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A cash crop or profit crop is an agricultural crop which is grown to sell for profit. It is typically purchased by parties separate from a farm. The term is used to differentiate marketed crops from subsistence crops, which are those fed to the producer’s own livestock or grown as food for the producer’s family. In earlier times cash crops were usually only a small (but vital) part of a farm’s total yield, while today, especially in developed countries and among smallholders almost all crops are mainly grown for revenue. In the least developed countries, cash crops are usually crops which attract demand in more developed nations, and hence have some export value.
Prices for major cash crops are set in commodity markets with global scope, with some local variation (termed as “basis”) based on freight costs and local supply and demand balance. A consequence of this is that a nation, region, or individual producer relying on such a crop may suffer low prices should a bumper crop elsewhere lead to excess supply on the global markets. This system has been criticized by traditional farmers. Coffee is an example of a product that has been susceptible to significant commodity futures price variations.
Cash crops are grown for direct sale in the market, rather than for family consumption or to feed livestock. Coffee, cocoa, tea, sugarcane, cotton, and spices are some examples of cash crops. Food crops such as rice, wheat,
What are Cash Crops?
What are cash crops, and what does ‘cash crop’ mean in agriculture? Cash crops are an important feature of the agricultural world and have been for a very long time. The commonly understood cash crop definition is any grain, legume, fruit, or other plant crop grown not for consumption by the farmers, but specifically to be sold for profit.
Today, the vast majority of farmers in the west grow at least one cash crop, meaning that they are able to profit from their agricultural endeavors. Examples of cash crops grown in the United States today include:
Anything can be a cash crop; there is no set type of crop that fits the bill. The point of a cash crop is that it is not grown for subsistence and is instead grown in much greater quantities than the farmer and their family can consume.
History of Cash Crops
The history of cash crops is inextricably linked not only to the history of agriculture but to the story of human progress over the last ten thousand years. Understanding this history can provide essential insight into human history, survival, and societies.
The First Cash Crops
When agriculture was first developed in river valleys around ten thousand years ago, it was something that small groups of people did for subsistence. It allowed them to supplement a hunter-gatherer diet and to settle in one place. It is possible that agriculture was first developed as a way to grow grains like barley that could be fermented to create alcohol, which was often safer to drink than water. People soon learned that they could grow more crops than they would be able to eat. This likely led to the first stratified societies in which some people had access to surplus foods while others did not, thus creating a wealth disparity. The ability of humans to develop cities and even nations is thought to be directly connected to the development of agriculture in general and cash crops in particular.
Examples of Cash Crops
Today, cash crops are grown and traded around the world. In many cases, these crops are grown as a food source to feed humans or livestock animals. Some cash crops, like cotton, produce clothing. Many others are used to produce prescription or recreational drugs, including opium, coca, and marijuana crops. Different parts of the world grow different cash crops based on climate, but there are few regions in the world that grow no cash crops at all. Places like the Arctic are so cold that growing anything is a struggle, which limits cash crop production.
As agriculture has become more globalized, cash crops have been exported further around the world. It is now common for people in the United States to eat fruits grown as far away as South America or even Asia. Different continents and cultures often have specific cash crops that they focus more effort on.
Most Planted Cash Crops
The crops that are planted over the greatest area of land around the world include:
- Maize (corn)
These crops are each planted on more than 1 million square kilometers of land around the world; wheat alone is planted on more than 2 million square kilometers of land worldwide. The reason these crops are so ubiquitous is because they form the primary staple grains of most of the world’s cultures. Wheat is the staple grain in parts of North America and much of Europe. Maize is a staple in Central and South America and rice is a staple in most of Asia. Soybeans are high on the list because they are an oil-producing crop; soybean oil is used around the world.
Most Popular Cash Crops
Measuring the most popular cash crops means seeing how much of the crop is produced in a given year. These crops, ordered from highest production, include:
- Sugar cane
The latter three crops are obviously popular because they make up so much of people’s daily diet. Sugar cane, on the other hand, is produced in greater tonnage than any other crop because it is used worldwide to create sweets, desserts, chocolate, drinks, and many other foods. Sugar has long been an immensely popular crop, which is why it was one of the major cash crops grown in colonial America.
A cash crop or profit crop is an agricultural crop which is grown to sell for profit. Cash crops are the ones that are grown for earning money. Coffee , cocoa , tea, sugarcane , cotton , and spices are some examples of cash crops. Potato is one of the major cash crops that form an important part of the various crop sequences practiced in the region particularly in the high altitude areas.
Types of Crops
The crops are of the following types depending upon the season in which they are grown:
- Kharif Crops
- Rabi Crops
- Zaid Crops
Eighty-eight percent of farms in the United States are designated as small farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The designation doesn’t refer to size, though. Instead, they are considered small farms if the operator works part-time, the “annual gross income” is below $349,000 per year or the owner is retired.
Just because those farms are small doesn’t mean they don’t meet a significant need and turn a large profit. Select crops, such as bamboo, lavender and garlic, are being cultivated across the nation to meet a sizeable demand while occupying little acreage on a farm.
CASH CROPS FOR SMALL FARM PROFIT
In this section, we’ll explore some of the best cash crops that small farm operators can grow in the U.S.
- Specialty Mushroom
- Christmas Trees
Agronomic crops dominate the row crop acreage in the two MLRAs. The primary agronomic cash crops grown are corn, small grains (primarily winter wheat), soybeans, peanuts, cotton and tobacco. Sweet potatoes and many types of fruits and vegetables including onions, cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins and strawberries are also grown on smaller acreages. Cash crop selection depends on a number of factors, including growing-season climate, availability of a market, a contract to grow, local infrastructure, government programs and availability of labor. For individual fields, cash crop selection depends on soil type, irrigation capacity and the species of weeds, soilborne diseases and nematodes in the field. Crop price, production cost and potential net income are primary considerations in crop selection.
Even though most of the soils in the southern Coastal Plain have a low water-holding capacity, farmers in this region widely grow cotton, peanuts and soybeans without irrigation. These crops, along with tobacco, produce yield over a longer time, as compared to corn. This makes them a lower risk for substantial yield loss due to short-term drought. The region’s climate is also favorable, because a greater percentage of the yield is produced during August and September, when evapotranspiration is lower and rainfall more closely matches evapotranspiration.
Many different crop rotations are used in these MLRAs. Because of the long growing season, growing two crops in the same year (double-cropping) is common. For example, about half of the soybean acreage in South Carolina is planted immediately after winter-wheat harvest. When winter cash crops are not grown, cover crops are often planted for soil protection and improvement.
Rotations are often used for pest management. To control pod disease in peanuts, maintain a minimum three-year rotation, with non-legume crops grown in two of the years. Rotations with cotton and corn are common in a peanut crop rotation. Several species of nematodes infest the soils of the Southern Coastal Plain and Atlantic Coast Flatwoods. Rotations that include non-susceptible crops can be an economically effective management option (Chapter 12).
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