1 minute read


Education And Training

Agricultural pilots must take a specialized flight training program plus log 500 hours of accident-free, precision, low-level flying to obtain a commercial pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Aerial applicators also need specialized knowledge of the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides they use. You can learn about these chemicals through on-the-job training or by working with another spray pilot or for a large aerial applicator company. As an aerial applicator, you'll need a license from your state to handle and spray chemicals.

If you intend to do aerial photography, you'll need basic aerial photography skills. Experience is the best teacher, but a course in photography or aerial photography can help.

How Chemical Fertilizers Were Born

Agricultural pilots often spray chemical fertilizers on crops. But who came up with the idea of using fertilizers to grow plants in the first place?

Fertilizers were discovered accidentally about 3,000 years ago. Early humans in Mesopotamia, a region of southwest Asia, noticed that when human excrement, animal manure, and vegetal waste fell on plants, they grew larger. The Egyptians also learned that silt from the Nile River, rich in nutrients from decaying fish and vegetal matter, made their crops grow better.

Under the ancient Romans, fertilization took a big step forward in 200 BC when Cato the Elder discovered that vegetables and many other plants grew better with nitrogen. Yet, surprisingly, fertilizer use suddenly stopped after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Finally, after ten centuries, fertilizer use began to make a slow comeback. In 1630, J. R. Glaubner, a German alchemist working in Amsterdam, Holland, discovered that potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, made an excellent fertilizer. At the time, few farmers took advantage of Glaubner's discovery, but today he is remembered as the inventor of chemical fertilizers.

In 1842, Englishman John B. Lawes founded the chemical fertilizer industry after developing a way to make superphosphate fertilizer by adding sulfuric acid to phosphate rocks. By the end of the nineteenth century, fertilizers came into fashion once again, and they've been helping farmers and plant growers ever since.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCool Careers Without CollegeAGRICULTURAL AVIATION PILOT - Description, Education And Training, How Chemical Fertilizers Were Born, For More Information - Salary, Outlook