Course Directory Glossary

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A Horizon - Topsoil

Acidification - Process of becoming more acid. pH 7 is neutral, above this is alkaline below pH 6 is acidic. i.e  Acidification of the soil. 

Acid rain - Acid rain is mainly caused by sulpher dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants when fossil fuels are burnt. Acid rain rarely falls near the source of the pollutant because smoke, fumes etc can be carried many miles by air currents. So the Scandinavia, for example, receives acid rain from British and German industry. The main effects of acid rain are on wildlife. Water in lakes also becomes very clear as fish and microscopic life are killed off. It is thought that acid rain is responsible for the death of some trees, specifically conifers, which gradually lose all their leaves and die.

ADAS - Agricultural Development and Advisory Service

Additives - Substances added to feedstuffs for preservation or flavour.

Aerobic digestion - Decomposition of organic matter by micro organisms in the presence of oxygen

Agro forestry -  Cultivated mixtures of trees, crops and/or livestock.

Ammonification - The formation of ammonium ions from nitrogenous compounds.

Anaerobic digestion - The breaking down of organic matter in oxygen free conditions.

Annuals - Plants that flower  and complete thier life cycle in the same year that they are raised from a seed.

Antithesis - The time of flower opening in a plant.

Aquaculture - The cultivation of aquatic organisms for the production of human food. (i.e. Fish farming)

Ark - A moveable outdoor pig shelter.

Available visible radiation - Wavelengths between 0.4 and 0.7 Ám also referred to as 'usable radiation': equal to c 45% of direct solar radiation.

AONB - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  

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Biennials - Plants that only flower in the year following that in which they are sown.

Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)  - The amount of oxygen required by micro organisms, usually in polluted water, slurry or industrial effluent for oxidation processes. Measured as milligrams of O2 taken up by 1 l of the sample when incubated at a standard temperature of 20oC for 5 days

 Biodiversity  The Term Biodiversity was coined in 1985, (abbreviating 'biological diversity') and has been defined in many different ways. Holdgate (1991) regarded it as the 'Total sum of life's variety on Earth, expressed at the genetic, species and ecosystem level'

Biofuel - Fuels devised from biological materials including crops (especially trees) and animal wastes

Biological control - The control of pests and parasites through the use of other organisms , often natural predators. 

Biological efficiency - The efficiency of an organism or biological system

Biomass - The total weight of living material, of all forms

Biotechnology - The development of biological processes and products. i.e. Genetic modification.

Break crop - A change in crop in an arable rotation in order to help control weeds and plant diseases, i.e Oilseed rape grown in a sequence of cereal crops would be a break crop.

Blue Baby Syndrome - An illness that begins when large amounts of nitrates in water are ingested by an infant and converted to nitrite by the digestive system. The nitrite then reacts with oxyhemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying blood protein) to form metheglobin, which cannot carry oxygen. If a large enough amount of metheglobin is formed in the blood, body tissues may be deprived of oxygen, causing the infant to develop a blue coloration of their mucous membranes and possibly digestive and respiratory problems. This condition is also known as methemoglobinemia.

Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -  A disease of cattle (often called 'mad cow disease') caused by an agent that is neither a bacterium or a virus. First recognized in 1986 it has a long incubation period.

Brassicas - Plants of the brassica classification e.g. turnip.

Browsing - A method of feeding by herbivores, in which the leaves and peripheral shoots are removed from trees and shrubs.

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CAP - Common Agricultural Policy

Carnivores - Animals that feed on other animals or material of animal origin.

Carrying capacity - The number of animals an area of land can support.

Cash flow - Movement of funds through a business

Catch crop - Crop utilizing land between two longer term crops

Chloroplasts - Discrete photosynthetic organelles within plant cells, contain chlorophyll

CLA - Country Landowners Association

Cloning - Producing a stock of individuals  all derived asexually from one sexually produced

Conservation - Protection and preservation, in relation to: soil, herbage, species or the environment.

Conservation headland - A sterile strip, minimum of 1m wide, between the crop and the field boundry which prevents weeds such as sterile brome and couch encroaching on the crop. A band of about 6m wide along the outside of the crop is left unsprayed and receives no pesticide treatments in the spring.

Contract growing - Crops grown under contract to supply a specific outlet or to a factory for further process. Often grown to a detailed specification.

Controlled Atmosphere - Regulation of O2 and CO2 levels as well as temperature to improve storage of fruit and vegetables

Cost/benefit analysis - An assessment of the costs and benefits associated with a process, action, enterprise or system.

