Important Terms in Agronomy

Important Terms in Agronomy

Acidic: A soil pH of less than 7.0. The lower the number, the more acidic the soil will be. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral.

Read also… Acidic, Saline and Alkaline Soil

Aeration: Involves the process of creating small holes in the soil, allowing air, water and nutrients to travel to the plant roots.

Agriculture Year: It starts from July to next of June (1 July to 30 June).

Agro-ecology: It is sub-discipline of agronomy that uses ecological theory to study, design manage and evaluate agricultural systems that are productive and resource conserving.

Agronomy: The science of crop production, soil and water management or to provide favorable environment to the crops for higher production.

Alkaline: A soil pH of more than 7.0. The higher the number, the more alkaline (base) the soil will be. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral.

Aquaculture: The commercial production of aquatic plants or animals in a controlled environment.

Aquaponics: A system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which, in turn, purifies the water.

Asexual: Reproduction without involving the germ or sexual cells.

Available Water Holding Capacity (AWHC): The quantity of water held in soil that is available for plants to use. As a rule, the deeper the soil, the greater it’s AWHC.

Bareroot: Dormant plants, ready for transplanting, shipping or storage with exposed roots (soil removed).

Best Management Practices: It includes such practices as cover crops, and strip cropping to control erosion, soil testing and timing of integrated pest management to prevent the loss of nutrients and pesticides.

Biennial: A plant that completes its life cycle in two years. (Example: blackberry plants have biennial canes and perennial root systems).

Biodiversity: It refers to sum total of all the plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms in the world or in a particular area; all of their individual variation and all the interaction between them.


Biodynamic Agriculture/Farming: This method aims to treat the farm as a living system which interact the environment to make healthy, living soil and produce healthy foods for mankind. The underlying principle is to make life-giving compost out of dead materials. Use of preparation is a common feature of biodynamic agriculture.

Bolting: When a plant produces flowers or seeds prematurely instead of a crop. This is usually the result of excessive heat and sun exposure.

Boot: Stage of grass maturity right before the seed head emerges.

Broadcast: Method of seeding, fertilizing or pesticide application where the material is spread in a wide pattern onto the soil surface.

Burndown: A method of preparing fields for no-till seeding by using a herbicide that kills all growing vegetation.

Caryopsis: The grain or fruit of grasses including the cereals.

Cereal: A grass cultivated for its edible seeds or grains.

Companion planting: The cropping/planting of two plants growing near each other produce mutual benefits.

Compost: Organic residues, or a mixture of organic residues and soil, that have been piled, moistened and allowed to undergo biological decomposition for use in fertilizer.

Conservation Tillage: Designed to minimize soil erosion; any of several farming methods providing for seed germination, plant growth and weed control while maintaining effective ground cover throughout the years and minimal disturbance of the soil. No-till is the form of conservation tillage. Other forms of minimum tillage are ridge till, strip-till and mulch-till.

Conventional Tillage/Seeding: Refers to a form of field preparation and seeding where the soil is moldboard plowed and/or disked prior to seeding.

Cover Crop: A close-growing crop that is grown to protect and improve soil between periods of regular crops or between trees and vines in orchards and vineyards.

Crop Residue: The plant material left in the field following the harvest of a crop.

Cropping Pattern: The proportion of area under various crops at a point of time in a unit area. It indicates the yearly sequence and spatial arrangement and fallow in an area.

Cropping System: It is important component of farming system that represents cropping pattern and its management. It represents cropping pattern used on a farm and their interaction with resources and technology available. It is location specific hence changes when location and environment changes.


Crop Rotation: The practice of growing different crops in succession on the same land.

Crop Year: Generally, the 12-month period from the end of one year’s harvest to the next.

Cross-pollination: The transfer of pollen from the anther of a fower to the stigma of another fower in a different plant of the same or different species.

Cultivation: The act of cultivating. The act of caring for and growing plants; the ways farmers take care of crops.

