Arable farming refers to the cultivation of crops, as opposed to raising livestock. Some of the largest crop farms are found in Canada and the Midwest of the United States. There are certain characteristics that distinguish arable farming from other forms of agriculture, such as the size of the farm, the type and diversity of the crops, and the tools used to harvest them.
Size of Farms
Crop farms tend to cover more land than livestock farming, as the profit received depends entirely on what can be harvested from the field. Many crop farms, particularly in the Midwest of the United States, tend to be hundreds to thousands of acres large, with individual fields reaching 50 acres or more. The size of both arable farms and their fields tend to be smaller in the Northeast United States, since there is less contiguous land that can be cultivated.
Many arable farms practice monoculture, or only growing one or two crops. This is because it specializes in a specific crop in order to become more productive. The crops grown varies by the region of the world. Sugar cane and bananas are more likely to be grown in the Caribbean, while corn, soybeans, and alfalfa are more commonly harvested in Nebraska. Unlike livestock farms, all of the crops grown in arable farming are sold.
Since arable farming includes extensive acres, advanced forms of machinery are necessary to plant and harvest the product. Depending on the crop, it may include plows, cultivators, sprayers, choppers, or other types of equipment. This is different than civic agriculture, which is generally much smaller in scale and can involve picking and planting crops by hand to be sold locally. In arable farming, large areas of land are planted and harvested at one time.
Another distinguishing feature of arable farming is that everything that is grown is sold at market prices. In most cases, arable farmers can not set their own price for their goods, but instead are dependent on market prices. In some cases, such as dry shelled corn, the farmer may be able to hold onto his harvested crop until there is a more opportune time to sell it; with more perishable crops, this is not possible.