40 Agriculture Important terms & definitions For Competitive Exam Part-1

Agriculture terms & definitions

Agriculture terms & definitions


  • Ratooning is a practice of growing a crop from the stubbles of previous crop, without replanting.
  • Ratoon cropping is also referred to as stubble cropping, re-harvesting, second crop, etc.
  • It is used extensively in sugarcane, bananas and plantains, pineapple, forage crops and minor fiber crops.
  • To a limited extent it is also used in rice, sorghum, pigeon pea, and some vegetables.
  • Only one ratoon should be taken because incidence of pests and diseases and deterioration of soil increases after that. 


  • Ratoon saves cost on preparatory tillage and planting material.
  • It gets the benefit of residual manure and moisture.
  • Ratoon crop matures earlier and gives more or less the same yield.
  • It makes efficient use of the growing seasons and facilitates crop intensification, and thus helps in improving agricultural productivity.

2. Multi tier cropping

  • Multi tier cropping is a kind of intercropping. It is also called multi-layer cropping or multi storied cropping.
  • It is the practise of growing plants of different height in the same field and at the same time.
  • The objective is to utilize the vertical space more effectively.
  • It is mostly practised in orchards and plantation crops for maximum use of solar energy even under high planting density.
  • Some of the combinations may include Coconut+ coffee+ black pepper, Sugarcane + mustard+ potato, etc

Benefits –

All growing space is used, as crop fit together –

i. vertically (tall, medium & short)

ii. horizontally (all planting spots occupied)

iii. underground (deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants) 

  • Efficiently utilizes the soil moisture at different depths of soil, and receives solar energy at different heights.
  • Income per unit area increases substantially. Also, harvesting different crops in different seasons ensures a more even distribution of income and employment throughout the year.
  •  Minimizes risks of crop yield loss. Reduces the impacts of hazards like high intensity rainfall, soil erosion and landslides.
  • Effective utilization of leaching materials, effective weed control.
  •  It increases biodiversity which reduces pest and disease pressure.
  • Provides micro-climate conditions that benefit crops underneath.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

3. Contour farming

  • Contour ploughing or contour farming is the practice of ploughing and/or planting across a slope.
  •  The furrows are ploughed perpendicular rather than parallel to the slopes.
  • These contour lines create a water break which reduces the formation of rills and gullies during times of heavy water run-off, preventing top soil loss and soil erosion.
  • Contouring can reduce soil erosion by as much as 50% from up and down hill farming.
  • It helps reduce sediment runoff, increase water infiltration, and thus promotes better water quality.
  • Contour farming is considered an active form of sustainable agriculture.
  • A similar practice is contour bunding where stones are placed around the contours of slopes.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

4. Terrace Farming

  • Terrace farming is a method of farming whereby “steps” known as terraces are built onto the slopes of hills and mountains.
  • Terrace farming was invented by the Inca people who lived in the South American mountains.
  • The difference from contour ploughing is that contour ploughing follows the natural shape of the slope without altering it.
  • On the other hand, terrace farming alters the shape of the slope to produce flat areas that provide a catchment for water.
  •  When it rains, water flows to the next terrace instead of carrying away the soil nutrients and plants down the slope.
  • Terraces trap rainwater allowing cultivation of water-intensive crops such as rice.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

5. Dry land Agriculture 

  • Dryland Agriculture in general refers to growing of crops entirely under rainfed conditions, in the absence of irrigation facilities in arid areas.
  • Based on the amount of rainfall received, dryland agriculture can be grouped into three categories:

#Dry Farming: Cultivation of crops in areas where rainfall is less than 750 mm per annum

#Dryland Farming: Cultivation of crops in areas receiving rainfall above 750 mm

#Rainfed Farming: Cultivation of crops in regions receiving more than 1,150 mm.

Dryland farming is highly important to ensure the economic stability of regions with arid lands. In its absence, vast tracts of lands would be left barren and unproductive.


