Food Source Information Glossary
Acre: an acre is about 9/10 the size of a football field, equivalent to 43,560 square feet.
Agrichemicals: any chemicals used in agricultural production, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and feed supplements.
Anhydrous Ammonia: a fertilizer used to provide nitrogen for crop production. The product, stored under high pressure as a liquid, changes state during application and is injected into soil as a gas. It is popular since it is composed of 82 percent nitrogen compared to other nitrogen fertilizers such as urea that contain only 46% nitrogen and ammonium nitrate with 30-33% nitrogen content.
Aquaculture: farming aquatic species in a controlled environment.
Aquaponics: a system combining aquaculture with hydroponics in which aquatic animals and hydroponically grown plants are cultivated together.
Audit: verification performed by an outside entity that a farm is following food safety practices. Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standard.
Audit: USDA incorporated the Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standard into its GAP & GHP audit program in 2011, the Initiative is an all-industry effort to harmonize GAP standards.
Biodegradable mulches: compared to plastic mulches which degrade slowly, mulches made from plant starches, such as corn or wheat, can be broken down by soil microbes into CO2 and water.
Biosolids: the organic solids product of wastewater/sewage treatment plants that can be utilized in agricultural production.
Blast chilling: a method of cooling produce quickly to a low temperature, may be used in cantaloupe production to remove field heat.
Buffer strip (also called filter strip, field border, windbreak, hedgerow, alley cropping): strips of land maintained in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutants and erosion, in some cases to provide protection from microbial contamination through water.
Bushel: a unit of dry volume typically used to quantify crop yields. One bushel is equivalent to 32 quarts or 2,150.42 cubic inches.
CAFO: confined Animal Feeding Operations. Animals (other than aquatic animals) have been, are or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and crops, vegetation, forage growth or postharvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility.
Chemigation: the application of chemicals through irrigation systems. Chemicals applied in this method include pesticides and fertilizers (sometimes called fertigation).
Center Pivot: a type of irrigation system that consists of a wheel-driven frame that supports a series of sprinkler nozzles. The frame rotates about a central point to distribute water over a large circular area.
Cold chain: the maintenance of proper cooling temperatures throughout the food system (farm to fork) for fruits and vegetables to ensure product safety and quality.
Compost: organic matter, such as animal waste and plant residues, that has been actively decomposed in a closely managed process involving aeration and mechanical mixing achieving appropriate time and temperature points.
CSA/Community Supported Agriculture: individuals who pledge support to a farm operation and in return receive a share of the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season.
Compost: the product of a managed process (treatment, turning, etc.) through which microorganisms break down plant and animal materials into more available forms suitable for application to the soil as a fertilizer. According to EPA, compost must be produced through a process that combines plant and animal materials with an initial Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of between 25:1 and 40:1. Producers using an in-vessel or static aerated pile system must maintain the composting materials at a temperature between 131 degrees F and 170 degrees F for 3 days. Producers using a windrow system must maintain the composting materials at a temperature between 131 degrees F and 170 degrees F for 15 days, during which time the materials must be turned a minimum of five times.
Composting: the biodecomposition of organic material, such as animal wastes, plant residues or sludges, in the presence of air, by controlled methods including mechanical mixing and aerating.
Compost Tea: liquid preparation made using compost as a starting material, used as a foliar application to combat plant pathogens or supplement plant nutrients.
Cover Crop/ground cover: crop planted in rotation with other crops, usually to increase soil fertility. These types of cover crops are referred to as “green manure.” May also be planted to for water conservation, weed or pest control, protect against plant diseases, add to biodiversity, or wildlife conservation or crop protection.
Cull/Cull pile: to remove inferior products from the food stream that show signs of physical damage or defect.
Cultivars/Varieties: plants with very similar genetic material (same genus and species) selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation.
Cultivation: any agricultural practice used by growers to improve the growing conditions of fresh produce grown in the field or in protected facilitates such as greenhouses.
Dip tank: used for complete immersion, possibly to apply a treatment/sanitizer or to reduce temperature.
Drift: the physical movement of prohibited substances from the intended target site onto an organic operation or portion thereof.
Drip/trickle irrigation: watering plants so that only soil in the plant’s immediate vicinity is moistened. Water is supplied from a thin plastic tube at a low flow rate. It is the most efficient use of water for irrigation and also reduces the chance of pathogens because the entire plant is not wetted, thereby denying moisture to the microorganisms.
Farm Food Safety Plan: a written plan outlining food safety strategies for a particular operation, often required in food safety audits.
