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Alphabetical Listing: Technical Resources

This alphabetical listing describes technical resources available from NRCS. Find information, training resources, tools, and related topics concerning these technical resources. Use the USDA Service Center Locator to find a local office for direct technical assistance.


The National Agronomy Manual (PDF; 2.5 MB) contains policy for agronomy activities and provides technical procedures for uniform implementation of agronomy tools and applications.

Air Quality & Atmospheric Change

Air quality is an increasingly important issue for agriculture and natural resources conservation. NRCS helps private landowners conserve natural resources, including air resources.

Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)

Animal Feeding Operations, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations.  In AFOs, feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.


Biological resources includes all living things.  NRCS provides assistance to integrate habitat considerations of fish and wildlife and other biological resources into conservation plans for farms, ranches, backyards, city parks, rangelands, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and riparian areas.

Conservation Innovation Grants

Conservation Innovation Grants is a voluntary program.  It is intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production.

Conservation Practices

NRCS conservation practice standards provide guidance for applying conservation technology on the land and set the minimum acceptable level for application of the technology.  NRCS issues National conservation practice standards in the National Handbook of Conservation Practices.  Each State determines which national conservation practice standards are applicable in that State.  States add the technical detail needed to effectively use the standards at the NRCS Field Office level, and issue them as State Conservation Practice Standards.  State conservation practice standards are available through the Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).

Cultural Resources

Cultural Resources are evidence of past human activity. These may include pioneer homes, building or old roads; structures with unique architecture; prehistoric village sites; historic or prehistoric artifacts or objects; rock inscription; human burial sites; earthworks, such as battlefield entrenchments, prehistoric canals, or mounds.  These nonrenewable resources often yield unique information about past societies and environments, and provide answers for modern day social and conservation problems.

Ecological Site Descriptions

Ecological Sites provide a consistent framework for classifying and describing rangeland and forestland soils and vegetation; thereby delineating land units that share similar capabilities to respond to management activities or disturbance.


Landowner and NRCS conservationist looking at soil survey report in front of barn.NRCS provides economic effects of alternative actions in order for customers to make informed resource conservation decisions.  NRCS ensures nationwide consistency of applied economics to agency activities by providing guidance to integrate economics into conservation planning, program implementation, and program evaluation.



Farmers and ranchers can cut input costs, maintain production, protect soil and water resources, reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, and save money by using the conservation practices described on this web site. Check with your local NRCS office to find out about your area's options.


NRCS leads the effort in innovative engineering solutions for natural resources conservation. NRCS provides several resources to help farmers, ranchers, and others put conservation on the land.

Environmental Compliance

NRCS has a host of references and tools to ensure it meets environmental requirements and responsibilities and to administer Federal natural resources conservation assistance within overall environmental policies.

Field Office Technical Guide

The Field Office Technical Guide is a compilation of technical guides which have been localized to apply to specific geographic areas.  NRCS employees and others use these technical guides as primary scientific references.  They contain technical information about the conservation of soil, water, air, and related plant and animal resources.  NRCS has automated appropriate parts of the FOTG as data bases, computer programs, and other electronic-based materials.

Fish and Wildlife

Nearly 70 percent of the United States’ and fish and wildlife habitat are spread across privately owned landscapes. Working through 3,000 soil and water conservation districts and other partners, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has assisted in the development of conservation practices that have enhanced America’s fish and wildlife habitat resources.


Rows of green trees from obligue aerial view, along blue streamAgroforestry intentionally combines agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems. Agroforestry takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock.




Maps, Data, & Analysis

NRCS offers a host of references and tools providing natural resources or environmental information, some of which provide data at anytime and from anywhere.

Natural Resource Assessment

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) documents the effects of conservation practices and systems at various geographic levels so that better decisions can be made up front and risk is managed more effectively. NRCS cooperates with other Federal agencies, State agencies, and partners to collect and analyze natural resource data. As new information becomes available, it is used to conduct analyses of policy options and strategies for improving conservation efforts.

Nutrient Management

Nutrient Management is managing the amount, source, placement, form, and timing of the application of plant nutrients and soil amendments.

Pest Management

Pest Management in NRCS is primarily focused on helping producers mitigate the environmental risks of pest control activities, including pesticide risks to soil, water air, plants, animals, and humans.


The Plant Materials Program provides application-oriented technology including technical publications, fact sheets, conservation plants, plant identification, and tools for conducting plant materials work and land restoration, and other plant information.

The PLANTS Database provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories. It includes names, plant symbols, checklists, distributional data, species abstracts, characteristics, images, crop information, interactive identification keys, automated tools, references and onward web links. This information primarily promotes land conservation in the United States and its territories, but academic, educational, and general use is encouraged.


Animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90 percent of flowering plants and one third of human food crops.  Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, birds, and bats.  Each of us depends on pollinators in a practical way to provide us with the wide range of foods we eat.  In addition, pollinators are part of the intricate web that supports the biological diversity in natural ecosystems that helps sustain our quality of life.

Range and Pasture

Brown cattle in foreground, all looking towards camera, with mountains in background.There are 634 million acres of non-Federal (privately owned, state and local publicly owned, and tribally owned) grazing lands in the United States.  Non-Federal grazing lands are in every state.  These rangelands, pasturelands, haylands, grazed forest lands, grazed croplands, and naturalized pastures constitute about half of the total lands on which the NRCS provides technical assistance, through conservation districts, at the request of the cooperator (the owners or managers of these lands).  This technical assistance provides a source of expertise to guide cooperators in solving resource problems and in sustaining or improving their grazing lands resources and operations.  Guidance for developing conservation plans with cooperators on grazing lands is based on current NRCS policy relative to consideration of all soil, water, air, plant, and animal resources, as well as, the cooperator’s objectives.

Snow Survey and Water Supply

The purpose of the program is to provide western states and Alaska with information on future water supplies. NRCS field staff collect and analyze data on depth and water equivalent of the snowpack at more than 1,200 mountain sites and estimate annual water availability, spring runoff, and summer streamflows. Individuals, organizations, and state and Federal agencies use these forecasts for decisions relating to agricultural production, fish and wildlife management, municipal and industrial water supply, urban development, flood control, recreation power generation, and water quality management. The National Weather Service includes the forecasts in their river forecasting function.

Social Sciences

NRCS uses social sciences to address human behaviors associated with ensuring the productive, equitable, and environmentally sound use and conservation of our nation’s natural resources.  NRCS conservation efforts use social sciences information and tools to reach out and engage new partners to identify key issues and needs; and to involve these partners in implementing conservation initiatives and to attempt to remove barriers to participation by non-traditional and underserved customers and partners.


Picture of side of pit about 6 feet in depth, showing soil layers.Soils perform vital functions.  They sustain plant and animal life below and above the surface.  They regulate and partition water and solute flow.  They filter, buffer, degrade, immobilize, and detoxify.  They store and cycle nutrient.  They provide support to structures.

NRCS provides an educational tool for soils.  S.K.Worm, the official annelid, or worm, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, answers students questions about soil. Even their teachers can’t wiggle their way out of this one! Slither your way through these soiled questions and earn a very special diploma. You might even get hooked on Soil!


Water Resources

NRCS helps private land owners and operators on water-related issues for natural resources conservation.  We also provide on-demand access to a host of Web-based information and tools.