Farming: Crops on the Farm
Arable farming is the most productive way of using fertile land.
In terms of yield and food value, crops produce 5 or even 10 times as much per acre as animals, so it is little wonder that most fertile, readily ploughed land is used today for cropping. We live in an age of specialisation, rather than mixed farming, and as a result huge acreages of land are devoted to arable farming.
Foremost among these extensive crops are the grains, especially wheat and barley, with smaller amounts of rye and oats. Oil seed rape is grown in a similar way, especially on calcareous soils, and for all these crops mechanisation is almost total, from seeding right through to harvest.
In some areas, vegetable growing is dominant, especially in East Anglia and Lincolnshire, in the Vale of Evesham, and around main urban centres. Unlike much of the grain that we grow, almost all the vegetables are for human consumption, so quality is paramount. Even so, the size of fields has enlarged, and it is a common sight to see huge fields of cauliflowers, potatoes, turnips, or even lettuces. Many crops go directly for processing in freezing or canning factories, and mechanisation has become the norm for such products. A few places support the cultivation of small-scale specialist crops such as asparagus, while crops like tomatoes and cucumbers are grown indoors at very high densities with a great input of money and labour.
Competition from abroad, especially within the EEC, has changed the pattern of our fruit-growing industries, though the slower growth rates and high initial costs of fruit trees mean that change is inevitably slow. The traditional fruit-growing areas of Kent, Hereford and Worcester, Devon’ and elsewhere still exist, but new varieties and new ways of marketing — such as ‘pick-your-own’ or on-site processing plants — are becoming more popular.
Despite a gradual trend towards uniformity, the incredible diversity of natural conditions in Britain has ensured that a very wide range of crops are still grown.