What does an Agronomist do?
Professor Graeme Blair University of New England recently answered questions from a
secondary school student researching occupations. Below are the questions and answers.
What is your field of science, what does this generally involve?
Agronomy and Soil Science.
Within this discipline my area of expertise is in fertilizer use efficiency and in management of soil carbon.
When did you become interested in science?
I became interested in science early in high school
Did you have any people that have influenced your decision to work in this field.
No, I often travelled to the country with my parents and became interested in agriculture
Where did you go to school and university?
I attended Earlwood public school, Canterbury Junior and Enmore High Schools and Sydney University
What other jobs have you had within the science field have you held? *
Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Canada and secondments to Australian Aid programs
What do you do in your job each day?
I supervise post-graduate students, conduct my own research and write scientific publications.
Who is involved with your job?
I am independent
Have you been collaborating with any other organisations for your current project?
Yes. I am currently collaborating with two commercial companies and with farmer groups
What is your predicted outcome for your current project?
The development and acceptance by farmers of a new fertilizer based on rock phosphate and elemental sulfur
Do you specialise in any particular area?
I specialize in matching fertilizer nutrient supply with plant nutrient demand.
Do you have any special skill relating to your work?
I have special skills in soil/plant relationships and in the use of radioisotopes in soil/plant research
In general terms what is the main focus of your work and what is your ultimate goal in the field of science? *
Fertilizers of the single most significant input in agriculture and my research focus is to be able to supply nutrients to crops and pastures in the most efficient manner. By doing this nutrient losses to the environment are minimized and profitability to the farmer increased
How long have you been doing the job for?
What are you currently working on?
The development of a new fertilizer based on rock phosphate and elemental sulfur
Have you ever made any ground breaking discoveries?
Yes. I have patented a fertilizer cooking process and developed a carbon management index to be able to determine the carbon status of agricultural and natural systems. I was also responsible for developing a new sulfur soil test known as the KCl-40 test
What are you planning for new projects in the future?
Further development of novel nutrient delivery systems.
What has been your most interesting scientific discovery?
The sulfur soil test known as the KCl-40 test
What has been the worst scientific mishap you have made?
Killing plants in a training course being held in Indonesia. In an effort to speed up the development of anaerobic soil conditions I added sugar to flooded soil and added to much sugar.
Professor Blair was awarded the 2015 Donald Medal. Please use this link to read the citation.