STUDYING agriculture is not sexy enough to meet future demands for skilled workers, two northern workshops have been told this week.
Experts predict another employment crisis for the bush after seminars in Tamworth and Armidale were told this week that agricultural studies and agronomy are obviously considered not cool enough to attract students.
The results suggest regional areas face an alarming shortage of skilled agronomy and rural scientists and leaders unless trends are turned around.
The shortage of agronomists was the key point of discussions at the 16th Biennial Australian Agronomy Conference in Armidale this week.
Held at the University of New England (UNE), about 300 of the country’s agronomists met to weigh in on the topic and suggest reasons why students were not picking up the pivotal field of study to Australia’s agricultural survival.
UNE professor and Australian Society of Agronomy president Graeme Blair led a roundtable discussion to develop a path to address the shortage.
A panel of six academics brought a number of different perspectives to the discussion and highlighted their perceived shortfalls of the education system.
“We need to ensure we see more graduates choosing this field of study to meet the huge demand in Australia,” Professor Blair said.
UNE has bucked agricultural enrolment trends this year, with figures revealing about 500 students chose to study one of its several agricultural degrees.
UNE reports suggested there had been an increase of 25 per cent in the past two years for those courses, despite a downturn at other universities.
Industry leaders also spoke about the Australian community’s disconnection with the importance of agriculture.
National Farmers’ Federation president Jock Laurie spoke about the critical role government policies played in the agricultural industry.
Mr Laurie said government policies were driven by the community, but the community had become disengaged with agriculture.
He spoke about how important it was to secure a long-term strategic government policy that recognised the sector’s role and contribution.
He said Australia would have a role to play in the projected 70 per cent increase in world food production needed by 2050.
Bob Clements, a former national agricultural research organisation member, also reported on the contribution of Australian agronomy to world food security during the past 20 years.