- acre (ac)
- A unit of area traditionally defined as the area of one chain (66 feet) by one furlong (660 feet), equivalent to 43,560 square feet (0.001563 sq mi; 4,047 m2), or about 0.40 hectare.
- A customary unit of volume defined as the volume of one acre of surface area to a depth of one foot, commonly used in the United States in reference to large-scale water or soil resources. One acre-foot is equal to 43,560 cubic feet (1,233 m3).
- agrarian system
- The dynamic set of economic and technological factors that affect agricultural practices in a particular region.
- A social or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society and the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker. Agrarianism argues in favor of farming as a way of life that can shape ideal social values.
- The business of agricultural production, including the entire range of activities and disciplines encompassed by modern food and fiber production chains and those agents and institutions which influence them.
- agricultural aircraft
- agricultural cooperative
Also called a farmers’ co-op or simply a co-op.
- Any association of farmers or agricultural businesses who voluntarily pool their resources in order to meet their common agricultural needs and goals by cooperating in a jointly owned enterprise. Agricultural cooperatives may be distinguished between “service” cooperatives, which provide inputs for agricultural production (seeds, fertilizers, fuels, etc.) or transportation and marketing services to members who run their farms individually, and “production” cooperatives, in which members run their farms jointly using shared land, machinery, or other resources; an example of the latter is collective farming.
- agricultural economics
- A branch of economics concerned with the application of economic theory in optimizing the production and distribution of food, fiber, and other products of agriculture.
- agricultural engineering
- A branch of engineering concerned with agricultural production and processing. It combines elements of mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, and food science, among other disciplines.
- agricultural extension
- The application of new knowledge and techniques obtained through scientific research to agricultural practices by educating farmers and agricultural communities, with the goals of improving the efficiency and productivity of agriculture, improving living standards in rural areas, and raising awareness of environmental issues. The term encompasses a variety of educational and outreach activities organized by professional educators from a wide range of disciplines, often with emphasis on agricultural marketing, land management, sustainability, food safety, and public health.
- agricultural fencing
- agricultural land
- Any land devoted solely to agriculture, i.e. the deliberate and systematic reproduction of living organisms in order to produce commodities that can be used by humans. In the broadest sense, agricultural land may also include certain types of land which are used only partially or seasonally for agricultural purposes, such as pastures and wild forests. Colloquially, the term is often used interchangeably with farmland, cropland, and arable land, though these terms may also be considered technically distinct.
- agricultural productivity
- A measure of the economic productivity of a given quantity of agricultural land (or any other agricultural input), typically expressed as the ratio of agricultural outputs to agricultural inputs. In modern agricultural industries, “output” is often quantified as the market value of the agricultural product at the end of the production chain (i.e. immediately prior to its purchase by a consumer).
- agricultural science
- The science and art of cultivating plants, animals, or other organisms in order to produce any of a variety of products that can be used by humans, most commonly food, fibers, fuels, and raw materials.
- Any primarily agricultural operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch, either for direct-to-consumer sales (e.g. farm stands and “You-Pick” operations), education, hospitality, recreation, or entertainment.
- The study of plant nutrition and growth, especially as a means of increasing crop yield.
- The study of ecology as it pertains to agriculture, particularly the application of knowledge about ecological processes to agricultural production systems.
- The intentional combination of knowledge and practices of agriculture and forestry, resulting in a system of land use in which forest trees or shrubs are grown around or among agricultural crops or pastureland, with the goal of enhancing the functionality and sustainability of a farming system. Agroforestry shares principles with intercropping but may involve complex ecological interactions between hundreds of species.
- The branch of soil science concerning the production of crop plants. The term is often used interchangeably with agronomy, agricultural science, and agricultural soil science.
- The science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber, and land restoration.
- A specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of algae, with the goal of producing any of a variety of products that can be used by humans, including food ingredients, fertilizers, colorants and dyes, pharmaceuticals, and chemical feedstock.
- animal unit
- A standard measure, based on feed requirements, used to combine various classes of livestock according to size, weight, age, and intended use. On federal lands in the United States, one animal unit represents one mature cow, bull, steer, heifer, horse, or mule, or five sheep or goats, all over six months of age.
- animal-free agriculture
Also called veganic farming.
- Any agricultural practice or farming method that does not make use of animals or animal products, such as farmed animal manures. Animal-free agriculture may use organic or non-organic techniques.
Also called beekeeping.
- The maintenance of colonies of bees, commonly in man-made beehives, by humans for any of a variety of purposes, including collecting honey or other products created by bees, pollinating crops, and breeding bees for sale. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary and a person who practices apiculture is called an apiarist or beekeeper.
Also called aquafarming.
- The cultivation of aquatic organisms, either freshwater or saltwater, including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants, and others, with the goal of producing any of a variety of products that can be used by humans. Branches of aquaculture include pisciculture, algaculture, and mariculture.
- arable land
- Any land which is capable of producing viable agricultural crops in its present state, and which does not require substantial clearing or other improvements apart from routine tillage operations. This may include both natural, unaltered landscapes that are fertile enough to immediately support agriculture, as well as land that has been made arable by previous modification and cultivation. Colloquially, the term is often used interchangeably with farmland, cropland, and agricultural land, though these terms may also be considered technically distinct.
- artificial selection
Also called selective breeding.
- The process by which humans use animal breeding and plant breeding to selectively control the development of particular phenotypic traits in organisms by choosing which individual organisms will reproduce and create offspring. Artificial selection involves the deliberate exploitation of knowledge about genetics and reproductive biology in the hope of producing desirable characteristics in descendant organisms. It is widely practiced in agriculture, but it may also be unintentional and may produce unintended results.
- The act of clearing forested land in order to prepare it for agriculture or other purposes.
- biodynamic agriculture
- A type of alternative agriculture which incorporates holistic ecological approaches and aspects of organic and integrated farming but also emphasizes various esoteric perspectives, including spiritual and mystical beliefs about nature. The efficacy of biodynamic agricultural techniques lacks scientific evidence, and the practice has been labeled a pseudoscience.
- Any fuel that is produced from recently living biomass, as opposed to fuels produced by slow geological processes such as fossil fuels. Biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel are commonly produced from agricultural energy crops.
- The mixing and turning of soil caused by organisms moving through the soil.
- An expansive parcel of land suitable for farms practicing large-scale crop production. The term is used primarily in Australia.
- broadcast seeding
- A method of seeding that involves scattering seed over a relatively large and imprecise area, either by hand or mechanically, as opposed to precision seeding and hydroseeding. Broadcast seeding is easier and faster than seeding in rows but usually requires more seed and may result in overcrowded and uneven distributions of plant cover. It is generally reserved for plants that do not have strict spacing or depth requirements or that are easily thinned after germination.
- A type of herbivory in which the herbivore feeds on leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of relatively tall, woody plants such as shrubs and trees, as opposed to grazing, which involves feeding on grasses and other low-lying vegetation. Browsing may also refer to feeding on any non-grasses, including both woody and herbaceous dicots.
- bumper crop
- Any crop that yields an unusually large or productive harvest.
- The supply of a farm commodity that is not yet used at the end of a marketing season and subsequently stored and made available for sale in the next marketing season. An excessively large carryover may be considered a surplus, and may cause prices to fall.
- cash crop
Also called a profit crop.
- Any crop that is grown so that it can be marketed and sold for profit, as opposed to a subsistence crop, which is grown for the producer’s own use. While historically cash crops have often been only a small part of a farm’s total yield, almost all modern crops in developed nations are grown primarily for revenue.
- catch crop
- Any fast-growing crop that is grown between successive plantings of a primary crop on the same land. Its practice, known as catch cropping, is a type of succession planting.
- cattle cycle
- The pork cycle, i.e. a cyclical fluctuation of supply and prices, as observed in cattle markets. In the United States, the cattle cycle refers to the approximately 10-year period during which the industry-wide population of beef cattle is alternatively expanded and reduced over several consecutive years in response to perceived changes in profitability by beef producers. Low prices occur when cattle numbers or beef supplies are high, precipitating several years of herd liquidation; as cattle numbers decline and supplies diminish, prices gradually begin to rise along with renewed demand, causing cattle producers to begin breeding cattle and expanding their herds again, restarting the cycle.
- center-pivot irrigation
- Any grass cultivated for the edible components of its grain, composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran. The term may also refer to the resulting grain itself (the “cereal grain”). Compare pseudocereal.
- The dry, scaly, protective casing around the seeds of cereal grains, or any other similar plant material. Chaff is generally inedible by humans but is often used as fodder for livestock or is ploughed into the soil as a type of green manure.
