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This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when looking at applying science to improve farming and the environment – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

Agricultural effluent

The treated and untreated wastes and wastewater collected during the management of livestock.

Agricultural intensification

The production of more milk, meat, wool or food crops on the same amount of land. Intensification often involves increased inputs of chemical fertilisers.

Denitrification

The process of reducing nitrate (NO3-) in the soil to gaseous nitrogen (N2) released into the atmosphere.

Environmental pollution

The contamination of air, water or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms.

Fertilisers

Chemicals containing essential chemical elements needed for plant growth that are added to soil.

Fixation (fixing nitrogen)

The process of converting nitrogen from its atmospheric gaseous form (N2) to forms that can be used by plants and animals.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The release of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Examples are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Leaching

In agriculture, leaching refers to the movement of plant nutrients down through the soil when water is in excess of what the soil can hold.

Microbial activity or microbial processes

This refers to the activities of microbes, such as bacteria, as they break down organic material to forms that can be used by plants.

Nitrification

The process of converting ammonia/ammonium ions (NH3, NH4+) in the soil into nitrate (NO3-) that can be used by plants.

Nitrogen cycle

The process of nitrogen being taken from the atmosphere, deposited in soil, made available to plants and animals (through microbial activity) and later returned to the atmosphere.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a gaseous byproduct emitted during the nitrogen cycle. It is a greenhouse gas and is 310 times more efficient in warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Nutrients

Chemicals taken from the environment that organisms need to live and grow

Phosphorus cycle

The circulation of phosphorus in various forms through rocks, water, soil and sediments and organisms. Inorganic phosphorus originates from rocks. Organic phosphorus comes from living things.

Riparian zones

The interface between land and surface water. Vegetation growing between the land and water may protect the aquatic environment from sediment, nutrient run-off or erosion.

Run-off

The flow of water over land from rain, irrigation or other sources. Run-off water can transport sediments, nutrients and other substances from one lo

    Published 30 June 2014 Referencing Hub articles