Fecal coliforms: those microorganisms that are detected by the coliform test and that can ferment lactose to acid and gas within 48 hours at 44.5 to 45.5°C.
Fertilizer: a single or blended substance containing one or more recognized plant nutrient which is used primarily for its plant nutrient content and which is designed for use or claimed to have value in promoting plant growth.
Field heat: heat accumulated by some types of produce, such as tomatoes and cantaloupe, if harvested on warm days.
Field packing: packing produce directly from the field into market containers for commercial distribution and sale.
Float/soak tank: tanks filled with water and cleansing agents to clean produce.
Forced-air cooling: a fan powered cooling system which exposes packages of produce in a cooling room to higher air pressure on one side than on the other forcing the cool air through the packages and past the produce for heat transfer from the produce.
Furrow irrigation: irrigation system by which a crop field is partly flooded with water, and some parts of the plant may not be in contact with water.
Green manure: see cover crop.
Good agricultural practices (GAPs): the basic environmental and operational conditions necessary to produce safe, wholesome fruits and vegetables, particularly maintaining food safety strategies.
Good manufacturing practices (GMPs): general practices to reduce microbial food safety hazards used in sorting, packing, storage and transportation operations.
Gravity irrigation: water that moves through soils under the influence of gravity. It is distinguished from a pumped supply of water.
Gray water: wastewater, collected separately from a sewage flow that originates from a clothes washer, bathtub, shower or sink, but it does not include wastewater from a kitchen sink, dishwasher or toilet.
Greenhouse: a protective structure for growing plants generally capable of temperature regulation, compared to a hoop house or high tunnel without temperature regulation input.
Ground water: water below the land surface in the saturated zone.
Harmonized Food Safety/GAPs: standardized requirements appropriate for farms of all sizes and across locations.
High tunnel/Hoophouse: lower cost version of a greenhouse, a freestanding covered structure without heating or electrical power, using passive ventilation, used to extend the growing season and provide protection.
Hydrocooling: a cooling process accomplished by flooding the produce with large volumes of chilled water, normally in a hydro-cooler designed specifically for that purpose.
Hydroponics: growing plants in a soil-less media.
Incorporation: to unite or combine to form a single whole such as fertilizer tilled or injected into the soil.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM): an integrated approach to controlling plant pests using careful monitoring of pests and weeds. It may include use of natural predators, chemical agents, and crop rotations.
Lagoon: a shallow artificial pond often used for the processing of sewage or manure.
Manure: feces, urine, other excrement, and bedding produced by livestock that has not been composted.
Manure aging: storage and management of manure, often reaching heat pasteurization temperatures, similar to composting but in a less controlled manner.
Manure tea: liquid preparation made using manure as a starting material, used as a foliar application to combat plant pathogens or supplement plant nutrients.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): product safety information sheets prepared by manufacturers and marketers. An MSDS lists the ingredients in a hazardous product, its manufacturer, its hazards to safety and health and precautions to follow when using it. These sheets can be obtained by requesting them from the manufacturer. Some stores, such as hardware stores, may have material safety data sheets for products they sell.
Mobile packing unit: a piece of equipment that moves slowly through the field allowing workers to harvest and pack produce as it progresses.
Mulch: any non synthetic material, such as wood chips, leaves or straw, or any synthetic material included on the National List for such use, such as newspaper or plastic that serves to suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature or conserve soil moisture.
Live mulches: typically, plants that grow close to the ground and are sown or planted as an understory to the main crop. Live mulches protect the soil from erosion and minimally compete with the growth of the main crop.
Sheet mulching: a no-dig technique that mimics natural processes occurring in forests, the mulch serves as a nutrient bank, slowly making these nutrients available to plants as the organic matter breaks down.
Non-synthetic fertilizer: any agricultural input which contains animal manure, parts, products or by-products, food, or green waste that has not been appropriately treated to ensure it does not introduce human pathogens to the production environment.
No-Tillage: crop production system in which the soil is left undisturbed from harvest to planting. At the time of planting, a narrow strip up to 1/3 as wide as the space between planted rows (strips may involve only residue disturbance or may include soil disturbance) is engaged by a specially equipped planter. Planting or drilling is accomplished using disc openers, coulter(s), row cleaners, in-row chisels, or roto-tillers. Weed control is accomplished primarily with crop protection products. Other common terms used to describe no-till include direct seeding, slot planting, zero-till, row-till, and slot-till.
Operator: the person or persons who have day-to-day responsibility for the production, harvesting, washing, sorting, cooling, packaging, shipping or transportation of fresh fruits and vegetables, and responsibility for management of all employees who are involved in each of these activities.