Often used interchangeably with fertigation.
- The practice of delivering any natural or synthetic chemical compound or mixture of compounds (such as fertilizers, pesticides, soil amendments, etc.) to crop plants via the water supply used for irrigation.
- The cultivation of citrus fruit trees.
- See agricultural cooperative.
- cold frame
- An enclosure with a transparent roof, built low to the ground, that is designed to protect juvenile plants and small gardens from excessively cold or wet weather. Cold frames are used to extend the growing season by acting as miniature greenhouses.
- collective farming
Also called communal farming.
- Any type of agricultural production in which multiple farmers or producers run their holdings as a joint enterprise using shared land, water resources, machinery, equipment, or other agricultural inputs in order to meet common needs and goals. Communal farms may be either voluntary agricultural cooperatives or mandatory state farms owned and operated directly by a central government.
- combine harvester
Also simply called a combine.
- A type of agricultural machinery designed to efficiently harvest a variety of different grain crops by combining three traditionally separate harvesting operations – reaping, threshing, and winnowing – into a single mechanical process. The harvested grain is stored either in an on-board compartment or offloaded into separate equipment, while the remaining straw is typically discarded on to the field.
- companion planting
- The practice of planting different crops in proximity for any of a number of different reasons, including as a means of controlling pests, aiding pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, maximizing the use of space, or otherwise increasing agricultural productivity. It is a type of polyculture.
- Any mixture of ingredients, commonly decomposing plant and food waste and/or other recycled organic materials, that is used to fertilize and improve soils. Such mixtures are rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms which can increase soil fertility and aid plant growth by acting as a natural soil conditioner, increasing the humic content of the soil, and suppressing pathogens. Often compost is made simply by allowing gatheredgreen and brown waste to decompose naturally in open-air piles for many months, though it can also be made with more precise measurements and controls.
- conservation tillage
- Any tillage practice which aims to reduce soil erosion and preserve natural soil conditions, generally by leaving significant amounts of crop residue to cover previously harvested agricultural land; such practices can also enhance biological pest control and reduce fuel consumption and soil compaction. Conservation tillage includes no-till, strip-till, and mulch-till systems.
- contract farming
- Farming or other agricultural production carried out on the basis of an agreement between the buyer or consumer and the farmer or producer. Contracts typically involve the producer agreeing to supply certain quantities of a crop or other product according to quality standards and delivery requirements specified by the buyer, and the buyer agreeing to buy the product, often at a price that is established in advance; the buyer often also agrees to support the producer in various ways, e.g. by supplying inputs, assisting with land preparation, providing production advice, and helping to transport the finished product.
- controlled-environment agriculture (CEA)
- conventional tillage
- A method of forest management by which the trunks and stems of young trees are regularly cut down to near ground level, exploiting the ability of many tree species to regenerate new growth from living stumps. After a number of years of growth, the intended products of the coppiced tree are harvested and the cycle begins anew. Pollarding is a similar process carried out at higher levels on the tree; both practices are important techniques in silviculture.
- A forest that has been coppiced.
- corporate farming
- The practice of large-scale agriculture on farms owned or greatly influenced by corporations or large private businesses. The concept includes not only corporate ownership of farmland and the means of production, but also the roles such companies play in influencing agricultural education, research, and public policy through lobbying and funding initiatives.
- cover crop
- Any plant that is planted as soil cover rather than for the purpose of being harvested. Cover crops may be used to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, water content, weeds, pests, agricultural diseases, and biodiversity on land that is repeatedly farmed. They are commonly off-season crops planted after harvesting a cash crop in order to help conserve the integrity of the land through a fallow period.
- Any plant, animal, or other product of a living organism that can be grown and harvested extensively for profit or subsistence. The term may refer to the organism or species itself, the harvested parts, or the harvest in a more refined state. Most crops are cultivated in agriculture and its sub-disciplines, most commonly (but not exclusively) as food for humans or fodder for livestock; other crops are gathered from the wild.
- crop residue
- Any organic material left in an agricultural field or orchard after a crop has been harvested, such as stalks and stems, leaves, seed pods, etc., or after a crop is processed for consumer use, such as seeds, husks, roots, bagasse, or other byproducts of processing. Field residues may be maintained as soil cover, burned, or ploughed into the soil as green manure; process residues are often used as animal fodder or soil amendments.
- crop rotation
- The practice of cultivating a series of different crops in the same space over the course of multiple growing seasons, often in a specific sequence that repeats in a cycle every few seasons. The alternative to crop rotation, monocropping, may gradually deplete the soil of certain nutrients and select for highly competitive communities of pests and weeds, decreasing productivity in the absence of high volumes of external inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides. Crop rotation can reduce reliance upon these inputs by making better use of natural ecosystem services from a diverse set of crops, often improving soil quality and reducing the probability of pests and weeds developing resistances to control measures.
- crop weed
- Any weed or undesirable plant that grows among crop plants. See also weed of cultivation.
- crop wild relative (CWR)
- A wild plant taxon that is closely related to a domesticated plant taxon (e.g. a wild ancestor of the domesticated plant) and which therefore may be indirectly useful to plant breeders by presenting the possibility of introducing genetic material from the wild plant into the domestic relative by crossbreeding.
Also called aerial application or topdressing.
- The use of an agricultural aircraft to apply protective chemicals or other amendments, especially pesticides and fertilizers, to crops from above. Such aircraft may include either fixed-wing airplanes or helicopters, but are typically highly specialized and purpose-built to distribute very large amounts of liquid product over very large land areas in a relatively efficient manner.
- crop-lien system
- A farm financing scheme whereby money is loaned at the beginning of a growing season to pay for farming operations, with the subsequent harvest used as collateral for the loan.
- 1. The act of improving an area of land for or by agriculture, especially through the deliberate growing of plants (but not necessarily excluding other types of agriculture). Land upon which plants are sown, nurtured, or harvested, or more broadly any land dedicated to agricultural purposes, is said to be cultivated.
- 2. Another name for tillage, especially the shallow, selective secondary tillage of row crop fields.
- custom harvesting
- The contracting of independent operators of farm equipment to harvest crops, especially grains, on a particular farm. Custom harvesters provide their own combines or other machinery and often charge for their work by the acre, with additional charges for high yields.
- damping off
- A disease of newly germinated seedlings caused by any of a variety of fungi (e.g. Rhizoctonia or Aphanomyces) which spread in warm, damp conditions and parasitize roots and lower stems. Damping off is a common cause of seedling loss in greenhouses.
- dead stock
- All implements, tools, appliances, and machinery used on a particular farm; sometimes inclusive of seed, fertilizer, and feedingstuffs.
- The practice of removing dead or spent flowers from a live plant in order to encourage further flowering, to prevent seed development, or to improve the plant’s appearance. See also deblossoming.
Also called deflowering.
- The practice of removing flowers, spent or unspent, from live plants for any reason, especially to encourage or improve the subsequent growth, reproduction, health, or appearance of the plant’s non-flower parts. Deblossoming is often done in order to divert the plant’s limited resources away from sexual reproduction and towards vegetative propagation, e.g. by roots and runners; early in a perennial plant’s life in order to allow it to establish and grow to maturity before dedicating resources to reproduction; or near the end of the growing season in order to maximize the size and quality of existing fruits, seeds, or other useful crop parts by diverting energy and nutrients away from new buds that will likely not have time to develop into useful crops anyway.
- Any herbicidal chemical which causes leaves or other foliage to detach and drop from a plant. Defoliants are sometimes used on very leafy trees and shrubs to make finding and harvesting the non-leaf crop parts easier.
- deintensified farming
- Any agricultural operation which was formerly intensive but has since become deliberately extensive.
- dessert crop
- Any crop that is (or historically was) grown or used only for special occasions, as an elite or luxury item, or for pleasure rather than sustenance. Examples of crops historically considered dessert crops include coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, and tobacco.
- The removal of water from a crop plant by pressing and compacting layers of plant material for long periods of time. Dewatering can be significantly cheaper than other artificial drying techniques.
- The process of immersing a live animal into a bath containing a liquid formulation of insecticide (and sometimes also fungicide), usually a dilute solution of organophosphorus compounds, as a means of removing lice, ticks, or other ectoparasites which may otherwise cause disease. Sheep are commonly treated in a sheep dip, and cattle in a plunge dip.
- Waste material which is removed from grain as it is being processed, prior to milling.
- drip irrigation
Also called trickle irrigation.
