Agricultural terms, definitions, equivalencies, and guide to use
By Terence L. Day (retired)
This list is provided for journalists who write about agriculture for the general public. It is intended as a supplement to the Associated Press Stylebook. Comments, corrections, requests, and suggestions are welcome.
To search this list, use the Control-f feature in your Web browser.
acaricide – A substance that kills mites or ticks.
accredited herd – A herd of dairy cattle certified by two successive tests to be free of tuberculosis. The tests are conducted by the USDA. Sometimes the term is mistakenly applied to a brucellosis-free herd.
Acidophilus milk – Milk to which Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria have been added to aid in the digestion of lactose (milk sugar). Some humans have difficulty digesting lactose. When they drink regular milk they may suffer diarrhea, abdominal bloating and discomfort.
acre – The unit most commonly used to measure farm and ranch land in the United States. An acre is 43,560 square feet, or 0.4048 hectares. To convert acres to hectares, multiply acres by .4048. (Example: 100 acres X .4048 = 40.48 hectares.)
aerobic – Requiring oxygen.
Agricultural Marketing Service, (AMS) – An agency of the USDA.
Agricultural Research Service, (ARS) – An agency of the USDA.
agronomy – Scientific discipline related to the production of agricultural crops. Universities aren’t uniform in their organization of plant sciences into departments. For example, at some schools, scientists who work on corn would be found in the agronomy department. At other schools they would be found in the horticulture department.
agronomic – An adjective used to describe plants and plant products. Pertains to agronomy or agricultural plants and things affecting plants.
alongside – Goods deposited on the dock, or a barge, within reach of a ship’s loading equipment.
AMS – Agricultural Marketing Service, an agency of the USDA.
American Brahman – The first beef breed developed in the United States. The American Brahman plays an important role in crossbreeding programs throughout much of the world. The breed was developed from Bos indicus (cattle of India) types imported into the United States between 1854-1926. The breed is noted for its environmental adaptivity, longevity, mothering ability and efficient beef production. The American Brahman Breeders Association was organized in 1924. The breed has a hump on its shoulders and is commonly ridden in rodeo contests.
American Landrace – A breed of white hogs developed in the United States from Denmark’s famous Danish Landrace breed. Development began when the U.S. Department of Agriculture imported Danish Landrace in 1934 and cross bred them with other purebred hogs.
American Quarter Horse – Adherents claim the American Quarter Horse was the first breed of horse native to the United States. It evolved by mixing bloodlines of horses brought to the New World. Its genetics include Arab, Turk and Barb breeds. Selected stallions and mares were crossed with horses brought to Colonial America from England and Ireland in the early 1600s. Colonists prized the breed for its short-distance racing abilities. It is the horse most associated with Western ranching and rodeo.
American Saddlebred – The American Saddle Horse was developed in Colonial America and gained fame as a breed during the Civil War, 1861-1865. General Lee’s Traveller, Grant’s Cincinnati, and Sherman’s Lexington were crosses between American Saddlebred and Thoroughbred. Stonewall Jackson’s Little Sorrell was a cross between American Saddlebred and pacing stock. Most cavalrymen in the Confederate commands of Generals John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest rode American Saddlebreds, which performed legendary feats of endurance.
amino acid – Building blocks of proteins. Plants have 22 types of amino acids.
anaerobic – Not requiring oxygen.
Angus – An English breed of beef cattle introduced to the United States from its native Scotland in 1873. Sometimes called Aberdeen Angus. In the United States breed registries are separate for red and black Angus through the Red Angus Association of America and the American Angus Association. The breed is prized for its ease of calving and mothering ability, and for its lean meat. The American Angus Association records more cattle each year than any other beef breed association, making it the largest beef breed registry association in the world.
anhydrous ammonia – A common form of nitrogen fertilizer used by wheat growers and other farmers.
Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) – An agency of the USDA.
anther – Male reproductive structure that produces pollen in plants.
Appaloosa – The famous spotted horse of the Nez Perce Indians. It wasn’t until 1938 that the Appaloosa was recognized with a breed registry.
APHIS – Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency of the USDA.
apple knocker – Slang for farm laborers who pick apples.
Arabian – Horse of the Bedouin, developed anciently on the Arabian peninsula.
asexual reproduction – Reproduction or propagation that doesn’t involve the union of gametes.
ass – Small, long-eared mammal and related to the horse; especially those of African origin that are ancestors of the donkey. Sometimes used as a synonym for donkey, but this is not technically accurate.
Ayrshire – A breed of dairy cattle that originated in the County of Ayr in Scotland, prior to 1800. They may be any shade of red or white. The first Ayrshires arrived in America about 1822.
barrow – A male hog castrated before sexual maturity.
beef cattle breeds commonly raised in the United States –
Beefmaster – A breed developed by systematic crossing of Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman cattle with traits especially valuable in the harsh environment of South Texas. Genetically, Beefmasters are half English (25% each of Hereford and Shorthorn) and half Brahman. Beefmasters were recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a pure breed in 1954. The registry is maintained by Beefmaster Breeders United.
Belgian Draft Horse – By far the most common draft horse in America. There are more Belgians than all other draft breeds combined. They are the direct descendants of the “Great Horse” of medieval times, which carried armored knights into battle. They were known in Europe in the time of Caesar. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest horse in the world was a Belgian stallion. It stood 19.2 hands (6’6″) at his withers and weighed over 3,200 pounds.
