BSc in Agriculture
Bharti M Borah, 18 Jan 2014

Agriculture plays a crucial role in Indian economy. Almost 60 percent of the Indian workforce is involved in agriculture, but that has not resulted in substantial growth of the sector. In fact, its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has dwindled to less than 25 percent. It is time that students explore this largely unknown arena.

Most students are well aware of the streams like engineering and medicine, and post-graduate degrees like the MBA. But you may have not given any thought to a B.Sc in Agriculture, in spite of the fact that agriculture is a part of the NCERT syllabus for Class 10+2 for science students, and you prepared the chapter for your board exams.

The demand for trained professionals in the field of agriculture is high. The course fee is negligible, barely Rs. 5,000 per year. Scholarships are also available (view table below). A student who has completed a B.Sc in Agriculture will get a well-paying job right after graduation.

It was in the mid-1960s, Dr. DS Kothari, the then Chairman of the UGC, proposed that each state should have at least one agricultural university, a move that was implemented across the country. This resulted in the setting up of  49 such universities, both by the state and the central government.

FAST FACTS
Best Schools:GB Pant, TNAU
Qualifications:10+2 with Physics, Chemistry, Biology and/or Mathematics as subjects (may vary)
Our advice: This degree provides an interdisciplinary experience catering to varied interests and aptitudes. It’s advisable to pursue an MSc in Agriculture;
Career scope: Agricultural departments, extension services, research organisations, financial sector with focus on agriculture, micro-finance institutions , academia, fertiliser companies, agri-biotech organisations, commercial farming players

Scholarships and awards available

  • Boyscast Fellowship

  • British Crop Protection Council Award

  • Commonwealth Fellowship

  • INSA Fellowship

  • Young Scientist Award

  • Rotary International GSE Fellowship

  • APSI Distinguished Plant Scientist Award

  • Fellow of the Indian Society of Genetics and Plant Breeding

  • Fellow of the Indian Society of Extension Education

  • Best paper award and other awards

  • Award for distinguished service


A knowledge-based curriculum

Typically, a BSc in Agriculture is a four-year course, though some universities or institutes offer a five-year course. The curriculum vary, from learning about soil science to agricultural meteorology, and there is a balance between theory and practicals. Your last year will comprise hands-on training, which helps in tying up all you have learned in the first three years, to make you job-ready.

Agriculture is very diverse and the curriculum allows you to choose areas of interest to you. “Students interested in physical, biological, chemical, and computer science can specialise, based on their interest and aptitude. Even an interest in engineering or journalism (writing about agriculture), finds an avenue here,” shares Prof. H. S. Gaur, Dean and Joint Director Education (Former), Indian Agricultural Research Institute


Engineering enthusiasts can study Agricultural Engineering. If numbers and calculations excite you, you can take up Mathematical Statistics. Marketing has its own space within the field of agriculture, and so do chemistry and biology. You can also opt for Agri-Botany, Agri-Biotechnology, Agri-Chemistry, Agri-Economics, Agri-Extension, Agronomy, Agri-Engineering and Social forestry (view table for various disciplines).

Depending on your aptitude, you will find ways to explore them in agriculture, especially in forecasting and productivity improvement domains.
Teaching, research and extension activities are three vital components of any agriculture college. Extension, which is applicable to all aspects of agriculture, allows you to take the knowledge you have accumulated back to the farmers through field trips, conferences or hands-on experience.

Choosing an institute
It is advisable to choose an institution, which is a member of the Indian Agricultural Universities Association (IAUA), established to promote agricultural research and education in India. Though agricultural universities churn out trained manpower, many jobs are handled by untrained people in this sector because the field is still largely unexplored. Agriculture education is very standardised and extremely knowledge-based. The demand and supply is largely controlled, only those many students are churned out as per requirements.

 

Are you eligible?
You must have completed your 10+2 with Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics as subjects. Depending on the university, the eligibility varies in terms of a PCB/PCMB/PCA/PCM combination. Typically, admission notifications appear in newspapers with the details such as application deadlines and specific quotas for the state, central, general and reserved candidates. Admission process varies across universities, just visit the specific university websites (see table for list of select universities).