  • Soil and water management methods are specifically designed to conserve the maximum quantity of water on a particular piece of land. 
  • Its success depends on the efficient use of the little moisture that is trapped in the soils of crop fields for growing crops.
  • Soil conservation by contour bunding, terracing, land sloping and land levelling and also by practicing conservational tillage (zero tillage and minimum tillage) is important.
  • Wise selection of crops that will suitably adapt to the farming conditions is also an essential component. Crops grown through dryland agricultural systems must be highly drought tolerant.
  • Major dry farming crops are millets such as jowar, bajra, ragi, oilseeds like mustard, rapeseed, and pulse crops like pigeon pea, gram and lentil.
  • Dryland areas also contribute significantly to wheat and rice production.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

6. Wind breaks/ Shelter belts

  • Windbreaks are any barrier that protects the crops from the effects of wind.
  • Shelter belts are plantings of trees, shrubs, or a combination of the two, to reduce wind speed in an agricultural area.
  • Heavy wind increases loss of moisture both by increasing transportation and surface evaporation.
  • Fruit orchards usually cause heavy losses when exposed to strong wind.
  • Shelter belts are generally erect and tall growing, hardy and drought resistant, mechanically strong and dense to resist maximum wind.

The varied benefits are that it –

i. reduces the wind velocity

ii. checks the evaporation losses of water from the soil surface

iii. prevents the damage caused by cold wind and frost

iv. increases production by minimizing wind damage

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

7. Agri silviculture

  • Agri-silviculture is a type of agro-forestry.
  • It is a production technique which combines the growing of agricultural crops with simultaneously raised and protected forest crops.
  • This system emphasizes rising of trees, and cultivation of food and fodder crops in the available space between the trees.

Some of the benefits include the following :

i. improved and sustained crop productivity

ii. increased level of income for farmers

iii. improved nutritive value of animal feed due to the supply of green fodder

iv. suitable for soil nutrient recycling; helps reduce chemical fertilizer purchase

v. reduces surface run off, soil erosion, nutrient loss, gully formation and landslides

vi. reduces pressure on community and other natural forests for fodder, fuel wood and timber

8. Mixed farming

  • In mixed farming a farmer can take up different types of practices along with doing the main business of agriculture.
  • Some of these practices include poultry faming, dairy farming, bee keeping, sericulture, pisciculture, shrimp farming, goat and sheep rearing, piggery, etc.
  • The aim is to increase income through different sources and to complement land and labour demands across the year.
  • Diversification of crops and livestock offers varied options for farmers to face uncertain weather conditions associated with increased climate variability.
  • Mixed cropping (polyculture, inter-cropping, or co-cultivation) is a type of agriculture that involves planting two or more plants simultaneously in the same field.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

9. Agro pastoral farming

Agro pastoral farming is a type of mixed farming.

The structure of agropastoral farming systems is defined by

i. the mix of crop and animal components

ii. use of on-farm resources

iii. interactions among the components

iv. flows of energy and nutrients

v. individual contribution of each component to farm productivity

In effect, the incorporation of livestock into farming systems adds another trophic level to the system.

Animals recycle the nutrient content of plants, transforming them into manure and allowing a broader range of fertilization alternatives in managing farm nutrients.

10. Agrostological measures

Agrostological measures refer to the practices that are aimed at soil conservation to protect the soil from erosion and to maintain the productive capacity of the soil.

The following are the important agrostological practices that check soil erosion:

Cultivation of grasses (Ley farming) –

  • It is recommended for heavily eroded soil to grow grass for many years to let the soils naturally repair themselves.
  • Ley farming practises cultivating grass in rotation with regular crops to increase the nutrient level in the soils.
  • Grasses improve the soil structure, porosity, infiltration and also add organic matter to the soil. It also helps prevent soil erosion by intercepting rainfall, binding the soil particles, etc.

Retiring the land

  • Land retirement is a practice that takes agricultural lands out of production.
  • It is resorted due to poor drainage and soils containing high levels of salt and selenium (a mineral found in soil).
  • Restored native plant communities on retired land may also provide important habitat for the recovery of special-status species.

Afforestation and Reforestation

  • Healthy vegetational cover is essential to check accelerated erosion, flooding and silting.
  • In this regard, afforestation refers to growing forests at places where there were no forests before.
  • Reforestation means replanting of forests at places where they have been destroyed by uncontrolled forest fires, excessive felling, etc.

Checking of overgrazing – A system of restricted and rotational grazing may be helpful in checking soil erosion to some extent.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

11. Soil fertility

  • Soil fertility is the ability of the soil to provide all essential plant nutrients in available forms and in a suitable balance.
  • It is the ability of the soil to sustain plant growth and optimize crop yield.
  • A fertile soil contains all the major nutrients for basic plant nutrition.
  • These include macro-nutrients such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon from air and water, and nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, etc from the soil.
  • The micro-nutrients include iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, nickel, etc.
  • Macronutrients are needed in high quantity, and micronutrients are needed in small amounts.