Cutting: A plant propagation method wherein a part of a plant is cut and dipped in a rooting hormone to eventually grow into a new plant.

Dioecious: Having stamens and pistils in separate flowers upon different plants.

Direct Sowing: Germinating seeds at the site you want them to grow, as opposed to growing them indoors before transplanting.

Disc or Disk Harrow: A harrow with sharp-edged slightly concave discs mounted on horizontal shafts and used to cut clods or debris on the surface of soil or to cover seed after planting.

Double Cropping: Raising two different crops on the same area within one growing season.

Ecological Farming: Sometimes it is also called Biological farming, so it includes organic farming plus environmental consideration. This farming minimizes the use of chemicals and maintains farming sustainability.

Erosion: The process by which soil is moved from one location to another by wind or water.


Farm: Any agricultural tract of land, with improvements, generating $1,000 or more in sales, or that normally would have been sold in the year, can be listed as a farm in the U.S. census.


Fertilizer: One that fertilizes; specifcally: a substance (manure, plant and animal byproducts, chemical mixtures, etc.) used to make soil more fertile by supplying plant nutrients.

Fodder: Most often refers to the corn stalks and leaves left in the feld following grain harvest, which can be used as a coarse animal feed.

Forage: Vegetative matter, fresh or preserved, that is gathered and fed to animals as roughage; includes alfalfa hay, corn silage, pasture and grassbased hay.

Furrow: Refers to a trench made in the soil by tillage equipment.

Genus: A group of closely related species of plants.

Germinate: The beginning of growth in a seed; to sprout.

Genetically Modifed Organism (GMO): They are the result of a specifc type of plant breeding where precise changes are made to the plant’s DNA to give it characteristics that cannot be achieved through traditional breeding methods. Realistically, GMO refers to turning off or moving a gene from one place to another within the plant or inserting a gene from another source.

Green Manure: Any crop or plant grown and plowed under to improve the soil, especially by addition of organic matter.

Hardy: A plant capable of withstanding freeze and/or frost exposure without means of protection.

Hay: Forage harvested during the growing season and preserved for later feeding.

Herbicide: Any agent used to destroy or inhibit growth of plants. A herbicide may be derived from organic or inorganic materials.

Humus: The part of soil created from decomposed plant matter.

Hybrid: The crossbreeding of two plants of different species or varieties with distinct characteristics.

Hydroponics: Growing plants without soil; using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.

Integrated Farming System:  It refers to Integration of various agricultural enterprises like crop production, animal husbandry, fishery, forestry etc. which not only supplement the income of the farmers but also help in increasing the family labor employment.


Intensive Grazing: Refers to a grazing system by which a pasture is heavily stocked for a small number of days then allowed to rest before being grazed again.

Intercropping: It is the practice of growing two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land in a fixed ratio or with a definite row arrangement.

Legumes: A family of plants with the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, thus reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed for a crop.

Liming: Refers to the addition of limestone or other basic (alkaline) material to raise the soil pH.

Loam: Rich soil consisting of approximately 25 percent clay, 50 percent silt and less than 50 percent sand; considered ideal soil for gardening and agriculture.

Moldboard Plow: A farm tool having one or more heavy blades to break the soil and cut a furrow prior to sowing. Soil is inverted or turned over in the process.

Monoecious: With stamens and pistils in separate flowers on the same plant.

Nitrification: Formation of nitrates from ammonia.

Nitrogen Fixation: The conversion of atmospheric (free) nitrogen to nitrogen compounds, chemically, or by soil organisms, or by organisms living in the roots of legumes.

No-Till Farming: Designed to control soil erosion, a farming practice leaving the soil undisturbed except for fertilization and seeding operations.

Nutrient Management: It refers to managing the amount, source, placement, form and timing of the application of nutrients and soil amendments to ensure adequate soil fertility for crop production and to minimize the potential for environmental degradation.