- A type of micro-irrigation system that supplies water and/or fertilizers to crops by allowing it to leak slowly from perforated plastic or rubber tubes into the soil surrounding the plants’ roots, with the primary goal of delivering water directly to the root zone and thereby minimizing wasting due to evaporation and runoff (often significant problems in surface irrigation and sprinkler irrigation). Drip systems distribute water through a network of valves, pipes, emitters, and flexible, lightweight tubing called drip line or drip tape, which can be positioned above or buried below the soil surface. Drip irrigation is most commonly used in small-scale outdoor operations, high tunnels, and greenhouses, where it is often much more efficient than alternative irrigation methods and has the advantage of allowing water and fertilizers to be applied gradually, uniformly, and in precise quantities to each individual plant.
- A cut or notch made in, or a tag attached to, one or both ears of a livestock animal (most commonly cattle, pigs, goats, and sheep) as an easily visible mark of identification, usually to indicate age, sex, medical status, or ownership. Compare brand.
- ecological sanitation
- The scientific analysis and study of interactions between organisms and their environment. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes biology, geography, and Earth science.
- economic maturity
- The optimum time at which to harvest a tree or stand of trees (or any other perennial plants), as determined by the age at which the growth rate slows enough to cause the average annual profit over the life of the stand to begin to decrease.
- The scientific study of the influence of soils on living organisms, particularly plants, and of how soils are used and modified by humans for agriculture.
- edge effects
- Changes in ecological characteristics (e.g. population or community structure) associated with the boundary between two dissimilar habitat types, ecosystems, or agricultural land uses, potentially affecting the biological and ecological traits of the resident plant or animal communities.
- energy crop
- Any crop grown exclusively as a source of fuel for the purpose of energy production. Such crops are processed into solid, liquid, or gaseous biofuels (as with bioethanol and biogas) which are then burned to generate power or heat for human purposes.
- environmental science
- extensive agriculture
Also called extensive farming.
- Any system of agricultural production that uses small inputs of labor, fertilizer, and/or capital relative to the land area used for production, in contrast to intensive agriculture.
- factory farming
- See intensive animal farming.
- 1. (adj.) The condition of any arable land which is deliberately not planted or left unsown for one or more production cycles or growing seasons with the intent of allowing the soil to recover and restore depleted nutrients and other organic matter that is critical for ecological function, while retaining moisture and disrupting the life cycles of agricultural pests by temporarily removing their hosts. Fallowing is often an important technique in crop rotation.
- 2. (n.) Any period in which arable land is not used for cultivation.
- fallow crop
- A crop that is grown in widely spaced rows so that it is possible to hoe and cultivate between the rows.
- family farm
- A farm which ideally supports one family, or a farm which is owned and/or operated by a single family, as opposed to farms operated as collectives, non-family corporations, or in other institutionalized forms.
- An area of land devoted primarily to agricultural processes with the primary objective of producing food or other crops. In the broadest sense, the term may include ranches, feedlots, orchards, plantations, smallholdings and hobby farms, fish farms, and even industrial operations such as wind farms.
- farm assurance
- A type of agricultural product certification that emphasizes the principles of quality assurance and signals to consumers that the certified producer has adhered to a particular set of standards and principles during production, such as in good agricultural practice.
- farm crisis
- A period of economic recession for an agricultural industry, characterized chiefly by low crop prices and/or low incomes for farming operations.
- farm gate value
- The market value of an agricultural product minus the subsequent costs of transporting, storing, marketing, and selling the product to a consumer; the net value of the product as it is at the “farm gate”, i.e. upon leaving the agricultural operation, before such costs are added to the market price. The market or retail price paid by the consumer is often far higher than the amount the farmer actually receives for the product, particularly if the farmer sells wholesale to a retailer rather than directly to the end consumer as in farm gate marketing.
- farm stand
Also called a farm shop.
- A type of retail outlet which sells fresh produce directly from a particular farm or group of farms. Direct sales to consumers allow farmers to retain a larger portion of the resulting profit than they can usually obtain by selling to a wholesaler. See also farmers’ market.
- farm water
- Water that is committed for use in agriculture of any type. Farm water may include water used in the irrigation of crops as well as in the watering of livestock.
- farmers’ co-op
- See agricultural cooperative.
- farmers’ market
- The practice of intentionally performing an agricultural activity, such as growing crops or raising livestock, on land dedicated to the purpose, known as a farm. The term is often used very broadly to refer to many different agricultural processes of different scales and with different goals, or, in the broadest sense, as a synonym for agriculture in general.
- See agricultural land.
- A social movement which promotes the consumption of locally produced foods, and particularly the serving of such foods at public establishments such as restaurants and school cafeterias. This is usually accomplished by purchasing food directly from the farmers or producers (rather than an intermediate retailer), or by the restaurant or school cultivating its own food. Farm-to-table often emphasizes food traceability, sustainability, freshness, and environmental awareness. The idea is central to the practice of locavorism.
- fed cattle
- Cattle at the time they leave a cattle feedlot, i.e. after fattening and finishing, when they are ready to be sold for slaughter.
- feed grain
- Any cereal grain grown so that it can be used as fodder to feed animals, especially livestock. Corn, barley, and sorghum are commonly grown for this purpose.
Also called a feed yard.
- A type of animal feeding operation, typically consisting of a densely concentrated area of enclosures or “pens” containing individual animals, used for the efficient raising, fattening, and finishing of numerous livestock prior to slaughter, especially beef cattle, but also swine, horses, sheep, and poultry.
- Any natural or synthetic material that is applied to soil or to plant tissues to supply one or more nutrients essential to the growth of plants.
- Any area of land, enclosed or otherwise, used for agricultural purposes, such as for the cultivation of crops or as a paddock for livestock.
- field day
- A large public trade show for the agricultural industry at which agricultural equipment, techniques, and business ideas are exhibited and demonstrated.
- fish farming
- See pisciculture.
Also called flower farming.
- A branch of horticulture involving the cultivation of flowering plants and ornamental plants for gardens and landscaping as well as for commercial floristry.
Also called animal feed or provender.
- Any agricultural foodstuff used to feed domesticated livestock, and more specifically food given to the animals directly (such as hay, straw, silage, and compound feeds), as opposed to that which they forage for themselves.
- food chain
- food security
- food systems
- food-feed system
- An integrated livestock–crop production system in which crops are harvested for human consumption and then the crop residues or byproducts are used as feed for livestock, often on the same or nearby agricultural land.
- Any plant material, especially leaves and stems, eaten by grazing livestock, especially that which is grazed by animals in pastures. In a looser sense it may also include fodder (plant material deliberately cut and given to animals as food).
- forest farming
- A practice in agroforestry involving the cultivation of high-value specialty crops under a forest canopy that is deliberately modified or maintained to provide habitat and shade levels which enhance crop yield. Most crops produced by such methods are non-timber forest products or niche crops such as ginseng and certain varieties of mushroom.
- free range
- A method of animal farming and animal husbandry in which the animals are permitted to roam freely outdoors, rather than being confined in enclosures, for at least part of each day. Though in practice the outdoor ranging area is usually fenced-in and therefore technically also an enclosure, free-range systems offer the opportunity for extensive locomotion, fresh air, and sunlight that is otherwise reduced or entirely prevented by indoor housing systems. The term may apply to farming for meat, eggs, or dairy products; in ranching, it is sometimes used interchangeably with open range.
- The cultivation of fungi with the goal of producing any of a variety of products that can be used by humans, such as foods, medicines, or scientific research materials.
- fur farming
- furrow irrigation
- A type of irrigation which relies on long, shallow, parallel channels, known as furrows, dug into the soil along the length of an agricultural field to deliver water to crops planted on the ridges between the furrows. Water is applied to one end of the furrows, which are aligned in the direction of the field’s predominant natural slope, and flows down the furrows by gravity. Furrow irrigation is particularly suited to broadacre row crops such as cotton, maize, and sugarcane.
- The sprouting of a seedling from a plant seed, the development of a sporeling from a spore, or the growth of a pollen tube from the pollen grain of a seed plant.
- The practice of collecting unharvested crops from fields or obtaining unused agricultural products from farmers, processors, or retailers, often for distribution to food banks or charitable organizations.
- An organophosphorus chemical widely used as a post-emergent broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant, especially to kill annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crop plants. It is the primary ingredient in the herbicide Roundup.
- good agricultural practice (GAP)
- Any collection of specific principles or methods applied by agricultural producers in order to create food or non-food products that are safe, healthy, and wholesome for consumers while also taking into account economic, social, and environmental sustainability. GAPs may be applied to a wide range of production systems and at different scales, and often vary with geographical context.
