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UK Agronomy Skills – A Lost Generation?

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Over the past 35 years, we have witnessed a steep decline in younger people entering the crop protection, crop nutrition and plant breeding industries or seeking overseas agricultural advisory roles, and professions such as plant pathology, entomology, genetics, and weed science have largely disappeared, along with those vital university courses that provide the raw material for them. The currently popular phrase 'sustainable intensification' means that college courses must re-adapt to focus on practical crop production, as well as environmental and energy conservation issues. They must also teach students the crucial skills of designing, establishing and analysing field trials so they can judge results accurately and independently. Finally, they must equip their students with the communication skills to be able to pass that wisdom on to the farming community. Perhaps then we can have less emotive, science-based discussion on such crucial subjects as GM technologies. None of these issues will be quick or easy to resolve, but the opportunity has never been greater, and one senses a more realistic attitude to the importance of new farming technology amongst employers, colleges and even government and the public. After all, the employment and career prospects for those who qualify to join the industry are excellent – something that cannot be said for many other sectors at the moment.
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Document Type: Editorial

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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