Off-farm inputs: resources which often include synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Organic matter: the remains, residues, or waste products of any organism.
Organic farming/production: a production system that is managed in accordance with the National Organic Program and regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.
Overhead sprinkler system: overhead application of water to a crop by any of a wide range of systems, such as center pivot. The entire plant is wetted.
Packing facility: the physical process of putting fresh produce in boxes or bins, which often takes place in or near the field. Fresh produce may be harvested in one location and transported to a central facility for cleaning and packing into market containers. The size of the packing facility can range from a small on-farm shed to a large commercial plant.
Permaculture: the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient, following nature’s patterns.
Pesticide: a general name for agricultural chemicals that include:
- Herbicide – for the control of weeds and other plants
- Insecticide – for the control of insects
- Fungicide – for the control of fungi
- Nematocide – for the control of parasitic worms
- Rodenticide – for the control of rodents
Postemergence: refers to the timing of pest control operations. Postemergence operations are accomplished during the period subsequent to the emergence of a crop from the soil and must be completed prior to point at which crop growth stage prohibits in-field travel (unless alternative application means – aerial or irrigation-based – are used).
Precooling: the rapid removal of field heat shortly after the harvest of a crop.
Preemergence: refers to the timing of pest control operations. Preemergence operations are accomplished during the period subsequent to the planting of a crop and prior to the emergence of that crop from the soil.
Primary production: those steps involved in the growing and harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables such as planting, irrigation, application of fertilizers and application of agricultural chemicals.
Processing water: water used for post-harvest treatment of produce, such as washing, cooling or waxing.
Packing shed: structure, often open air, used for the purpose of preparing and packing produce.
Plasticulture: the practice of using plastic materials in agricultural applications, often used in reference to all types of plastic plant/soil coverings.
Plastic mulch is used to suppress weeds and conserve water in crop production.
Pre-harvest: all activity on a farm or ranch prior to a crop or livestock being harvested, including field or pasture treatments, water inputs, soil applications/amendments, planting, irrigation, and treatments.
Post-harvest: all activity after a crop, or livestock, is harvested, including cooling, cleaning, sorting, packing, and storing.
Rainwater harvesting: accumulating and storing rainwater, may include runoff from roofs and contain contaminants.
Row Crop: agricultural crop planted, usually with mechanical planting devices, in individual rows that are spaced to permit machine traffic during the early parts of the growing season.
Runoff: rainwater, leachate or other liquid that drains overland on any part of a land surface and runs off of the land surface.
Shed pack: congregating produce in a structure, possibly open air, for the purpose of preparing and packing into boxes or bins.
Sidedress: to apply fertilizer to a standing crop, usually by surface application of liquid fertilizer products or subsurface application of liquid or gaseous fertilizers placed near crop rows.
Slushed ice cooling: the packing of produce where alternate layers of ice and the commodity are placed in a shipping box or crate. A preferred cooling method for many types of extremely perishable produce items that not only removes heat rapidly when first applied to produce but continues to absorb heat as it melts.
Soil amendment: soil conditioners (materials that make the soil more suitable for the growth of plants with a carbon/nitrogen ratio greater than 30) or fertilizers (materials that supply essential elements to improve productivity of plants with a carbon/nitrogen ratio of less than 20). These materials may be made of lime, gypsum, sulfur, compost, wood waste, peat, manure, fertilizers or nonagricultural waste.
Specialty crop: the designation, specialty crops, encompasses vegetables, fruits, turf, herbs, ornamentals, fiber, and nursery crops. These crops tend to be management-intensive but provide alternatives to traditional agricultural crops and have a higher economic return.
Synthetic agrichemical/pesticide: a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes.
Transgenic Crop: contains a gene or genes which have been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring the gene(s) through pollination. The inserted gene(s) may come from an unrelated plant or from a completely different species.
Urea – a form of nitrogen that converts readily to ammonium.
Value-Added Products: a general term that refers to agricultural products that have increased in value due to processing. Examples include corn oil and soybean meal.
Vacuum cooling: a cooling system where the product is put into a vacuum chamber and the atmospheric pressure is lowered. As water evaporates, the heat of vaporization quickly removes heat from the product. Commonly used for leafy vegetables, such as lettuce.
Vine crops: cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins.
USDA National Agricultural Library
BMP: Best Management Practices, associated with soil conservation/water quality.
CSA: Community Support Agriculture
GAPs: Good Agricultural Practices
FSMA: Food Safety Modernization Act
PSA: Produce Safety Alliance
PSR: Produce Safety Rule