- Any small, hard, dry seed (with or without the outer shell or other parts of the fruit) that is harvested for human or animal consumption, or the plant from which these seeds are harvested. Crops considered grains include all cereals (such as maize, wheat, and rice) as well as pseudocereals (amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa), certain legumes (soybeans and lentils), and certain oilseed plants (rapeseed and flax).
- grain drying
- The process of removing or reducing the moisture content of harvested grain to prevent spoilage during storage. Drying may occur by natural means, e.g. exposing the grain to air and sunshine, or by artificial fuel- or electric-powered processes, or both.
- grain elevator
- 1. A tower containing a bucket elevator or pneumatic conveyor designed to carry harvested grain upwards from a lower level (often from some type of transport) and deposit it into a silo or other storage facility.
- 2. A complex of agricultural buildings containing such a tower, as well as offices, weighbridges, and storage facilities, or an organization that operates or controls multiple elevators in different locations.
- grain leg
- 1. A type of herbivory in which the herbivore feeds on grasses and other non-woody vegetation, as opposed to browsing, which involves feeding on taller trees and shrubs.
- 2. A method of animal husbandry which relies on this type of herbivory, whereby domestic livestock such as cattle are allowed to roam freely, often on wild pasture that is unsuitable for farming, in order to graze wild grasses and other forage.
- green manure
- A type of manure created by leaving uprooted or dehisced crop residues to wither and decay in an agricultural field so that they can serve as a mulch or natural fertilizer. Plants used for green manure are often cover crops grown specifically for this purpose; the mature plant tissues may be ploughed and mixed into the soil while green or shortly after flowering.
- Green Revolution
Also called the Third Agricultural Revolution.
- The dramatic increase in agricultural production that occurred worldwide during the second half of the 20th century, primarily due to the adoption of modern scientific methods of farming and large-scale management techniques; the development of high-yielding varieties of many crop plants (especially cereal grains); the expansion of irrigation infrastructures; the mechanization of many agricultural tasks with modern agricultural machinery; and the increase in the availability and use of chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, all of which led to a marked increase in production rates, farm yields, food quality and consistency, and crop prices in most parts of the world. The Green Revolution also accordingly led to an increase in land conversion and consolidation and the emergence of mass-market industrial agriculture, as well as to concerns about sustainability and the impact of agricultural practices on public health and the environment.
- growing season
- The part of the year during which local weather conditions (i.e. temperature and precipitation) permit the normal growth of plants in a given location. Though the timing of plant growth and reproduction can vary widely by species, many local plant species show considerable phenological overlap, and so the term is commonly used to refer to a single generic season that encompasses a majority of the plants or crops growing in a given location. In many places, the local “growing season” is defined as the period of time between the average date of the last frost (typically in the spring or early summer) and the average date of the first frost (typically in the autumn).
- Any dense, resistant layer of soil, usually found below the uppermost topsoil, that is difficult to dig or till and largely impervious to water and root growth. Hardpans can vary in thickness and depth below the surface; some form naturally from deposits such as silica that fuse and bind the soil particles, while others are man-made such as those caused by chronic soil compaction as a result of repeated ploughing, heavy traffic, or pollution.
- A farm implement used to break up and smooth out the surface of a plot of soil. Harrowing often follows coarser ploughing, generally with the purpose of breaking up large lumps of soil so as to provide a better tilth that is suitable for use as a seedbed, and sometimes also to remove weeds or to cover seed after sowing.
- harvest index
- The weight of the harvested grain portion of a grain crop as a percentage of the total above-ground dry weight of the crop plants at maturity.
- harvested acres
- For a particular crop, the number of acres of cropland that are actually harvested, as opposed to planted but not harvested. At the national level, this statistic is usually lower than the total number of planted acres due to abandonment caused by weather damage or low market prices at some point during the growing season, or because the crop is repurposed for livestock grazing.
- The process of gathering a ripe crop from an agricultural field. Harvesting is often the most labor-intensive activity of a growing season or utilizes the most expensive and sophisticated farm machinery. In general usage, the term may include immediate postharvest practices such as cleaning, sorting, packing, and cooling of the gathered crops.
- Grasses, legumes, or other herbaceous plants that have been cut, dried, and stored as fodder for animals, especially livestock.
- hay rake
- A type of rake used to collect cut hay or straw into windrows for later collection (e.g. by a baler) and/or to “fluff up” the hay so that it dries more quickly.
- A small pile of hay left to dry in a field.
- Silage with a high dry-matter content, made from the same grasses or legumes from which hay is made (such as alfalfa, timothy, and others) but not dried as much as hay nor as little as direct-chop/green-chop silage (before being ensiled).
- A storage area in the upper part of a barn or stable, used for storing hay or other fodder.
- The seed of grasses and legumes that are used for producing hay, especially when shaken from mown hay, and therefore sometimes inclusive of weed seed.
Also called a turnrow.
- A wide strip of land at each end of a planted field used for turning or maneuvering large farm machinery such as ploughs. The headland runs perpendicular to the lay of the field and may itself be planted at the beginning of the season; in such cases it is usually the first area to be harvested in order to minimize crop damage.
- An adult cow that has not yet given birth to her first calf.
- 1. A mature female chicken or other fowl.
- 2. A female lobster.
- high tunnel
- See polytunnel.
- hill farming
- A type of extensive agriculture practiced in hilly, upland areas unsuitable for intensive management, typically involving the grazing of livestock and especially sheep.
- A domestic hybrid equine that is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey, i.e. the reciprocal cross to the mule.
- Another name for a pig or domesticated swine, especially one weighing at least 120 pounds (54 kg) and being prepared for market.
- hog off
- To harvest a grain crop by allowing domestic pigs to eat it when the grain is nearly ripe, often because it is a poor crop that is not worth harvesting for market.
- A domestic sheep between one and two years old that has not yet been sheared, or the meat or wool of such an animal.
- Cultivated or produced locally, as with crops or livestock raised on one’s own property (especially on land that also serves as the grower’s place of residence, e.g. in a household garden), on a nearby farm, or in the same state or nation where they are offered for sale and consumption.
- honey plant
- Any plant used by bees as a source of nectar for making honey, especially one that imparts a distinctive flavor to the honey made from it; examples include alfalfa, buckwheat, clover, goldenrod, mesquite, and sumac.
- honey wagon
- See manure spreader.
- See polytunnel.
- The cultivation of plants for any purpose, including for food, materials, and decoration. Horticulturists apply a variety of knowledge, skills, and technologies relevant to plant growth and propagation, typically in intensively managed gardens, in order to grow plants for subsistence purposes, for profit, for scientific research, or for personal or social needs.
- An area of decaying organic matter (e.g. manure) that is warmer than its surroundings as a result of the decomposition of organic substances by microorganisms. Hotbeds enclosed by a small glass cover are often used as a kind of natural hothouse.
- A heated greenhouse.
- An offspring resulting from sexual reproduction between parent organisms belonging to different breeds, strains, varieties, species, or genera, thereby combining different biological characteristics in a single organism. The traits of hybrids are often mixtures of their parents’ traits or are intermediate between them, though they may also differ substantially from either parent, as with hybrid vigor.
- hybrid vigor
Also heterosis and outbreeding enhancement.
- Improved or increased size, strength, durability, yield, or any other biological function or quality in a hybrid offspring, relative to the same characteristics as observed in its parents.
- indicator species
- Any species whose natural (i.e. uncultivated) presence or status can reveal the qualitative health or condition of its local environment, often by suggesting the existence of one or more specific environmental characteristics, e.g. wetness, salinity, acidity, etc.
- industrial agriculture
- industrial crop
Also technical crop.
- Any crop that is specifically grown in order to yield a useful product for human industrial processes, such as fuels, fibers, oils, rubber, chemicals, resins, waxes, or dyes; the term generally also includes energy crops.
- integrated farming
- intensive agriculture
Also called intensive farming.
- Any system of agricultural production that uses relatively large inputs of labor, fertilizer, and/or capital per unit land area and is, accordingly, characterized by high production outputs, in contrast to extensive agriculture. In the developed world, most commercial agriculture is intensive in one or more ways.
- intensive animal farming
Also called interculture.
- A type of multiple cropping involving the cultivation of two or more crops in proximity, usually with the goal of producing a greater yield within a given area of land by making use of resources or ecological processes that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop.
- The application of controlled amounts of water to plants at needed intervals, especially for the purposes of growing agricultural crops, maintaining landscapes, or revegetating disturbed or drought-affected soils. Irrigation systems may also be used as a means of protecting crops from frost, suppressing the growth of weeds, preventing soil consolidation, cooling livestock, and controlling airborne dust.
