need to follow a college preparatory track focusing on science, computer, and writing skills and, where possible, courses covering practices in business and agriculture. Internships or applied experience in agricultural operations can provide practical information that is very useful in making career decisions. Furthermore, the continually increasing emphasis on scientific research by agronomists provides opportunities for trained scientists to contribute to the growth of knowledge in agronomy. Masters degree and doctorate programs can be entered as a continuation of undergraduate applied study, or following liberal arts degrees, particularly in biology or geology with an emphasis on soil science.

see also Biotechnology; Plant Nutrition; Soil

Dean Cocking

Bibliography

Hillel, Daniel J. Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Agronomist." Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Agronomist." Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/agronomist-0

"Agronomist." Biology. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/agronomist-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Agronomist

Agronomist

Agronomy is the branch of agriculture and biology that explores the principles and concepts of plants and soils sciences. It also examines management practices designed to optimize production for the benefit of humankind while protecting nature's resources. Agronomy is derived from the Greek words agros (field) and nomos (to manage).

Agronomy has been recognized as a separate and distinct branch of agriculture since the early 1900s, when departments of agriculture at land-grant universities were split into animal science and agronomy units. In 1900 agronomy units included crop science, soil science, farm management (agricultural economics), and agricultural engineering. In the 1920s and 1930s separate departments of agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, crop science, and soil science emerged. This trend to create specialized departments at the college or university level has resulted in less use of the term agronomy; however, it certainly has not diminished the meaning of or demand for resource managers charged with the responsibility of protecting and utilizing land, water, and plants for the benefit of humankind.

Diversity of Activities and Career Fields

Agronomy is an amalgamation of many narrowly defined disciplines or specializations focused on providing the practicing agronomist with the knowledge and understanding to make management decisions that increase productivity, utilize resources most efficiently, protect the environment, and serve society. Agronomy reflects a combination of laboratory, field, and processing activities.

Throughout the twentieth century shifts in member interests resulted in the emergence of new specializations or subdisciplines. Many reflect areas of research requiring advance study or graduate degrees. Agronomists have become renewable resource managers, particularly in the area of highly important commercial farming activities where optimizing production using new, cost-effective technology is key. Agronomists also manage various kinds of landscapes and the vegetation occupying them for direct use by humans, the support of livestock and wildlife, development of water resources, and for aesthetic, recreational, and military uses.

Agronomists at the bachelor's level find about 60 percent employment in the private sector and 30 percent in the public sector (10 percent pursue graduate studies). Graduate-level employment is approximately 65 percent in the public sector and 35 percent in the private sector.

see also Agriculture, Modern; Agriculture, Organic.

Vernon B. Cardwell

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Agronomist." Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Agronomist." Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/agronomist

"Agronomist." Plant Sciences. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/agronomist

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomy

agronomy (əgrŏn´əmē), branch of agriculture dealing with various physical and biological factors—including soil management, tillage, crop rotation, breeding, weed control, and climate—related to crop production. Agronomy commonly refers to field crops, e.g. wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, soybean, cotton, as well as pasture, sugar, and forage crops; while horticulture is concerned with fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants; silviculture, or forestry, with forest trees; and agroforestry, with mixtures of trees with other crops.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

"agronomy." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomy

a·gron·o·my / əˈgränəmē/ • n. the science of soil management and crop production. DERIVATIVES: ag·ro·nom·ic / ˌagrəˈnämik/ adj. ag·ro·nom·i·cal / ˌagrəˈnämikəl/ adj. ag·ro·nom·i·cal·ly / ˌagrəˈnämik(ə)lē/ adv. a·gron·o·mist / -mist/ n.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomy." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomy." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy-0

"agronomy." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomy

agronomy Science of soil management and improvement in the interests of agriculture. It includes the studies of particular plants and soils and their interrelationships. Agronomy involves disease-resistant plants, selective breeding, and the development of chemical fertilizers.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomy." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomy." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

"agronomy." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomy

agronomy A branch of agriculture concerned with the theoretical and practical production of crops, and with the management of soils.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomy." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomy." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy

"agronomy." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomy

agronomy A branch of agriculture concerned with the theoretical and practical production of crops, and with the management of soils.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomy." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomy." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy-0

