Contributed by Stacy Weinstein-Weiss, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru
My hometown of Peoria, IL is an oasis in the middle of cornfields.
It was corn, corn, corn for 100 miles until we reached the Chicago suburbs, with the occasional alfalfa or soybean field springing up. So what are the top ten types of crops produced in the U. S.?
Cultivated near the Yangtze River in China over 10,000 years ago, rice is a cereal grain that is the key staple in a large portion of the world’s diet. Rice production started in the U. S. in 1694 on Southern plantations. There are over 40,000 varieties of rice. The U. S. produces 11 million metric tons of rice annually.
Sorghum is native to Australia, New Zealand, and the Southwestern pacific. A grass, it is used primarily for food and fodder. It is a cereal crop and is also used in the production of alcoholic beverages and biofuels. Sorghum syrup, otherwise known as sorghum molasses) is used as a sweetener and is poured over biscuits and pancakes in the Southern U. S.
A tuber from the nightshade family, the potato originated in Peru between over 7,000 years ago. It was brought back to Europe by the Spanish after their conquest of the Inca and spread to become an important food staple. So dependent were they on the potato that when a blight killed off the potatoes during the Irish Potato Famine in 1845, over 1 million people died of starvation, triggering a large Irish emigration to the U. S.. Today, there are over 5,000 potato species worldwide.
7. Sugar cane
Native to Asia, sugar cane is a grass that is used to make sugar, molasses, rum, and ethanol. It can grow up to 19 feet high. Hawaii is the largest producer of sugar cane in the U. S., but it is also grown in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Next time you eat a cookie or a piece of candy, think of sugar cane!
6. Sugar beets
The tuber portion of the sugar beet is used primarily for sugar production. The U. S. produces 29 million metric tons of sugar beets a year, which are also used for rum and sugar beet syrup. It has also been used for de-icing bridges and roads since the syrup has a lower melting point than salt and is less corrosive.
Originating in the Fertile Crescent (which stretched from present-day Egypt to Iran), wheat is a cereal grain used to make flour, beer, biofuel, straw. Wheat was an enabling factor in the rise of the city-state at the dawn of civilization because it could be produced on a large scale and it could be stored for a long time.
Also known as Lucerne is some other parts of the world, alfalfa is in the pea family. Pollinated by bees, its primary use is as feed for dairy cows and other cattle. It is also consumed by humans and used as a dietary supplement since it is a good source of protein, calcium, the B vitamins, and vitamins C, E, D, and K. Alfalfa has been used in early Chinese and Indian medicine
3. Hay (not including Alfalfa)
Mainly used for animal fodder, hay is any sort of grass or legume that is cut and dried. The U. S. produces 70 million metric tons of hay annually. Hay is also decorative, often being used in harvest displays, and was used to make beds in the days of the Roman Empire.
A low-cost source of protein, soybeans are in a surprising number of products, from animal feed and tofu to soap, vodka, and cosmetics. The U. S. is the largest producer of soybeans in the world. Eighty percent of U. S. biodiesel production comes from soybeans.
Not surprisingly, corn is the biggest U. S. production crop by far. We produce over 410 million metric tons of corn a year. Corn is actually a grain called maize that was domesticated in what is now Central America during prehistoric times. There are hundreds of varieties available. Over 85% of the corn plated in the U. S. in genetically modified.