Belted Galloway – A beef breed notable for its unique appearance of a broad white belt, or sheet, around the middle. The rest of the animal may be black, red or dun color. Breeders often refer to the breed as “Belties.” These polled (hornless) cattle developed during the 16th Century in the former Galloway district of Scotland. The breed is known for its exceptionally lean and flavorful meat and a double coat of hair that allows it to survive in very harsh climates.
Berkshire – A breed of hogs that originated in Berks, England. It was introduced to the United States in 1823. The American Berkshire Association registers the breed.
biennial – Plants that require two growing seasons to complete their life cycle.
biotechnology – Generally, the use of recombinant DNA to take genes from one organism and insert them into the DNA of another organism. Although the term, first coined in 1917, originally described large-scale production of pigs fed on sugar beets, the term has evolved to describe genetic engineering. Usage isn’t uniform, but scientists commonly use the terms genetic engineering, bioengineering, genetic modification, genetic engineering and biotechnology interchangeably. The technology is used in plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria.
Black Angus – See Angus.
black white face – A crossbred beef animal that is mostly black, but has white on its face. It is most commonly obtained by breeding Black Angus and Hereford cattle.
boar – Mature male swine.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, (BSE) – mad-cow disease.
Brahman – See American Brahman.
Brangus – A distinct breed of beef cattle developed by crossing registered Brahman and Angus cattle. The earliest crosses were made in 1912. Breed development was assisted by the USDA Experiment Station at Jeanerette, Louisiana. Genetically Brangus are 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Angus. The breed registry is maintained by the International Brangus Breeders Association, Inc.
Brown Swiss – Breed of dairy cattle that originated in Eastern Switzerland. Comes in various shades of brown.
BSE – Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mad-cow disease.
bull – A male bovine. Bulls are breeding stock in beef and dairy operations.
bull calf – An male calf that hasn’t been castrated.
burro – A small donkey.
bushel – A dry measure commonly used as a measure of crops. In the United States a bushel equals 4 pecks, or 2150.42 cubic inches. In the United States, the bushel is the common measure of wheat and some other crops. A bushel of apples is 42 pounds.
CA – Controlled atmosphere storage.
CAHE – College of Agriculture and Home Economics, at Washington State University. (College of Agriculture, 1917-1982; College of Agriculture and Home Economics, 1982-2003; College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, 2003-.)
CAHNRS – College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, at Washington State University, formerly College of Agriculture and Home Economics. (College of Agriculture, 1917-1982; College of Agriculture and Home Economics, 1982-2003.)
calvey heifer – A cow pregnant with its first calf.
carbohydrate – Generic name for sugars; e.g., fructose, sucrose.
carlot – One carlot is one railcar, or its equivalent.
cartage firm – A company that delivers produce from a terminal market company to that firm’s customers.
Cat – Abbreviation for Caterpillar tractor.
Cat skinner – A person who drives or operates a Caterpillar tractor.
CCC – Commodity Credit Corporation.
cellulose – A major component of the cell wall.
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, (CNPP) – A unit within the USDA.
center pivot – A type of sprinkler system commonly used on large-scale farms in arid areas. Water is delivered to the center of a field by a deeply buried pipe, which attaches to main pipe that is supported on wheeled towers and pivots up to 360 degrees to irrigate the field. Center pivots may irrigate up to 200 acres. They are popular because of their labor savings. One person can manage operations of several center pivots.
cereal grains – Plants of the grass family that produce grain (seeds) that provide human food. They include wheat, rice, barley, oats, corn (maize), rye and triticale.
Charolais – A beef breed that originated in France, perhaps as early as the 9th century A.D. It entered the United States from Mexico in 1836.
Charollais – A breed of sheep that originated in the same region of France as the Charolais cattle. Their development began in the early 1800’s. The breed’s primary use is as a sire to increase the muscling and growth rate of the lambs.
chemigation – Delivering chemicals to plants through irrigation water.
Cheviot – A breed of sheep that originated on the Cheviot Hills along the border of England and Scotland. Its history traces at least to 1372. It was introduced to the United States in 1838, from Scotland. Cheviot are distinctive white-faced sheep with wool-free face and legs. They have black muzzles and feet.
Chester White – A breed of hogs that originated in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It originally was called the Chester County White. The breed traces to importation of a white boar from England some time between 1815-1818. The boar was referred to as a Bedforshire. It was crossed with local breeds to produce the ancestors of today’s Chester White, which is registered by the Chester White Swine Registry.
Chianina – The Chianina (pronounced kee-a-nee-na) is one of the oldest breeds of cattle. It provided models for Roman sculptures. Chianina originated in Italy where it was used primarily as draft animals until the advent of modern mechanized farming. These large, gentle animals then became important for their meat-producing qualities. The breed was first introduced into the United States via semen imports in 1971. Its main use in the U.S. cattle industry is for crossing with beef breeds. It is registered by the American Chianina Association.
chromosome – The structure in plants and animals that carries genes.
Clydesdale – A breed of heavy draft horse developed in Scotland by the farmers of Lanarkshire, through which the River Clyde flows. It was bred to meet the needs of agriculture, commerce for the Lanarkshire coalfields of Lanarkshire and for all types of heavy freight on the streets of Glasgow. The Clydesdale Breeders of the United States was formed in 1879. Although not the most popular work horse in America, the Clydesdale is the best known. It is the breed that pulls the famous Budweiser beer wagon.
CNPP – Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a unit within the USDA.
