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BioRangers Envirothon Competition: Soil and Land Use

USDA Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

Legal Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The term ''sustainable agriculture'' (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.


That definition is a central element of the legislation of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program of NIFA.

Books Available at the Library

Study Guide

For successful completion of the soils/ land use section, contestants should be able to:
Know the five soil forming factors, and understand how they influence soil properties.
Understand the origin and types of soil parent materials and land forms.
Understand basic soil forming processes: additions, losses, translocations, and transformations.
Recognize and understand features of Soil Profiles, and be able to use this information to determine basic soil properties and limitations.
Identify and describe soil characteristics (texture, structure, and color- using Munsell color charts).
Understand soil biological diversity and how it relates to soil health and hence plant, human and environmental health. Recognize that understanding soil ecosystems is important to soil management.
Understand how the hydrologic, carbon and nutrient cycles relate to soil management.
Understand that soil fertility relates to the physical and chemical properties of the soil in addition to the quantity of nutrients.
Understand why soil fertility reflects the physical, chemical and biological state of the soil.
Compare different land uses and conservation practices and their impact on soils and erosion.
Understand how soil is impacted by point & non-point source pollution and practices used to address, reduce or eliminate the impact.
Access and use published and on-line soil data and other resources to learn how land use affects soil, and the limitations of local soils.
Understand Land Capability Classes and how they are important in determining appropriate land use.
Understand soil drainage classes and be able to recognize the characteristics of hydric soils and know how soils fit into the definition of wetlands.