Sunday, May 19, 2024
General Agriculture

Origin, Spread, and Historical Development of Crop Production

Crop production began at least nine thousand (9000) years ago when domestication of plants became essential to supplement natural supplies in certain localities.

Early man lived on wild game, leaves, roots, seeds, berries and fruits. As the population increased, the food supply was not always sufficiently stable or plentiful to supply his needs. This probably led to the practice of crop production.

The art of crop production is older than civilization, and its essential features have remained almost unchanged since the dawn of history. These features are:

Gathering and preservation of seeds of the desired crop plants.

Destroying other kinds of vegetation growing on the land.

Stirring the soil to form a seedbed.

Planting when the season and weather are right as shown by past experience.

Destroying weeds.

Protecting the crop from natural enemies, and

Gathering, processing and storing the product.

The early husbandman cultivated a limited number of crops, the cereals being the first to be grown in most parts of the world. The same crop was often produced continuously on a field until low yields necessitated a shift to new land.

A modification of this practice was the introduction of bare fallow every two or three years. The primitive husband man removed by hand the destructive insects in his fields and appeased the gods or practiced mystic rites to drive away the evil spirits he believed to be the cause of plant diseases.

With advancing civilization, materials such as sulphur, brine, ashes, white-wash, soap and vinegar were applied to plants to suppress diseases or insects attack.

Cultivated plants are products of human achievement and discovery which has enable man to provide his food and fiber needs with progressively less labour.

The first successful domestication of plants by man has recently been suggested to have occurred in Thailand in Neolithic times.

The value of lime, marl, manures, and green manures for the maintenance of soil productivity was recognized 2000 years ago. Books on agriculture written by the Romans about the 1st century A.D. describe the growing of common crops including wheat, barley, clover, and alfalfa by procedures very similar to those in use today except that more of the work was done with hand and the implements then used were crude.

The old art of crop production still predominates in farm practice throughout the world. Plant pathologists and entomologists have found ways to control plant diseases and insect pests more effectively.

Chemists and agronomists have found supplements for manure and ashes formally used as fertilizers. Rotations perhaps are slightly improved. Many new crop hybrids and varieties (cultivars) have been developed. The control of weeds with herbicides was realized in the 20th century.

Improved cultural methods, doubtless, followed observations made by primitive farmers. They discovered that crops yield better where manure, ashes or broken limestone had been dropped, or where weeds were not allowed to grow, or where soil is darker, deep, or well watered or where one crop followed certain other crops.

Observations or empirical trials quickly revealed, roughly, the most favorable time, place, and manner of planting and cultivating various crops. These ideas were handed down through the generations.

Eventually, the exchange of ideas, observations, and experiences, through agricultural societies and rural papers and magazines, spread the knowledge of crops.

Origin of Cultivated Crops

All cultivated plants were domesticated from their wild species. However, the exact time and place of origin and the true ancestry of many crops are still as highly speculative as the origin of man.

Man has domesticated some crop species that met his needs before the dawn of recorded history.

Most of the domesticated crops were introduced into new areas far from their centres of origin by migrating human populations in prehistoric as well as in recorded times. As a result, both indigenous and introduced crops are grown everywhere in the world.

Centres of Origin of Cultivated Crops

The centres of origin of both agriculture and culture were in populated areas favoured by a more equitable climate.

Nicolai Ivanovic Vavilov (1926) concluded that a centre of origin was characterised by dominant alleles while towards the periphery of the centre, the frequency of recessive alleles increased and the genetic diversity decreased.

He reported the following centres of origin: China, India/Indo-Malayan, Central Asia, Near East, Mediterranean Sea coastal and adjacent regions, Ethiopia or Abyssinia, South Mexico and Central America, South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, etc.).

Read Also : Guide to Sowing and Planting Practices of Crops

Contribution of the Different Centres

The following are the important crops that originated in the different centres. Some crops may have two centres of origin, (primary and secondary centres of origin):

1. Chinese centre

China is one of the richest centres of crop origin contributing to many important crops such as Brassicacampestris and related species, Camelliasinenses, Colocasiaesculenta, Corchorussinensis, Glycinemax, Panicummiliaceum, Raphanussativus and Setariaitalica. It is secondary centre for Orizasativaspp. japonica, Zeamays and other crops.

2. Indo-Malayan Centre

This region is important for such crops such as Cocosnucifera, Colocasia esculenta, Dioscoria spp., wild Oryza spp.and Saccharumofficinalis.

Crop Production

3. Indian Centre

Important crops from this centre include;Oryzasativa,Phaseolusmungo, Piper spp., Saccharum sinensis, Vigna sinensis and Cucurbitasativa.

4. Central Asia Centre

Among the important crops of this centre include; Allium cepa, Daucuscarota, lathyrussativa,Spinaceaoleraceaand Viciafaba.