"agronomy." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomist

agronomistalarmist, palmist, psalmist •biochemist, chemist •extremist • animist • pessimist •legitimist • optimist • rhymist •conformist, reformist •bigamist, polygamist •misogamist • alchemist • Islamist •columnist • dynamist •agronomist, autonomist, economist, ergonomist, physiognomist •palindromist •anatomist, atomist •epitomist • totemist • taxidermist

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomist." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomist." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomist

"agronomist." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomist

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

agronomy

agronomyfumy, gloomy, plumy, rheumy, roomie, roomy, spumy •excuse-me • mushroomy • perfumy •Brummie, chummy, crumby, crummy, dummy, gummy, lumme, mummy, plummy, rummy, scrummy, scummy, slummy, tummy, yummy •academy • sodomy • blasphemy •infamy •bigamy, polygamy, trigamy •endogamy, exogamy, heterogamy, homogamy, misogamy, monogamy •hypergamy • alchemy • Ptolemy •anomie • antinomy •agronomy, astronomy, autonomy, bonhomie, Deuteronomy, economy, gastronomy, heteronomy, metonymy, physiognomy, taxonomy •thingummy • Laramie • sesame •blossomy •anatomy, atomy •hysterectomy, mastectomy, tonsillectomy, vasectomy •epitome •dichotomy, lobotomy, tracheotomy, trichotomy •colostomy • bosomy •squirmy, thermae, wormy •taxidermy

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"agronomy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"agronomy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy

"agronomy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/agronomy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Agronomist

Agronomist

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$51,200 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Agronomists are plant and soil scientists who study and try to improve on the process of growing farm crops. They help farmers use their land more effectively and suggest methods to increase yields. Agronomists also aid in solving or preventing problems with soil and crops.

Many agronomists work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, and state or local government agencies. Some work for agricultural colleges, agricultural service companies, or firms that maintain or make loans for agricultural lands. Others work for seed companies or concerns that make food products. Many agronomists are also self-employed consultants.

Agronomists do a considerable amount of work in the field, conducting research on the land or consulting with farmers. They also spend time in offices and research laboratories. An agronomist may specialize in a particular crop or a certain aspect of crop production. For example, one agronomist might concentrate on developing better methods of growing wheat, while another might focus on preventing soil erosion, and a third on combating weeds, crop diseases, or pest infestations.

Education and Training Requirements

Interested candidates must have a four-year college degree in agronomy or a related area, such as soil conservation, agriculture education, or general agriculture. A graduate degree may be necessary for some positions and is generally very helpful in the field. At least one college in every state offers degree programs related to agriculture.

Getting the Job

College placement offices and government employment offices can offer job placement assistance. The state departments advertise civil service examinations required for government jobs in monthly bulletins. Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture or write directly to large agriculture concerns to inquire about openings.

Experience in farming or conservation work, even on a part-time or seasonal basis, is a significant advantage.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experience, coupled with an advanced degree, may lead to such positions as manager of a research station, agency administrator, or project supervisor. Teaching and research positions are available to those with a doctoral degree.

The employment of agronomists is expected to grow as fast as or slower than the average through the year 2014. Jobs will arise out of the need to replace workers leaving the field. Those holding advanced degrees will have the best chances of finding jobs.

Working Conditions

Agronomists have the advantage of being able to spend much of their time outdoors, except during inclement weather. Most agronomists spend part of their time conducting tests and research in laboratories and writing reports in their offices. They generally work regular hours, but some agronomists may be required to travel.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society of Agronomy
677 South Segoe Rd.
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 273-8080
http://www.agronomy.org

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries depend largely on education. Agronomists earn a median annual salary of $51,200 per year. Those working for the federal government earn an average of $73,573 per year. Benefits include paid vacations and sick days, medical coverage, and pension plans.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Agronomist." Career Information Center, 9th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Agronomist." Career Information Center, 9th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/news-and-education-magazines/agronomist

"Agronomist." Career Information Center, 9th ed.. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/news-and-education-magazines/agronomist

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Agronomy

Agronomy

Crop improvement

Managing the soil

Managing pests and diseases

Animal husbandry

Agricultural systems

Resources

Agronomy can be defined as the branch of agricultural science that deals with the production of both plant and animal crops, and the management of soil. The subject matter of agronomy is quite diverse, but falls into three major categories: (1) crop breeding and the genetic improvement of varieties; (2) methods of cultivation of crops (both plants and animals); and (3) sustainability of the agricultural enterprise, especially with respect to fertility of the soil. People who work in agronomy are called agronomists. They work as teachers and professors, researchers, and consultants in a variety of governmental positions at the local, state, and federal levels, and in industrial organizations.

