Can You Answer These Agriculture Questions a Farmer Should Know?

By: Bambi Turner

What crop produces the most cash for American farmers?

When it comes to American agriculture, corn is king. It represents around $46 billion in annual sales for U.S. farmers, according to the USDA. When combined, corn and soybean sales together represent 43 percent of all income derived from crops.

Which of these units is the most common way to measure the size of a farm or ranch in the U.S.?

Most agricultural land in the U.S. is measured in acres. One acre is equal to 4,840 square yards or 43,560 square feet. This type of sizing information is useful for farmers trying to calculate how much livestock or planting their land can support -- and how many hands are needed to tend it.

Which type of livestock produces the most money for U.S. farmers?

Cattle is king when it comes to cash receipts from livestock sales. In fact, cattle represents 38 percent of all livestock sales for American farmers, according to the USDA. Poultry is the next most valuable, followed by dairy cows and then hogs.

What does a wise farmer do with a supply of dent corn?

Believe it or not, only around 1 percent of all U.S. corn is sweet corn -- the kind you can eat. The rest is called dent corn thanks to its characteristic dented kernels, and can be used as animal feed or in biofuel production.

Which of these pH ranges is ideal for most crops?

The acidity of soil, measured by its pH value, has a significant influence on whether crops will crow in that area or not. Levels under 7.0 are considered acidic, while values over 7.0 are seen as alkaline. A pH level between 6.0 and 7.5 is ideal for many common crops, according to the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

How long does a chicken egg have to incubate before it will hatch?

It takes about 21 days for a chicken egg to hatch, while a turkey egg requires 28 days. This period is known as incubation, and farmers often have to work hard to keep temperature and moisture levels at the proper level to keep eggs viable during this time.

Which of these is an agricultural term related to the practice of breeding and caring for livestock?

It might not sound like a scientific term, but husbandry has plenty of science behind it. This practice involves determining the best ways to breed, raise and care for livestock like cattle and goats. Many farmers are experts in this field, either through experience or through extensive schooling.

Many crops are planted in rows for efficiency, but not all crops are row crops. What characteristic defines a true row crop?

In agriculture, row crops are those that are not only planted in rows, but planted in wide enough rows that they can be harvested mechanically using a tractor or other major equipment. Common row crops include potatoes, soybeans, corn and sugar beets.

Which of these is among the most common breeds for producing beef in the U.S.?

Black Angus beef, which comes from the Angus cattle breed, is heavily marketed and available throughout the U.S. Holsteins, Guernsey and Jersey breeds are primarily dairy cows, and are not typically raised for beef production.

Which of these ratings is used on milk that is designed for drinking in the U.S.?

The USDA rates dairy based on grades. Grade A milk is designed for drinking, while Grade B milk can be used to make cheese, ice cream or other packaged foods.

How many eggs does a typical hen lay each week?

Most hens lay around one egg a day -- or every 26 hours to be precise. They generally have a laying life of 3 to 4 years before all egg production stops and the hen is ready to retire.

Which of these farm products is often inspected using a simple technique called candling?

A lot can go wrong between the time a chicken lays an egg and the time that egg makes it to a store shelf. Candling is a process where a bright light is shone over the eggs before they are sold, allowing the farmer to spot any problems -- like eggs that have gone bad for some reason.

Which of these crops is typically a perennial rather than an annual?

Annual crops must be replanted each year, as opposed to perennials, which reseed themselves year after year. Most veggies and grains are annuals, while many nuts and fruit -- including apples -- are perennials.

Why are farmers primarily so interested in data regarding animal units?

Livestock spends a lot of time foraging each day, so it's critical that farmers provide enough grazing land to meet the needs of the animals. Animal units are rough estimates of the amount of forage needed for a 1,000-pound cow, who will need 26 pounds of forage a day, on average.

Which of these would a farmer describe as a heifer?

A heifer by definition is a young female cow -- generally under 3 years old -- who hasn't yet birthed a cow. Once she reaches maturity, she is no longer a heifer and is simply known as a cow.

What is a farmer's primary goal when he or she plants cover crops?

Cover crops are any plantings designed primarily for soil stabilization. This could mean planting grass or other crops to prevent erosion, or to prevent soil leaching over the season.

Which of these terms is only used to describe a female pig?

Pigs are big business in American agriculture, sold to make bacon, chops and other meat products. A sow is a mature female pig, while a boar is a mature male. The term swine can be used for either gender, while a piglet is a younger member of the species which hasn't yet reached maturity.

Which of these crops is the most lucrative for farmers looking to cash in?

Saffron comes from the stigmas of the crocus flower. It takes 50,000 flowers to produce a single pound of this spice -- which sells for between $5,000 and $10,000. Farmers who live in areas with mild winters need only about a quarter acre of land to produce one pound of saffron.

What name is given to a chicken that is around 10 weeks of age?