12. Soil productivity

Soil productivity refers to how productive the soil is in terms of output.

Soil productivity is the resultant of several factors such as –

i. soil fertility

ii. good soil management practices

iii. availability of water supply

iv. suitable climate, etc

Soil fertility refers to the nature of the soil. A fertile soil may not be productive, as soil productivity depends on various other factors as well as the requirements of the crops planted.

Soil fertility can be enhanced through the application of organic and inorganic fertilizers to make it more productive.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

13. Soil texture

  • Soil texture is a classification of soil based on its physical texture and characteristics, particularly the size of the particles that make up the soil.
  • Depending on the size of the particles and its amount, the soil texture is classified as gravel, coarse sand, fine sand, silt, and clay.
  •  Most soils are usually a combination of sand, silt and clay.

Soil texture influences

i. the ease with which soil can be worked

ii. the amount of water it holds

iii. the rate at which water can enter and move through soil

iv. the amount of air it holds

All these in turn decide the choice of crop for the soil.

14. Soil structure

  • Soil structure is defined by the way individual particles of sand, silt, and clay are assembled.
  • Single particles when assembled appear as larger particles called aggregates.
  • Aggregation of soil particles can occur in different patterns, resulting in different soil structures. Structure is one of the defining characteristics of a soil horizon.

Soil structure is primarily classified into four types:

Granular and crumb structures

  • individual particles of sand, silt and clay grouped together in small, nearly spherical grains. They are commonly found in the A-horizon of the soil profile.
  • Water circulates very easily through such soils.

Blocky and subangular blocky structures

  • soil particles cling together in nearly square or angular blocks having more or less sharp edges. They are commonly found in the B-horizon where clay has accumulated.
  • Relatively large blocks indicate that the soil resists penetration and movement of water.

Prismatic and columnar structures –

  • soil particles are formed into vertical columns or pillars separated by miniature, but definite, vertical cracks. They are commonly found in the B-horizon where clay has accumulated.
  • Water circulates with greater difficulty and drainage is poor.

 Platy structure –

  • soil particles are aggregated in thin plates or sheets piled horizontally on one another. It is commonly found in forest soils, in part of the A- horizon, and in claypan soils.
  • Plates often overlap, greatly impairing water circulation.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

15. Decomposition

  • Decomposition in soil is a natural process which involves soil organisms breaking-down large pieces of organic matter into smaller ones.
  • Decomposition recycles nutrients back to the soil from formerly living organisms.
  • Detritivores and saprophytes are essential in the recycling and disintegration processes of decomposition.
  • Detritus is the disintegrated organic material produced on decomposition.
  • Detrivores – Detritivores are organisms that consume detritus for energy.
  • Earthworms, insects, and snails are examples of detritivores that are involved in the initial stages of the decomposition process.
  • Saprophytes – Bacteria and fungi that thrive in soil and feed upon dead organic matter are called saprophytes.
  • After larger particles are broken down, these microorganisms further the decomposition process by secreting chemicals that digest organic material in detritus.

16. Humus

  • The partially digested organic material left in soil as the result of decomposition of plant and animal residues in soil is called humus.
  • Humus is then available for plants to use.
  • In most soil, percentage of humus ranges from 2-10%, whereas it is up to 90% in peaty soil.


  • Humus plays an important role in determining the fertility level of the soil.
  • It serves as the store house for essential plant nutrients.
  • It improves microbial/biological activity in soil.
  • Humus also encourages better development of plant-root system in soil.
  • It improves the water holding capacity of soil, prevents leaching, etc. It improves aeration and drainage by making the soil more porous.
  • It acts as a buffering agent i.e. prevents sudden change in soil PH/soil reaction.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

17. Transpiration

  • Transpiration is essentially the evaporation of water from plant leaves.
  • Moisture is carried through plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves.
  • From leaves, moisture is changed to vapour and is released to the atmosphere.
  • Transpiration also includes a process called guttation.
  • It is the loss of water in liquid form from the uninjured leaf or stem of the plant, principally through water stomata.
  • Transpiration rates vary widely depending on weather conditions.
  • It includes temperature, humidity, sunlight availability and intensity, precipitation, soil type and saturation, wind, land slope, and water use and diversion by people.
  • Higher temperatures stimulate the plant’s pores to open, which triggers a higher rate of transpiration and water usage. Cooler temperatures cause the pores to close, which conserves moisture.
  • Roughly, about 10% of the moisture found in the atmosphere is released by plants through transpiration.