- land improvement
- The application of calcium- and magnesium-rich minerals (collectively known as lime) to soil, in any of a variety of forms, including marl, chalk, limestone, burnt lime, or hydrated lime, usually as a means of increasing soil pH. By acting as bases, these materials can help to neutralize very acidic soils, improving plant growth and increasing the activity of soil microbes. Structure liming can also improve aggregate stability in clay soils.
- Any domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting in order to produce labor and/or agricultural commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. In certain contexts the term may be used more narrowly to refer exclusively to animals that are bred for consumption, or only to farmed ruminants such as cattle and goats; sheep, pigs, and horses are also often considered livestock, while poultry and fish are usually excluded.
- A type of agricultural terrace made from earth, or a strip of green, unploughed land left between two areas of ploughed land, often used to mark a temporary boundary between fields.
- Any organic matter that is used as an organic fertilizer in agriculture, typically consisting of animal excreta, compost, and/or plant material. Manures contribute to soil fertility by adding organic compounds and nutrients such as nitrogen which are essential for plant growth and for the development of ecological networks with soil microorganisms.
- manure spreader
Also muck spreader or honey wagon.
- A machine used to distribute manure over an agricultural field as fertilizer. Modern manure spreaders typically consist of a trailer towed behind a tractor with a conveyor and/or rotating mechanism driven by the tractor’s power take off.
- A specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms in the open ocean, enclosed sections of the ocean, or saltwater tanks or raceways, with the goal of producing any of a variety of products that can be used by humans, most commonly foods but also non-food products such as jewellery and cosmetics. Mariculture includes the farming of marine fish, shellfish, molluscs such as clams and oysters, and seaweed, among many other organisms.
- The fruit of forest trees and shrubs, e.g. acorns and nuts, especially when accumulated on the ground.
- An open field vegetated primarily by native grasses, herbs, and other plants, with few or no trees and shrubs. Meadows may occur naturally but may also be maintained or artificially created by humans for the production of hay or fodder or to serve as pasture for livestock.
- mechanized agriculture
Also mechanised agriculture.
- The use of agricultural machinery to mechanize the work of agriculture, thereby substantially increasing the productivity of an agricultural operation. Modern mechanized agriculture may make use of tractors, combine harvesters, aircraft, computers, and satellite imagery, among other technologies.
- Any structure or device used to break solid materials into smaller pieces by grinding, crushing, or cutting.
- minimum tillage
- A type of conservation tillage designed to conserve soil quality by minimizing the amount of soil manipulation necessary for successful crop production, typically by completely avoiding primary tillage and practicing only minimal secondary tillage.
- minor crop
- A crop plant that is high in value but is not widely grown. Many fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts may be considered minor crops.
Also continuous cropping.
- The practice of growing a single crop repeatedly on the same land for many consecutive growing seasons. Monocropping allows farmers to optimize their time and labor by applying the same inputs, growing methods, machinery, pest controls, etc. to the same crop in the same spaces year after year, but also forgoes the potential benefits of natural diversity and may eventually prove unsustainable by exhausting soil nutrients and requiring increasingly large inputs to compensate.
- The practice of growing or raising a single crop or livestock species, variety, or breed on a particular area of land at a time. Contrast polyculture.
- Any layer of material applied to the surface of soil, especially for the purpose of conserving soil moisture, improving soil health and fertility, reducing weed growth, and enhancing the soil’s aesthetic appeal. Mulches are usually organic in nature (e.g. bark chips, manure, and compost) but plastic sheeting may also be considered a type of artificial mulch.
- multigerm seed
- Any type of seed product sold as a cluster of seeds fused together and which produces more than one plant when it germinates, after which the multiple plants are typically reduced to individual plants by a process called singling.
- multiple cropping
- The practice of growing two or more crops on the same area of land in the same growing season (as opposed to growing only one crop); the crops may be harvested at the same time or at different times. It is a form of polyculture. See also companion planting.
- net farm income
- The return, both monetary and non-monetary, to farm operators for their labor, management, and capital, after all production expenses have been paid; i.e. gross farm income minus production expenses. It includes net income from sales of the farm’s agricultural products as well as net income attributed to the rental value of farm dwellings, the value of any commodities consumed on the farm, depreciation, and inventory changes. The term is used primarily in United States agricultural policy.
- no-till farming
- Any method of growing crops or maintaining pasture without disturbing the soil through tillage, and typically involving minimal or no seed bed preparation. Though soil tillage is widely practiced in modern agriculture, proponents assert that in certain contexts no-till or low-till techniques can increase the soil’s retention of water and organic matter and reduce soil erosion.
- non-program crop
- Any agricultural crop or commodity not covered by a federally funded commodity program. Contrast program crop.
- nurse crop
- Any annual crop plant used to assist in the establishment of a perennial crop. Nurse crops may help to reduce the incidence of weeds, prevent soil erosion, and shade the perennial crop’s seedlings from excessive sunlight; often the nurse crop itself is harvested for a particular product.
- nutrient pollution
- The contamination, particularly of surface water sources, by excessive inputs of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Sources of nutrient pollution include surface runoff from agricultural fields and pastures (where large quantities of nutrient-rich fertilizers are commonly applied), discharges from septic tanks and feedlots, and emissions from combustion.
- (of livestock) Sold live for slaughter.
- once grown seed
- Seed obtained from plants that have been grown from a certified seed intended for use by the farmer on his own farm, and not for resale.
- open range
- A type of rangeland on which livestock, particularly cattle, roam freely regardless of land ownership and without being enclosed by fences. Where open range is prescribed by law, the land owner (and not the animal owner) is responsible for erecting fences to keep animals off of private or public property.
- Any intentional planting of trees or shrubs that is maintained for food production. Most orchards are planted with a single variety of fruit- or nut-producing tree, and are often laid out in a regular grid with wide spacing and grazed or mown grass or bare soil between individual trees to make maintenance and harvesting easy.
- The cultivation of trees or shrubs in an orchard, with the goal of producing any a variety of products that can be used by humans, especially foods.
- organic farming
- organic fertilizer
- The practice of releasing livestock, especially pigs, into a wild forest so that they can feed on fallen mast such as acorns, beechnuts, and chestnuts.
- pastoral farming
Also called livestock farming or grazing.
- A sedentary form of pastoralism in which livestock are raised on the same pastureland for most or all of their lives, rather than continuously being moved as in traditional nomadic pastoralism. Pastoral farmers typically have some form of ownership of the land they use, giving them an economic incentive to improve the land to meet the needs of their animals (e.g. by irrigation).
- A type of animal husbandry in which herds of domestic animals are released onto large areas of vegetated outdoor land, known as pastures, for grazing, traditionally by fully or partially nomadic peoples who move around with their herds, and generally in places where environmental conditions such as aridity, poor soils, and extreme temperatures make growing crops difficult or impossible.
- Any land used for grazing, especially enclosed tracts of farmland grazed by domesticated livestock such as horses, cattle, sheep, or swine. Pasture vegetation mainly consists of grasses and forbs and is typically grazed throughout the summer. Pasture is often distinguished from, but may in the broadest sense include, other agricultural land types such as meadows, rangelands, or other unenclosed pastoral areas.
- A type of agricultural land used as pasture for grazing animals.
- pellet mill
Also pellet press.
- A type of mill or machine press used to compress and mold bulk quantities of powdered or fine-grained material into compact, high-density, homogeneous units called pellets, which are often much easier to store, transport, and distribute than in their original form. Many agricultural materials are commonly pelletized, including fertilizers and pesticides. Compound animal feed is usually milled from a feed mixture into small pellets the size of a kernel of corn so as to ensure a uniform ration for each fed animal.
- An approach to land management that adopts arrangements observed in healthy natural ecosystems, with particular emphasis on utilizing creative design principles derived from whole systems thinking. Permaculture principles are often employed in regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and sustainable agriculture, but the concept has a wide range of applications, including in ecological engineering, water resource management, and architecture.
- permanent crop
- Any crop produced from a perennial plant which produces crops repeatedly over multiple seasons, rather than having to be replanted after each harvest.
Also called molecular farming, molecular pharming, and biopharming.
- The use of genetic engineering technologies to insert one or more genes that code for useful pharmaceuticals into a host plant or animal that would otherwise not express those genes, thereby creating a genetically modified organism. Crops modified in this way are sometimes called pharma crops.
- pioneer crop
- A crop grown to improve the general fertility of a parcel of land prior to sowing another, typically more valuable crop on the same land. Farmers often permit livestock to graze the pioneer crop in the hope that their dung will add soil nutrients.
Also called fish farming.
