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Career Profile: Soil and Plant Specialist

Why Is Soil and Plant Science a Job of Tomorrow?
Soil and plant specialists will be needed to ensure that healthy crops can be harvested year after year for mass consumption. Employment opportunities for soil and plant specialists are expected to increase 8 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Soil and plant specialists make an average salary of $56,080 annually.

What Does a Soil and Plant Specialist Do?
Soil and plant specialists ensure that every harvest cycle is a fruitful one. Soil specialists research the chemical, physical, biological and mineralogical makeup of soils to determine their effectiveness in aiding plant growth. Through this research, they develop strategies for farmers to use to maximize plant growth and promote a plentiful harvest. These techniques may include fertilizer use, tillage practices and crop rotation. Soil specialists also recommend periods of “resting” time for soil where fields that were previously used are allowed to lay unplanted for a period of time so that the soil may recover some of its nutrients. Soil scientists combat erosion, and many work with environmental scientists to prevent the overuse of land. Plant specialists are responsible for developing methods of keeping plants and crops thriving. Like soil specialists, they suggest ways of planting that may help farmers produce a more bountiful outcome, such as keeping certain species of plants away from each other or using a certain type of fertilization technique. Many plant specialists look for ways to improve the nutritional quality of crops and to make them more drought, pest and disease resistant.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Soil and Plant Specialist?
Soil and plant specialists must have at least a master’s degree in biology, chemistry or another related field of study. A master’s degree takes about two to three years to earn after first completing a four-year bachelor’s program. Students should take such courses as inorganic and organic chemistry and life and physical sciences to help prepare them for this career.

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