The Farming Quiz

By: John Miller
Estimated Completion Time
4 min
The Farming Quiz
Image: Bill Sykes/Cultura/Getty Images

About This Quiz

If you think of farming and imagine “American Gothic,” a famous paining of a dour farmer and his wife, you haven’t been exposed to the technology-heavy modern farm. These days, farms are digital masterpieces etched in the landscape, in which computer models analyze crop yields, specify fertilizer application and predict profits and losses. And at the end of the season, GPS and laser-guided combines harvest plants with amazing precision and speed. Do you think you know enough about these process to ace our farming quiz?

Modern farming is a year-round endeavor. In the winter, farmers figure out which parts of their fields need improvements in terms of erosion and nutrition. In the spring, when the soil warms, they prepare their fields for seeds, which themselves are often high-tech inventions with incredible gene alterations that make them hardier and more likely to produce high yields.

Once the nitrogen has settled and the tassels are long gone, it’s time for the harvest. This (often frantic) process means pulling crops from fields before winter snows turn the fields to muck.

Pull on your boots, snap on your coveralls, and get your hands dirty with this farming quiz now!


During which season would farmers be most likely to drill a field's soil?
winter
fall
spring
Many farmers drill the soil a bit to open the top layer. This makes it easier to plant new seeds, which are then placed at the optimimum depth for best possible growth.
summer

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How do farmers measure their land holdings?
acres
Square miles would be a useless term for farmers with irregular plots of land. Acres, on the other hand, is a universally understood unit of property holdings.
bushels
square miles
acorns

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It contributed to the Dust Bowl. Which term refers to topsoil being carried away by natural forces?
dehydration
degradation
torsion
erosion
Farmers take many measures, like terracing, to reduce erosion, which is frequently caused by water runoff and wind. Erosion can ruin fields and reduce a land's potential for crops.

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What does "GMO" stand for?
gene-spliced milo
growing mostly oats
glandular modifications for bovines
genetically modified organism
For many years, researchers have been tweaking the genes of plants to improve certain good traits to help them grow better and increase crop yields. But GMOs have gotten a bad rap in some quarters, as people worry that they may cause more harm than benefit.

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An "acid" soil refers to which aspect of this substance?
its smell
its texture
its pH level
You don't need your PhD in agronomy to know that "acid" refers to a soil's pH levels. Below 7.0, a soil is regarded as having an acid reaction.
its levels of calcium

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Why in the world would a farmer purchase large amounts of fungicide?
to increase corn growth
to reduce peanut plant size (in effect increasing ultimate yield)
to kill harmful fungus
Various types of fungi may attack large swaths of crops. But modern fungicides can help to keep these damaging organisms at bay.
to lay waste to mice populations

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Where would you be most likely to find a a "layer" on a working farm?
near the hog lot
outside the sheep barn
in the chicken coop
Not all chickens are great for egg production. Those that consistently produce eggs, though, are called layers.
in the middle of corn field

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What device helps move grain through a tube, like the ones used to fill grain transport trucks?
combine
incubator
jack
auger
Farmers use screw-like augers to move grain through tubes. Augers are simple but vital tools, and when they fail or become jammed, they may cause time-consuming work delays.

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A combine is a machine that pairs a harvester with what other device?
a three-story grain bin
a semi truck
thresher
Combines are incredibly useful for farmers. They combine threshers and harvesters, making the fall harvest much more efficient than in olden times.
cotton gin

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When farmers talk about "broilers," they're refering to what?
chickens
Broilers are young chickens. They can be either male or female, but they're always around 7 weeks old.
a type of corn
pork transport trucks
soybeans

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What's the best definition of subsistence farming?
growing food just for one's family
In many places of the world, farming isn't a job, it's a means for survival. Subsistence farming means the farmer is growing just enough food to feed his or her own family.
using all-organic processes
sheep farming
deploying synthetic fertilizers eight times per year

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Where do farmers concentrate large numbers of cattle for the purposes of fattening them up for market?
feedlot
Feedlots are (often enormous) feeding areas where farmers fatten cattle for market. It's an easy way to quickly bring a product to market, but some nutrition and environmental concerns do arise in these facilties, in part due to the close quarters and large amounts of animal waste that must be disposed of.
nearby ditches
wheat field
sandlot

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They aren't blankets, exactly. What's the primary purpose of cover crops?
to improve tractor traction during harvest
to double the size primary crops
to ward off rats
to protect the soil
Cover crops might be species such as buckwheat that are planted between rows of primary crops. They help to protect the soil from erosion and often improve soil quality, too.

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If a dairy cow isn't producing milk, what do farmers call it?
lazy
infertile
dry
Dry cows are those that aren't producing milk. Various life cycle processes -- or even high stress -- can cause a cow to go dry.
barren

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If a farmer practices crop rotation, what is she doing?
planting different crops on the same land in successive years
Crop rotation means planting different crops in the same field in successive years. Changing the crops tend to improve soil quality.
digging up plants from one field and moving them to another
spinning the crops to remove chaff
applying massive amounts of fertilizer

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What is silage used for?
weed killer
pest destruction
fertilizer
animal feed
Farmers stuff plant material into large, airtight bags to create a fermentation process. This silage is eventually used as animal feed.

