“Don’t treat soils like dirt!” warns Dr Garry Paterson, a soil scientist and researcher at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). A degree in geography landed him a job with the ARC and today he does soil surveys across the country.
Paterson mastered the South African soil classification system to create soil maps to interpret for the benefit of farmers. Soil science offers have many specialised areas like microbiology and analytical chemistry, but Paterson is most involved in soil classification and field mapping.
A big part of his job is giving information about soils and its limitations and potential to a wide range of existing and potential land users. He also liaises with other researchers and scientists in agriculture about the contribution of soils to various projects.
If you’re a mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology boffin and if working in the natural environment intrigues you, consider this agricultural career. And guess what! This job is in high demand.
Over the next few weeks as part of our AgriSETA Learner Connect campaign we will feature many more careers to choose from in the agri sector on Food for Mzansi and 19 radio stations all over the country.
Now over to Dr Garry Paterson, a soil scientist and researcher at the Agricultural Research Council, who will tell you how to land this job…
1Could you sum up your job for us? My job involves knowing about soils, either on a local scale for example on a farm, or on a wider scale such as per province or for the whole country.
2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? Supplying information about soils, its potential and limitations to a wide range of existing or potential land users. Liaising with other researchers and scientists in agriculture about the contribution of soils to various projects.
What qualification do you need for this career? A Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in soil science or agricultural science, but with a strong interest in the soil is recommended.
4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? You must enjoy outdoor work even in difficult conditions. You have to appreciate producing tangible results like soil maps and reports with recommendations to land users.
5What subjects do I need to become a soil scientist? Mathematics, physics and or chemistry as well as biology would be the main subjects needed to gain access to university studies to eventually become a soil scientist and researcher.
6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? The knowledge that I can actively contribute to the success of a farm or other production unit, and helping to protect the environment.
7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments?Receiving my PhD in soil science and becoming president of the Soil Science Society of South Africa were proud moments for me.
8What do you do when you’re not at work? I like to play golf, read and enjoy nature.
9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? Don’t treat soils like dirt! (Editor’s note: Soils are a precious resource providing fertile ground for the food we grow and eat. It can hold massive amounts of carbon – more than all forests combined. And it helps us to adapt to the climate change already happening.)
10Where can I study to become an agricultural soil scientist? You can study soil science at a number a number of universities including Stellenbosch University, Free State University, the University of Pretoria, North West University, the University of Fort Hare and Venda University
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