18. Green manure

  • Green, undecomposed material used as manure is called green manure.
  • Green manure can be obtained by collecting green leaf (along with twigs) from plants grown in wastelands, field bunds and forest.
  • It can also be obtained by growing green manure crops. The plants that are grown for green manure are known as green manure crops.
  • Growing of green manure crops in the off season reduces weed proliferation and weed growth.
  • Green manuring improves soil structure, increases water holding capacity and decreases soil loss by erosion.
  • Green manuring also helps in reclamation of alkaline soils.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

19. Organic Agriculture

  • Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agroecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.
  • This is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs.
  • Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. 

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

20. Sustainable Agriculture

  • Sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fibre, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.
  • This form of agriculture enables us to produce healthful food without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same.
  • Every person involved in the food system such as growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers, play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system.

21. Wind breaks

Windbreaks are plantings of trees, shrubs, or a combination of the two installed to direct, block or reduce wind speed in an agricultural area.

Wind breaks are usually raised to

1. Protect field crops / livestock from cold / hot wind.

2. Prevent soil erosion.

3. Improve the microclimate.

4. As fencing and boundary demarcation.

5. Used as fuel, fodder, etc.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

22. Shelter belts

Shelter belt is a wide range of trees, shrubs and grasses planted in rows around the land at right angles to deflect the prevailing winds.

They are also used to reduce wind velocities, wind erosion, and crop damage.
(Agriculture terms & definitions)

23. Agri silviculture 

  • Agri-silviculture is a production technique which combines the growing of agricultural crops with simultaneously raised and protected forest crops.
  • Agroforestry is a collective name for a land-use system and technology whereby woody perennials are deliberately used on the same land management unit as agricultural crops and/or animals in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence.
  • In this system there are both ecological and economical interactions between the various components.

24. Agri pastoral

  • Agro-pastoral systems are farming systems that combine animal and crop production.
  • The close interaction between crops and livestock is the most striking feature of agro-pastoral farms.
  • These systems are usually highly diverse and several crops are produced on the same land within a single growing season or period.

25. Agrostological measures

Using grasses to control soil erosion is called as agrostological measures.

Cultivation of grasses in a land which is heavily eroded or in strips between the crops is called an agrostological measure.

Agrostological measures include :

Lay farming – Where grasses are allowed to grow in rotation with field crops, for building up the structure of soil and improving its fertility

Retiring lands to grasses – This involves growing grasses on such lands where major proportion of the top soil has been eroded. This helps in soil reclamation as well as fodder for cattle.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

26. Soil fertility

  • Soil fertility is defined as the ability of soil to provide all essential plant nutrients in available forms and in a suitable balance.
  • These plants nutrients will be absorbed from the soil through the roots for healthy growth of the plants.

27. Soil texture

  • Soil texture is a classification of soil based on its physical texture and characteristics, particularly the size of the particles that make up the soil.
  • Various sizes of particles in the soil are sand, silt and clay, gravel, etc.
  • Texture influences the ease with which soil can be worked, the amount of water and air it holds, and the rate at which water can enter and move through soil.
  • This determines the suitability of soil for specific agricultural crops.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

28. Soil structure

  • Soil structure is defined by the way individual particles of sand, silt, and clay are assembled.
  • Single particles when assembled appear as larger particles which are called as aggregates
  • These aggregates of soil occur in different patterns, resulting in different soil structures.

The natural processes that aid in forming aggregates and finally soil structures are –

1. Wetting and drying

2. Freezing and thawing

3. Microbial activity that aids in the decay of organic matter

4. Activity of roots and soil animals

29. Humus

  • Humus is a complex organic substance resulting from the breakdown of plant material in a process called humification.
  • This process can occur naturally in soil, or in the production of compost.
  • Humus is extremely important to the fertility of soils in both a physical and chemical sense.

