Cash crops became popular in agricultural communities for the only sole purpose of producing additional income. Several cash crops have become high-yielding farmers’ favorites, like wheat, rice, corn, soybeans, etc. Sweet corn is regarded as one of the leading cash crops produced anywhere globally.
Suppose you are a farmer looking to improve your corn crop yield. You need to ensure that you adhere to the different best practices of the production process—for instance, using seed treatments for pests and planting crops on time, at the proper depth, in a well-prepared seedbed, etc. This will help you get the best deals from food companies and other wholesale buyers who are always looking for crop yield quality.
What are Cash Crops?
Cash crops are an essential feature of the agricultural domain and have been for centuries. Cash crop is defined as any grain, fruit, legume, or other plant crop grown not for consumption by the farmers.
They are grown specifically to be sold for profit. Today, most farmers in the west grow at least one cash crop, meaning that they can profit from their agricultural endeavors. Some of the examples of cash crops grown in the United States today include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Sugar cane
- Soybeans and oil-producing plants
There is no set type of crop that matches the description. Any crop can be a cash crop. A cash crop is not grown for subsistence and is produced in significant quantities that the farmer and his family can consume independently. The most common types are cotton, tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, etc.
History of Cash Crops
The history of cash crops is linked to agriculture and the story of human progress over the last ten thousand years.
During the 17th century, those farmers who lived near the water were growing cash crops, but these crops spread across the states with the growing technology and transportation. These crops have given a new shape to the agricultural industry at present.
On the other hand, parties typically buy these crops separately from a farm. You can also grow these crops at your own home to earn an extra source of income.
The First Cash Crops
When the farmers first developed agriculture in river valleys around 10000 thousand years ago, it was something that allowed them to supplement a hunter-gatherer diet and settle in one place. It is assumed that the farmers first developed agriculture to grow grains such as barley which would later be fermented to create alcohol, which was often safer to drink than water.
The farmers realized that they could produce more crops than they would be able to eat. This led to the formation of the first stratified societies in which some people had access to surplus food while others did not. This led to the creation of a wealth disparity. The ability of humans to develop cities and even nations are thought to be directly connected to the development of farming in general and cash crops in particular.
Colonial Cash Crops
America’s colonial history has been directly linked to cash crops and agriculture. The transatlantic slave trade used enslaved individuals as labor in a cash crop agricultural system. Sugarcane and tobacco crop grown on plantations.
The economic model that colonial America relied upon was producing these crops and then selling them back to the European and growing American markets.
Contemporary Cash Crops
While the concept of these crops dates back thousands of years, the term ‘cash crop’ itself did not enter the English language with its current meaning until 1868. Why did many farmers grow these crops in the past compared to today?
Growing cash crops have never changed: they are the best way to profit from agricultural work. Cash crops are still an essential part of today’s worldwide trade and food consumption. Any plant-based food that one might buy from a supermarket and many other products like clothing results from farmers planting and harvesting cash crops.
Why are Cash Crops Important?
In developing countries, the cultivation of cash crops is pivotal in garnering economic sustainability for the farmers and food security for society.
- Farmers: Cash crop farming helps generate greater profits for farmers, and it improves their standard of living. It also helps create more job opportunities in the agricultural and agro-based sectors, boosting the overall economy. This provides stimulus for agrarian innovation, increasing agricultural investment, and rural development capital.
- Food security: With the expansion in the human population, the food demand will grow exponentially. Consequently, it becomes crucial to find ways to match that demand. Since farming of cash crops focuses on maximizing yields and produce quality, it is an essential step towards attaining global food security.
- Environment: The cash crop farming’s future is based on sustainable agricultural intensification, which aims to combine increased agrarian production with the protection of the environment. This involves soil fertility preservation, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services, by using techniques such as micro-dosing fertilizers, genetic crop improvements, inter-cropping, etc. In order to achieve long-term food security, there is no other option but to lower the environmental footprint.
Potential Risks of Farming Cash Crops
As the investment in cash crop farming is enormous, it comes with inevitable risks that can affect its marketability.
- Soil degradation affects both the quality and quantity of produce.
- Lack of uniformity in quality.
- Price variability in different markets.
- Harvest failures due to droughts or pests.
- Loss of market access due to the events like pandemics. With countries under lock-down and restrictions on interstate transport, farmers should stay away from such crops as it will not be possible to transport them to their desired markets in due time.
Such risks can have severe repercussions for the food security status of these crops and the agricultural economy. Proper storage of these crops and diversification of cropping patterns can help to mitigate some of these risks.
Cash Crops provide employment to people
These crop is important for a country because it can be a source of earning foreign exchange and provide raw materials for other sectors of the economy and generate employment to large number of people.
Advantages of Cash Crop Farming
- This farming is considered an accurate technique that has produced high yields.
- It earns revenue for the government from the Rabi crops and Kharif crops.
- Farming of these crops are profitable to the farmers and serves as an additional source of their sustenance.
- Wherever crops can be processed, it gives employment. It also promote economic diversification.
Disadvantages of Cash Crop Farming
- The continuous use of mono-cropping leads to plant soil degradation or a decline in soil quality. This further leads to the growth of pests and disease-causing pathogens. This could lead to mass starvation due to the extensive destruction of a particular crop.
- Cash crop farming can prove beneficial only to farmers with food security and access to other necessary inputs and income, whereas small farmers may face constraints.
- Monocropping is followed wherein a single crop is grown year after year on the same land. Due to this, there may be a limited production of certain food crops.
Cash Crop versus Subsistence Farming
- Subsistence farming differs from cash crop farming. Such crop farming is mainly for profit-making and direct selling.
- In subsistence farming, the farmers produce just enough crops for consumption by themselves and their families, thus providing them with their basic needs.
- Farming of these crops involves monocropping, whereas subsistence farming involves the multiple cropping or mixed cropping practice.
- This farming is common in developed countries, whereas subsistence farming is relatively less common.
- In farming these crops, the management and planning need to be done carefully with skill. This will result in high production at an affordable price to the customers, pays for production, and helps in profit generation. However, this is not the case with subsistence farming.
Selecting Type of Cash Crop Plants
- A thorough inspection of climate, biotic factor, and topographic features are important. The biotic factor refers to living organisms including ruminant animals, insects, and other pests, disease pathogens, and weeds.
- The crop and the variety to be grown should be selected based on their adaptability to the prevailing conditions on the farm. You can get information from the neighboring farmers who are already in the same crop farming.
- In selecting the profitable crop plants to grow, you must consider the marketability and financial viability of that particular plant. Simply the crop to be selected must be high yielding.
- You must know the techno-commercial aspect of the crop that you are selecting for your farm.
- You will need to decide on the farming method. Whether you will go for purely crop farming or integrated with livestock animals.
- Security is another aspect, you must consider carefully. You will need to protect the crop from theft.
Thus, subsistence farming and cash crop farming differ in the primary purpose. Subsistence farming is meant to serve the farmers, their families, and livestock. These crops in farming is meant for earning profits.
Promoting the growth of these crops can help boost the economy, but it does discourage growing crops meant for domestic consumption. Cash crop farming is beneficial for those who have large farms and can afford expensive equipment and fertilizers. However, it is not helpful for farmers with small plots.