AGRO 3503, Cereal Crops, Section I-1. Introductory Information.


I. History of cereal crops.


Cereal crops were the first cultivated plant species by humans some 10,000 12,000 years ago. Earliest evidence reveals wild types of wheat and barley were intentionally planted, harvested and seed saved for later planting in the Persian Gulf region. This revolutionized the development of human civilizations and still does today. Great civilizations were established due to the cultivation of cereal crops such as wheat and barley in Babylon, Egypt; rice in China; wheat, barley and oats in the Greek and Roman empires; and corn cultivation fueled the great civilizations of the Aztecs, Mayas and Incas.


Several attributes of cereal crops allow for population stabilization. Cereal crops are a very diverse plant group and adaptable to a wide range of conditions. Cereal crops can be grown from the sub-artic to equator, arid to humid, and low to high elevations. Cereals are easy to grow and harvest. Nutritionally, cereal crops are high in carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins and contain essential amino acids in our diets, such as lysine. Whole grain cereals come closer to being an adequate human diet than any other crop and are an important solution to solving world hunger.


Cereal crops are relatively easy to grow and harvest with minimal tools. One important attribute to cereals is their ability to be stored for extremely long periods, several years in fact, without losing any nutritional qualities. This allows for societies to survive periods of drought, flood, war and pestilence. In the Bible, the story of Joseph tells of large storage pits being constructed for the storage of cereal grains for a seven year drought. The stored grain was bartered for gold and other valuables by hungry people and led to the reunion of Joseph with his family. Cereal crops are valuable commodities which are traded internationally and responsible for the wealth of many communities in America. Rice, wheat, corn and grain sorghum are principle sources of money into the economies of many communities in Arkansas.


For more information of the history and dietary role of cereal crops, refer to the article by LOREN CORDAIN.