Elders graduate program opens doors into ag for Kununurra’s Liam Pearce - Elders Rural Services

Elders graduate program opens doors into ag for Kununurra’s Liam Pearce

Becoming an agronomist has taken Liam Pearce from Kununurra in Australia’s Top End to Manjimup in south-west WA and the next adventure will be in Bunbury.

Mr Pearce is six months into Elders’ two-year graduate agronomy program and his exposure to both sales and agronomy has helped him make his mark early in the industry. An agronomy visit reviewing the winter nutrition for avocadoes, inspired Mr Pearce to develop a custom blend for a client.

“The grower wanted a winter avocado blend they could broadcast in granular form with just one to two passes through the orchard every winter because it can get quite boggy,” Mr Pearce said.

“They don’t want to use fertigation because they would rather not put that water through the crop.”

As well as adjusting nitrogen and potassium levels in the traditional blend used by avocado growers, there was an extra problem to solve.

“Boron is a pretty tricky nutrient to deal with and a lot of people get it wrong because there’s such a fine level between deficiency and toxicity,” he said. “The solution was a slow release form.”

Because graduate agronomists also learn other aspects of the Elders business, the idea spread quickly across the region, mentor Dave Stewart said.

“Spending time with rural products sales representative Scott Thompson visiting other growers in the area, Liam realised there was a fit for this blend across a number of orchards.”

Mr Pearce said good agronomists had a broad understanding of farm systems.

“Good agronomists need to be able to foster good relations with their clients,” he said.

“They also need to be able to understand what’s going on, not just in terms of nutrition or crop protection but also how a client would think, how they go about running farms and growing crops, and trying to be as helpful as possible.”

The strength of the Elders graduate agronomy program, Mr Pearce said, was the insight that it provided young professionals of the wider industry.

The two-year Elders graduate agronomy program comprises six-month rotations, offering its young professionals experience across a range of different farming systems and regions. Mr Pearce will soon move to Bunbury and Midland, where there is a greater focus on crops like brassicas and potatoes.

“You’re invited to explore quite a diverse range of things,” Mr Pearce said.

“While most agronomists will end up in one place learning about a few crops, we get to work with all sorts of growers and all sorts of crops.

“The company teaches us about the incredible diversity in ag. We had a meeting in Adelaide a few months ago where the CEO and head of real estate were among a group of people who came in and discussed things with us, for example, and I was in Brisbane two weeks ago for Hort Connections.

“We’re taught, not just agronomy though it is the most important, but also about how the whole company and the industry runs.

“And, really, there are opportunities in everything, which is what the program provides access to.”

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