What Is a Wheat Crop?

Christian Petersen

A wheat crop is a quantity of usable, harvested, mature wheat, which is the grain that is often used to make flour for bread. The term can apply to a variety of quantities of wheat, depending on the context in which it is used, from a single field to the to an entire farm or even the entire world's annual output. Estimates of wheat crops and their yields influence economies and food supplies all over the world as wheat is one of the top agricultural products in the world in terms of tons produced annually.

Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).
Wheat ears along with a small pile of wheat kernels (also known as wheat berries).

As the world's population grows, the cultivation of wheat becomes more important, and the world's wheat crop is the source of a large part of the world's food supply. A good wheat crop ensures an adequate supply of this important grain for feeding livestock and humans alike. The relative abundance or lack of the annual wheat crop affects the price for wheat, which fluctuates almost daily as crops from various regions of the world are harvested over the course of the year.

Wheat bran.
Wheat bran.

The quality of a wheat crop is influenced by a number of factors, some of which are uncontrollable by humans. Weather patterns, including temperatures and rainfall, can greatly influence wheat crop yields and while irrigation can mitigate some of the negative effects of drought, it is not an option for many wheat farmers who must rely on nature to provide expected rainfall. Insect pests, soil quality, and disease can all influence wheat crop yields as well. Modern farming methods use pesticides, disease resistant varieties of wheat, and fertilizers to help maximize the yield.

Wheat is often used to make flour.
Wheat is often used to make flour.

Methods for harvesting a wheat crop vary greatly depending on the technology level available to the farmer. In primitive areas, wheat crops may still be harvested using methods that are centuries old, with the stalks cut and gathered into bundles by hand and piled on a cart drawn by a draft animal. On enormous industrial farms, huge machines called combines can harvest hundreds of acres of wheat per day, and many of these machines also process the wheat to remove the usable grain from the stalk, ejecting the waste material or reserving it for other uses such as livestock feed.

Wheat farmers in the U.S. also export their wheat crops to other countries.
Wheat farmers in the U.S. also export their wheat crops to other countries.
Pesticides can protect plants from bug infestation, allowing for greater amounts of usable crops.
Pesticides can protect plants from bug infestation, allowing for greater amounts of usable crops.

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