All About Agronomy!

By: Elizabeth Rowe

What is Agronomy?

In North Carolina, 1 in 4 children do not have access to enough healthy food. Eighty-one percent of NC households receiving food assistance don’t know where their next meal is coming from. (

How can a degree in agronomy make a difference?

Agronomy is the study of plants, soil, and their environment. Agronomists find ways to better grow crops that provide food for the world.

NCSU's Department of Agronomy "grows" future leaders in agronomy! This flyer touches on some of the topics that are studied in this program.

Weathering! What is it?

In NCSU's Agronomy Program, you will learn how rock becomes soil through weathering. There are two types of weathering--mechanical and chemical. Mechanical weathering is caused by water, wind, and ice. It doesn't change the composition of rock. Chemical weathering is caused by oxygen, carbon dioxide, and even water! It changes rock into soil. We need soil to grow food and create other materials that we need.

What is Soil?

Soil is made up of different size particles. Over time soil develops texture, composition, and horizons or layers.

  • The texture of soil is determined by the size of particles and the space between them. The texture affects how easily water can flow through soil. There are different types of soils that are light or heavy.
  • The composition of soil is made up of inorganic and organic material. Inorganic material is made up of non-living substances such as rock. Organic material is made up of tiny bits of plants and animals.
  • Soil horizons are different layers of soil with depth. Weathering creates the different horizons of soil. More weathering occurs at the top layer. Starting from the top, the layers of soil are humas, topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock.

How is Soil Created?

Soil forms through weathering. It takes a long time for soil to develop, sometimes for thousands of years. The fertile upper layer of soil may take hundreds or thousands of years. The rate of soil formation depends on a number of factors including climate, rock type, amount of time, the slope, and biological activity.

How do we know Humans Impact the Earth? Remote Sensing!!!!

Remote sensing is observing a process without coming in direct contact. Examples include radar, scanning, and satellites. Agronomists use remote sensing to track the impact of human activity on the Earth such as climate change.

Why Do We Need Soil?

We need soil because it produces food and other ecosystems. Soil is the top layer that humans use to grow crops for food. In addition to growing food, soil purifies water and air and filters out toxic waste and chemicals. Without soil, humans could not survive!

How Has Soil Been Misused?

Soil can be misused when it is overused for growing crops and feeding livestock. Also, problems can occur when vegetation is not planted to protect the topsoil. If the soil is misused, it can be damaged by water and wind --a condition called soil erosion. An extreme example was the Dust Bowl in the 1930's when poor farming techniques destroyed the topsoil.

What Can an Agronomist Do To Be a Good Steward of the Soil?

A degree in agronomy can teach you a lot about being a good steward of the soil. You can learn many soil conservation techniques including farming the contour, composting, terrace farming, crop rotation, and using grasses and crop waste to conserve the soil.

Agronomy is all about understanding soil, its importance and uses, and the ways to protect and conserve it. If you are interested in learning about North Carolina State University's Agronomy Program, please contact the department. Come to the department's College Day to find out more about how you can help North Carolina's citizens access the food they need. We look forward to seeing you!!!