The Farming Quiz


By: John Miller

6 Min 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?

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.


How do farmers measure their land holdings?

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.


It contributed to the Dust Bowl. Which term refers to topsoil being carried away by natural forces?

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.


What does "GMO" stand for?

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.


An "acid" soil refers to which aspect of this substance?

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.


Why in the world would a farmer purchase large amounts of fungicide?

Various types of fungi may attack large swaths of crops. But modern fungicides can help to keep these damaging organisms at bay.


Where would you be most likely to find a a "layer" on a working farm?

Not all chickens are great for egg production. Those that consistently produce eggs, though, are called layers.


What device helps move grain through a tube, like the ones used to fill grain transport trucks?

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.


A combine is a machine that pairs a harvester with what other device?

Combines are incredibly useful for farmers. They combine threshers and harvesters, making the fall harvest much more efficient than in olden times.


When farmers talk about "broilers," they're refering to what?

Broilers are young chickens. They can be either male or female, but they're always around 7 weeks old.


What's the best definition of subsistence farming?

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.


Where do farmers concentrate large numbers of cattle for the purposes of fattening them up for market?

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.


They aren't blankets, exactly. What's the primary purpose of cover crops?

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.


If a dairy cow isn't producing milk, what do farmers call it?

Dry cows are those that aren't producing milk. Various life cycle processes -- or even high stress -- can cause a cow to go dry.


If a farmer practices crop rotation, what is she doing?

Crop rotation means planting different crops in the same field in successive years. Changing the crops tend to improve soil quality.


What is silage used for?

Farmers stuff plant material into large, airtight bags to create a fermentation process. This silage is eventually used as animal feed.


If a farmer leaves crop stalks in a field following harvest, what is he doing?

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.


What term best describes when a farmer harvests two different crops from the same piece of land in one year?

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.


How do riparian rights affect a farmer's crop?

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.


If a farmer says he's dry land farming, what does that mean?

Dry land farming means there's no irrigation system in place. The crops will survive (or fail) on natural precipitation alone.


"Angus" applies to which aspect of 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.


What is "mixed cropping"?

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.


How does gravitation water affect plant growth?

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.


In "viticulture," what are farmers producing?

Viticulture is the foundation of the grape industry. Without it, no bagged grapes or bottled wines would be possible


A bushel is used to measure an amount of fruit, grain or similar products. It is the equivalent of how many gallons of liquid?

Bushels are how farmers measure their yields of corn, wheat, etc. One bushel of these products is equal to about 8 gallons of liquid.


"Hydroponics" is particularly useful for farmers in which situation?

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.


How are combines altered for different types of crops?

Combines are adapatable machines. Swap out the head and you can use them to harvest many types of crops.


Overdrafting can result in which catastrophic problem?

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.


In which product do farmers have to contend with "chaff"?

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.


What's one interesting fact about silage?

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.


How do many farmers improve the quality of their silage?

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.


A "pivot" is critical to which aspect of farming?

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.


Why do some farmers spray Bacillus thuringiensis on their fields?

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.


What's one potential downside to the silage process?

Silage fermentation results in liquids that aren't good for the environment. Furthermore, if those liquids aren't captured, they can contaminate groundwater.


What's the primary characteristic of sustainable agriculture?

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.


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