Ag Career Profile: Extension Agronomist
Carrie Knott, a Daviess county native, thought after high school she would get an associate’s degree and enter the workforce. A bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D later, she is working as an extension agronomist for the University of Kentucky.
Knott said after beginning classes at community college she quickly realized that a desk job wouldn’t be for her.
She enrolled at Western Kentucky University and obtained her bachelor’s of science in agriculture, then pursued her master’s with the encouragement of her professors, she said.
Most of Knott’s current research focuses on sustainable wheat and soybean production. She said during the summer she spends a lot of time in the field, working in her research plots, which rely heavily on hand labor.
During the summer, Knott said she also spends a lot of time with undergraduate interns and graduate students, training them to collect necessary data to help with research projects.
“It is a great opportunity to train the next generation on key agronomic practices in real-world settings, which NEVER look the same as the ‘textbook’ examples,” she said.
Another large part of being an extension agronomist is answering questions from producers and other county agents about potential problems and challenges of the current growing season.
Knott said this year several producers and agents had questions and concerns about the freeze events that had potential to damage the wheat crop and the flooding that affected many acres of soybeans and corn.
Knott said she enjoys the variety of her job.
“I could plan to come into the office to work on a paper or presentation and end up getting a phone call from a producer that will have me tracking down an answer to his/her problem all day,” Knott said.
When Knott isn’t in the field she said she is often analyzing data and presenting that data in Kentucky and around the country.
“Both for research and problems in a producer's field it is like having three puzzles all mixed up, but you are only interested in putting together one of them,” said Knott.
Patience, problem solving, attentiveness and listening are key qualities to becoming an excellent agronomist, she said. Taking time to listen to producers and gathering more information than necessary, then sorting through that information to find the one nugget of information that will help you solve problems is key.
Knott said her best advice for people looking to get involved in agronomy and extension is to never be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
“That doesn’t mean you don’t have to find them the answer, but if you don’t know at that moment then you just don’t,” Knott said. “No one knows everything. The difference between good and excellent agronomists is how hard they look for that answer.”
By McKenna Dosier for TeachKYAg