It takes more than a pair of rubber boots, the ability to dodge water-dwelling creatures and a photographic memory for product rates to make a great rice consultant.
“Consultants are like the Swiss Army knife of rice production,” says Hank Jones, owner of RHJ Ag Services of Winnsboro, Louisiana. “It’s about more than walking fields, finding challenges and making recommendations. You’ve got to be part chemist, weed scientist, entomologist, agronomist and meteorologist. And most importantly, you’ve got to be able to communicate well with farmers.”
Great rice consultants possess these skills:
- Communication. “Communication skills are vital. Inputs aren’t cheap, and you’ve got to be able to explain the value of what you are recommending,” Jones says. “Knowledge is worthless if you can’t communicate it. Farmers need to know you have their best interests in mind. They are going off of our word, our tire tracks and our footprints.”
- Education. Consultants attend educational seminars and professional meetings year-round to hone skills and maintain required certifications.
- Networking. Learning from, and with, university and company researchers improves consultants’ agronomic and product knowledge, especially the strengths and characteristics of products being recommended.
- Experience. “You’ve got to make sure, no matter what products and practices you are recommending, you are doing what’s right,” Jones says. “You’ve got to know your weeds, your chemicals and in what situations those products work best.