Want a good job? Students should think agriculture...

“There has never been a better, more exciting, time for young people to choose careers in agriculture than right now,” says George Hopper.

“Opportunities for rewarding, challenging, well-compensated careers are boundless,” he says. “Whether it’s agronomy, or biotechnology, or precision agriculture, food science — you name it, young people choosing ag careers today can play a vital role in the changes that will take place in the years ahead.”

Hopper, dean of the College of Agriculture, Life Sciences, and Forest Resources at Mississippi State University, says opportunities in precision agriculture are particularly bright.

“For the next generation of agricultural leaders, it’s going to be important that they understand all the technologies that will be available to them,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association. “Precision ag technology is advancing rapidly, and it will have an increasingly important role in crop production in Mississippi and the U.S.

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“Our university is committed to being a leader in this field, and in the next few years precision ag will be a component of our courses — whether it be agronomy, weed science, soil science, or the myriad of other ag-related specialties. We believe this will have a great impact on our ability to take agriculture to an even higher level in our state.

“There are many important areas that need to be studied, answers that need to be found, as to how we can improve site specific management technologies associated with crop production. In the era of big data, with information from a host of sources — satellites, remote sensing devices, unmanned aircraft, and other technologies — we will have ever more sophisticated tools to help us identify problems in fields and apply the exact amounts of fertility, water, chemicals, and other inputs required to get the most from every plant. Agriculture will become more efficient, more profitable, and more environmentally friendly.”

The precision ag program will span many specialties in the College of Agriculture, Life Sciences, and Forestry, Hopper says. “All our departments, from ag engineering to ag economics, will have teams working together to provide the best training in this field.”

MSU continues to be top-ranked in ag research, he says. “For the last 16 years, the National Science Foundation has ranked us in the Top 10 universities in agricultural research. Last year, we had over $100 million in ag research projects.”

And Hopper says, agriculture remains an important part of the state’s economy, with a farm gate value last year of $7.9 billion, a value added component of $17.2 billion, and more than a quarter of all jobs in the state directly related to agriculture and forestry.


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