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Harper Adams Forum: Stephen Jacob from BASIS

Posted 26 October 2012

By Harper Adams Forum Reporter, Greg Parkes

Stephen Jacob from BASIS Registration visited the Harper Adams Forum on October 25 to discuss BASIS’ role in agriculture and the future of British agronomy.

Mr Jacob defined ‘agronomy’ using a standard dictionary definition- ‘the science of soil management and crop production’. He pointed out that every day, people come into contact with agronomy whether it be the rural area in which they live, the coffee they drink, the clothes they wear, the food they eat or the sports pitches they watch teams play on. 

He briefly described BASIS’ history, explaining that it was originally set up by the pesticide industry in 1978 to produce safe standards for pesticide storage and transport. He then explained that it has progressed to manage the training and continual professional development of employees within agriculture, environmental management, horticulture and amenity and public health.

BASIS runs approximately 170 courses yearly which are attended by approximately 1,600 people. Harper Adams University College is one of many establishments that now examine and award BASIS qualification.

Foundation awards cover arable & grassland, amenity, weeds, pests & diseases, managing application of pesticides, soil & crop nutrition and environmental protection. All of which take typically two to four days to complete.

Training is also provided for salesman of pesticides, the ‘Field Sales & Technical Staff Certificate.’ This qualifies certificate holders to give advice on method, product, dose, timing and water volume, and takes approximately 12 – 20 days of suggested training.

BASIS inspects more than 650 stores annually and inspects for more than 350 companies. It has 4500 people qualified to BASIS standard and 2600 people qualified to FACTS standard. There is also several other registers they administer.

Remaining on the register is a case of continued professional development and points can be gained by attending BASIS and other events and training, as well as completing online modules such as those offered by Farmers Weekly.

Mr Jacob said that there is approximately 9.3 million hectares of farmland in the UK. On average, an agronomist will walk 5,000 hectares a year, suggesting the UK only needs 1,860 agronomists. So why are there more on the BASIS register? Agronomists can take many career paths including seed sales, consultancy, research, employment within a pesticide manufacturing company and academia, such as at Harper Adams.

Mr Jacob finished by summarising what an agronomy career in the future may consider -world population growth, global warming, fuel shortages, food crisis’, pesticides being banned, precision farming, GM and vertical farming. He concluded by sharing a picture that indicates that the future of agronomy really is an open door.

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