Crop improvement

Most varieties of agricultural crops look and grow very differently than their wild progenitors. In fact, almost all of the domesticated species of plants and animals that humans depend upon as sources of food, materials, or energy have been selectively bred for various desirable traits. This evolutionary process has resulted in the development of substantial genetic differences between domesticated varieties and their wild ancestorsdifferences that have arisen because of deliberate selection of desirable traits by humans.

Selective breeding of agricultural species has been very important in improving their productivity under cultivation. Enormous increases in the useful yields of cultivated plants have been attained through genetically based improvements of growth rates. These include responses to the addition of fertilizer, along with modifications of the growth form, anatomy, and chemistry of crops. Similarly, domesticated animals have been selectively bred for growth rates, compliant behavior, chemical quality of their produce, and other desirable traits.

Selective breeding of some agricultural species has been so intensive and thorough that they can no longer survive without the assistance of humans, that is, in the absence of cultivation. For example, the seeds of maize (corn) can no longer disperse from their cob because of the tightly enclosing leaves that have evolved because of selective breeding. Similarly, dairy cows are no longer capable of surviving on their ownthey require humans to milk them, or they die from the complications of mastitis.

Selective breeding of existing and potential agricultural species still has a great deal to contribute to future developments in agronomy. Existing crops require continual genetic refinements to make them more suitable to the changing environmental conditions of agricultural ecosystems, to improve their resistance to diseases and pests, and to improve their nutritional qualities. At the same time, continuing surveys of the diversity of wild species will discover many plants and animals that are of potential benefit to humans. Selective breeding will be a critical part of the process by which those new biodiversity resources are domesticated.

Managing the soil

The quality of agricultural soils can be easily degraded by various cultural influences, but especially: (1) nutrient removal; (2) loss of organic matter; (3) acidification; and (4) erosion that is caused when soils are plowed and crops are harvested. Soil degradation is one of the most important problems associated with agricultural activities, because of the obvious implications for the longer-term sustainability of productivity and harvests. Understanding the causes of soil degradation and devising ways of preventing or mitigating this problem are among the most important objectives of agronomy.

Nutrient losses from agricultural soils are caused by a number of influences: crop biomass removal, soil surface disturbance, and nutrient losses.

Whenever crop biomass is removed from the land during harvesting, nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and others are also extracted. These removals occur in the form of nutrients contained in the biomass. Depending on the crop, nutrient removals during annual harvesting are not necessarily large, but over a longer period of time the cumulative losses become significant, and the soil becomes impoverished.

Severe disturbance of the integrity of the soil surface, for example, by plowing, makes the soil quite susceptible to erosion by water and wind. Associated with the physical losses of soil are losses of the nutrients that it contains.

Nutrient losses are also encouraged when there are decreases in the concentrations of organic matter in the soil, a phenomenon that is also associated with tillage of the land. Organic matter is important because it helps to bind nutrients in relatively immobile and insoluble forms, thereby helping to ensure their continuous supply, and preventing the leaching of nutrients from the site.

When nutrient losses from soil have been severe, it may be possible to compensate for the losses of

fertility by adding nutrients. Fertilization is an important activity in modern agriculture. However, fertilization is expensive, and it causes important environmental impacts. Therefore, many agronomists are engaged in research designed to reduce the dependence of modern agriculture on intensive fertilization, and on increasing the efficiency of nutrient uptake by crops.

Losses of soil organic matter are another important problem that agronomists must address. Soil organic matter is important because of its great influence on the tilth, or physical structure of soil, which is closely associated with the concentration of humified organic matter. Tilth is very influential on the water-and nutrient-holding capacities of the soil, and is highly beneficial to the growth of crops. The emerging field of organic agriculture is largely involved with managing and optimizing the concentration of organic matter in soils. Commonly used techniques in organic agriculture include the use of green manures and composts to maintain the concentration of organic matter in soil, as well as the use of carefully designed crop rotations and mixed-cropping systems.

