Crop yield

Crop yield

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In agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, crop yield (also known as "agricultural output") is not only a measure of the yield of cereal per unit area of land under cultivation
Tillage
Tillage is the agricultural preparation of the soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning. Examples of human-powered tilling methods using hand tools include shovelling, picking, mattock work, hoeing, and raking...

, yield is also the seed generation of the plant itself (e.g. one wheat grain produces a stalk yielding three grain, or 1:3). The figure, 1:3 is considered by agronomists as the minimum required to sustain human life.

One of the three seeds must be set aside for the next planting season, the remaining two either consumed by the grower, or one for human consumption and the other for livestock feed.
The higher the surplus, the more livestock can be established and maintained, thereby increasing the physical and economic well-being of the farmer and his family. This, in turn, resulted in better stamina, better over-all health, and better, more efficient work. In addition, the more the surplus the more draft animals -- horse and oxen -- could be supported and harnessed to work, and manure, the soil thereby easing the farmer's burden.
Increased crop yields meant few hands were needed on farm, freeing them for industry and commerce. This, in turn, led to the formation and growth of cities.

Formation and growth of cities meant an increased demand for food stuffs by non-farmers, and their willingness to pay for it. This, in turn, led the farmer to (further) innovation, more intensive farming, the demand/creation of new and/or improved farming implements, and a quest for improved seed which improved crop yield. Thus allowing the farmer to raise his income by bringing more food to non-farming (city) markets.

History


Historically speaking, a major increase in crop yield took place in the early eighteenth century with the end of the ancient, wasteful cycle of the three-course system of crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 whereby a third of the land lay fallow every year and hence taken out of human food, and animal feed, production.

It was to be replaced by the four-course system of crop rotation, devised in England in 1730 by Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend
Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend Bt, KG, PC was a British Whig statesman. He served for a decade as Secretary of State, directing British foreign policy...

 or "Turnip" Townshend during the British Agricultural Revolution
British Agricultural Revolution
British Agricultural Revolution describes a period of development in Britain between the 17th century and the end of the 19th century, which saw an epoch-making increase in agricultural productivity and net output. This in turn supported unprecedented population growth, freeing up a significant...

, as he was called by early detractors.

In the first year wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 or oats
OATS
OATS - Open Source Assistive Technology Software - is a source code repository or "forge" for assistive technology software. It was launched in 2006 with the goal to provide a one-stop “shop” for end users, clinicians and open-source developers to promote and develop open source assistive...

 were planted; in the second year barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

 or oats; in the third year clover
Clover
Clover , or trefoil, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the leguminous pea family Fabaceae. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution; the highest diversity is found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but many species also occur in South America and Africa, including at high altitudes...

, rye
Rye
Rye is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder...

, rutabaga
Rutabaga
The rutabaga, swede , turnip or yellow turnip is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip; see Triangle of U...

 and/or kale
Kale
Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane , a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming,...

 were planted; in the fourth year turnips were planted but not harvested. Instead, sheep were driven on to the turnip fields to eat the crop, trample the leavings under their feet into the soil, and by doing all this, fertilize the land with their droppings. In the fifth year (or first year of the new rotation), the cycle began once more with a planting of wheat or oats, in an average, a thirty percent increased yield.

See also

  • Crop rotation
    Crop rotation
    Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

  • Green Revolution
    Green Revolution
    Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

  • Second Green Revolution
    Second Green Revolution
    The Second Green Revolution is a change in agricultural production widely thought necessary to feed and sustain the growing population on EarthThese calls have precipitated in part, as a response to rising food commodity prices, and fears of peak oil among other factors.-Etymology:It is named after...

  • Sustainable agriculture
    Sustainable agriculture
    Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment...

  • Yield (wine)
    Yield (wine)
    In viticulture, the yield is a measure of the amount of grapes or wine that is produced per unit surface of vineyard, and is therefore a type of crop yield...