- A branch of aquaculture involving the raising of fish in tanks, enclosures, or hatcheries with the goal of producing any of a variety of products that can be used by humans, most commonly food.
- plant breeding
- A large-scale estate which specializes in farming cash crops, most commonly cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, opium, fruit trees, rubber trees, and forest trees.
- Any farm implement used to loosen or overturn soil in preparation for sowing seed or transplanting, a practice known as ploughing. Ploughs typically consist of a series of blades attached to a wooden or metallic frame, often with wheels, which is then pushed or pulled either by humans, by draft animals, or, on modern farms, with a tractor.
- plough pan
Also plow pan.
- A hard layer in the subsoil caused by excessive compression due to repeated ploughing at the same depth over multiple consecutive seasons.
- The use of a plough in the cultivation of agricultural land. Ploughing is an ancient and fundamental agricultural technique, the primary purpose of which is to evenly distribute fresh nutrients, moisture, and air through the uppermost layers of the soil while also burying weeds and crop residues to decay. Modern ploughed fields are typically left to dry and then harrowed prior to planting. The use of a plough usually leaves the soil with a rough, unfinished look and parallel trenches called furrows; conventional, intensive ploughing practices may contribute to soil erosion and the formation of hardpan.
- The large metal blade that is the leading edge of the mouldboard of a plough, used to cut through large amounts of soil to the bottom of the furrow. Certain ploughs have a coulter immediately preceding the ploughshare.
- The practice of growing or raising more than one species, variety, or breed at the same time and place, often in imitation of the biodiversity of natural ecosystems. Contrast monoculture.
Also called a polyhouse, hoophouse, grow tunnel, or high tunnel.
- A type of greenhouse in the form of a typically semi-circular, elongated tunnel made from a steel frame covered with transparent polyethylene; temperature, humidity, and air circulation can be adjusted by the opening and closing of doors or vents. Polytunnels are used in similar ways to glass greenhouses and row covers, e.g. for season extension or as nurseries. Though primarily designed to provide temperature increases ranging from 5 to 35 °C (9 to 63 °F) above the outdoor air temperature, they can also protect plants (and animals) against extreme weather and the drying effect of wind.
Polytunnels on a farm in England
- Occurring after the stage in a plant’s life when the first leaves emerge from beneath the soil. The term is used in particular to describe a class of herbicides intended to be applied to weeds which are already leafy or established. Post-emergent herbicides such as glyphosate typically work by killing the cells of mature leaves, thereby inhibiting photosynthesis and causing the whole plant to die; they are generally ineffective on very young plants and seeds. Contrast pre-emergent.
- 1. The stage of commercial crop production immediately following harvest, including cooling, drying, cleaning, sorting, packing, and/or any other processing and handling activities necessary for the crop to become marketable. Postharvest treatment largely determines a crop’s final quality and how and whether it can be sold.
- 2. Any activities that occur after agricultural products leave or are sold from the farm or ranch where they were produced.
- A young turkey.
- Any domesticated birds cultivated by humans for their eggs, meat, or feathers, most commonly various species of fowl, especially chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigeons.
- poundage quota
- A quantitative limit on the amount of an agricultural commodity (e.g. tobacco or peanuts) that can be produced and/or marketed under the provisions of a governmental price support program.
- power take-off (PTO)
- A device, commonly found on tractors but also sometimes on farm trucks or other vehicles, that transmits electrical and/or mechanical energy from a power source (e.g. a running engine) to an attached implement or a separate machine which is either pulled behind on a trailer or mounted on the vehicle itself. Modern tractors almost always have a power take-off, which can be connected to a wide variety of equipment to supply power for virtually any automatable agricultural task, e.g. mowing, ploughing, tilling, compacting, distributing agrochemicals, harvesting, etc.
- precision agriculture (PA)
Also called satellite farming and site-specific crop management.
- A large-scale agricultural management strategy based on observing, measuring, and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops and crop yields with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources. Precision agriculture relies on advanced technologies such as GPS, remote sensing, satellite imagery, multispectral imagery, and agricultural drones to collect data on numerous agricultural variables and to generate datasets and maps of spatial variability which can then be used by variable-rate (and often fully automated) applications to optimally distribute resources.
- precision seeding
- A method of seeding that involves placing seed with attention to precise spacing and depth, either by hand or mechanically, as opposed to broadcast seeding. Precision seeding usually requires less seed and avoids overcrowding and the need for thinning, but is best suited for plants with very high germination rates in order to make full use of the seeded area.
- Removing unwanted foreign material such as weeds, seeds, dirt, stems, and cobs from harvested grain before it is dried.
- Occurring before germination, or before the stage in a plant’s life when the first leaves emerge from beneath the soil. The term is used in particular to describe a class of herbicides intended to be applied to weeds before their leaves have become established. Pre-emergent herbicides such as paraquat work by inhibiting one or more enzymes that are active in cell division only in new seedlings; they do not inhibit germination from seed itself, nor are they effective on established, mature plants. Contrast post-emergent.
- prices paid index
- An economic index used to monitor and indicate changes in the prices paid by farmers for goods and services used in crop and livestock production as well as those needed for farm family living. In addition to the prices of common farm inputs such as fertilizer, the index also includes interest on debt, taxes payable on farm real estate, and wage rates paid to hired labor. It is used to calculate the price of many fees and fines required by agricultural law, e.g. fees for grazing livestock on federal land.
- prices received index
- An economic index used to monitor and indicate changes in the prices received by farmers for their products at the point of first sale, usually the farm itself or a local market. Together with the prices paid index, it is used to calculate the parity ratio.
- Pelletized and sold in the form of small, round, solid globules, as is common with many fertilizers, compound animal feeds, and other agrochemicals.
- primary tillage
- Any general-purpose tillage that is relatively deep and thorough and which leaves the soil surface with a rough, unfinished texture, such as ploughing, as opposed to subsequent, shallower, and more selective secondary tillage. Primary tillage is usually performed immediately after the last harvest, with the objectives of loosening, softening, and aerating the soil to a particular depth, incorporating crop residues and/or fertilizers, and killing weeds.
- 1. The process of moistening seeds in order to initiate germination prior to sowing in soil or other substrate.
- 2. The process of removing ripened leaves from tobacco plants by hand.
- A generalized term used to refer to a variety of farm-produced food crops, usually including fruits and vegetables and sometimes also grains and other products, especially implying that such foods are fresh and generally in the same state as when and where they were harvested.
- program crop
- A crop for which deficiency payments are paid by a government agency to participating producers, e.g. wheat, corn, barley, grain sorghum, oats, upland cotton, and rice. Contrast non-program crop.
- See fodder.
- The selective removal of certain unwanted plant parts or tissues, such as branches, buds, or roots, from crops or landscape plants during cultivation for any of a variety of reasons, including controlling or redirecting growth, improving or sustaining the plant’s health or appearance, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing juvenile plants for transplanting, and increasing the yield or quality of harvestable flowers and fruits.
- A sexually immature female chicken.
- push–pull technology
- An agricultural pest control strategy that utilizes the intercropping of repellent “push” plants and attractive “pull” plants to divert pests, typically insects, away from vulnerable cash crops. For example, noxious plants (e.g. catnip and Desmodium) may be planted between rows of a valuable cereal crop to repel or “push” certain herbivorous insects away from the cereal, while a more preferable trap crop (e.g. some Brachiaria grasses) is simultaneously planted around the perimeter of the field to attract or “pull” in the insects and keep them there.
- raised-bed gardening
- A type of horticulture in which the soil surface is raised above the surrounding ground level and usually enclosed in some way within a structure known as a raised bed. Such elevated seedbeds allow gardeners to separate their gardens from the surrounding environment and therefore easily maintain the condition and properties of the soil by optimizing density, nutrient levels, and water infiltration and drainage, and adding a barrier to the movement of pests and pathogens from adjacent natural soils; they may also be desirable because they do not require digging into the ground, which may be difficult or impractical in some places due to the presence of rocks or tree roots or the risk of damaging buried utility lines.
- The practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle, sheep, and horses on an area of land called a ranch.
- Any grassland, shrubland, woodland, wetland, or desert area that is grazed by domestic livestock or wild animals. Rangelands are generally less intensively managed than pasture lands in that they are dominated primarily by native vegetation rather than by plants established by humans, and typically are not subjected to agricultural practices such as irrigation and the use of fertilizers.
- The practice of harvesting a crop plant (particularly a monocot species) by cutting most of the above-ground portion of the plant but leaving the roots and the shoot apices intact so as to allow the plant to recover and produce a fresh crop in a subsequent growing season. This procedure usually can be sustained only for a few seasons, as yield tends to decline with each season. Ratoon crops include sugarcane, pineapples, and bananas.