5. Near Eastern Centre

This is the centre of origin of Brassicaolearacea, HordeumVulgare,Lens esculanta, Medicago spp., Secale spp., Triticum spp., Vicia sativaand Vitis vinifera.

6. Mediterranean centre

Many field crops have been domesticated in this region; Avena spp., Betavulgaris, Brassicanapus, B.oleracea, Lathyrusspp., Oleaeuropaea, Raphanussativus, Trifoliumspp and Vitisvinifera.

7. Ethiopian or African Centre

Brassicajuncea, Ceibapentandra, Coffeaspp., Colaspp., Cucumisspp., Gossypiumspp., Hibiscusspp., Lablabpurpureaus, Oryzaspp., Pennisetum spp., Phoenix spp., Ricinus communis, Sesamum indicum, Setaria spp., Sorghum bicolor and Vigna unguiculata are all important crops of African centre of crops origin.

8. Central American and Mexican Centre

Few important crops were domesticated in this region;Agavespp.,Capsicum spp.,Gossypium spp.,Ipomoea batatas, Phaseolus spp. and Zea mays.

9. South American Centre

This centre accounts for most of the tuberous crops such as Solanumspp., Oxalis tuberose and Ullucus tuberous. Amaranthus spp., Arachishypogaea, Capsicumspp., Lycopersicumspp., Lupinusspp., Manihotesculenta, Nicotina spp., Phaseolus spp., Solanum spp. and Theobromwcacao all have their origin from this centre. This centre also serves as secondary centre of diversity of Zea mays.

10. Spread of Cultivated Crops

The spread of crops from their centre of origin to other parts of the world was either by natural means or by agency of man.

10a. Natural Dispersal of Crops

Coconuts may have floated across the Pacific Ocean from Asia to the western coast of Central America, and the capsules of sweet potatoes crossed the Pacific Ocean in the same way.

10b. Human Migrations

As people migrate, they take along with them cultivated plants to ensure a permanent food supply and support their culture.

11. Expansion of World Trade

With the expansion of world trade, crops indigenous to the Americans such as: maize, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes and cassava were spread to other parts of the world.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the development of agricultural enterprises in the tropics was stimulated by the demand from Europe for agricultural raw materials for use in industry. As a result of these developments, many crops spread from one area to the other.

For example: rubber from Brazil became popular in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and West Africa; American cotton became popular in the Old World and sugar cane became an economic crop of the new world.

12. International Agricultural Research Collaboration

This has included the exchange of seeds or germplasm between agricultural research institutions in different parts of the world in their programmes. Thus, encouraging crop transfers across the globe.

Indigenous Crops of Africa

The following are most important crops that are indigenous to Africa:


Bulrush millet ——————- Pennisetumtyphoides

Guinea corn ——————- Sorghumbicolor

Finger millet ——————- Eleusinecoracana

Rice ——————- Oryzaglaberrima

Hungary rice ——————- Digitariaexillis

Grain legumes

Cowpea ——————- Vignaunguiculata

Pigeon pea ——————- Cajanuscajan

Oil seeds

Oil palm ——————- Elaeisguineensis

Niger seeds ——————- Guizotiaabyssinica

Castor ——————- Ricinuscommunis

Bambara groundnut ——————- Voandzeiasubterranean

Shea butter ——————- Butyrospermum paradoxum


White guinea yam ——————– Dioscorearotundata

Yellow guinea yam ——————- Dioscoreacayenensis

Fibre Crops

Cotton ——————- Gossypiumherbaceum

Kenaf ——————- Hibiscuscannabinus

Bow-string hemp ——————- Sansevieriaspp.

Kapok ——————- Pentandravar.caribea


Coffee ——————- Coffeaarabica,Coffea liberica


Kolanuts Gbanja Kola ——————- Colanitida

Abata kola ——————- Colaacuminata


Water melon ——————- Citrulluslanatus

Crops Introduced into Africa

There are many crops widely grown in Africa that are introduced from other regions of the world. The most notable among them include the following:


Grain legumes
Common bean———Phaseolus vulgaris
Field pea———Pisumspp.
Roots and tubers
Water yam———Dioscoreaalata
Sweet potato———Ipomoeabatatas


Sesame ——— Sesamumindicum

Fiber crops

Cotton ——— GossypiumbarbadenseGossypiumhirsutum

Sisal ——— Agavesisalana

Sugar crops

Sugar cane ——— Saccharumofficinarum

Drug crops

Tobacco ——— Nicotianatobaccum

Beverage crops

Tea ——— Camelliasinensi

Cocoa ——— Theobromacacoa

Latex crops

Rubber ——— Heveabraziliensis

Read Also : Food Waste Complete Management Guide


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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