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.
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.).
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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.
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
Cowpea ——————- Vignaunguiculata
Pigeon pea ——————- Cajanuscajan
Oil palm ——————- Elaeisguineensis
Niger seeds ——————- Guizotiaabyssinica
Castor ——————- Ricinuscommunis
Bambara groundnut ——————- Voandzeiasubterranean
Shea butter ——————- Butyrospermum paradoxum
White guinea yam ——————– Dioscorearotundata
Yellow guinea yam ——————- Dioscoreacayenensis
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:
|Common bean||———||Phaseolus vulgaris|
|Roots and tubers|
Sesame ——— Sesamumindicum
Cotton ——— GossypiumbarbadenseGossypiumhirsutum
Sisal ——— Agavesisalana
Sugar cane ——— Saccharumofficinarum
Tobacco ——— Nicotianatobaccum
Tea ——— Camelliasinensi
Cocoa ——— Theobromacacoa
Rubber ——— Heveabraziliensis
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