30. Decomposition

  • It agriculture, decomposition refers to a biological process of breaking down an organic material into smaller constituent parts.
  • A decomposer is an organism whose ecological function involves the recycling of nutrients by performing the natural process of decomposition as it feeds on decaying organisms.
  • Examples of decomposers are fungi and bacteria that obtain their nutrients from dead plant or animal material by breaking down cells of dead organisms available in the ecosystem.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

31. Detritivores

  • Detritivores are organisms that feeds on detritus or organic waste and decompose plants and animals as well as faeces.
  • They in contrast to decomposers, ingest lumps of matter instead of absorbing and metabolizing detritus.
  • Examples of detritivores include millipedes, woodlice, dung flies, many terrestrial worms and burying beetles.

32. Transpiration

  • Transpiration is the process by which moisture is carried through the plants from roots to small pores on the underside of leaves, where it changes to vapour and is released to the atmosphere.
  • The purpose of transpiration in plants is to create a negative pressure gradient that helps the plants to draw minerals and nutrients through water from the roots.
  • It aids the plant to maintain its temperature during hot weather, supports photosynthesis and exchange of gases.
  • It also plays important role in water cycle as it releases approx. 10% of water back to the environment.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

33. Green manure

  • It is a practice of ploughing in the green plant tissues grown in the field or adding green plants with tender twigs or leaves from outside and incorporating them into the soil for improving the physical structure as well as fertility of the soil.
  • The object of green manuring is to add an organic matter into the soil and enriching with important and deficient nutrients in the soil.

34. Green leaf manure 

  • Green leaf manures (GLMs) are organic manures made from leaves, twigs collected from various trees, herbs and shrubs forsupplying essential plant nutrients to the soil and increase soil fertility in a healthy manner
  • Forest tree leaves are major sources of these manures while herbs and shrubs growing in field bunds, wastelands etc. are some other mentionable sources.
  •  Some of the advantages of GLM are improved soil structure, increased water holding capacity, decreased soil erosion, reduction of weed growth, etc.

(Agriculture terms & definitions)

35. Farm yard manure

Farmyard manure (FYM) refers to the decomposed mixture of dung and urine of farm animals along with litter and leftover materials from roughages or fodder fed to the cattle.

 It is a highly useful manure and some of its properties are –

1. FYM is rich in nutrients especially Nitrogen which is made available to the plants as and when the FYM decomposes.

2. Balanced nutrition to the plants as cow dung, urine, fibres from fodder are mixed.

3. Potassium and Phosphorus available from FYM is similar to that from inorganic sources

36. Compost

  • Composting is a natural biological process, carried out under controlled aerobic conditions where various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic matter into simpler substances.
  •  The effectiveness of the composting process is dependent upon the environmental conditions present within the composting system i.e. oxygen, temperature, moisture, material disturbance, organic matter and the size and activity of microbial populations.
  • Composting biodegrades organic waste. I.e. food waste, manure, leaves, grass trimmings, paper, wood, feathers, crop residue etc., and turns it into a valuable organic fertilizer.

37. Vermi-Compost

Vermi-Compost is the end product of vermicomposting, a method by which compost or mixed manure of organic origin is prepared by the use of earthworms.

It is a controlled degradation of the organic wastes for the consumption of earthworms, helps in the recycling of food wastes, reduces the waste bulk density and the final product may contain hormone-like substance which accelerates the plant growth.
(Agriculture terms & definitions)

38. Bio fertilizers 

  • Bio fertilizers or microbial inoculants are defined as preparations containing live or latent cells of efficient strains of nitrogen fixing, phosphate solubilising or cellulolytic microorganisms.
  • This is used in fields with the objective of increasing the availability of nutrient in a from easily assimilated by plants.

39. Predators

  • In ecology, predators are those animals that live by preying on other organisms for food.
  • Many predators hunt and eventually kill their prey, such as lion preying upon a buffalo, mantis eating a bee,baleen whale consuming millions of microscopic planktons, etc.

40. Parasitoid

  • Parasitoid are insects whose larvae feed and develop within or on the bodies of other arthropods.
  • Each parasitoid larva develops on a single individual and eventually kills that host. 
  • Most parasitoids are wasps, flies, beetles and moths.
  • These are of significant importance to the growth of plant/tree species which are generally affected by its host.
  • E.g. the parasitoid kills the host Oak bark beetle which would have affected the Oak Bark trees if alive.(Agriculture terms & definitions)

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