Soil acidification is another important agricultural problem. Acidification is caused by the removal of calcium and magnesium during cropping, through erosion, leaching, and actions of certain nitrogen-containing fertilizers, such as ammonium nitrate and urea.

Acidification may also be partially caused by atmospheric pollution, especially in regions where the air is contaminated by sulfur dioxide, and where acidic precipitation is important. Acidification is routinely countered in agriculture by mixing limestone or lime into the soil.

Erosion is another common agricultural problem that is largely caused by disturbance of the soil surface through plowing. Erosion represents a mass wasting of the soil resource, with great implications for fertility and other important aspects of land capability. Erosion also causes secondary impacts in the aquatic ecosystems that typically receive the large wastage of eroded materials. Erosion is particularly severe on lands with significant slopes and coarse soils, especially if these occur in a region with abundant precipitation. Erosion can be substantially prevented by plowing along contour lines rather than down-slope, and by maximizing the amount of time during which the land has a well-established plant cover. The latter can be accomplished through the use of no-tillage agricultural systems, and wherever possible, by cultivating perennial crops on sites that are vulnerable to erosion.

Managing pests and diseases

Pests and their control are another significant problem agronomists must deal with. Pests can be defined as any organisms that interfere with some human purpose. In agriculture, the most important pests are weeds, insects and other defoliators, and disease-causing pathogens. The use of pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and environmental damage, and many agronomists are attempting to develop systems that would decrease the reliance on pesticides in agriculture, while not compromising yields.

Animal husbandry

Devising better systems in which to raise animals as crops is another important aspect of agronomy. Considerations in animal husbandry include optimization of the productivity of the animals, achieved through selective breeding, and careful management of diet, disease, and housing. Agronomists concerned with animal husbandry are also interested in improving the nutritional quality of the food products, disposal of waste materials, and humane treatment of the livestock.

Agricultural systems

Ultimately, the goal of agronomy is to develop agricultural systems that are sustainable over the long term. An agricultural system involves particular combinations of crop species, along with methods of tillage, seeding, pest management, and harvesting. Furthermore, agricultural systems may involve the growth of successive crops in a carefully designed rotation, or perhaps the growth of several crops at the same time, for example, by row cropping or intercropping.

The ultimate judgment of the success of agronomy will be the sustainability of the agricultural systems that agronomists develop, and then persuading agriculturalists to use them.

See also Acid rain; Agrochemicals; Animal breeding; Contour plowing; Crop rotation; Crops; Fertilizers;

KEY TERMS

Agricultural system A combination of the choice of crop species, and the methods of tillage, seeding, pest management, and harvesting. The crop may be grown in successive monocultures, or the system may involve rotations of different crops, or poly-culture systems such as row cropping and intercropping.

Agronomy The application of agricultural science to the production of plant and animal crops, and the management of soil fertility.

Nutrient Any chemical required for life. The most important nutrients that plants obtain from soil are compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

Organic matter Any biomass of plants or animals, whether living or dead. Dead organic matter is the most important form in soils, particularly when occurring as humic substances.

Tilth The physical structure of soil, closely associated with the concentration of humified organic matter. Tilth is important in water and nutrient-holding capacity of the soil, and is generally beneficial to plant growth.

Genetic engineering; Integrated pest management; Organic farming; Pests; Pesticides; Soil conservation.

Resources

BOOKS

Biondo, Ronald J. Introduction to Plant & Soil Science and Technology. Danville, IL: Interstate Publishers, 2003.

Brady, Nyle C. The Nature and Properties of Soils. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Dawson, John. The Nature of Plants: Habitats, Challenges, and Adaptations. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2005.

Mirsal, Ibrahim A. Soil Pollution: Origin, Monitoring, and Rremediation. Berlin, Germany, and New York: Springer, 2004.

Singer, Michael J. Soils: An Introduction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Warkentin, Benno P. ed. Footprints in the Soil: People and Ideas in Soil History. Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Boston, MA: Elsevier, 2006.

