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7: Crops

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    Agroecosystems are coupled Human-Nature Systems that are shaped by ecological and human socioeconomic factors.

    Agricultural practices that humans use are determined by multiple agroecological factors including climate, soil, native organisms, and human socioeconomic factors. Usually, climate and soil resources are the most significant natural factors that determine the crops and livestock that humans produce. Although in some cases, to overcome climate and soil limitations, humans alter the environment with technology (ex. irrigation or greenhouses) to expand the range of food and fiber crops that they can produce. In this module, we will explore how climate and soil influence crop plant selection; crop plant characteristics and classifications; and some socioeconomic factors that influence the crops that humans chose to grow.


    • Describe key features of categories of crop plants and how they are adapted to environmental and ecological factors.
    • Explain how soil and climatic features determine what crops can be produced in a location, and how humans may alter an environment for crop production.
    • Classify environments as high or low resource environments and interpret how both environmental and socio-economic factors contribute to crop plant selection (coupled human-nature systems); and the pros and cons of the cultivation of various crop types.

    Learning Objectives

    After completing this module, students will be able to:

    • Define annual and perennial crops and list some examples of annual and perennial crops.
    • Distinguish and explain why annual or perennial crops are cultivated in high resource or resource-limited environments.
    • Explain some ways that farmers alter the environment to produce annual or perennial crops.
    • Name some major crop plant families with some example crops.
    • Explain the nutrient significance of legumes.
    • Describe key plant physiological processes and how climate change may influence crop plant growth and yield.
    • Classify major crop plants into types including plant families, temperature adaptation, and photosynthetic pathways.
    • Formulate an explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of producing annual and perennial crops.
    • Interpret what environmental, ecological, and socioeconomic factors influence what crops farmers produce.
    • Distinguish some environmental, ecological and socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages of producing types of crops.



    Module 6 Roadmap

    Detailed instructions for completing the Summative Assessment will be provided in each module.

    Module 6 Roadmap
    Action Assignment Location
    To Read
    1. Materials on the course website
    2. Virginia Cooperative Extension: The Organic Way - Plant Families
    3. Penn State Extension: Seasonal Classification of Vegetables
    4. Plant & Soil Sciences eLibrary: Transpiration: Water Movement through Plants
    5. National Climate Assessment Report: Introduction and Section 1 Increasing Impacts on Agriculture
    6. USDA: Background: Corn
    1. You are on the course website now.
    2. Online: The Organic Way - Plant Families
    3. Online: Seasonal Classification of Vegetables
    4. Online: Transpiration: Water Movement through Plants
    5. Online: Increasing Impacts on Agriculture
    6. Online: Background: Corn
    To Do
    1. Formative Assessment: NASS Geospatial Map Crop Scape Annual and Perennial Crop Analysis and Interpretation of Advantages and Disadvantages
    2. Summative Assessment: Top 15 World Food Commodities
    3. Take Module Quiz
    4. Turn in Capstone Project Stage 2 Assignment
    1. In course content: Formative Assessment; then submit in Canvas (as a discussion post)
    2. In course content: Summative Assessment; then take quiz in Canvas
    3. In Canvas
    4. In Canvas


    If you prefer to use email:

    If you have any questions, please send them through Canvas e-mail. We will check daily to respond. If your question is one that is relevant to the entire class, we may respond to the entire class rather than individually.

    If you prefer to use the discussion forums:

    If you have any questions, please post them to the discussion forum in Canvas. We will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.

    This page titled 7: Crops is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Heather Karsten & Steven Vanek (John A. Dutton: e-Education Institute) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.