The ecosystem of a cultivated crop. It differs from the surrounding, natural ecosystem because of the various artificial components of agriculture. Agro-ecotype

The local landrace of an outbreeding crop is often called an agro-ecotype because, like a wild ecotype, it has responded to selection pressures within its own locality in the agro-ecosystem, and it is well adapted to that locality. In systems terminology, this adaptation is called local optimisation. In a wide sense, any domesticated variety of plant or animal is an agro-ecotype. Amateur plant breeders may regard their work as improving the domestication of existing agro-ecotypes. Agronomic suitability

The agronomic suitability of a cultivar is one of the four objectives of plant breeding (the others being yield, quality of crop product, and resistance to pests and diseases). It is governed by a variety of traits such as plant shape and size (often called crop architecture), time of maturity, suitability for mechanical cultivation and harvesting, frost and/or drought resistance, yield potential, suitability to market requirements, and so on. This is a factor that amateur breeders must always take into account. Agronomy

That component of agriculture which is concerned with the theory and practice of growing crops, and with the management of soils. Aguacate

See: Persea americana. Air-borne parasites

Plant parasites can be air-borne, soil-borne, water-borne (mainly in irrigation water), and seed-borne. The air-borne parasites include fungi and flying insects, which can sometimes travel for hundreds of miles on prevailing winds. Akee

See: Blighia sapida. Aldrin

One of the dirty dozen chemicals called POPS. Aldrin is an insecticide, now banned by international treaty. Aleurites spp.

Tung, an ancient crop in China, it is now grown in several warm countries. The seeds of A. fordii and A. montana yield a paint oil of exceptional quality. The market has declined from competition with cheaper paints, particularly plastics. Considerable scope for local amateur breeders who are not ambitious about their new cultivars. Alfalfa

See Medicago sativa. Alga

(Plural: algae). Primitive plants that have chlorophyll and can photosynthesise. They range in size from single-celled and microscopic, or many-celled and many feet long. They occur mainly in water, which may be either fresh or marine.

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