“Buzzwords” in Agriculture

I was reading through NAMA‘s AgriMarketing Magazine at work and found this article written by Brandon Souza of AgCareers.com about buzzwords in agriculture. I realized that some of these words and terms are thrown around a lot and to the average consumer/person, they may not know what it means. Brandon did a good job of describing some of them, and so I thought I would condense it down a little bit more.

Hydroponics: a method of farming that grows crops one of two ways – in a medium (often gravel, sand or rockwool) or in a liquid only nutrient mixture – basically growing plants in water. This is usually done inside a climate-controlled type of greenhouse. Interesting fact: Hydroponic plants use an average of 90% less water than traditional in-ground systems because water and nutrients are directly administered to the individual plants without the cause to irrigate & fertilize massive amounts of land.

Precision Agriculture: the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) in agricultural equipment to allow for more precise planting and application of chemicals. With advances in GPS, tractors can drive themselves to plant, furrow/cultivate and even harvest. Also, monitoring systems us GPS to highlight areas of a field that need more or less attention from the farmer like: irrigation, chemical application and pest problems. Can we say efficiency!

Geospatial Analysis: the ability to map a three-dimensional view of farm acreage. This view gives farmers the ability to see their fields’ details that includes rises and dips, terrain types, terraces and slopes. Through the use of computer software, GPS and analytical methods, these maps are created that help the farmers improve results and create better yields with far less inputs.

Biofuels: an alternative fuel source derived from biomass (or plant-based). Most people relate biofuels with ethanol – made from corn, or biodiesel – made from soybeans. However, new products are being used to make biofuel such as sugar cane, vegetable oils, switchgrass, wood chips, and even animal fats. This alternative fuel source has been around since the turn of the 19th century, but with wanting to free our nation’s dependence from foreign oil, along with the ‘green’ movement, biofuels are being looked at and used much more.

Sustainable Agriculture: a form of ag production that takes steps to preserve resources through improved farm efficiencies. This is a subset of the green movement and has changed the way many are viewing agriculture. Some sustainable practices include: long-term crop rotations, returns to natural flooding cycles to replenish lost nutrients, low or no-tillage cultivation, modified irrigation systems vs. traditional flood irrigation, and natural fertilizers.

Integrated Farming/Agriculture: a holistic approach to raising farm products that utilizes raised inputs vs. external inputs – or the opposite of monoculture farm production. An example that Brandon uses is that an integrated farmer growing corn would invest in a flock of chickens who would produce fertilizer and in turn, the finished corn would feed the chickens, creating a cycle environment that makes the farm more sustainable. Investing in the chicken flock would be instead of purchasing fertilizer (like in monoculture) and just raising corn to sell. This is obviously more popular for smaller operations.

Organic Farming: a system of producing a crop using standard methods set forth by the USDA and certified by a third-party organization. As organic crops must be labeled in the store, practices are heavily monitored and regulated as opposed to sustainable or integrated agriculture. Many farmers are utilizing organic farming to receive a higher price for their products, yet they must go through a rigorous process to become certified, so margins aren’t always larger.

Biotechnology in Agriculture: the science of modifying living organism according to human purposes – also taken on the term “genetically modified organisms” – GMO’s. This technology has led the way toward vast improvements in crop production and efficiencies that offer multiple benefits including: higher crop yields, drought tolerant plants, increases in nutritional values, improved taste/appearance and the decreased need for inputs.

Opportunities: more jobs in the agriculture industry. These technological advances bring agriculture to the forefront of providing new, innovative career opportunities. The sky is the limit anymore with agriculture!

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