Soil and Agriculture
Terms in this set (64)
Agriculture that does not involve tilling (plowing, disking, harrowing, or chiseling) the soil. The most extreme form of conservation tillage.
Agriculture that limits the amount of tilling (plowing, disking, harrowing, or chiseling) of soil.
The practice of cultivating soil, producing crops, and raising livestock for human use and consumption.
Land that humans use to raise plants for food and fiber.
Land used for grazing livestock
A complex plant-supporting system consisting of disintegrated rock, organic matter, air, water, nutrients, and microorganisms.
A deterioration of soil quality and decline in soil productivity, resulting primarily from forest removal, cropland agriculture, and overgrazing of livestock.
Biologically powered agriculture, in which human and animal muscle power, along with hand tools and simple machines, perform the work of cultivating, harvesting, storing, and distributing crops.
The oldest form of traditional agriculture, in which farming families produce only enough food for themselves.
A form of agriculture that uses large-scale mechanization and fossil fuel combustion, enabling farmers to replace horses and oxen with faster and more powerful means of cultivating, harvesting, transporting, and processing crops. Other aspects include irrigation and the use of inorganic fertilizers.
Use of chemical herbicides and pesticides reduces competition from weeds and herbivory by insects.
The uniform planting of a single crop over a large area. Characterizes industrial agriculture.
The planting of multiple crops in a mixed arrangement or in close proximity. An example is some traditional Native American farming that mixed maize, beans, squash, and peppers.
An intensification of the industrialization of agriculture in the developing world in the latter half of the 20th century that has dramatically increased crop yields produced per unit area of farmland. Practices include devoting large areas to monocultures of crops specifically bred for high yields and rapid growth; heavy use of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation water; and sowing and harvesting on the same piece of land more than once per year or per season.
The base geological material in a particular location.
The continuous mass of solid rock that makes up Earth's crust.
The physical, chemical, and biological processes that break down rocks and minerals, turning large particles into smaller particles.
A dark, spongy, crumbly mass of material made up of complex organic compounds, resulting from the partial decomposition of organic matter.
Physical or mechanical weathering
Weathering that breaks rocks down without triggering a chemical change in the parent material. Wind and rain are two main forces.
Weathering that results when water or other substances chemically interact with parent material.
Weathering that occurs when living things break down parent material by physical or chemical means.
A distinct layer of soil.
The cross-section of a soil as a whole, from the surface to the bedrock.
The process by which solid materials such as minerals are dissolved in a liquid (usually water) and transported to another location.
The top layer of soil in some soil profiles, made up of organic matter, such as decomposing branches, leaves, crop residue, and animal waste.
A layer of soil found in a typical soil profile. It forms the top layer or lies below the O horizon (if one exists). It consists of mostly inorganic mineral components such as weathered substrate, with some organic matter and humus from above mixed in. This horizon is often referred to as topsoil.
The layer of soil that lies below the A horizon and above the B horizon. The letter E stands for eluviation, meaning "loss," and this horizon is characterized by the loss of certain minerals through leaching. It is sometimes called the "zone of leaching."
The layer of soil that lies below the E horizon and above the C horizon. Minerals that leach out of the E horizon are carried down into the this horizon (or subsoil) and accumulate there. Sometimes called the "zone of accumulation" or "zone of deposition".
The layer of soil that lies below the B horizon and above the R horizon. It contains rock particles that are larger and less weathered than the layers above. It consists of parent material that has been altered only slightly or not at all by the process of soil formation.
The bottommost layer of soil in a typical soil profile. Also called bedrock.
That portion of the soil that is most nutritive for plants and is thus of the most direct importance to ecosystems and to agriculture. Also known as the A horizon.
Sediment consisting of particles less than 0.002 mm in diameter.
Sediment consisting of particles 0.002-0.005 mm in diameter.
Sediment consisting of particles 0.005-2.0 mm in diameter.
