In addition to the climate and soil resources for crop production, many socio-economic factors influence which crops farmers chose to cultivate, including production costs, domestic and international market demand; and government policies that subsidize agricultural producers, and reduce trade barriers or export costs. As discussed in Module 3, the protein, energy, fat, vitamins and micro-nutrients of crops for human nutrition are one predictor of the market value of a crop. However some food crops are highly-valued and cultivated for their cultural and culinary qualities, such as flavor (ex. chilies, vanilla, coffee, wine grapes); and their high economic value often reflects high production and processing costs, as well as market demand for their unique culinary and cultural properties.
Some crops are cultivated for non-human food uses such as livestock feed, biofuel, fiber, industrial oil and starch, and medicinal uses. Crop processing often creates by-products that can be used for other purposes, adding market value. For example, when oil is extracted from oilseeds such as soybean, the soybean meal by-product is high in protein and sold for livestock feed or added to human food products. And for crops that are cultivated on many acres often with support from government policies, the consistent, abundant supply of these commodity crops has contributed to the development of multiple processing technologies, uses, and markets. To better understand factors that contribute to the production of commodity crops, we will now examine two case studies of corn and sugarcane.
Understanding Agricultural Commodities: Two Agricultural Crops Case Studies
In the following two agricultural crop case studies, you will have the opportunity to apply your understanding of crop plant life cycles, classification systems, and crop adaption to climatic conditions to understand how plant ecological features and human socioeconomic factors influence which crops are some of the major crops produced in the world.