Coppice woodland - Consists of shoots arising from stumps of trees which are cut on a regular cycle. Used to supply small - diameter poles for building, fencing and fuel. Creates a variable habitat.

Cultivations - Working of the soil prior to and during the germination of crops. For seed bed preparation and weed control

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Dedicated fuel cropping - Use of resources solely towards the production of a crop destined for use as a fuel

Deficiency payments - Payment to producers to make up the difference between the average market price for a commodity and the guarantee price when the market falls below the guaranteed price.

Desalination - The removal of salts from sea water (generally)

Desiccant - A chemical causing drying

Dewpond - Small pond which forms on high chalky soils, filled by rainwater. Often man made for livestock drinking, kept full by rain.

Draft Ewes - Female sheep which are sold out of a flock, usually upland to a lowland farm.

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Ear emergence - Main heading date of a crop. i.e for a grass sward, the date at which 50% of the inflorescences have emerged.

Economies of scale - Unit cost reductions which result from increasing total output.

Ecosystems - Systems which include both living and non-living substances interacting to produce an exchange of materials between the living and the non living units

EC - European Community; Currently 15 member states.

ECU - European Currency Unit. A standard unit of currency used throughout the EC for calculating grants, commodity prices, subsidies etc. Related to the currencies of member states at variable rates.

EEC - European Economic Community.

Effluent - Drainage from a cattle yard, manure heap or silage clamp.

EMA - Environmental Management in Agriculture: proprietary Software Package. Go to: Departmental Software - Agriculture and Ag. botany - Environmental Management in Agriculture. Takes about 60 seconds to download files.

EN - English Nature.

Energy flow - The rate of energy transfer between elements of an ecological system

Entropy - The degree of randomness of or disorder of a system.

ESA - Environmentally Sensitive Area; Currently 22 in the UK.

EU - European Union.

Eutrophication - The accumulation of excessive concentrations of plant nutrients in water courses leading to a bulkd up of algae.

Evapotranspiration - Loss of water by evaporation and transpiration by the above ground parts of a palnt. Governed by meteoroligical conditions, especially when water supply is not limiting.

Extensive farming - System of farming, using few inputs of bought in feed and fertilizer, usually carried out over wide area on large upland farms in the UK.

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Fallow(ing) Resting land from deliberate cropping, not necessarily without cultivation or grazing, but without sowing

FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization.

FAWC - Farm Animal Welfare Council.

Field Capacity - The state of saturated soil when all the soil moisture that is able to freely drain away has done so 

Flow diagram - The diagrammatic representation of the structure of  a system illustrating physical and information flows between compartments

Food chain - Includes all businesses involved in the transformation of raw materials into food. It can be short e.g eggs purchased straight from the farm, or long and complex. eg transport/slaughterhouse/transport/processor/cannery/transport/retailer/consumer chain which beef destined for tinned casseroles may follow

Forage - Crops consumed by livestock

Fossil fuels - Biological materials which have been subjected to long term geological effects. i.e coal, oil natural gas and peat

Free range - System of (mainly) poultry keeping in which hens are allowed to range over a relatively large area

FWAG - Farm and Wildlife Advisory Group.

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GATT  - General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Genetic engineering - The science of modifying the genetic constitution of plants and animals directly

Genome - The full set of chromosomes of an individual

Geothermal energy - Energy contained in the earths heat as steam water and hot rock

Global Warming - Certain Gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) absorb reflected infra-red radiation and trap it within the earths atmosphere. This heat which would normally be dissipated into space increases the 5temperature of the earth. An increase in the earths temperature would have profound effects on the worlds sea levels and climate. The control of theses gasses is therefore seen as a major international priority. 

Grazing - A method of feeding by herbivores

Greenhouse effect - Global warming due to build up of atmospheric CO2

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - The total final output of goods and services produced within a country in a year by residents and non residents regardless of allocation of domestic and foreign claims

Gross National Product (GNP) - The total value of goods and services produced by an economy over a particular period of time. GNP is made up of consumer and government purchases, private, domestic and foreign investments in the country and the total value of exports

Growth promoters - Substances given to livestock to increase growth rates

Growth regulator - A natural or chemical substance that regulates the enlargement, division or activation of plant cells

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Habitat - The area of an environment where an organisms lives, feeds and breeds.

Haulm - The stems and leaves of a crop left after harvest.