Columbia – A breed of sheep developed by the United States Department of Agriculture to replace cross breeding on the range. In 1912, long wool breed rams were crossed with Rambouillet ewes to produce large ewes that yielded more pounds of wool and more pounds of lamb.
combine – Harvester and threshing equipment combined into one machine. A primitive horse-drawn combine was introduced in Michigan in 1836. Use grew slowly until the 1930s when tractor-drawn models became available.
Commodity Credit Corporation – A federally owned and operated corporation within USDA. It was created to stabilize, support, and protect agricultural prices and farm income through loans, purchases, payments, and other operations.
common carrier – Truck or trucking company licensed and regulated by the Surface Transportation Board. (They are different from exempt haulers who are truckers not regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission.)
Conservation Reserve Program – A federal program under which producers voluntarily retire environmentally sensitive crop land for 10 to 15 years in return for annual rental payments through which the government shares the cost of establishing approved conservation practices. Payments are through the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation.
containerization – Shipping method in which standardized containers are packed in the field, sealed and transported by truck and/or train to ships. They aren’t opened until they reach their receiver.
controlled atmosphere, (CA) – Controlled atmosphere storage. This technology controls gases in the atmosphere of cold storage facilities in a way that greatly prolongs the life of fruit, such as apples.
Cooperative State Research Education & Extension Service, (CSREES) – An agency of the USDA.
cotyledon – An embryo or seed leaf that usually serves as a food reserve.
county agent – A government specialist in agriculture or home economics. County agents work in the Cooperative Extension Service of USDA, with additional funding from states and counties. In recent years some states have adopted other nomenclature, such as county faculty.
cover crop – A crop grown to protect soil from erosion or nutrient leaching, rather than for production of food or fiber.
CRP – Conservation Reserve Program.
CSREES – Cooperative State Research Education & Extension Service, an agency of the USDA.
Cwt. – Abbreviation for hundredweight. A Cwt weighs 100 pounds in the United States and 112 pounds in Great Britain.
dairy cattle breeds commonly raised in the United States –
DDT – dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, a chlorinated hydrocarbon used as an insecticide.
deciduous – A plant that sheds all its leaves, usually in the fall.
defoliant – A chemical that causes leaves to wither and die on plants.
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) – Carrier of genetic information.
Devon – The Devon is one of the oldest beef breeds in existence. Some authorities believe the origin of the breed to be prehistoric. These red cattle may have contributed to the Hereford and other British breeds. Originally a dual-purpose (milk and meat) breed, the Devon has evolved over the last half century as a beef-type breed. However, the American Milking Devon Cattle Association maintains the Milking Devon strain, which is unique to America. Devons originated in southwestern England where Romans noted them in 55 B.C. Devons made their way to the United States in 1623, only 131 years after Columbus. Devons are red, varying in shade from a rich deep red to a light red or chestnut.
DHIA – Dairy Herd Improvement Association.
diapause – Suspended development or hibernation in insects.
diazinon – An organophosphate insecticide.
dicot – Seeds that have two cotyledons.
dieldrin – A chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide.
disaster payments – Financial aid paid to farmers and livestock producers who suffer heavy economic losses from natural disasters such as floods, wind and drought. Usually refers to federal funds administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
dormant – Seeds that fail to germinate even though environmental conditions for germination are adequate.
DNA – Deoxyribonucleic acid.
drip irrigation – A system for irrigating crops by delivering water to the root zone through small, plastic pipes equipped with emitters. This technology conserves water and eliminates soil erosion from irrigation water runoff. Also called trickle irrigation.
donkey – A small domestic mammal classified with the asses.
Dorset – A breed of sheep that originated in Southwest England when Spanish Merino sheep crossed with the Horned Sheep of Wales. Apparently first came to the United States in 1860. There are both horned and polled Dorsets.
Economic Research Service, (ERS) – An agency of the USDA.
egg – Female gamete.
endosperm – Tripliod tissue of seeds composed mostly of starch-containing cells, that arises from the fusion of a sperm nucleus with two polar nuclei of the embryo sac. In some seeds, the endosperm persists as a storage tissue and is used to nourish the germinating seedling.
enzyme – A protien or combination of individual proteins that catalyzes a biochemical reaction.
exempt haulers – Truckers who aren’t regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
extension agent – An employee of the Cooperative Extension Service. They go by various names in different states. In Washington they are formally called county faculty because they hold faculty appointments at Washington State University.
fallow – Idle crop land. The most common reasons in modern agriculture are to conserve moisture for future use and for weed control. In extremely dry areas, for instance, wheat is grown every other year. Fields lie fallow.
farm agent – Term used in some states for county agent, extension agent, or county faculty.
farmer – A noun that seems to be losing popularity to such nouns as grower and producer, especially in academic circles. These terms also avoid the need to distinguish between farmers and ranchers, which terms aren’t interchangeable.
farmers’ market – A market at which farmers sell their produce directly to consumers. Punctuation is a frequently debated issue among writers. There is a great deal of inconsistency. On Web pages one often finds farmers both with and without the apostrophe on the same page. The Associated Press Stylebook 2003 doesn’t directly answer the question; but a reading of the “possessives” entry (p201) suggests the proper news style would be to place an apostrophe after the s in farmers. Farmers’ market.
farmstead – Farm land with its buildings.
