Agriculture: Crops

There are several environmental concerns associated with the production of agricultural crops.

On this page:

Crop Information

To learn more about crop production online, please visit Ag 101. This introduction to American agriculture covers the primary commodities produced today and the methods of doing so. An entire chapter is dedicated to crop production, and includes such topics as: soil preparation, planting, nutrient management, pest management, and harvesting.

More information from EPA

Crop Grouping Final Rule: Easing Regulatory Burdens and Expanding Opportunities for Minor Crop Producers (Technical Amendment Update) - EPA's final revision to its pesticide tolerance crop grouping regulations, allowing the establishment of tolerances (maximum residue levels) for multiple, related crops based upon data from a representative set of crops.

More information from USDA

  • Crop Production Portal - USDA strives to sustain and enhance economical crop production by developing and transferring sound, research-derived, knowledge to agricultural producers that results in food and fiber crops that are safe for consumption.
  • MultiCalculator - A set of three Excel spreadsheets that calculate irrigation needs, ethanol yields, and crop yields from USDA's ARS.

More information from the states

  • EZregs  - University of Illinois Extension Web site that identifies environmental regulations that pertain to specific agricultural and horticultural operations and practices in Illinois.

More information from universities or other organizations

  • Idaho One Plan - An innovative approach to conservation planning that enables farmers and ranchers in Idaho to identify and address multiple environmental agency requirements while ensuring a viable and sustainable approach.
  • Conservation Technology Innovation Center - CTIC promotes and provides information on technologies and sustainable agricultural systems that conserve and enhance soil, water, air and wildlife resources and are productive and profitable.

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Methyl Bromide

Methyl bromide is a fumigant used to control pests in agriculture and shipping. Along with other countries, EPA has agreed to restrict the use of methyl bromide and reduce the amount used each year because it depletes the ozone layer. Learn more about protecting the ozone layer.

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Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture

Potential impacts of climate change on agriculture will be reflected most directly through the response of crops, livestock, soils, weeds, and insects, and diseases to the elements of climate to which they are most sensitive. Soil moisture and temperature are the climate factors likely to be most sensitive to change across large agricultural areas of North America.

More information from EPA

Agriculture and Climate Change

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Erosion Control

Erosion control practices are necessary for agricultural operations to control runoff and reduce the amount of soil erosion caused by that runoff. In areas with good drainage, crops are better able to use nutrients and chemicals and will benefit from these optimum growing conditions. When building erosion control structures, newly-graded soil surfaces may be stabilized with mulch prior to the establishment of a vegetative cover.

To establish good drainage, one or a combination of drainage and erosion control structures can be built and used depending on the site characteristics (e.g., slope, crop type, or climate). These structures include:

  • Diversions
  • Grassed waterways
  • Water and sediment control basins
  • Filter strips
  • Riparian buffers
  • Terracing and contouring
  • Drainage tiles

More information from EPA

More information from USDA

  • NRCS- Erosion Control Practices or Systems - Conservation practices are commonly used on crop fields or other lands to reduce erosion, improve soil and water quality, improve plant health, and minimize off-site impacts from excess nutrients, pesticides and sediment.   They are often used in tandem with vegetative or other management practices to increase effectiveness.

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