Headage payment - Payment made to farmers based on the number of ewes or suckler cows kept on the farm

Hefted sheep - Hill or mountain sheep that are grazed in the same area that they were born, which is unfenced, they do not stray. A heft is a flock of such sheep sold with the farm

Herbivores - Animals that feed on plant material

Hierarchy - A structural relationship in which each unit consists of two or more sub units, the latter been similarly divided

HGCA - Home Grown Cereals Authority

HLCA - Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance.

Horticulture - The cultivation of fruit, flowers, vegatables and shrubs, also used to describe the commercial production of such crops on general farms

Hybrid - The first generation offspring of a cross between two individuals differing in one or more genes

Hydrological cycle - The cycle of water evaporated from water surfaces and plants and precipitated as rain

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IACS - Integrated Administration and Control System.

ICM - Integrated Crop Management

IFM - Integrated Farm Management.

Immobilization - This occurs when inorganic ions are assimilated by soil organisms and are bound organically again

Infrastructure - The availability of roads, power supplies, education and health facilities, for example which all industries share and for which they do not directly pay for

Integrated control - Integrated use of both biological and chemical methods for controlling pests and weeds

Intensive farming - A system of farming with the aim to produce the maximum number of crops in a year with a high yield from the land available and to maintain a high stocking rate of livestock. 

Intervention - Under the EC price support mechanism for agricultural produce was set up in 1972. Its functions included licensing trade in a range of agricultural products outside the EC, intervention buying and the operation of other market support arrangements. Intervention buying or support buying was designed to ensure that farm incomes were not unduly suppressed by over production within the EC. When the free market price of specified commodities falls someway below the target price, the board intervenes in the market, by purchasing and storing the produce. The commodity is then subsequently resold within or outside the EC, disposed of as food aid or destroyed.  

Intercropping - The growing of more than one species on the same piece of land at the same time

Invertebrates - Animals without backbones

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June census - Annual farm returns on the 4th June each year provide the basis of MAFF published statistics regarding holding size enterprises, labour etc.

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LEAF - Linking Environment and Farming

Leaf area index (LAI) - The area of green leaf per unit area of ground

Legumes - plants of the family leguminosae, e.g. clover, peas

Leaching - The physical removal of nutrients in solution by drainage from the soil. 

LFA - Less Favored Area

Lodging - Applies particularly to cereals where the crop has been flattened by the wind or rain, or if the stems are unable to support the weight of the grain

Lowland Farming - Farming on low lying land as distinct from uplands, usually more intensive

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MAFF - Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.  

Meristem - Localised region of active cell division in plants

Mineralisation  - The conversion of bound organic nitrogen into the mineral (ionic or inorganic) form required for plant uptake. The inorganic nitrogen is then converted in a process known as nitrification  from ammonium salts to nitrites, and from nitrites to nitrates by nitrifying bacteria which obtain their energy from this oxidation process. Once free nitrate is formed, the rapid recycling process offers many options, the nitrate may be assimilated by plants, denitrified or leached.  

Mixed grazing - More than one type of animal grazing the same area at the same time

Model - A simplified representation of a system. (May be expressed as word, diagrammatic or mathematical form)

Monoculture - system of cultivation where only one crop is grown on the same piece of land over a number of years.

Monogastric - Non ruminant animal having only one stomach, e.g. pig, human

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Nitrogen Fixation - Conversion of atmospheric nitrogen to plant compounds by micro organisms by micro organisms

NNR - National Nature reserve

Nomadism - Continual movement of humans and animals with no fixed settlement, generally in search of food or water

Notifiable disease - Diseases of livestock, which must be reported to the police when an outbreak is suspected on a farm. Certain disease and pests must be notified to MAFF. ie Foot & Mouth or Colerado beetle.

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Omnivores - Animals that feed on material of both plant and animal origin

Organic Farming - Basically farming without the use of manufactured chemicals, but now conforming to very detailed production standards

Ozone layer - A layer of ozone found in the stratosphere, where it absorbs harmful ultra violet radiation

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Perennials - Plants that continue their growth from year to year

Permanent pasture - An established plant community in which the dominant species are perennial grasses, there are few or no shrubs and trees are absent

pH - Measure of chemical acidity (<pH 7) or alkalinity (>pH 7)

Photoperiodism - The effect of day and night length on plant flowering. Some plants are long day, requiring14 - 16 hours of sunlight per day to flower. Others are short day requiring only 8 - 9 hours. Others are day neutral and unaffected by day length. Photoperiosim also effects the breeding cycles of farm livestock

Photosynthesis - The process by which carbohydrates are manufactured by the chloroplasts of plants from CO2 and water by means of the energy of sunlight

Poaching - Wet soils which are trampled and 'churned up' by cattle, they become muddy and it often leads to a breakdown in soil structure.