FAS – Foreign Agricultural Service, an agency of the USDA.
fatty acid – A chain of 8 to 30 linked carbons that terminate with a carboxylic acid.
feed grains – Grain grown to be fed to animals. Examples include corn, and sorghum. Most barley is grown for this purpose. But barley also is grown to make malt or beer, in which case it is classified as a small grain.
field crops – Originally defined as any crop grown on a larger scale than in gardens. Modern usage may vary, but generally refers to small grains, hay and cotton.
FGIS – Federal Grain Inspection Service.
flat – A rectangular container that holds several units of product; e.g., a flat of strawberries holds 12 pints of strawberries in pint-size containers. Flats may have single or multiple layers.
flood irrigation – A type of irrigation in which fields are flooded with water.
FNS – Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the USDA.
Food and Nutrition Service, (FNS) – An agency of the USDA.
Food Safety and Inspection Service, (FSIS) – A consumer protection agency within the USDA. It’s mission is to protect consumers by ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.
forage – Plants, other than grain, grown for animal feed.
Foreign Agricultural Service, (FAS) – A USDA agency that represents interests of U.S. farmers and the food and agricultural sector abroad.
Forest Service, (FS) – An agency of the USDA.
free on board – Goods delivered without delivery charge and placed on board a carrier at a specific point. Carrier may be a truck, barge, ship or airplane.
fructose – A 6-carbon sugar.
FS – Forest Service, an agency of the USDA.
FSIS – Food Safety and Inspection Service, a consumer protection agency within the USDA. It’s mission is to protect consumers by ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.
furrow – A narrow grove made in the ground by a plow. Furrows serve different purposes, one of which is to contain a rill of water for surface irrigation.
gamete – One of two sex cells that unite at fertilization to form a zygote.
Gelbvieh – A breed of beef cattle that originated in Baveria, Germany. It is red. Registration is with the American Gelbvieh Association
gelding – A castrated male horse.
gene – A sequence of DNA that is related to a particular trait.
genetic engineering – Human-directed alteration of genetic code through any of a variety of biotechnical means.
germination – The process within a seed that leads to visible penetration of the seed coat by the radicle. It begins with water uptake and involves formation and activation of enzymes that convert starch, fats and protein in the endosperm and/or cotyledons into smaller chemical components that are transported to sites of embryo growth.
GIPSA – Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, a unit within the USDA.
glycerol – A molecule to which 1, 2 or 3 fatty acids or phosphate may attach.
Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, (GIPSA) – A unit within the USDA.
gross profit – The difference between the warehouse cost and retail price, expressed as a percentage of the retail price.
gross weight – Full weight of a shipment, including both goods and packaging.
Guernsey – A breed of dairy cattle that originated on the Isle of Guernsey, in the British Isles.
Hackney – There are two hackney breeds, one a horse, the other a pony. Both are bred for their brilliant, high-stepping performance in harness. The Hackney horse developed in Great Britain in the early 18th Century as a stylish, spirited light horse favored by English sportsmen and aristocrats as a carriage horse. The Hackney pony was developed by crossing the Hackney horse
with small, spirited Welsh Ponies. Ninety-five percent of all Hackneys in the United States are ponies.
Hampshire – A black hog with a white belt over the shoulders. It is one of the oldest breeds in the United States. Although its origins are unknown, it is believed to have derived from old British breeds common in Scotland and bordering English counties. It is thought to have come to America between 1825-1835. Once locally known by many names, in 1904 the name Hampshire was adopted by its breed association, the Hampshire Swine Registry. The breed has been highly popular in the United States since 1910.
Hampshire – A breed of sheep developed in Hampshire, in Southern England. The American Hampshire Down Sheep Association, now known as The American Hampshire Sheep Association was organized in 1889. Although Hampshire sheep were reported in the United States around 1840 they apparently didn’t survive the Civil War. The breed was re-imported around 1865 to 1870.
hand move – An irrigation system in which sections of sprinkler pipe are moved by hand, one by one, from one setting to another.
haylage – Livestock feed produced by acid-producing fermentation of grass or alfalfa.
heifer – A young cow that has not yet given birth to a calf.
hectare – The most commonly used measure of agricultural lands in the metric system. A hectare equals 10,000 square meters (or 2.471 acres). Hectare is the measure used in most of the world outside the United States. To convert hectares to acres, multiply times 2.471. (Example: 100 hectares X 2.471 = 247.10 acres.)
Hereford – A breed of beef cattle bred near Hereford, England, nearly 300 years ago to efficiently convert native grass into beef needed for the expanding food market created by Britain’s industrial revolution. The breed is “trade-marked” with white faces and distinctive red bodies. Hereford breeding came to the U.S. in 1840, although statesman Henry Clay of Kentucky made the first importation (a bull and two females) in 1817. (Clay’s imports were absorbed by the local cattle population and disappeared from permanent identity.) The registry is maintained by the American Hereford Association.
Hereford – A breed of hogs first developed by R. U. Webber, LaPlata, Missouri, who made his first crosses in about 1902. He used Duroc, Chesters and Ohio Improved Chester breeds. The modern breed also includes Poland China genetics. To qualify for registration, Herefords must conform to a color pattern that includes a white face, at least two white feet and a red body.
Highland – A Scottish breed of beef cattle. Prized for its ability to survive rugged climate and poor grazing conditions. It has long hair, and long horns that curl upward. Registered by the American Highland Cattle Association.
hillside combine – A combine with a self-leveling mechanism that keeps the body of the vehicle level so internal parts can efficiently separate grain and chaff when operating on steep slopes.
hinny – The offspring of a stallion (male horse) and a jenny (female ass).
hog – Domesticated or wild swine. In domestic swine, the term usually applies to those weighing more than 120 pounds.