- recalcitrant seed
- Seeds that cannot survive the effects of drying or freezing (generally, temperatures less than 10 °C (50 °F)) and which therefore cannot be stored for long periods of time because they tend to rapidly lose viability. Recalcitrant seeds do not acquire desiccation tolerance during development and often shed from their parent plants with a relatively high moisture content, making them especially vulnerable to moisture loss. Contrast orthodox seed.
- See crop residue.
- To grade and sort produce (e.g. potatoes) according to size, using a sieve.
- See subsoiler.
- An agricultural implement, typically tractor-drawn, used for flattening an area of land by breaking up large clumps of soil, pushing stones into the soil, and generally creating a smooth, firm seedbed, especially following ploughing or disc harrowing.
- The practice of identifying and removing plants with undesirable characteristics (e.g. plants that are diseased or of an unwanted shape, color, or variety) from agricultural fields, often by hand. The plants, known as rogues, are removed to preserve the quality of the desirable crop plants, often by way of preventing undesirable characteristics from propagating into subsequent generations.
- rotational grazing
- The practice of periodically moving herds of grazing livestock between enclosed sections of pasture known as paddocks, allowing the animals to graze the new paddock while the unoccupied paddocks recover and regrow vegetation, as opposed to allowing continuous grazing of the same land indefinitely or feeding the animals in a feedlot. See also crop rotation.
In rotational grazing, livestock are rotated through a series of fenced-off pastures, each of which is able to meet all of the animals’ basic needs (food, water, shade/shelter, etc.)
- Any animal feedstuff with high fiber content, such as hay or straw.
- row cover
- Any flexible, transparent or semi-transparent material, such as fabric or plastic sheeting, that is used as a protective covering to shield plants from extreme temperatures and wind, as well as from insect damage and large herbivores. Row cover can also provide a limited amount of warming in the same way as greenhouses, by creating a microclimate for the covered plants.
- row crop
- Any crop that can be planted in rows wide enough to allow it to be tilled or otherwise cultivated by agricultural machinery specifically designed for that purpose. Such crops are generally sown by drilling rather than by broadcast seeding.
- 1. To stir a soil surface with an implement possessing tines, e.g. a wire rake, but without turning the soil over completely, often to remove shallow-rooted weeds.
- 2. To use a sharp tool to create a nick or slit in the hard outer coat of a seed in order to aid the penetration of moisture to the endosperm and thereby speed up germination.
- An aerial or above-ground plant structure, e.g. a stem or branchlet, that is grafted onto the rootstock of another plant.
- A handheld agricultural tool designed with one or more curved blades, sharp on the inside edge, used for mowing grass or harvesting crops, especially reaping grain crops prior to threshing. The action of the scythe has largely been automated in modern agricultural machinery such as reapers and combine harvesters. The scythe is similar to a sickle, but has a longer handle intended to be used with two hands instead of one.
- season extension
- Any method that allows a crop to be grown and/or harvested beyond its natural outdoor growing season or harvest season. Season extension practices most commonly aim to overcome low temperatures or inadequate sunlight in climates where cold weather and shorter days limit the growing season in the spring and fall, but can also include techniques designed to address other seasonally varying conditions such as precipitation and consumer demand, or simply to keep mature crops alive until immediately before the harvest (as opposed to applying postharvest food preservation technologies to prevent spoilage during storage).
- To hoe between rows of rootcrops that have previously been thinned out.
- seed crop
- A crop grown specifically so that seeds can be harvested from the mature plants, as opposed to crops grown for their edible or usable non-seed parts, without regard for the quality or quantity of any seeds they may produce. A secondary seed crop may be maintained alongside a primary cash crop in order to ensure an adequate supply of seeds for future plantings and/or to manage crop phenotypes by the artificial selection of seeds from parents with desirable characteristics.
- seed dressing
- The process of coating seeds with clay, biofertilizers, pesticides, or inert materials to give them a uniform shape and to increase their size and weight in order to improve visibility, ease of planting, germination rates, and resistance to disease.
- seed drill
- A mounted or tractor-drawn machine that automates the action of sowing crop seeds, usually by permitting a specified quantity of seed to pass through a hopper with each rotation of a drive wheel and then through tubes that extend to the soil surface, where the seeds are deposited and covered with soil to a precise depth. The result is a series of evenly spaced rows with seeds distributed uniformly between them.
Also seedling bed.
- The local soil environment in which seeds are sown, often including not only the soil but also a specially built cold frame, hotbed, or raised bed used to germinate the seeds in a controlled environment before transplanting the resulting seedlings into more natural soils in a garden or field. The use of seedbeds can substantially increase germination rates.
- See sowing.
- The young plant that germinates from a plant embryo contained within a seed.
- The cultivation of silkworms with the goal of producing silk.
- See ploughshare.
- A type of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to cultivate a portion of his or her land in return for a share of the crops produced on that land.
- See windbreak.
- shifting cultivation
- A type of agriculture in which specific plots of land are cleared and cultivated temporarily, often by slash-and-burn methods and for just a few growing seasons, then abandoned and allowed to lie fallow, reverting to their natural vegetation over many more seasons, while the cultivator migrates to a new plot.
- A handheld agricultural tool designed with one or more curved blades, sharp on the inside edge, and typically used for reaping grain crops or cutting succulent forage for feeding livestock. The sickle is similar to a scythe, but used with one hand instead of two.
- A type of animal fodder made from the green foliage of crop plants preserved by a process of fermentation and storage called ensilage, ensiling, or silaging, which typically involves piling and compressing large amounts of cut green vegetation in an oxygen-poor environment, such as a pit or silo or a bale wrapped tightly with plastic film. Silage is usually made from maize, sorghum, or other cereals, using the entire green plant (not just the grain).
- Any structure designed for storing bulk materials. In agriculture, tower silos are commonly used to store fermented grain known as silage.
- The practice of managing or directly controlling the establishment, growth, composition, and quality of natural or deliberately planted forests for any of a number of reasons, especially timber production but also for the cultivation of other forest crops.
- site-specific crop management (SSCM)
- See precision agriculture.
- slash-and-burn agriculture
- Liquid waste from animals that is stored in tanks or open-air lagoons, treated, and then distributed as a fertilizer, often by a tractor-hauled machine such as a slurry spreader.
- soil amendment
Also called a soil improvement or soil conditioner.
- Any product which is added to soil to improve the soil’s quality, especially its fertility and mechanics, either to make poor soils more usable or to maintain soils that are already in good condition. In the broadest sense, the term includes all organic and synthetic fertilizers and all other soil additives.
- soil compaction
- The degradation of soil structure, generally by an increase in bulk density and/or decrease in porosity, due to externally or internally applied loads. Conventional agricultural methods, especially the repeated use of heavy machinery, often lead to the compaction of subsoil, creating impermeable underground layers that severely restrict water and nutrient cycles and thereby adversely affect crop growth, yield, and quality, not to mention numerous off-site ecological processes.
- soil science
- The scientific study of soil as a natural resource, including its formation, classification, and mapping; the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils; and how these properties relate to the use and management of soils for agricultural purposes.
Often used interchangeably with seeding and planting.
- The process of distributing seeds (or any other type of propagule) of crop plants in or upon an area of fertile soil, either by hand or by mechanical methods. Sowing is one of the first steps in any seasonal agricultural operation.
- The process by which an agricultural product (typically food) becomes unsuitable for use or ingestion by the consumer. Natural decomposition of agricultural crops by bacteria and fungi is the most common cause of food spoilage. Depending on the type of product, shelf life may be significantly increased with proper packaging and storage and by the application of various food preservation techniques.
- sprout damage
- The undesirable germination of wheat kernels that often occurs on unharvested wheat when wet field conditions persist in the final stage of crop maturation, just prior to and during the harvest. Recently cut wheat that has been left lying in the field prior to threshing is particularly vulnerable; windrowing and drying the cut stalks as quickly as possible is therefore often a high priority for wheat farmers. Sprouted kernels contain extremely high concentrations of the enzyme alpha-amylase, which can negatively impact the wheat’s baking quality; the presence of this enzyme can be determined by the Falling Number test.
- staple food
Also simply staple.
- A food that is eaten routinely and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet for a given population or demographic, generally supplying a significant proportion of the basic nutrients needed for survival or health. Specific staple foods vary by location and culture, but typically are inexpensive or readily available foods that can be stored over long periods of time without decaying; examples include cereals, starchy tubers or root vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Also shock and stack.