Premia payment - paid on the number of ewes qualifying for the sheep quota and calculated on the basis of the actual market price set against the EC price guide.

Primary production - Production by plants: 'primary' in being the first use of solar radiation, the main energy source for biological processes.

Pulses (Grain legumes) - Leguminous plants or thier seeds, chiefly those plants with large seeds used for food.

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Relative humidity - Water vapour in air compared with the amount of water vapour held at the same temperature when saturated

Respiration - The oxidative breakdown and release of energy from from fuel molecules from fuel molecules with by reaction with oxygen in aerobic cells

Rhizome - An elongated underground stem, usually horizontal, capable of producing new shoots and roots at the node

Rotation - A cropping system in which crops are grown in a field in a fixed annual sequence. A rotation reduces the build up of diseases and pests, aids weed control, improves soil fertility, spreads the risk of crop failure and allows even distribution of labour requirements.

Rotational grazing - The practice of of imposing a regular sequence of grazing and rest on the area to be grazed

Ruminant - An animal thet chews the cud and has a complex digestive system with a four part stomach enabling bacteria to break down food. Ruminants lack upper incisor teeth and their complex stomach allows them to store and digest large amounts of bulky and fibrous food

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Scrapie - Long established disease of sheep that causes intense irritation: cause unknown, thought to be neither bacteria or virus. (see BSE)

Set aside - Set aside was introduced as part of a programme for tackling the over production of cereals within the EU. A major review of the CAP in 1992 (MacSharry reforms) addressed over production and agreed to reduce the amount of subsidies paid to to farmers for cereals by 35% over the proceeding three years. To help compensate farmers for their loss of income the Arable Area Payments Scheme was introduced. Under this scheme, farmers can claim support payments based on the size of the area used to grow cereals, linseeds, oilseeds and protein crops such as peas, beans and lupins. However, to qualify for these payments, all but the smallest producers must 'set aside' part of their arable land, taking it out of production.

Set stocking - Grazing systems in which stock remain in one field or paddock for a long period.

Slurry - A semi fluid mixture of faeces and urine which may also include rain water and yard washings.

SSSI - Site of Specific Scientific Interest.

Soil water deficit (SWD) - The amount of water required to restore field capacity 

Stocking density - The number of animals per unit area of land at a point in time

Stocking rate - The number of animals per unit area over a given period

Stolon - A creeping stem above the soil surface, roots usually form at the nodes

Stomata - Controllable openings (pores) in leaves, usually on the underside, through which gaseous exchanges take place

Store cattle (or sheep) - Animals which have been grown slowly so that their skeletal development is not impaired, but muscle tissue is slightly below the animals potential and fatty tissue is not developed.

Stubble - The part of a crop left after harvesting

Sustainability  from Sustain meaning: To hold up; to bear; to support; to provide for;  to maintain; to sanction; to keep going; to keep up; to prolong; to support the life of. (Chambers Concise Dictionary)

Sustainable agriculture - The application of husbandry experience and scientific knowledge of natural processes to create integrated, resource conserving farming systems, based on respect for the people and animals involved which reduce environmental degradation, and which promote agricultural productivity and economic viability in both the short and long term.

System - A number of components linked together

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Terms of Trade - Measure of the relative movement of export prices against those of import prices. They indicate whether a country is heavily reliant on imports or can generate income from exports

Tiller - Shoot of a grass (or cereal) plant, arising from a leaf axil, normally at the base of an older tiller

Trace elements - Nutrients which are required in very small amounts (plants or animals)

Transhumance - Farmers have a fixed residence but send herds and flocks (with attendant) to pastures

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Variable - A quantity able to assume different numerical values

Vertebrates - Animals with backbones

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Welfare - Consideration for the comfort and well bieng of farm animals. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) has issued 'Codes of Practice' covering the treatment and management of farm animals

Weaning - Removal of young mammals from their source of milk

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Zero grazing - Where forage is cut and transported to livestock

Zoonoses - Diseases transferrable between humans and animals

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Course Directory Glossary