Scope of the online library

The OpenFields content has now been migrated to its successor website, Food and Farming Futures

Arable and Industrial Crops

The library holds resources about crops for fuel, food, feed and fibre. This is often termed agronomy, the science and technology of arable and industrial crops.

  • Cereal crops varieties, cultivation, diseases and post-harvest management.

    The library holds resources about cereal crops - their varieties, cultivation, diseases and post-harvest management. Cereals, grains or cereal grains, are grasses, (being members of the monocot families Poaceae or Gramineae), and are cultivated for the edible components of their fruit seeds, i.e. the endocarp, germ and bran.

    Cereal grains provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop; they are therefore staple crops. In their natural form (i.e. as whole grain), they are a rich dietary source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats and oils, and protein. As all cereals are annual plants, one planting yields one harvest, and although each individual species has its own peculiarities, the cultivation of all cereal crops follows an essentially similar pattern.

  • Industrial crops crops for energy, fibre and other industrial uses

    The library holds resources about industrial crops, which are those grown to produce goods to be used in the production sector, (rather than food for consumption,) or whose biomass is used to produce energy. Such goods typically include oil, gum and resins, sweeteners, beverages, food additives, fibre, medicine and pharmaceutical product ingredients. Energy may be derived directly from the crop biomass or from an energy-rich derivative.

  • Oilseeds cultivation, canopy management, harvest methods, diseases and post-harvest management

    The library holds resources about oilseed crops, which are those grown primarily for the oil contained in the seeds. Typical sources of edible seed oils are soybeans, sunflowers, and rapeseed, whilst seed oils from flax (linseed) and castor beans are used for industrial purposes. Edible vegetable oils are used as directly as salad or cooking oils, or may be solidified (by the process of 'hydrogenation') to make margarine and shortening. These products often supplement or replace animal products such as butter and lard.

    Industrial applications are based on the properties of particular fatty-acid components of these oils. Flaxseed oil, rich in linolenic acid, (an unsaturated fatty acid,) is a drying oil used in protective coatings (e.g. in paints and varnishes). Vegetable oils are used in putty, printing inks, erasers, coating or core oils, greases, plastics, etc.

    The residue remaining after the oil has been extracted from oilseeds is an important source of nutrients for livestock. Oilseed meals from soybeans, peanuts, rapeseed and flaxseed are rich in protein; mixed with other ingredients (e.g., cereal grains,) they provide nutritionally balanced animal feeds.

  • Peas and beans field production, varieties, diseases, harvest methods and post-harvest management.

    The library holds resources about peas, beans and lentils, which are also known as legumes, or pulses. They are all the seeds of plants belonging to the Pea family, Leguminosae, which gets its name from the characteristic pod or legume that protects the seeds while they are forming and ripening.

    With approximately 13,000 species, the family Leguminosae is the second largest in the plant kingdom and it is very important economically. Nutritionally, the seeds are high in protein, and the plants support nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots.

  • Potatoes - varieties, diseases and post-harvest management.

    The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family.

    Potatoes are the world's fourth largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. They yield abundantly with little effort, adapting readily to diverse climates so long as the climate is cool and moist enough for the plants to gather sufficient water from the soil to form the starchy tubers.

    The long-term storage of potatoes requires specialised care in cold warehouses, as they are vulnerable to moulds that feed on the stored tubers.

  • Sugar beet fodder crop, sugar production, diseases and post-harvest management.

    Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris, a member of the Chenopodiaceae family,) is a hardy biennial root crop containing a high concentration of sucrose. It is grown commercially for sugar production, and is harvested after the first growing season.

    In the UK, beet harvesting is now entirely mechanical. The beet harvester lifts the root, and removes excess soil from the root in a single pass over the field. Beets left for later delivery are formed into clamps, in which straw bales are used to shield the beets from the weather. Provided the clamp is well built with the right amount of ventilation, the beets do not significantly deteriorate. Beets that freeze and then defrost produce complex carbohydrates that cause severe production problems in the factory.

  • Pest and disease control herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, organic methods.

    The library contains resources about crop protection measures, plant disease identification, control methods, and field monitoring techniques. Measures that balance the economic production of crops with the needs of a sustainable environment are often described as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Crop protection strategies can draw upon a range of practices for both agro-chemical and biological control of pests and diseases.

  • Organic crop management rotation, fertility building, beneficial predators

    The basis of organic crop production is a healthy, biologically active soil, with good organic matter reserves, that can supply nutrients for the production of grass, crops and vegetables. This involves providing the soil with materials that can be broken down by soil microorganisms to release crop nutrients. In practice this involves developing cropping, grazing and silage rotations that do not over-exploit soil nutrient reserves, plus the managed use of manures, thus maintaining soil fertility.

  • Nutrition and fertiliser inorganic and organic fertilisers, fertility building.

    Fertilisers are plant nutrient substances given to improve plant growth rates and to boost the yields of crops. However, feeding plants is not always necessary. Soils vary in their nutrient levels. Sandy soils and chalky soils, for example, tend to be lower in nutrients than clay or loam soils. Soils also vary in the availability of nutrients. Soils that are dry, waterlogged, very acid or very alkaline may not allow plants to access existing nutrients. Correcting these factors (where possible) may be more effective than giving fertiliser, and in fact may be necessary for fertilisers to be effective.

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About this National Initiative

The OpenFields Library is a free online library containing items of interest to practitioners and researchers in the agricultural and landbased industries. It is now a component part of Food and Farming Futures.