 

Select agriculture universities in India

Location

Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University

Hyderabad, AP

Anand Agricultural University

Anand, Gujrat

Banaras Hindu University

Varanasi, UP

Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University

Hisar, Haryana

Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology

Pantnagar, Uttrakhand

Punjab Agricultural University

Ludhiana, Punjab

Rajasthan Agricultural University

Bikaner, Rajasthan

Sardar Krushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University

Banaskantha, Gujarat

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University

Coimbatore, TN

University of Agricultural Sciences

Bangalore, Karnataka

University of Agricultural Sciences

Dharwad, Karnataka

Visva Bharati

Santiniketan, WB

Aligarh Muslim University

Aligarh, UP

Chaudhary Charan Singh University

Meerut, UP

Kerala Agricultural University

Thrissur, Kerala

The entrance exam
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Krishi Anusandhan Bhavan, Pusa, New Delhi conducts the All India Entrance Examination for entry to 15% of the total number of seats in graduate courses in State Agricultural Universities, National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal and Central Agricultural University, Imphal. Check the websites of other agricultural universities for the exam calendar, 

Admission is solely based on an entrance test; there are no interviews and group discussions to stress you out, once you clear the exam! The broad arena of options available through this entrance exam includes subjects like Agriculture, Horiculture, Fisheries Science, Forestry, Home Science, Sericulture, Veterinary Science, Agricultural Engineering and Dairy Technology.

Syllabus for ICAR’s entrance exam

Stream A: Physics, Chemistry and Agriculture/Biology
Stream B: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics
Total No of questions: 60

Note: The test also makes you eligible for other graduate programmes such as Horiculture, Fisheries Science, Forestry, Home Science, Sericulture and Veterinary Science if you have PCB; Agriculture Engineering, Dairy Technology, Food Science and Technology, Agricultural Marketing or Banking and Co-operation if you have PCM.

Job opportunities
Agricultural giants such as ITC, Monsanto and Cargill, which are beginning to establish their presence in commercial farming as well as small farmer-led production initiatives are on the look out for young executives to handle extension services. Since agriculture is a priority area in achieving financial inclusion, many insurance companies and banks also recruit agriculture graduates.

Also, look at research and advocacy-based organisations such as Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “Extension, that is, taking your expertise from the lab to the land and vice-versa, is the most challenging aspect,” says Dr. K M Manjaiah, Registrar (Academic), IARI, enthusiastically. For instance, the AME Foundation, an NGO which focuses on promoting agriculture in difficult circumstances, helps families which thrive on dry farming in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Should I specialise?
However, you can also pursue an M.Sc or a Ph.D in a specific branch of study. Again, entry is based on an entrance exam. There are enough seats available for M.Sc students. As more students opt for M.Sc, agricultural universities can increase the number of seats available based on the specific state (view table for some universities offering higher studies).

“Many students quit their M.Sc programme mid-way, to join a job. Don’t  focus on only getting a job. You will get one of choice once you finish your degree. A scientist, for instance, starts with a basic salary of Rs. 15,600. You get Rs. 37, 200 in hand, and the growth prospects are all uphill,” advises Prof. Gaur. The Agricultural Scientist Recruitment Board is a great place to start, which has vacancies for scientists.

If you go on to pursue an MBA in rural management, then you could work in agricultural finance, insurance, transportation, storage, grading and sales. You could also work in wholesale and retail marketing of agricultural products as well as managing private and/or cooperative businesses that sell or consume products of farmers. A specialised knowledge of the agricultural field is a requirement.

Making a difference
With its very low productivity levels, the sector offers tremendous potential for trained professionals. Besides picking up a gamut of information, you also get to practically apply it in the real world. “You make a difference to the economics of your country. Be honest, work sincerely and you will be amazed at the opportunities and satisfaction in store for you,” concludes Prof. Gaur. 

Dr. A K Sarkar,
Dean,

Birsa Agricultural University

Q. What are some of the qualities and skills needed for a career in agriculture?
A. You need a good, solid background in science education, especially subjects like Mathematics, Biology and Physics. Good English language and communication skills are crucial. Students from a rural background have an edge as their exposure to farming useful.

Q. What does the course curriculum entail?
A.A general course curriculum covers all aspects of agriculture like agronomy, cultivation of crops and soil science, understanding natural resources and management. Agriculture extension is cucial, directly reflective of benefit to farmers.

Q. How does geographical diversity influence the study of agriculture?
A. Variation in terms of geography is essential. For e.g, Jharkhand is 29 percent forest resources. Punjab and Haryana are 100 percent irrigated and Bihar is river-irrigated as well. Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North East, demand an understanding of hilly track agriculture. A thorough knowledge about soil erosion, land degradation, acute water scarcity and dry land and rain agriculture is required.

Q. And the job opportunities?
A. They are immense and the most opportunities at the moment are in banks and financial institutions. Centrally-funded projects, is another. Retail marketing, state governments and seed/fertiliser companies, also offer jobs. You can immediately get a job after a BSc or pursue higher studies. There’s a dearth of assistant professors, and education and research is a decent area to opt for as well.

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