Agricultural and food scientists

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  • The work of agricultural and food scientists plays an important role in maintaining the Nation's food supply by ensuring agricultural productivity and food safety.
  • Agricultural scientists study farm crops and animals and develop ways of improving productivity and the quality of the produce.
  • They look for ways to improve crop yield, control pests and weeds more safely and effectively, and conserve soil and water.
  • They research methods of converting raw agricultural commodities into attractive and healthy food products for consumers.
  • Some agricultural scientists also look for ways to use agricultural products as fuels or environmentally safe alternatives.
  • In recent years, advances in the study of genetics have spurred the growth of biotechnology:

  • Some agricultural and food scientists use biotechnology to manipulate the genetic material of plants and crops, thus attempting to create more genetically successful organisms that give off more seeds and fruit or are resistant to disease.
  • Advances in biotechnology have opened up research opportunities in many areas of agricultural and food science, including commercial applications in agriculture, environmental remediation, and the food industry.
  • Interest in the production of bio-fuels, or fuels manufactured from agricultural derivatives, has also increased. Some agricultural scientists work with biologists and chemists to develop more efficient processes for turning crops into energy sources.
  • Some food scientists are using nanotechnology to develop sensors that can quickly and accurately detect contaminant molecules in food.
  • Many agricultural scientists work in basic or applied research and development:
  • Basic research seeks to understand the biological and chemical processes by which crops and livestock grow, such as determining the role of a particular gene in plant growth.
  • Applied research uses this knowledge to discover mechanisms to improve the quality, quantity, and safety of agricultural products.
  • Other agricultural scientists manage or administer research and development programs, or manage marketing or production operations in companies that produce food products or agricultural chemicals, supplies, and machinery.
  • Some agricultural scientists are consultants to business firms, private clients, or government. The nature of the agricultural or food scientist’s wok varies depending on their area of specialization:
  • Food scientists and technologists usually work in the food processing industry, universities, or the Federal Government to create and improve food products.
  • Some food scientists engage in basic research, discovering new food sources; analyzing food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, or protein; or searching for substitutes for harmful or undesirable additives.
  • Others engage in applied research, finding ways to improve the content of food or to remove harmful additives.
  • They also develop ways to process, preserve, package, or store food according to industry and government regulations.,/li>
  • Some continue to research improvements in traditional food processing techniques, such as baking, blanching, canning, drying, evaporation, and pasteurization.
  • Other food scientists enforce government regulations: inspecting food processing areas and ensuring that sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management standards are met.
  • Food technologists generally work in product development: applying the findings from food science research to improve the selection, preservation, processing, packaging, and distribution of food.
  • Plant scientists study plants and fiber crops to feed a growing population and to conserve natural resources.
  • Agronomists and crop scientists not only help increase productivity, but also study ways to improve the nutritional value of crops and the quality of the seed, often through biotechnology.
  • Soil scientists study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as it relates to plant growth:
  • They provide information and recommendations to farmers and other landowners regarding the best use of land and plants to avoid or correct problems, such as erosion. They may also consult with engineers and other technical personnel working on construction projects about the effects of, and solutions to, soil problems.
  • Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, persons trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.
  • Animal scientists work to develop better, more efficient ways of producing and processing meat, poultry, eggs, and milk.
  • Dairy scientists, poultry scientists, animal breeders, and other scientists in related fields study the genetics, nutrition, reproduction, and growth of domestic farm animals.
  • Job growth will stem primarily from efforts to increase the quantity and quality of food produced for a growing population.
  • Additionally, an increasing awareness about the health effects of certain types of foods and the effects of food production on the environment, will give rise to research into the best methods of food production.
  • Emerging biotechnologies will continue to play a large role in agricultural research, and applying these advances will provide many employment opportunities for scientists.
  • New developments will also be used to improve the quality and safety of prepared food products bought by consumers.
  • Agricultural scientists will also be needed to balance increased agricultural outputwith protection and preservation of soil, water, and ecosystems.
  • In addition, demand for bio-fuels: renewable energy sources derived from plants, is expected to increase.
  • Agricultural scientists will be needed both to find new techniques for converting organic material into usable energy sources and to find ways to increase the output of crops used in these products.
  • Job growth for food scientists and technologists will be driven by the demand for new food products and food safety measures:
  • Food research is expected to increase because of heightened public awareness of diet, health, food safety, and bio-security—preventing the introduction of infectious agents into herds of animals.
  • Those with a bachelor’s degree should experience good opportunities in food science and technology and in agronomy
  • Those with a master’s or Ph.D. degree in agricultural and food science will also experience good opportunities, although positions in basic research and teaching at colleges and universities are limited.
  • Many people with bachelor's degrees in agricultural sciences also find work in positions related to agricultural or food science, rather than in jobs as agricultural or food scientists:
  • A bachelor's degree in agricultural science is useful for managerial jobs in farm-related or ranch-related businesses, such as farm credit institutions or companies that manufacture or sell feed, fertilizer, seed, and farm equipment.
  • In some cases, people with a bachelor's degree can provide consulting services or work in sales and marketing—promoting high-demand products such as organic foods.
  • Bachelor's degrees in agricultural science also may help people become farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers; agricultural inspectors; or purchasing agents for agricultural commodity or farm supply companies.
  • Employment of agricultural and food scientists is relatively stable during periods of economic recession.
  • Layoffs are less likely among agricultural and food scientists than in some other occupations, because food is a staple item and its demand fluctuates very little with economic activity.
  • The work of agricultural scientists is closely related to that of other scientists including biological scientists, chemists and material scientists, conservation scientists and foresters as well as medical scientists.
  • Other occupations that relate to agricultural production include farming, ranching, and agricultural managing.

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