Modern Ag Glossary



The variety of species or life forms within any given area or region. These life forms include animals, plants, and all forms of organism that serves a role in the health of the ecosystem.


Any fuel derived from living plant matter.


Biotechnology, or genetic engineering, is the process of using living organisms to improve qualities of a plant by such as the plant’s ability to protect itself against damage or improving upon its ability to grow and produce.

Buffer strips

Small strips of land kept in permanent vegetation, located between primary crops, for the purpose of intercepting pollutants, slowing erosion and managing environmental concerns. These strips often also provide habitat for native wildlife and pollinators.


Conservation tillage (no-till, reduced-till, strip-till)

Conservation tillage includes all forms of reduced tillage. Tillage is the practice of plowing soil to prepare it for planting or after harvest to remove crop debris from the field. For example, ”no-till” involves no disturbance of the soil; and “reduced-till” or “strip-till” involves minimal disturbance. The benefits of this practice include improved moisture retention and reduced soil erosion.

Corn stover

Stalks, leaves, and cobs that remain in a cornfield after harvest. These materials are the primary source for cellulosic ethanol production and can at times be gathered for animal feeds or grazed. Also referred to as crop residue.

Cover crops

Cover crops are planted between growing seasons of a farmer’s primary cash crop, for the purpose of improving soil health, reducing erosion, improving soil fertility, and/or reducing soil compaction. There are three primary types of cover crops: tubers like the Tillage Radish; grasses like cereal rye, oats or annual rye grass; and legumes like clover. These cover crops are at times grazed or harvested, but most commonly are terminated through winter freeze or prior to the next crop planting season.

Crop protection

Crop protection is the collection of tools, products, and best practices farmers use to protect their crops from the negative impact of weeds, pests, and disease.

Crop residue

Plant material that remains after harvest. Can include stalks, leaves, and roots.

Crop rotation

A planned sequence of planting crops over time on the same field. Rotating crops provides productivity benefits by improving soil nutrient levels and breaking crop pest cycles.


Data analytics

Qualitative and quantitative processes used to enhance productivity and business gain. In agriculture, analytics help farmers become more efficient with their resources, more precise with the timing and rate of inputs, and reduces impact on the environment in the process.

Drain tile

Piping systems, most commonly corrugated plastic tubing, that are placed underneath the soil to remove excess water from a field of crops. This allows roots to develop to their desired depth and removes standing water from lower portions of the field.  This also assists in minimizing erosion by helping excess water exit the field.   



Living genetic resources such as seeds or plant tissues that are maintained for the purpose of plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses.

Grid Sampling

Designed to support precise approaches to nutrient management, grid sampling is the practice of taking multiple samples of soil per acre. Traditional soil sampling densities were 1 or 2 samples for every 3 or 4 acres. Grid sampling calls for as many as 42 samples per acre which are mapped and flagged throughout the field digitally, leading to an improved understanding of variability in soil nutrient needs on across the field.



Hybrid seeds are created using traditional breeding methods where two different but compatible plants are crossbred to create a new plant—also known as a hybrid. An example of this is the Honeycrisp apple. Developed through the University of Minnesota's apple breeding program, the Honeycrisp is a hybrid produced by breeding two different apples to create a new, crisper and juicier type of apple.



In agriculture, microbial products are those made from microorganisms to help protect crops from disease and pests, and to encourage healthy growth.


The practice of planting a single crop type in a particular region or field often for an extended period, one planting cycle after another.


Nutrient management

The process of managing the amount, source, timing, and method of nutrient (fertilizer) application, with the goal of optimizing farm productivity while minimizing nutrient losses that could create environmental problems.



Any substance or mixture of substances used to alter the life cycle of any pest. They can be naturally derived or synthetically produced.

  1. Herbicide: pesticide for weeds
  2. Insecticide: pesticide for insects
  3. Fungicide: pesticide for fungus
  4. Miticide: pesticide for mites
  5. Nematicide: pesticide for nematodes

Plant breeding

Plant breeding has historically been defined as the cross-breeding of plants in order to develop offspring containing a desired characteristic found in the parent.


The practice of planting more than one crop at a time in a particular region or field.

Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture is the use of advanced technology, equipment and data analytics to improve crop production practices. Farmers analyze data from their machines, from their fields, and even from satellite imagery to help them be more efficient and accurate with their use of natural resources, such as water, soil, and fuel, as well as their use of inputs, such as fertilizer and crop protection products.


Scouting fields/crops

Crop scouting, also known as field scouting, is the very basic action of traveling through a crop field, usually on foot, while making frequent stops for observations. Crop scouting is done so that a farmer can see how different areas of his or her field are growing and what stressors or pests may be present. If there are problems during the growing season, the farmer can work to mitigate them so those problems do not affect yield at harvest time.

Seed treatments

Pesticides applied directly to a seed before planting, for the purpose of protecting seeds, seedlings, and plants from pests.

Soil organic material

Soil organic material is anything that was once alive and is now in or on the soil as it is decomposed into humus. Humus is organic material that has been decomposed by microorganisms and is readily changing form and mass as it decomposes.


Wood chip bioreactor

Simple trenches filled with wood chips that filter water running from drain tile on farms. Their use helps reduce nitrate runoff into nearby waterways.

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