Crops are classified by use, and there are 6 major types of crop production in the agricultural industry: Food crops, oil crops, feed crops, industrial crops, fiber crops, and ornamental crops used in gardens and public spaces. There are also two kinds of seasonal crops grown primarily in India and Pakistan: Rabi crops, and kharif crops.
Food crops are subsistence crops grown to feed the increasing population around the world. All edible crops fall under food crops, and may be the end product of agriculture, or used as raw materials, such as sugar cane used in the production of granulated sugar.
Common food crops include leafy and root vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, and cassava, tubers like potatoes and yams, and varieties of fruit and grasses. These crops undergo crop rotation according to the changing seasons, and farms research crop production to cultivate high-yielding varieties suitable for the climate and weather of the area.
Food crops cover a wide variety of edible plants, and the cultivation of each variety ranges in difficulty. Farms may choose to grow cash crops, which are easy to cultivate with a quick harvest turnaround, and high yields. However, farms may also specialize in cultivating crops that are difficult to grow, typically for higher profit yields per volume.
Oil crops are crops that are grown to create vegetable oil - these include edible oil seeds, such as sunflower, rapeseed, and sesame, as well as non-edible oil seeds such as canola, and linseed. These crops are not the end products of a cropland, but are the raw materials used in extracting oils from the seeds.
Essential oil crop production is a subcategory of oil crop production. Essential oil plants expand beyond seeds, and are made into heavily-concentrated essential oils. A farm that specializes in various cash crops cultivated specifically for essential oils grows essential oil crops, which may include types of flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, and other plants.
Forage crops fall under feed crops, and both types of crops are grown solely for the purpose of livestock consumption. These field crops are commonly grown alongside livestock farming, where farmers may plant and cultivate forage crops for their grazing animals.
Forage crops, also called silage crops, include plants whose leaves and stems can be consumed by grazing livestock, such as legumes, shrubs, and various types of grass. These hay crops are kept in silos as storage for fodder. Feed crops are grown and processed into fodder for other livestock animals, and typically consist of oats, alfalfa hay, and seeds.
Industrial crops include plants, shrubs, and trees grown for resins, industrial oil, or raw materials in creating lubricants, surfactants, fibers, and energy. For instance, sunflower oil is not only used as a vegetable oil, but can also be used in the production of biodiesel under sustainable agriculture products.
Other crops include resin-producing flowers, herbs, and tree bark, rubber trees, tobacco, hemp, jute, jatropha, and other non-food cash crop varieties that produce by-products used in industrial settings.
Fiber crops are those plants whose end products are textiles, paper, and rope. These field crops include cotton, hemp, and jute, which are the three major sources of fibers around the world. Farms may choose to grow a single type of fiber crop, or grow multiple in succession depending on the size of the cropland, and demand in production.
Unlike typical field crops, ornamental crop growing is done for beautification purposes. Plants are selected and bred for their visual appearance, which is used in ornamental gardens, parks, walkways, and as decorative foliage in public and private spaces. Flowers such as roses, lavender, and chrysanthemums fall under ornamental crops.
Rabi crops and Kharif crops fall under types of crops primarily grown in farms in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Farmers in these areas would grow a kharif or rabi crop depending on the season and weather forecasts, and these crops are grown for maximum production.
Rabi crops are plants grown during the cold, winter months and harvested the following spring. These include wheat, barley, nuts, and seeds like linseed. Kharif crops are grown during the monsoon season during autumn, and consist of water-dependent crops such as rice and maize. Rabi and kharif crops are grown in quick succession to optimize harvests.
Choosing the type of crop to grow is dependent on a number of factors that will affect the growth of plants. The size and location of the farmland, the quality of soil, abundance of fertilizer and water, as well as weather patterns all affect the growth of crops in different areas. Farms conduct their own research to determine the best crop for optimal returns.
The size and location of the farm is a major indicator of the type of crops a cropland can cultivate properly. Small farms will not be able to optimize growing field crops, but may maximize their profits through cultivating ornamental flowers in the same land.
The location of the farmland also matters. North-facing slopes will generally receive less sunlight than south-facing slopes, but will experience more stable temperatures compared to its southern counterpart. While oak trees grow better in south-facing slopes, north-facing slopes will grow a higher yield of apples and cherries as well as leafy greens.
Additionally, the location of the farm in relevance to the equator is another factor, as is the development of agriculture in the area. Developing countries may have different agricultural advancements from developed nations, and may have more experience growing one type of crop over the other.
Soil health is a major factor in the development of plants. The abundance of nutrients in the soil differs from one area to another. Water used in irrigation, and available fertilizer may alter the soil nutrients, balancing out the components in the soil, but farms will need to do proper research before they start cultivating crops.
Crops such as fruit trees, and leafy greens prefer nitrogen-rich soil, and would yield increased harvests, which translates to maximum profit. Roses also prefer nitrogen-rich soil, and farmers often need to add nitrogen-rich fertilizer to their croplands. However, the excess nitrogen in soil may cause tomatoes and other cucurbit crops to lower nutritional content of their fruit, reducing the quality of potential harvest.
It is important to maintain a proper balance of soil nutrients according to the needs of the plant. Farmers will need to take soil health and nutrient abundance into consideration when choosing the right kind of crop to grow for maximum profit.
The goal of growing cash crops is to maximize the earning potential of these plants. Crops in high demand, such as corn, rice, and vegetables, can provide high volumes in sales despite their modest price. Specialty crops, such as designer fruits, may have niche demands, but would have higher profit per volume.
To maximize their profit, farmers will have to identify their target market. For instance, a farm may specialize in vegan and vegetarian produce, which will require organic farming techniques, as well as high nutritional value in each harvest. The food industry, on the other hand, has a high demand for gastronomic diversity in the crops they purchase.
Farming requires heavy research to optimize profits - not just on soil and plant health, but on the supply and demand economics of growing crops for profit instead of self-subsistence. Commercial farms often employ teams of agricultural engineers, economists, horticulturalists, and plant managers besides farmers to produce the best yields for the highest possible profit.
Different types of crops have different requirements depending on the variety, but crop growing continues to be a lucrative venture that many farms utilize. Whether it be food production or the production of raw materials for textiles and industrial products, human resources rely on the agricultural sector to meet the growing demand of human needs.