- An upright conical or tent-like arrangement of sheaves of the cut stalks of a grain crop, placed so as to keep the grain-heads off the ground prior to collection for threshing. Stooked grains typically include wheat, barley, oats, and maize.
- An agricultural byproduct consisting of the dry stalks of cereal plants after the grain and chaff have been removed. Straw has numerous different uses, including as mulch, biofuel, bedding and fodder for livestock, and construction material.
- The practice of leaving the stubble or crop residue essentially in place on a plot of cropland as a surface cover during a fallow period. Stubble-mulching can prevent soil erosion and conserve soil moisture.
- subsistence agriculture
- Agricultural production that is practiced in order to meet the needs of the farmer or producer, as opposed to that practiced in order to generate profit by selling the agricultural products to consumers. Subsistence agriculture usually refers to farmers growing various food crops strictly for use by themselves and their families, typically on smallholdings, with the output of the farm targeted principally at fulfilling basic survival needs and local requirements, and generally implies small amounts of inputs, use of crude or traditional farming tools, reliance on unskilled labor (often family members), low yields, and little or no surplus. It primarily occurs in the developing world, though most modern subsistence farmers also participate in trade to some degree.
Also flat lifter.
- A tractor-mounted farm implement used for tilling soil at depths much below the levels normally worked by mouldboard ploughs, disc harrows, or rototillers. While most such tools break up and turn over surface soil to a depth of 15–20 centimetres (5.9–7.9 in), subsoilers can often extend the action to as deep as 75 centimetres (30 in). They typically consist of three or more heavy, curved shanks with replaceable points and sometimes fitted with horizontal wings, which are used to lift and shatter the hardpan that builds up in deeper layers due to soil compaction.
- (of a food) Having been dried by a process in which the freshly harvested food (e.g. tomatoes) is exposed to direct sunlight in open air, often for multiple days, causing most of the water of the fresh weight to be lost by evaporation.
- support price
- A legislated minimum price for a particular commodity, maintained through a variety of mechanisms, such as minimum import prices, nonrecourse loans, and purchase programs.
- sustainable agriculture
Also called a windrower.
- A type of agricultural machinery that cuts hay or small grain crops and forms them into a windrow, with the goal of decreasing the time required for drying the crop to a moisture content suitable for harvesting and storage. A sickle bar or mower cuts the stems of the crop, and a reel helps the cut stems fall neatly onto a conveyor, which then deposits them into a windrow with all stems oriented in the same direction. The mown strip left behind is called the swathe.
Also called a hay tedder.
- A tractor-drawn machine that uses rapidly moving pitchfork-like tines to aerate or “wuffle” freshly cut hay during the process of haymaking, typically prior to windrowing. The use of a tedder allows the hay to dry more quickly, which can result in improved aroma and color.
- tenant farmer
- A person who operates and resides on farmland owned by a landlord. Tenant farming involves a contract between the landowner and the tenant farmer in which the landowner contributes his land and often a measure of operating capital and management in exchange for the tenant farmer’s labor. The tenant farmer may also pay rent to the landowner, though the form and measures of payment and the rights the tenant has to the land vary widely with local custom.
- A sloped plane such as a hillside that has been landscaped into a series of flat surfaces or platforms resembling steps, i.e. successively receding as one travels uphill, and following the lateral contours of the topography. Graduated terraces are commonly built to create level spaces for agriculture in hilly or mountainous terrain. The shaping of a natural landscape into terraces is known as terracing.
- The process of loosening the edible part of a grain or other crop from the chaff to which it is attached, without removing the bran. In grain cultivation, threshing immediately follows reaping.
- threshing machine
Also simply called a thresher.
- 1. The preparation of agricultural soil by any of various types of mechanical agitation, whether human-powered, animal-powered, or mechanised, such as digging, hoeing, raking, ploughing, and harrowing. In this sense, it is also referred to as tilling.
- 2. The land that is tilled.
- The physical texture, structure, and general condition of soil with respect to its suitability for planting or growing a crop, as indicated by parameters such as moisture content, aeration, soil aggregate stability, rate of water infiltration, and drainage. Soil with good tilth has large pore spaces allowing air and water movement, yet is also capable of holding water and plant nutrients for substantial periods of time. The primary objective of tillage is to improve tilth by mechanical manipulation of the soil, with the goal of increasing crop yield; fertilization, irrigation, and soil amendments can also positively impact tilth. When applied excessively, however, these practices may have the opposite effect, causing the soil to lose its structure and become compacted.
- A type of heavy engineering vehicle designed specifically to deliver very high tractive effort or torque at slow speeds for the purpose of hauling a trailer or machinery, especially one which provides the power and traction to mechanize agricultural tasks. Modern tractors serve a wide variety of different functions, with many types of agricultural implements and machinery able to be towed behind or mounted on a tractor, such as ploughs, harrows, and cultivators; the tractor may also provide a source of electrical power if the implement is mechanized.
- A type of pastoralism involving the seasonal movement of livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures.
- trap crop
- Any plant that is cultivated in order to attract the attention of agricultural pests, usually insects, and thereby distract them away from nearby crops. In small farms or gardens, this practice can help save the primary crop from decimation by pests without the use of pesticides.
- tree farm
- A wild forest that is managed for timber production, or a plantation or nursery where trees are deliberately planted and cultivated for commercial sale, either for timber or as ornamental plants.
- urban agriculture
- Vavilovian mimicry
- The meat of calves, as opposed to the beef of older cattle.
- A calf, especially of a dairy breed, that is usually raised on milk only and slaughtered at less than four months old and less than 350 pounds (160 kg), to be sold as veal.
- A type of compost produced as a result of the decomposition processes performed by certain species of earthworms as they feed on decaying organic matter. The final product, typically a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and worm castings, is popular as a fertilizer and soil amendment.
- The cultivation of worms, usually red wigglers and other types of earthworms, for the purpose of producing vermicompost.
- vertical farming
- The practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers, usually indoors as a type of controlled-environment agriculture and by incorporating soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics.
- The cultivation of grapes, especially for use in winemaking.
- Any plant, especially a feral crop plant or crop descendant, that grows in an agricultural field or garden unintentionally, rather than by deliberate planting by a farmer or gardener. Volunteers often grow from seeds that have been dispersed by the wind or animals or inadvertently mixed into compost. Unlike weeds, volunteers are not necessarily unwanted, and may even be encouraged to grow, especially if they show desirable characteristics that can be selected to produce new cultivars.
- water rights
- The right of a landowner to make use of the banks, bed, or waters of a water source, e.g. a river, stream, pond, spring, or underground aquifer. The water source need not necessarily be contained within or border on the user’s property, as man-made reservoirs, aqueducts, and other water distribution systems have made it possible to allocate water to places outside of the source’s natural drainage basin. Water rights are of major significance for managing irrigation, especially in arid regions, though the legal principles regulating access and usage vary widely by jurisdiction.
- A flat area of grassland that is periodically flooded through the use of controlled irrigation in order to increase agricultural productivity. The technique is practiced primarily in Europe.
- weed of cultivation
- Any plant that is well-adapted to environments in which the land is cultivated for growing some other plant. See also crop weed.
- Any of a variety of hand-operated, towed, or power-driven agricultural implements used to pull, cut, dig, or otherwise remove undesirable plants from an area intended for cultivation.
- The human practice of foraging for uncultivated plants or fungi from their natural or “wild” habitats, primarily for food or medicine.
- wilting point
- See permanent wilting point.
Also called a shelterbelt.
- One or more rows of closely spaced trees or shrubs planted in such a way as to provide shelter to an adjacent agricultural field from the wind, thereby protecting the area from excessive cold and soil erosion. Windbreaks commonly take the form of hedgerows planted around the edges of fields on farms, but may also be made from artificial materials such as large canvas panels. Aside from decreasing wind speeds, they may also be designed to separate farms from roads or motorways or to collect snowdrifts that will provide water to otherwise dry farmland when the snow melts in the spring.
- A row of cut or mown hay or small grain crop that is allowed to dry in a field before being baled, combined, or rolled. Windrows may be built deliberately after cutting, or they may form automatically as a result of the method by which the crop is mown.
- The process or technique, performed either manually or mechanically, by which grain is separated from chaff. Traditional manual winnowing involves throwing the unseparated mixture into the air so that the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall back to the ground for recovery. In modern agriculture, winnowing is often entirely mechanized.
- The practice of gardening or landscaping so as to reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Xeriscaping requires the selection of plants whose natural requirements are appropriate to the local climate, with a particular emphasis on water conservation, and focuses on designing and maintaining the land in such a way as to avoid losing water to evaporation and run-off.