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If a farmer leaves crop stalks in a field following harvest, what is he doing?
making a huge mistake
increasing traction
bedding the field
practicing no-till farming
In many places, the practice of no-till farming is becoming more acceptable. It leaves crop stalks in the fields, a fact that drastically reduces erosion and protects the soil.

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What term best describes when a farmer harvests two different crops from the same piece of land in one year?
double crop
Farmers like to make the most of their land. In a double crop season, they might plant wheat early, harvest it, and then plant soybeans for harvest in autumn.
marginal land
backfill
erosion

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How do riparian rights affect a farmer's crop?
It affects her water access.
Riparian rights are water rights. In dry regions -- or those crushed by drought -- riparian rights can mean the difference between a farm that survives and one that goes bankrupt.
It means she can only use seed from one company.
It refers to fertilizer usage.
It actually has nothing to do with farming.

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If a farmer says he's dry land farming, what does that mean?
He's forgoing fertilizer.
He will never plant that field again.
He's farming without irrigation.
Dry land farming means there's no irrigation system in place. The crops will survive (or fail) on natural precipitation alone.
He's leaving the field falllow.

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"Angus" applies to which aspect of farming?
beef farming
The beef industry has been pushing the "Angus" type of beef for years. Angus beef has been very popular with consumers all over the country.
corn yields
turkey housing
soygbean type

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What is "mixed cropping"?
when you put grain from multiple years' harvests into one bin
when you accidentally mix soybeans and corn
when you plant more than one type of crop in the same field at the same time
Farmers sometimes plant more than one type of crop in the same field. This can greatly reduce erosion and the plants will benefit each other in terms of nutrients.
when you plant at least three varieties of corn

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How does gravitation water affect plant growth?
It helps the plants create stronger roots.
It doesn't.
Gravitation water is water that either seeps through the soil or merely runs off on the surface. In either case, it doesn't offer much moisture for crops in the area.
It drowns plants.
It adaequately waters them.

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In "viticulture," what are farmers producing?
chickens
soybeans
corn
grapes
Viticulture is the foundation of the grape industry. Without it, no bagged grapes or bottled wines would be possible

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A bushel is used to measure an amount of fruit, grain or similar products. It is the equivalent of how many gallons of liquid?
8
Bushels are how farmers measure their yields of corn, wheat, etc. One bushel of these products is equal to about 8 gallons of liquid.
18
28
88

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"Hydroponics" is particularly useful for farmers in which situation?
in southern Florida
during a short drought
in poor climate or the off-season
Hydroponics refers to systems that grow plants in nutrient-laced water. The concept is particularly useful in areas where growing conditions aren't ideal for outdoor fields.
only for sweet corn

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How are combines altered for different types of crops?
They can be overhauled at the manufacturer.
The rear is equipped with a different harvester.
They are actually used for just one crop type.
They have removable heads.
Combines are adapatable machines. Swap out the head and you can use them to harvest many types of crops.

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Overdrafting can result in which catastrophic problem?
lack of water
When too many farmers tap into groundwater for irrigation, they are overdrafting the supply. In some places, overdrafting can have terrible consquences for farmers and their families.
compaction
locust invasion
topsoil reduction

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In which product do farmers have to contend with "chaff"?
turkey
almonds
beef
cereal grains
Corn, rice and wheat are just three examples of cereal grains. These grains all have an inedible outer coating, called chaff, that must be removed before the grains are used as food.

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What's one interesting fact about silage?
It has no nutritional value.
It may spontaneously combust.
It is borderline toxic.
It is fermented.
To make silage, farmers pack grassy crops (or even grass) into a nearly airtight area. The material begins to ferment, and after about two weeks it can be used as animal feed for ruminants.

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How do many farmers improve the quality of their silage?
They add specific microorganisms.
Some farmers trust native microorganisms to properly ferment the silage. Others add specific bacteria to the mix in order to make the silage a better quality product.
They burn the edges of the plants.
They use leaf blowers to aerate the pile.
They add 50% manure.

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A "pivot" is critical to which aspect of farming?
combining
irrigation
Pivot irrigation refers to large sprinklers that spray their life-giving fluids all over a dry field. In some places, farming isn't possible without pivots.
fertilizing
tilling

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Why do some farmers spray Bacillus thuringiensis on their fields?
for pest control
Bacillus thuringiensis is often found in native soils. Farmers acquire Bt in large quanties and then spray in on their fields, as it is a good pest deterrent in some climates.
to increase plant height
to reduce root depth
to ward off drought

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What's one potential downside to the silage process?
reduces crop yield
attracts predators
the end product contains poisons
pollution
Silage fermentation results in liquids that aren't good for the environment. Furthermore, if those liquids aren't captured, they can contaminate groundwater.

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What's the primary characteristic of sustainable agriculture?
It protects the environment and consumers.
Sustainable agriculture maximizes the health of the overall environment. Its practices embrace long-term farming that benefits every part of the farming process, from start to finish.
It uses only 20 tons of fertilizer per year.
It is exclusively monoculture.
It is only organic crops.

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