According to the Oxford English Dictionary agronomy is defined as ‘the science of soil management and crop production’. To agronomist Casey Onus, 24, it means to be out standing in your field! Casey is based in Tamworth, New South Wales and works with growers across a wide range of crops; following in her father’s footsteps as she weaves her way through stands of cotton, sorghum and wheat.
Casey grew up on the black soil plains of Moree in western NSW where she would follow her agronomist father into the paddocks – earning lollies as rewards for her correct identification of weeds. From this beginning she chose agriculture as an elective at high school where she won multiple awards and attended a Rotary Youth in Ag Cotton Camp, which opened her eyes to the plethora of opportunities the world of agriculture had to offer.
In fact it was cotton that convinced Casey once and for all that her future lay in agronomy. She spent a summer as a bug checker on a cotton crop – getting muddy, bitten and sunburnt – and realised how much she enjoyed it. With the fluffy white bolls of cotton came a satisfaction she had not found elsewhere.
Casey then completed a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of New England (UNE) and was accepted into the Landmark Graduate Agronomy Program to be mentored by senior agronomists in Tamworth. Since then her career has flourished. In 2017 she was a top ten finalist (and the youngest ever finalist) in the ADAMA Young Agronomist of the Year competition and travelled to the United States to participate in the International Food and
Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) Global Conference as a representative of UNE. She is also undertaking a Masters of Business Administration.
Today Casey is passionate about precision agriculture and how data and imagery can assist growers. For example, she tells how she takes GPS data from agricultural machinery and uses it to compile elevation and yield maps, which she can then combine with satellite imagery to get information on soil type and fertility. This in turn allows the grower to target specific areas for chemical or fertiliser application, with money saved and yields increased.
“Land is a non-renewable resource and with the growing global population I think precision agriculture holds the key to helping farmers meet the demand in the future. I love seeing the positive change I can create in my clients’ businesses by adjusting the way they manage their farming practices. Working with several clients across a range of very different operations gives me the opportunity to see what does and does not work. This enables me to come up with creative solutions, collaborating ideas from both cropping and livestock worlds instead of staying inside the box."
We believe that creativity can be a great problem solver and can be a major help in finding alternative and more effective farming solutions. This is a way of thinking you sound very comfortable with Casey!