Bill Freedman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Agronomy." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Agronomy." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

"Agronomy." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Agronomy

Agronomy

Agronomy can be defined as those branches of agricultural science that deal with the production of both plant and animal crops , and the management of soil . The subject matter of agronomy is quite diverse, but falls into three major categories: (1) crop breeding and the genetic improvement of varieties; (2) methods of cultivation of crops (both plants and animals); and (3) sustainability of the agricultural enterprise, especially with respect to fertility of the soil.


Crop improvement

Most varieties of agricultural crops look and grow very differently than their wild progenitors. In fact, almost all of the domesticated species of plants and animals that humans depend upon as sources of food, materials, or energy have been selectively bred for various desirable traits. This evolutionary process has resulted in the development of substantial genetic differences between domesticated varieties and their wild ancestors—differences that have arisen because of deliberate selection of desirable traits by humans.

Selective breeding of agricultural species has been very important in improving their productivity under cultivation. Enormous increases in the useful yields of cultivated plants have been attained through geneticallybased improvements of growth rates. These include responses to the addition of fertilizer, along with modifications of the growth form, anatomy , and chemistry of crops. Similarly, domesticated animals have been selectively bred for growth rates, compliant behavior , chemical quality of their produce, and other desirable traits.

Selective breeding of some agricultural species has been so intensive and thorough that they can no longer survive without the assistance of humans, that is, in the absence of cultivation. For example, the seeds of maize (corn) can no longer disperse from their cob because of the tightly enclosing leaves that have evolved as a result of selective breeding. Similarly, our dairy cows are no longer capable of surviving on their own—they require humans to milk them, or they die from the complications of mastitis.

Selective breeding of existing and potential agricultural species still has a great deal to contribute to future developments in agronomy. Existing crops require continual genetic refinements to make them more suitable to the changing environmental conditions of agricultural ecosystems, to improve their resistance to diseases and pests , and to improve their nutritional qualities. At the same time, continuing surveys of the diversity of wild species will discover many plants and animals that are of potential benefit to humans. Selective breeding will be a critical part of the process by which those new biodiversity resources are domesticated.

Managing the soil

The quality of agricultural soils can be easily degraded by various cultural influences, but especially: (1) nutrient removal; (2) loss of organic matter; (3) acidification; and (4) erosion that is caused when soils are plowed and crops are harvested. Soil degradation is one of the most important problems associated with agricultural activities, because of the obvious implications for the longer-term sustainability of productivity and harvests. Understanding the causes of soil degradation and devising ways of preventing or mitigating this problem are among the most important objectives of agronomy.

Nutrient losses from agricultural soils are caused by a number of influences:

  1. Whenever crop biomass is removed from the land during harvesting, nutrients such as nitrogen , phosphorus , potassium, calcium , and others are also extracted. These removals occur in the form of nutrients contained in the biomass. Depending on the crop, nutrient removals during annual harvesting are not necessarily large, but over a longer period of time the cumulative losses become significant, and the soil becomes impoverished.
  2. Severe disturbance of the integrity of the soil surface, for example, by plowing, makes the soil quite susceptible to erosion by water and wind . Associated with the physical losses of soil are losses of the nutrients that it contains.
  3. Nutrient losses are also encouraged when there are decreases in the concentrations of organic matter in the soil, a phenomenon that is also associated with tillage of the land. Organic matter is important because it helps to bind nutrients in relatively immobile and insoluble forms, thereby helping to ensure their continuous supply, and preventing the leaching of nutrients from the site.

When nutrient losses from soil have been severe, it may be possible to compensate for the losses of fertility by adding nutrients. Fertilization is an important activity in modern agriculture. However, fertilization is expensive, and it causes important environmental impacts. Therefore, many agronomists are engaged in research designed to reduce the dependence of modern agriculture on intensive fertilization, and on increasing the efficiency of nutrient uptake by crops.

Losses of soil organic matter are another important problem that agronomists must address. Soil organic matter is important because of its great influence on the tilth, or physical structure of soil, which is closely associated with the concentration of humified organic matter. Tilth is very influential on the water- and nutrient-holding capacities of the soil, and is highly beneficial to the growth of crops. The emerging field of organic agriculture is largely involved with managing and optimizing the concentration of organic matter in soils. Commonly used techniques in organic agriculture include the use of green manures and composts to maintain the concentration of organic matter in soil, as well as the use of carefully designed crop rotations and mixed-cropping systems.