Soil with a relatively even mixture of clay-, silt-, and sand-sized particles.
Process by which plants' roots donate hydrogen ions to the soil in exchange for cations (positively charged ions) such as those of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which plants use as nutrients. The soil particles then replenish these cations by exchange with soil water.
Cation exchange capacity
A soil's ability to hold cations, preventing them from leaching and thus making them available to plants. A useful measure of soil fertility.
The traditional form of agriculture in tropical forested areas, in which the farmer cultivates a plot for 1 to a few years and then moves on to clear another plot, leaving the first to grow back to forest. When the forest is burned this may be called "slash-and-burn" agriculture.
A general deterioration of land that diminishes its productivity and biodiversity, impairs the functioning of its ecosystems, and reduces the ecosystem services the land can offer us.
The removal of material from one place and its transport to another by the action of wind or water.
The arrival of eroded soil at a new location.
A crop that covers and anchors the soil during times between main crops, intended to reduce erosion.
Arid environment, not enough rainfall, susceptible to desertification
A form of land degradation in which more than 10% of a land's productivity is lost due to erosion, soil compaction, forest removal, overgrazing, drought, salinization, climate change, water depletion, or other factors. When severe, this can result in the expansion of desert areas or creation of new ones.
An area that loses huge amounts of topsoil to wind erosion as a result of drought and/or human impact; first used to name the region in the North American Great Plains severely affected by drought and topsoil loss in the 1930s. The term is now also used to describe that historical event and others like it.
One of many county-based entities created by the Soil Conservation Service (now the National Resources Conservation Service) to promote practices that conserve soil.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
U.S. agency that promotes soil conservation, as well as water quality protection and pollution control. Prior to 1994, known as the Soil Conservation Service.
Agricultural extension agent
An expert from a university or government agency who assists farmers by providing information on new research and helping them apply this knowledge with new techniques.
The practice of alternating the kind of crop grown in a particular field from one season or year to the next.
The practice of plowing furrows sideways across a hillside, perpendicular to its slope, to help prevent the formation of rills and gullies. The technique is so named because the furrows follow the natural contours of the land.
The cutting of level platforms, sometimes with raised edges, into steep hillsides to contain water from irrigation and precipitation. This transforms slopes into series of steps like a staircase, enabling farmers to cultivate hilly land while minimizing their loss of soil to water erosion.
Planting different types of crops in alternating bands or other spatially mixed arrangements.
A row of trees or other tall perennial plants that are planted along the edges of farm fields to break the wind and thereby minimize wind erosion.
Organic fertilizer composed of freshly dead plant material.
The artificial provision of water to support agriculture.
The saturation of soil by water, in which the water table is raised to the point that water bathes plant roots. This deprives roots of access to gases, essentially suffocating them and eventually damaging or killing the plants.
The buildup of salts in surface soil layers.
A substance that promotes plant growth by supplying essential nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus.
A fertilizer that consists of mined or synthetically manufactured mineral supplements. These are generally more susceptible than other fertilizers to leaching and runoff and may be more likely to cause unintended off-site impacts.
A fertilizer made up of natural materials (largely the remains or wastes of organisms), including animal manure, crop residues, fresh vegetation, and compost.
A mixture produced when decomposers break down organic matter, including food and crop waste, in a controlled environment.
The consumption by too many animals of plant cover, impeding plant regrowth and the replacement of biomass. This can exacerbate damage to soils, natural communities, and the land's productivity for further grazing.
A system in which the soil is saturated with water and which generally features shallow standing water with ample vegetation. These biologically productive systems include freshwater marshes, swamps, bogs, and seasonal ones such as vernal ponds.
Wetlands Reserve Program
U.S. policy in recent farm bills that pays landowners who protect, restore, or enhance wetland areas on their property.
Conservation Reserve Program
U.S. policy in farm bills since 1985 that pays farmers to stop cultivating highly erodible cropland and instead place it in conservation reserves planted with grasses and trees.
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