Holstein-Friesian – A large, usually black and white breed of dairy cattle that accounts for 90 percent of all U.S. milk production. In common usage, the name usually is abbreviated to “Holstein.” Holsteins may be a reddish color and white. The breed is prized for heavy production of low-fat milk. This Dutch breed was first imported to the United States in 1852.
hop or hops – There is much confusion over whether to use the singular hop or the plural hops when referring to this twining vine of the hemp family. Use the singular when referring to the vine or to varieties of hop. Use the plural when referring to the ripened and dried cones. Hops are grown primarily for use in the brewing industry to impart a mellow bitterness and delicate aroma to brewed beverages and to aid in their preservation. Its cone shaped pistillate catkins is used primarily to impart a bitter flavor to beer. Hops were first introduced to the United States from Europe, by the Massachusetts Company in 1629. Today the bulk of hops production is the dry valleys of the Pacific Northwest where Washington State produces 77 percent of the nation’s hops.
hybrid – Offspring produced by combining genetically different parents. Hybrid corn is the classic example, in which two varieties are cross pollinated to produce a third, which has more favored qualities. Don’t confuse hybridization with biotechnology, genetic engineering, etc. Hybridization has created plants that are higher yielding, more resistant to disease and that produce more desirable food or fiber.
horse breeds that American journalists may encounter:
American Quarter Horse
Belgian Draft Horse
Pony of the Americas
Tennessee Walking Horse
horticulturist – One who practices the science and art of cultivating fruits, vegetables or ornamental plants. Farmers and orchardists sometimes are called horticulturists, as are home gardeners. In agriculture the term usually is reserved for scientists.
hundredweight – Abbreviated as cwt. A weight equal to 100 pounds in the United States and 112 pounds in Great Britain. Many crops are reported in hundredweight, including beans, potatoes and most vegetables.
Integrated Pest Management, (IPM) – The USDA defines IPM as socially acceptable, environmentally responsible and economically practical crop protection from pests. Emphasis is on substituting biological controls such as natural predators for chemical controls of pests and diseases that attack plants grown for food or fiber. IPM doesn’t necessarily eliminate the need for chemicals, but where it cannot eliminate them, it functions to reduce the amount of chemical required to control pests and diseases.
intermodal – Use of more than one mode of transportation to move product from shipper to receiver; e.g., placing truck trailers loaded with commodities on rail flatcars for cross country movement.
internode – A section of stem between nodes.
IPM – Integrated Pest Management.
jack – A male donkey.
jenny – Female donkey.
Jersey – A breed of cattle that originated on the Isle of Jersey, in the British Isles. It is light brown with a pronounced bone structure. The Jersey is noted for production of milk with a rich butter fat content. Their popularity in the United States has fallen.
legume – A member of the Fabaceae family (pea family). Also the fruit or pod of this family of plants. This family includes many plants grown for food or livestock forage. Leguminous plants commonly grown by U.S. farmers include forage crops such as alfalfa and clover, and food crops such as beans and peas.
Limousin – A French breed of beef cattle. In the United States they are used to produce beef.
Lincoln – A breed of sheep believed to be the result of crossing the Leicester and the coarse native sheep of Lincolnshire. First imported into the United States at the close of the eighteenth century, the Lincoln has been more popular in Canada. In the United States, it has been most important in the centralized states and in Idaho and Oregon.
Lincoln Red – A breed of beef cattle developed in Lincolnshire, England.
lipid – Generic term for a large class of organic molecules. Fats and oils are commonly known lipids.
Lipizzan – A breed of horse that represents more than 400 years of select breeding, dating to 1580 when Archduke Charles II established the stud farm in Lipizza (Lipica). The breed is rare, with fewer than 3,000 purebred Lipizzans in the world today. The breed is used in dressage and driving, as well as continuing to be the ultimate mount for classical horsemanship. The first privately owned Lipizzans in the United States were imported in 1937. Today there are an estimated 600 in the United States. Disneyland owns a number of Lipizzan mares and the Marine Corps uses them in their Color Guard.
lodge, lodged, lodging – Permanent bending over of a stem. Often, but not always, associated with root diseases.
long ton – 2,240 pounds. For many commodities this is the standard measure for international trade. However, domestic shipments usually are reported in short tons (2000 pounds).
Mad Cow Disease – Bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Maine-Anjou – A breed of beef cattle that originated in southern France. It is red with white spots. Registry is by the American Maine-Anjou Association.
manifest – List of passengers or invoice of cargo.
metric ton – 2,204.6 pounds. For many commodities this is the standard measure for international trade. It is commonly used in FAS reports. However, domestic shipments usually are reported in short tons.
milk – Consumers buy milk by the pint, quart or gallon, but farmers sell it by the pound, usually expressed in hundredweight. A gallon of milk weighs approximately 8.6 pounds.
minor crops – The most frequent use of this term is in the context of registration of pesticides that may be used on them. Most crops grown in America are classified as minor crops for this purpose. Combined, minor crops account for more than $31 billion in annual sales. But individually, they don’t generate enough sales of pesticides to make it profitable for chemical companies to do the research necessary to obtain Environmental Protection Agency registration for the application of chemicals to them. Wheat, corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and oats are the only crops classified as major.
mitochondria – The location in cells where respiration occurs. Mitochondria are surrounded by two membranes.
mixed load – Shipping two or more commodities, or two or more types of packages, in one truck or railcar. In some shipping districts, a premium is charged for mixed loads.
modified-atmosphere packaging – A sealed package injected with an atmospheric mix of gases that provides optimal storage for the packaged commodity. Technique is used to slow ripening.
monocot – Seeds that have one cotyledon.