Some chickens are raised simply for meat production rather than for egg production. The term broiler describes a young chicken, generally aged between 7 and 14 weeks and weighing 8 to 12 pounds.

Which of these measurements is most commonly used to measure grain?

Most U.S. crops are measured in bushels, where 1 bushel equals 1 cubic foot, or the equivalent of 8 gallons of liquid. There are around 32 pounds of oats or 56 pounds of corn per bushel.

Which of these critters are you most likely to find in an apiary?

Bees are big business, not only for the honey and wax they produce, but also for their contributions to pollination. Some farms are specialized apiaries with hundreds of hives, while other simply keep a few hives around to produce fresh honey.

Which of these terms describes alternating what you grow on a piece of land each year to maintain the soil?

Crop rotation is a technique that has been practiced for centuries. It involves planting different crops on a piece of land each season to avoid soil depletion and to maintain the parcel of land for future uses.

What is an alley crop?

Alley cropping is a practice that is particular popular in agroforestry -- or tree farming. By planting crops in between rows of trees as they mature, farmers can make extra income and take full advantage of every inch of land.

When a farmer talks about drilling, what is he discussing?

Drilling is the process of digging a hole, planting a seed then covering the seed with soil. This is often accomplished using a seed drill attachment on a tractor, but can also be done by hand.

What are you raising if you operate an ovine farm?

Ovine means related to sheep, so ovine farmers are essentially raising these woolly critters. Sheep are valuable not only for their soft wool, but also for their meat.

Which of these is designed to restrain livestock so they don't injure either a farmer or themselves?

Livestock like cattle require a lot of care. A head gate is a device that holds the animal just behind its head during vet visits, castration, tagging or other tasks. A similar device known as a squeeze chute can also be used to restrain animals on a farm.

What did a farmer sell if he is sending money to the Checkoff program?

Checkoff is a program managed by the Cattlemen's Beef Board. Members send the Checkoff program one dollar for every head of cattle sold, and this money is used to market beef. This program is responsible for the slogan "Beef -- It's what's for dinner."

Which of these is required to compose a complete fertilizer?

Many substances can be used to fertilize soil, from manure to compost or commercial chemicals. A complete fertilizer provides nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, which are the three macronutrients needed to fertilize soil.

What is the primary job of a herbicide?

A herbicide is designed to keep weeds at bay. Pesticides are similar chemicals designed to kill bugs and other agricultural pests.

Which of these is considered a commodity crop?

Commodity crops are those that are traded on the international market, and include things like oats, wheat, rice and corn. Specialty crops include things like fruit, nuts and vegetables.

How many cows can you sustain each year on 2 acres of foragable land?

Cattle require a lot of land for foraging -- 1.5 to 2 acres per cow per year, according to the USDA. That means a 10-acre farm can sustain only about 5 cows.

What term do farmers use to describe land that has intentionally been left unplanted for a season or more?

Planting crops on the same plot of land every year can strip the soil of nutrients. Leaving it fallow, or unplanted, for a period can keep the soil sustainable, kill weeds and help to conserve moisture.

What part of a cow does the USDA look at when giving beef a rating?

The USDA measures marbling between the 12th and 13th ribs on a cow when giving the beef a grade. This grade can range from top-of-the-line Prime to lower quality Choice or Select.

Which of these terms is typically used for produce that is not certified organic?

Organic produce is grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Crops grown using more classic methods and tools are labeled conventional.

What percent of American farms bring in less than $10,000 in farming income each year?

Small farms are the norm in the U.S., and 50 percent of all farms bring in less than $10,000 from farm income each year. Despite that, American farming families have a median income of around $75,000 each year, indicating that most farmers also have a job outside of working the farm.

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About This Quiz

Do you know the difference between a heifer and a broiler? Know how much space you need to raise a herd of beef cattle, or how many eggs you can expect a chicken to lay in her lifetime? Think you can keep crops thriving and returning year after year? If you consider yourself an agriculture expert, prove your farming IQ with this quiz! It's oh-so-easy to romanticize the idea of a career in agriculture -- watching a newborn calf take her first wobbly steps, walking proudly between rows of soaring corn or wheat, and pulling berries fresh off the vine for a snack. While these pleasures of farm life are certainly possible to experience, it's important to also understand the hard work involved in raising livestock, caring for the land and getting your product from the farm to the hands of buyers. It requires plenty of early mornings and late nights, as well as a staggering amount of physical labor and the commitment to get up and keep the wheels turning day after day. 

Yet for those willing to put in the work, this career pays dividends beyond money. Sure, you can make a solid living, but there's also the pride you'll get from producing crops or meat with your own hands. There's an endless supply of fresh air, plenty of time spent in the great outdoors and a freedom you'll never find sitting in a cubicle. Think a career in agriculture is right for you? Take our quiz to test your basic knowledge of this field.

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