This category covers establishments primarily engaged in land breaking, plowing, application of fertilizer, seed bed preparation, and other services for improving the soil for crop planting. Establishments primarily engaged in land clearing and earth moving for terracing and pond and irrigation construction are classified in SIC 1629: Heavy Construction, Not Elsewhere Classified.
Soil Preparation, Planting and Cultivating
The soil and topography of the land, along with the climate of an area, determines the type of farming that can be done. For example, wheat, corn, and other grains are most efficiently grown on level land where large, complex machinery can be used. These crops are commonly grown on the prairies and plains of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Kansas, and southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Cotton, tobacco, and peanuts—all crops that require longer growing seasons—are primarily grown in the South. Most of the country's fruits and vegetables are grown in California, Texas, and Florida.
To promote growth and germination, soil must provide water, heat, oxygen, and essential nutrients. The soil must also be compressible enough to allow root penetration and plant growth. Among the most important operations in the crop preparation industry are tilling, liming, and fertilizing soils in preparation for crop planting.
Tilling is commonly done for several reasons: to eradicate crop residuals from previous plantings, such as corn stalks or wheat stubble; to destroy weeds; and to modify the structure of the soil to accommodate planting. Traditional tilling, which typically involves plowing, leaves less than 15 percent of plant residue on the soil surface. It temporarily aerates the soil and controls weeds, but over the long term, decomposing plants and compaction destroy the structure of the soil and actually reduces aeration.
To combat the problems resulting from conventional tilling, soil preparers increasingly turned to conservation tillage in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Conservation tillage systems leave at least 30 percent crop residue after planting and minimize water runoff and soil. The practices can stave soil erosion by as much as 90 percent. The most common types of conservation tillage are no-till, ridge-till, and mulch-till. The no-till system involves leaving the soil undisturbed from harvest to planting except for nutrient injection and...