Morgan – A breed of horse that originated in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1789. The Morgan was popular with pioneers as a multi-purpose saddle, driving and light work horse. Morgans were used to pull stages and city freight wagons, once were popular harness racing horses and were prized during the Civil War as dependable calvary mounts and artillery horses. U. S. General Philip Sheridan’s famous charger, Winchester, was a Morgan.
mule – A hybrid animal resulting from crossing a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey). All male mules and most female mules are sterile. Although mules aren’t a breed, the American Donkey and Mule Society registers mules through one of its three books, the American Mule Registry, The American Racing Mule Registry or the Zebra/Exotic Bloodstock & Hybrid Registry. Registry helps keep track of progeny for breeding stock. Mules must be registered to compete in sanctioned mule races.
Murray Grey – A breed of beef cattle that originated in Australia from the cross of a Shorthorn cow and a Black Angus bull, which produced a silver-grey animal.
mustang – A word derived from the Spanish word ‘mesteno,’ which means stray or wild. Not a distinct breed of horse.
NASS – National Agricultural Statistics Service, an agency of the USDA.
National Agricultural Statistics Service, (NASS) – An agency of the USDA. In addition to the national office, NASS maintains state agricultural statistics services in cooperation with state departments of agriculture.
National Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) – An agency of the USDA.
nitrogen – A gaseous chemical element, which makes up 78 percent of the earth’s atmosphere, by volume. In agricultural reporting it usually refers to fertilizer. There are many various formulations and names. Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used by wheat growers and other farmers.
nitrogen fixation – The biological conversion of atmospheric nitrogen to a form that can be used by plants for their growth.
node – A portion of a stem at which leaf sheaths, petioles, or flowers are attached. They usually are slightly enlarged.
nodule – Swelling of the root cortex of legumes, containing nitrogen fixing bacteria.
Normande – A breed of beef cattle. Registry is by the North American Normande Association.
NRCS – An agency of the USDA
OCD – Office of Community Development, a unit within the USDA.
Office of Community Development, (OCD) – A unit within the USDA.
orchardist – A person who grows fruit trees.
ox – A male bovine. In some usages, the term implies a castrated male; but this isn’t always the case.
pH – potential Hydrogen ions. Acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH. Basically it measures the amount of lime (calcium) contained in your soil. Acid soils are most common in moist climates, alkaline soils are most common in dry climates. A soil with a pH of 7 is considered neutral. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is considered acidic, a pH rating above 7 indicates alkalinity.
packout – Total amoant of commodity that is packed.
palletization – Shipping goods on wooden or plastic pallets for greater handling efficiency.
peptide -A short chain of amino acids.
phloem – Vascular plant tissue through which is transported dissolved food and other materials in plants.
photosynthesis – The process by which plants use light energy to make sugars from carbon dioxide and water.
Piedmontese – A breed of beef cattle that originated in Italy. Registry is by the Piedmontese Association of North America.
piggyback – Moving a truck loaded with freight on a rail flatcar.
pipeline – A figurative, rather than literal, description of stock necessary in all inventory locations throughout a shipping channel to keep one product on the shelf available for consumer purchase. This includes surplus stock at the store, distributor’s warehouse and at shipping point, including all goods in transit between any of these points. Envision this as all the cherries existing at one time from the packing shed to the produce department of a supermarket.
pith – The central tissue in stems and roots.
plant pathology – The scientific discipline dealing with diseases of plants. Plant pathologists may be associated with departments of plant pathology, agronomy, crop sciences or botany.
Poland China – A breed of hogs. Registry is with the Poland China Record Association.
polled – The term simply means to cut off or shorten a growth. As applied to cattle in contemporary use, the term usually means naturally hornless cattle. Some breeds, such as Hereford, may be either horned, or polled. Polled Herefords are considered, however, a separate breed.
pony – A small horse; i.e., one that remains small as an adult. There is no precise size. Each breed association has its own size standard.
Pony of the Americas – A recent breed that traces to birth of a foal in 1954. It was from an Arab/Appaloosa mare accidentally bred to a Shetland stallion. The colt had unique color markings (white with black paint smears all over his body) and other striking features. The characteristics proved to be heritable and a breed association was formed. To be registered as a Pony of the Americas, the pony has to be between 46 and 56 inches tall. The head was to be small and dished as the Arab. Body has to be muscled as a Quarter Horse; and the coloring has to be that of an Appaloosa, visible at 40 feet. The breed is prized as a first horse on which children can gain experience and confidence.
producer – A farmer, rancher or orchardist. The term usually is preceded by an adjective that describes the nature of the operation, such as potato producer.
protein – A long chain or chains of amino acids linked by peptide bonds.
pulse – A food legume; also the seed of a food legume.
quarter horse – See American Quarter Horse.
Rambouillet – A breed of sheep that resulted from crossing Spanish Merino sheep with native French sheep, beginning about 1800. Blood lines also trace to German Merino sheep.
ranch – Narrowly defined as an establishment for raising livestock on range. However, common usage in the American West also applies the term to a large farm devoted mainly to raising a single crop or kind of animal. In this use, it is proper to refer to an apple ranch, a wheat ranch, etc. The term ranch would only be properly applied to large-scale operations.
rancher – A person who owns or operates a ranch.
