Agronomy is the science of soil management and crop production. But according to Patricio Ortiz, a junior studying agronomy, there is more to him than just his major that makes him unique.

Thanks to the grapevine of friends who first brought it to his attention, Ortiz recently earned the Golden Scholar Opportunity Scholarship which he will be recognized for at the American Society of Agronomy Conference in San Antonio, Texas, this November.

This scholarship is available to all agronomy majors across the nation, but only 25 applicants are selected. The scholarship includes a paid trip to San Antonio and the chance to research chosen topics with professors from around the nation.

“In my case, I would want to do citrus or grapes,” Ortiz said. “It’s very likely that in the future when you are doing your master’s degree it would be with that same professor that you did research with.”

Agronomy careers can consist of being a soils tester or a crop farmer. Other areas within this field include studying plant genetics, soil science and crop sciences.

Other opportunities may include developing new varieties of crops in different regions across the state, studying the crop’s nutrition yield, improving soil health and even learning effective fertilizer usage.

Ortiz personally intends to focus on one area of interest.

Samantha Vanderwalker

For me, my goal after I graduate from BYU-Idaho is to get a master degree in crop science, but I want to specialize in citrus or grapes because I have had experience with that type, and I want to do something on the production part but also with business,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz wanted to pursue Agronomy since he was a kid partially because of his father, who is an agronomy engineer. Between that and living in Argentina and California where fresh fruits were always available, Ortiz’s passion for citrus and grape production grew.

Upon moving to the United States, Ortiz interned three times at one of the world’s largest table-grape growers in California — Sun World Inc. With Ortiz’s previous knowledge of citrus and grapes, along with the export process, he became a valuable member in the company.

“I was working with the international export and also on the farming site,” Ortiz said. “I was able to help develop a scorecard that will determine the level of risk for the export, so we can reduce the amount of rejections from the Asian market.”

Through his success, Ortiz credits some of these opportunities towards networking, participation and internships.

“The mentor research at the school might be a good start for people because it gets you real experience,” Ortiz said. “You also learn about the crop that you’re doing research on and also getting in contact with people from the industry. When you research with those people who come to see the research, then you have the opportunity to network, so I’d say take advantage of that opportunity and also the agriculture department trips.”

Samantha Vanderwalker