Soil acidification is another important agricultural problem. Acidification is caused by the removal of calcium and magnesium during cropping, through erosion, leaching, and actions of certain nitrogen-containing fertilizers , such as ammonium nitrate and urea .

Acidification may also be partially caused by atmospheric pollution , especially in regions where the air is contaminated by sulfur dioxide , and where acidic precipitation is important. Acidification is routinely countered in agriculture by mixing limestone or lime into the soil.

Erosion is another common agricultural problem that is largely caused by disturbance of the soil surface through plowing. Erosion represents a mass wasting of the soil resource, with great implications for fertility and other important aspects of land capability. Erosion also causes secondary impacts in the aquatic ecosystems that typically receive the large wastage of eroded materials. Erosion is particularly severe on lands with significant slopes and coarse soils, especially if these occur in a region with abundant precipitation. Erosion can be substantially prevented by plowing along contour lines rather than down-slope, and by maximizing the amount of time during which the land has a well-established plant cover. The latter can be accomplished through the use of no-tillage agricultural systems, and wherever possible, by cultivating perennial crops on sites that are vulnerable to erosion.

Managing pests and diseases

Pests and their control are another significant problem agronomists must deal with. Pests can be defined as any organisms that interfere with some human purpose. In agriculture, the most important pests are weeds, insects and other defoliators, and disease-causing pathogens . The use of pesticides such as herbicides , insecticides , fungicides, and antibiotics is a very important aspect of modern agriculture. Unfortunately, many pesticides cause important environmental damages, and many agronomists are attempting to develop systems that would decrease the reliance on pesticides in agriculture, while not compromising yields.


Animal husbandry

Devising better systems in which to raise animals as crops is another important aspect of agronomy. Considerations in animal husbandry include optimization of the productivity of the animals, achieved through selective breeding, and careful management of diet, disease , and housing. Agronomists concerned with animal husbandry are also interested in improving the nutritional quality of the food products, disposal of waste materials, and humane treatment of the livestock .


Agricultural systems

Ultimately, the goal of agronomy is to develop agricultural systems that are sustainable over the long term. An agricultural system involves particular combinations of crop species, along with methods of tillage, seeding, pest management, and harvesting. Furthermore, agricultural systems may involve the growth of successive crops in a carefully designed rotation, or perhaps the growth of several crops at the same time, for example, by row cropping or intercropping.

The ultimate judgement of the success of agronomy will be the sustainability of the agricultural systems that agronomists develop, and then persuading agriculturalists to use them.

See also Acid rain; Agrochemicals; Animal breeding; Contour plowing; Crop rotation; Crops; Fertilizers; Genetic engineering; Integrated pest management; Organic farming; Pests; Pesticides; Soil conservation.


Resources

books

Briggs, D.J. and F.M. Courtney. Agriculture and Environment. New York: Longman, 1989.

Carroll, R.C., J.H. Vandermeer, and P.M. Rossett. Agroecology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Freedman, B. Environmental Ecology. 2nd ed. San Diego: Academic Press, 1984.

Hartmann, H.T., A.M. Kofranek, V.E. Rubatzky, and W.J. Flocker. Plant Science: Growth, Development, and Utilization of Cultivated Plants. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.

Miller, R.W. and R.L. Donahue. Soils. An Introduction to Soils and Plant Growth. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1989.

Soule, J.D. and J.K. Piper. Farming in Nature's Image: An Ecological Approach to Agriculture. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1991.

Wild, A. Soils and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Agricultural system

—A combination of the choice of crop species, and the methods of tillage, seeding, pest management, and harvesting. The crop may be grown in successive monocultures, or the system may involve rotations of different crops, or polyculture systems such as row cropping and intercropping.

Agronomy

—The application of agricultural science to the production of plant and animal crops, and the management of soil fertility.

Nutrient

—Any chemical required for life. The most important nutrients that plants obtain from soil are compounds of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.

Organic matter

—Any biomass of plants or animals, whether living or dead. Dead organic matter is the most important form in soils, particularly when occurring as humic substances.

Tilth

—The physical structure of soil, closely associated with the concentration of humified organic matter. Tilth is important in water and nutrient-holding capacity of the soil, and is generally beneficial to plant growth.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Agronomy." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Agronomy." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy-0

"Agronomy." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/agronomy-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.