What they do
Agricultural scientists study farm animals, crops and factors affecting farm production, to improve the efficiency and sustainability of farms and related agricultural enterprises. They collect and analyse samples of produce, feed, soil, water and other elements that may be affecting agricultural production. They also study the effects of different farming techniques, associated pests and diseases and environmental conditions that may be affecting production. This data can be used to develop more efficient techniques for solving agricultural problems, such as drought or pest infestation. Agricultural scientists try to maintain a balance between the economic requirements of farmers and environmental conservation and management concerns.
Agricultural scientists generally divide their time between carrying out field work at farms and nurseries and working in offices, laboratories and/or glasshouses. When conducting field work they usually work outside in a wide range of weather conditions, depending on the time of year and location of the farm. Most agricultural scientists in Western Australia are based in the Perth metropolitan region, though they may work all around the state, particularly in the Great Southern and Wheatbelt regions. Their hours of work can vary considerably, depending on the type of work being carried out. Most office and laboratory work is performed during regular business hours, while field work often involves early mornings and may also require weekend work.
Tools and technologies
Agricultural scientists use a range of specialised scientific equipment, both to collect and preserve samples in the field, and analyse them in the laboratory. This may include simple equipment such as test tubes, sample jars and microscopes, as well as more advanced machinery used to prepare and analyse samples. Agricultural scientists may come into regular contact with various chemicals, which can be potentially harmful if appropriate safety precautions are not followed. This includes wearing protective clothing such as gloves, safety glasses and lab coats. Some agricultural scientists may also operate farm equipment, such as tractors, when conducting field work.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become an agricultural scientist, you usually need to study a degree in agribusiness or a science degree, majoring in agricultural science or a related field.
Some universities in Western Australia offer degrees in these fields. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.