Agricultural & Food Scientists
Main Topic: Environment & Society
Secondary Topic: Physical Geography
Overview: Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products and play an important role in maintaining and expanding the nation’s food supply. Many work in basic or applied research and development. Basic research seeks to understand the biological and chemical processes by which crops and livestock grow. Applied research seeks to discover ways to improve the quality, quantity, and safety of agricultural products. The following are types of agricultural and food scientists:
Animal scientists typically conduct research on domestic farm animals. Food scientists and technologists use chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study the basic elements of food. Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and advise food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production. Soil scientists examine the composition of soil, how it affects plant or crop growth, and how alternative soil treatments affect crop productivity. Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, people trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.
Agricultural and food scientists in private industry commonly work for food production companies, farms, and processing plants. Other agricultural and food scientists work for pharmaceutical companies, where they use biotechnology processes to develop drugs or other medical products. Some look for ways to process agricultural products into fuels, such as ethanol produced from corn. At universities, agricultural and food scientists do research and investigate new methods of improving animal or soil health, nutrition, and other facets of food quality. In the federal government, agricultural and food scientists conduct research on animal safety and on methods of improving food and crop production.
Agricultural and food scientists must understand geographic principals. Soils, plants, climate, livestock, and even food sources vary dramatically by location due to differences in physical and human geography. They must have a firm grasp of those geographic factors and apply them in their research and applications. Geographic information systems are very often used in certain segments of this field.
Geographers at work: Agricultural geographer, environmental geographer, physical geographer
Recommended College Courses: Physical geography, geographic information science, environmental geography, climatology, agricultural geography, human geography
Skills: Understanding and assessment of physical features (soils, topography, hydrology), geographic information systems, spatial skills and thinking, map reading and interpretation, computer and database systems
Occupation Group: Life, Physical, and Social Science
Learn more about Agricultural & Food Scientists from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-scientists.htm#tab-2
Written by Christopher Anderson