Crop technician

Crop technician

A crop technician is responsible for using the advanced and innovative technologies available to optimise agricultural and horticultural crop yields on farms.
Also known as cereals technician, agriculture technician (arable), horticultural operative, arable technician, arable operator.

This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.

 

A crop technician is responsible for using the advanced and innovative technologies available to optimise agricultural and horticultural crop yields on farms. This is achieved by efficiently delivering the key stages of sowing seed, germination, growth, harvest, and post-harvest operations. All this should be done while taking appropriate steps to maintain and improve the soil and the surrounding environment.

A crop technician works closely with the farm manager, foreman/assistant farm manager, or agronomist, carrying out their plans and instructions effectively to ensure crops are produced to the highest standard. As a crop technician, you'll have a good working knowledge of all crop/plant growth stages, from seed storage to final crop harvesting and product care. This will help to help make sure the overall business is as profitable as possible. 

Arable and horticulture crops include cereals like oats, barley, wheat, maize, vegetables, salad, or fruit crops. They are produced as food for humans and animals and for energy production, such as in anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities and biomass burners.

This is a variable role where you could work in an outdoor soil-based system or sometimes indoors in polytunnels or glasshouse systems. 

You'll understand the different species of crops and their stages of growth and be responsible for preparing seed beds/growing mediums and following procedures to maximise growth potential. You'll also need to understand control measures for common pests, weeds, and diseases. 

You'll become competent in keeping accurate records using farm software, operating and taking care of machinery, and may be involved with experimenting with new growing approaches. 

It’s common for farmers in the UK to have a mix of crops depending on soil type, location, market, and crop compatibility. A mix of crops in a crop rotation is considered best practice as it helps to maintain soil health and reduce the risk of pests and diseases. 

You may need to have your own transport to get to work. 

As a crop technician, your responsibilities might include: 

  • Maintaining systems for record keeping (probably IT system based) and storage used within the organisation 
  • Maintaining machinery and equipment and using them efficiently
  • Using correct preparation methods, timing of activities, and aftercare requirements for the crops grown on-site 
  • Being able to identify crops and know how to get them established
  • Understanding and applying the principles of plant growth, development, and plant health
  • Ensuring business profitability through understanding input costs, cost of production, and margins of profit
  • Being able to identify key pests, weeds, and diseases and understanding that control mechanisms you use may have an impact on the environment 
  • Using plant protection methods to ensure crop growth in a range of potentially challenging environmental conditions
  • Maintaining good standards of hygiene and environmental control relating to crop/food storage (where relevant) 
  • Working to quality standards and specifications relevant to their business and their importance  
  • Ensuring you comply with health and safety legislation and codes of practice in relation to the job role/workplace, including contingency/emergency plans  
  • Ensuring you comply with environmental issues/legislation, codes of practice, and company policies 

To work as a crop technician, you should:

  • Have a strong work ethic 
  • Be accountable for your actions in relation to the farm’s crops manager 
  • Be able to communicate and listen well to others 
  • Have a high level of attention to detail 
  • Be organised and able to plan your time effectively 
  • Be passionate about crop performance 
  • Have a positive, 'can-do' attitude
  • Be adaptable and willing to learn 
  • Be willing to try different ideas or approaches 
  • Have a willingness to take instruction and ideas from others, for example, from the farm manager or advisers 
  • Be amenable to working in challenging weather conditions 

Relevant qualifications include the level 3 apprenticeship.

This role would suit someone self-motivated, enthusiastic, and committed to making a difference to the industry.  

As a crop technician, you’ll take responsibility for using advanced technology and innovation to optimise agricultural and horticultural crop yields on farms. You will:  

  • Maintain systems for record keeping and storage 
  • Maintain machinery and equipment and use them efficiently  
  • Use correct preparation methods, time activities, and the aftercare requirements for the farm's crops 
  • Be able to identify crops and know how to get them established   
  • Understand and apply the principles of plant growth, development, and plant health on your site
  • Ensure business profitability through understanding input and production costs and profit margins 
  • Be able to identify key pests, weeds, and diseases and understand how the control mechanisms used may impact the environment  
  • Use plant protection methods to ensure crop growth in a range of potentially challenging environmental conditions
  • Maintain good standards of hygiene and environmental control relating to crop/food storage (where relevant) 
  • Work to the relevant quality standards and specifications
  • Ensure you comply with health and safety legislation and codes of practice, including contingency/emergency plans
  • Ensure you comply with environmental issues/legislation, codes of practice, and company policies

Salaries start at around £23,000 on completion of a level 3 apprenticeship. Senior crop technician salaries can increase up to £38,000 if the individual has more experience and/or higher-level qualifications. Salaries can also vary depending on location and type of crop expertise. 

This role is usually a full-time position. 

You may also receive training and certification as part of your employment benefits. Once you gain greater experience and skills, you can expect your salary to increase.

Full-time, part-time, casual, and seasonal work opportunities are available, although most roles are full-time. 

You could progress further by developing your skills and knowledge as a crop technician within the industry to move on to more senior lab/scientific institute-based roles or farm-based positions, such as unit/arable manager, production manager, or even eventually, farm manager.  

In the longer term, you could also consider a position as a farm consultant providing technical support and advice to other farmers, environmental organisations, and companies that produce seed, fertilisers, and crop protection products. To achieve this, you could consider degree-level qualifications, such as a BSc in Agricultural and Crop Science, FdSc in Agriculture (Precision Crop Technology), or a BSc in Agriculture. 

Courses which can help you on this career path include:

Apprenticeship

Level 3 Crop Technician  

Some standalone qualifications will be included in your apprenticeship, but some relating to handling, storage, and application of pesticides, forklift and rough terrain forklift certification, first aid, and working at height may need to be obtained separately from organisations such as Lantra

TIAH Essential Skills

Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.

Anyone considering working as a crop technician would find our Biosecurity and Foundations in Farm Safety courses helpful.

You can find out more about life as a crop technician by listening to Ben Eagle's Meet the Farmers podcast, episode 186.

Return to our job profiles page for more exciting roles in farming and growing.