Open Pollination: Plants whose seeds develop through random, natural pollination such as wind, field movement or insect activity — not through human involvement.


Organic: A fertilizer, pesticide or plant food that is of animal or vegetable origin; plants grown without the use of synthetic chemicals.

Organic Farming: A production system completely excluding the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides or growth regulators for sustainable productivity.

Ornamental: Plants grown for aesthetics, decorative and/or an attractive appearance.

Parthenogenesis: The development of a new individual from a germ cell without fertilization.

Perennial: Plants living for multiple growing seasons.

Perfect Flower: Having both pistil and stamens.

Phloem: Portion of a vascular bundle containing the sieve tubes through which are transported the food materials manufactured in the plant leaves.

Pinching Off: The periodic removal of new, freshly grown leaves from a plant to encourage growth.

Pistil: The female sexual reproductive, seed-bearing organ of a fower, consisting of an ovary, style and stigma.

Pollination: The transfer of pollen from the stamen (male part of the fower) to the pistil (female part of the fower), followed by fertilization (germination of the pollen grain), growth of the pollen tube down the style and into the ovule where a sperm cell fuses with an egg, resulting in the formation of a seed.

Precision farming: It employs detailed site-specific information to precisely manage production inputs. Production inputs should be optimized, applied only as needed and where needed for the most economic production. This system requires utilization of sophisticated technology like GPS, GIS, remote sensing and telecommunications etc.

Pruning: The process of trimming a shrub, tree or bush by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems to increase fruitfulness and growth or to maintain a certain size or shape.

Saline soil: A soil containing an excess of soluble salts, more than approximately 0. 2 percent but with a pH less than 8. 5.

Seedling: A plant that has just emerged from its seed with its frst root, stem and leaves.

Self-pollinating: Plants not requiring pollen from another plant to produce fruit. Shoat: A weaned young pig of either sex.

Shifting Cultivation: In this system, forest land is cleared by slash and burn method, cropped for a few years and then left fallow. It depletes soil fertility and causes soil erosion.

Side Dressing: A method of fertilization where a little fertilizer is applied to soil near a plant.

Sludge: Solid sediment left over from industrial wastewater treatment plants that is commonly used as a fertilizer or livestock food additive because it contains high levels of nutrients; however, it may contain high levels of heavy metals and pollutants.

Soil Depth: The effective depth of a soil for plant growth is the vertical distance into the soil from the surface to a layer essentially stopping the downward growth of plant roots. The barrier layer may be rock, sand, gravel, heavy clay, etc.

Staking: The practice of driving a support into the ground next to a plant to support its growth.

Stamen: The male reproductive organ of a fower, consisting of a flament and a pollen-containing anther.

Thinning: To reduce the number of excess seedlings (discarding the weakest ones) to allow better air circulation and increase light for foliage, thereby encouraging remaining plants to thrive. In fruit crops, thinning involves removal of some of the fruit to allow the remaining fruit to attain better size and quality and to enable the plant to initiate fruit buds for cropping in the following year.

Till: To work soil in preparation for planting a crop.

Tillage: The act of tilling the soil. Tillage includes turning with a plow, disking, harrowing, dragging, etc. Normally tillage involves significant disturbance of the soil.

Transplant: To remove plants from one place and replant them in another (or from a container into the ground).

Trellis: A support system for plants allowing the positioning of shoots, foliage and fruits for maximum interception of sunlight, air and spray circulation and ease of management.

Top-dress: To apply a material such as fertilizer, manure, compost, etc., to the surface of the soil.

Turning Plow: A plow designed to pulverize a ribbon of earth a few inches wide and turn it over so that surface trash is buried. The turning plow uses a moldboard to do the turning.

Unisexual: Flower containing either stamens or pistils but not both.

Waterlogged: Soil that is saturated with water.

Weed: A plant growing in the “wrong place.”

Xylem: Woody part of fibrovascular bundle containing vessels; the water-conducting tissue.

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