DSC Lecture 2 by Clayton A Shillingford, PhD
Careers in Agriculture
A brief history of agriculture was presented from Stage 1 of humans (Homo sapiens) as nomadic food gatherers through Stage 2 when they began to domesticate animals, cultivate plants and live in villages to Stage 3, the introduction of farm commerce, machines and many crops. Today agriculture has become a highly technological enterprise producing high volumes of food to nourish a vastly expanded world population.
Careers in agriculture span the areas from production and agro-processing through distribution to market and consumption. A central career is that of the agronomist who as a general practitioner deals with crop varietal selection, fertilizer and plant nutrition, and soil and water management. Agronomists often play a key role in agricultural development as extension specialists. In that regard they are also important in agricultural communications through all the media channels of TV, radio, farm magazines and in education.
The agronomist is assisted by many scientists in more specialized fields. Entomologists study insect pests, diagnose insect problems and recommend appropriate measures for control. Plant pathologists perform a similar function with respect to crop diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi and nematologists provide guidance on effective methods to control nematodes. A farmer's efforts can be ruined by infestations of these pests if there are no effective control measures in place. Hence the difficulty of the practice of organic farming in tropical environments where pests and diseases are varied and plentiful. Ravages by locusts in the horn of Africa has caused starvation in many countries. Other specialized disciplines close to production include soil science, plant breeding, animal and veterinary science.
The agricultural economist operates at all levels of the chain from production to marketing analyzing production trends, assembling data and following financial and marketing developments.
The agricultural engineer is concerned with design of agricultural tools and machines, irrigation systems, bioprocessing and storage systems.
At the distribution and storage level we need bacteriologists who study food decay processes and preservation methods.
In the agro-processing area in enterprises such as Bello's Products and Benjo's Sea Moss skills in food technology are essential to ensure that food will store properly and is safe to consume.
Research in agriculture continues to find better ways to grow and distribute fresh as well as processed food. The new science of biotechnology is seeking ways to improve crop varieties through genetic engineering processes. From this has grown a vast area of natural products chemistry in which scientists are finding ways to discover medicinal products and nutraceuticals from these "plant factories". There are many potential economic opportunities for tropical countries, which possess the widest range of plant species