RBC – Rural Business-Cooperative, an organization within the USDA.
REA – Rural Electrification Administration, a former USDA agency that administered loan programs for electricication and telephone service in rural areas. It was created in 1935 by executive order as an independent federal bureau and incorporated in USDA in 1939. The administration was abolished in 1994. It’s functions are now performed by the Rural Utilities Service in USDA.
Red Angus – See Angus.
regional processor – A company that processes and packages fresh produce at a regional location, usually for markets beyond the local area.
rhizome – Horizontal, underground stem.
RHS – Rural Housing Service, an agency of the USDA.
Ribonucleic acid – Is involved in transfer of a growing protein chain in or on the ribosome.
rill – An irrigation term for a small stream of water turned onto the surface of a field. (The term also has a non-agricultural use.)
RNA – Ribonucleic acid.
roan – A dark-colored horse with white sprinkles.
roller – A shipment (usually a truckload or carload) that has been shipped, but not yet sold; e.g., a carlot of California peaches may be loaded and set off for New York without having been sold to anyone there. Shippers may be motivated by hopes that the price of peaches will increase by the time the roller arrives and it will be sold for a higher profit.
row crops – Crops planted in rows far enough apart to be mechanically cultivated during their early growing period. Common examples are carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and commercially grown flowers.
Rural Business-Cooperative, (RBS) – An organization within the USDA.
Rural Electrification Administration – REA, a former USDA agency that administered loan programs for electricication and telephone service in rural areas. It was created in 1935 by executive order as an independent federal bureau and incorporated in USDA in 1939. The administration was abolished in 1994. It’s functions are now performed by the Rural Utilities Service in USDA.
Rural Housing Service, (RHS) – An agency of the USDA.
RUS – Rural Utilities Service, an agency of the USDA. Helps rural utilities expand and keep their technology up to date, and to establish such new services as distance learning and telemedicine.
Rural Utilities Service, (RUS) – An agency of the USDA. Helps rural utilities expand and keep their technology up to date, and to establish such new services as distance learning and telemedicine.
Salers – A French breed of beef cattle.
Santa Gertrudis – A beef breed developed on the King Ranch in Texas. Genetically, it is 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Shorthorn. Registry is maintained by Santa Gertrudis Breeders International.
sheath – Lower part of a monocot leaf. Usually it wraps around the stem.
Merino (There are 10 distinct breeds of Merino type sheep.)
Shetland Pony – An ancient breed of small horse. A pony that looks very much like the modern Shetland existed at least 2,000 years ago on the Shetland islands. Hair from Shetland ponies provided the raw materials for fishing nets and lines. Fishing was the basis of the main diet for most islanders. The breed has been used as pack and saddle animals for most of their history. About the middle of the 19h century, the Shetland was introduced as a draft animal in England’s mines.
Shorthorn – A breed of cattle, raised in the United States primarily for beef. However, there are milking shorthorns. Shorthorns originated in England about 1600 and spread to Scotland and then to America in 1783. When first brought to Virginia, it was called the Durham. Shorthorns were popular with America’s early settlers who valued its meat and milk. In addition, Shorthorns provided willing power for the wagon and plow. Many pioneer wagons were pulled by teams of Shorthorns. The breed’s use for meat production was stimulated when Midwestern farmers began importing them directly from Scotland in 1854. Polled Shorthorns were developed from mutations, beginning around 1881 in Minnesota. Both horned and polled Shorthorns are known for adaptability, mothering ability, reproductive performance, good disposition, feed conversion and longevity. At least 45 different breeds of cattle include Shorthorn genetics. Both horned and polled Shorthorns are registered in the same breed book, maintained by the American Shorthorn Association.
short ton – 2000 pounds. For many agricultural commodities, this is the standard measure for domestic trade. However, international trade usually is reported in long tons (2240 pounds).
shrinkage – The loss of product as it moves through the market system. Losses may be due to damage during shipment, product trimming, theft or moisture loss.
Shropshire – A breed of sheep that originated in the counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire in central western England. The breed became known by its present name beginning in 1848. First imported into the United States in about 1855.
side roll – A type of sprinkler system in which long sections of pipe are supported on wheels, which allow it to be rolled sideways from setting to setting. They usually are powered by a gasoline engine in the center, which can roll the entire unit at one time.
silage – Livestock feed produced by acid-producing fermentation of feed stuffs. Corn silage is a common feed for dairy cattle in the United States. When made from grass or alfalafa, it often is called haylage.
Simmental – The Simmental is among the oldest and most widely distributed of all breeds in the world, but a relative newcomer to the United States. This red and white breed originated in Switzerland’s Simme Valley. Apparently the first Simmental arrived in the United States before 1900, perhaps as early as 1887. The breed died out, however, and was re-introduced with semen imported from France in 1967. The breed also is known as “Fleckvieh” in Germany, “PieRouge”, “Montbeliard”, and “Abondance” in France; and “Peseta Rosa” in Italy. Registry is with the American Simmental Association.
shoat – a young hog, usually less than a year old.
small grain – barley, oats, rye, triticale and wheat.
spores – Reproductive cell.
spring wheat – Wheat that is planted in the spring and harvested the following summer.
South Devon – A distinct breed of beef cattle in England dating to the 16th century. The first South Devon were brought to the United States in 1969. South Devons are available both horned and polled.
Southdown – A breed of sheep developed in Sussex, England during the late 1700 and early 1800s’. First imported to the United States (Pennsylvania) in 1824.
sow – Adult female swine.
spring wheat – Wheat that is planted in the spring and harvested in late summer. (In some areas with mild winters, spring wheat may be planted in the fall, but it differs from winter wheat in not having a requirement for cold temperatures to produce seed.)
stallion – An intact male horse; i.e., one that hasn’t been castrated.
stamen – Male reproductive structure of a flower. It is composed of a filament and an anther.
Standardbred – The world’s top harness race horse. Ninety-nine percent of Standardbreds are said to trace back to Hambletonian, who sired more than 1330 offspring between 1851 and 1875. The breed’s name derives from the fact that while it was still young, horses were only allowed to enter the registry if they could run the mile under a certain time.
steer – A castrated male bovine. Bull calves not kept for breeding are castrated while still young and raised for beef. Castration makes them easier to handle and produces better-flavored meat.
stolon – Horizontal, above ground stem.
straight load – A shipment consisting of a single product; i.e., only potatoes, or only apples.
stud – A male horse kept for breeding.
sucrose – Glucose linked to fructose. It is the sugar that is translocated in the phloem of most plants.
Suffolk – A breed of sheep developed by crossing Southdown rams on Norfolk Horned ewes. The English Suffolk Society was formed in 1886 to provide a registry service and to promote the breed. First imported to the United States (New York) in 1888. The breed didn’t make its way to the western states until 1919.
sustainable agriculture – There is no commonly agreed upon definition of sustainable agriculture. The concept has been, and continues to be, surrounded by controversy. At Washington State University the term is used to describe agricultural management practices that are profitable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable. Broadly speaking, the movement to promote this type of agriculture arose from the negative effects of changes in agriculture that were brought about by vast and rapid technological changes introduced with the application of mechanization and chemicals to farming and ranching.
swine – A domesticated member of the species Sus scrofa.
swine breeds that may be encountered by American journalists:
Tennessee Walking Horse – AKA, Tennessee Walker. The breed evolved from the Narragansett Pacer, Canadian, Morgan, Standardbred, Thoroughbred and American Saddlebred. It takes its name from the place most associated with its development, the middle Tennessee bluegrass region. Prized for it’s smooth-riding gait. But a hundred years ago the breed was a utility animal used for all type of farm work. Recognized as a breed only since formation of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ Association of America in 1935.
Texas Longhorn – A breed of beef cattle. They are registered by the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America.
timothy hay – A grass hay popular as horse feed. Timothy hay typically is a very clean hay, free of dust and mould, which is important because of potential respiratory problems in horses. Japan is a primary market for timothy hay grown in Washington.
ton – Tons come in both weight and volume. In weight, a short ton, the common measure in the Uniteds States, is 2,000 pounds. A long ton, the common measure in Great Britain, is 2,240 pounds. U.S. journalists would encounter this measure only rarely. A metric ton, the standard used for maritime shipments of agriucltural products, is 2,204.6 pounds.
trickle irrigation – A system for irrigating crops by delivering water to the root zone through small, plastic pipes equipped with emitters. This technology conserves water and eliminates soil erosion from irrigation water runoff. Also called drip irrigation.
truck lot – A truckoad of product.
tube tomatoes – A container holding three or four tomatoes, to be sold to consumers as a single unit.
USDA – United States Department of Agriculture. Acronym may be used in first reference if readers are familiar with agriculture. It includes the following agencies and units: Foreign Agricultural Service; Food Safety and Inspection Service; Forest Service; National Resources Conservation Service; Rural Business-Cooperative; Food and Nutrition Service; Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; Agricultural Marketing Service; Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service; Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration; Agricultural Research Service; Office of Community Development; Rural Housing Service; Rural Utilities Service; Cooperative State Research Education & Extension Service; Economic Research Service; and National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Wagyu – The word Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle. Wa means Japanese or japanese-style and gyu means cattle. The Wagyu breed was developed from Brown Swiss, Shorthorn, Devon, Simmental, Ayrshire, Holstein and Angus breeds and some Korean cattle that were imported by Japan by 1887. Black Wagyu strains predominate, but red Wagyus with strong Korean breed influence are part of the breed. Wagyu first came to the United States in 1976. Both black and red lines exist in U.S.-bred Wagyus. Wagyu cattle are known for their even development of intramuscular fat marbling, which results in uncommonly tender and flavorful meat. It is in special demand for high-temperature Japanese cooking. Purebred animals are registered by the American Wagyu Association.
Welsh Pony – The Welsh Pony roamed the hills and valleys of Wales before the Roman invasion. It pulled chariots in the sport arena, worked in coal mines, on ranches, and on postmen’s routes. It has worked on the farms of the poor and been pampered by royalty. The Welsh Pony was imported to the United States as early as the 1880s.
winter wheat – Wheat that is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. In areas where this practice may be followed, winter wheat normally is preferred because yields are higher than for spring wheat. In some areas with mild winters, spring wheat may be planted in the fall. Although produced during the winter, it differs from winter wheat in not having a requirement for cold temperatures to produce seed.
Zebra mule – Archaic term for offspring of a zebra and a donkey.
Zebrass – Offspring of a zebra and a donkey (ass).
Zebroid – Offspring of a zebra stallion and a horse mare.
Ze-donk – Offspring of a zebra and a donkey.
Zeony – Offspring of a zebra and a donkey.
Zony – Offspring of a zebra and a donkey.
Zorse – A term sometimes applied to the offspring of a zebra stallion and a horse mare.