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Tutorials/Crop farming

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Crops currently growing
Crops ready to be harvested

Crop farming allows players to plant any of several crop plants on farmland, which then grow over time and can be harvested for food. This page covers three separate crops, all of which share essentially the same growth mechanics, though they produce different foods. All three crops need to grow to maturity to produce more food.

Starting out[edit]

Each crop requires an initial "seed stock" for planting, and getting those first few items can be non-trivial. After the first few seeds, or the first carrot or potato, are planted, they will eventually produce more seeds or vegetables than you started with. These can be used to replant the original space, plus other empty spots, and so on until you've filled your farm-plot of choice. All three crops can be found in village farms, but finding villages when first starting a game is rare.

Most players will want to set up a wheat farm early on, to provide bread as their first food supply. However, as the game progresses, better foods will become available, and the wheat farm will likely be re-purposed for breeding animals. Carrots and potatoes are usually not found until somewhat later in the game.

Wheat is grown from seeds, which can be collected by destroying tall grass. While tall grass is common in most biomes, it doesn't drop seeds all that often (10% chance), so gathering more than a few seeds can be difficult. Harvesting a mature wheat plant yields 1 piece of wheat and 0-3 seeds. If harvested early, they will drop seeds but no wheat. The wheat items can be crafted into bread, or combined with other items to make cake, or cookies. While wheat itself can't be planted, it can be used to breed cows, sheep, or Mooshrooms. The seeds can be used either to grow more wheat or to breed chickens.

In contrast, carrots and potatoes are their own seed, and the plants are not found in the wild. Killed zombies will occasionally drop a single carrot or potato, which can then be cultivated and multiplied into a farm's worth, or they may be found in village farms. Each mature plant can be harvested to get 1-4 potatoes or carrots respectively. A potato plant also has an additional 2% chance of dropping a useless poisonous potato. Both carrots and potatoes can be eaten directly, but potatoes can also be cooked into baked potatoes for more nutrition, while carrots can be used to breed or control pigs or crafted into golden carrots.

Sowing[edit]

These crops can only be planted on farmland which is produced by using a hoe on dirt or grass blocks. Farmland can revert to dirt in two situations: Firstly, if the player or a mob jumps on it, it will revert, and any crop planted will be broken (harvested, regardless of maturity). Secondly, if there is no water nearby (still or flowing, within four blocks horizontally on the same vertical level or one level above), farmland will dry out—but only if there is no crop yet planted on it. If farmland becomes completely dry and a crop is planted on it, the farmland will not revert to dirt. Thus, it is possible to grow crops without water (say, in the Nether) by hoeing the dirt and immediately planting a crop. The farmland will not revert until the crop is harvested, and even so that can generally be avoided by immediately replanting. Note, however, that this "dry farming" makes crops grow much more slowly.

At the beginning of the game when buckets are not available, you can till the dirt at the edge of a pond or lake, perhaps digging a trench to extend the water supply inland or straightening the shoreline by adding or removing dirt blocks at the top layer of the water's edge. However, once the player has a comfortable amount of resources, they will usually want to set up some fenced farm plots to prevent mobs from trampling the crops and attacking the farmer.

A basic repeatable farm plot consists of a 9×9 square of farmland with the center square dug out and filled with a water source block. This gives 80 blocks of farmland which can be fenced with 40 pieces of fence including gates and is the most efficient arrangement for simple farms. For larger farms, this plot can be repeated in both the X and Z directions.

Leaving the water source uncovered poses a risk of falling into it and then trampling some of the farmland when jumping out of it. The water can be covered with any block, but using a slab, carpet, lily pad, or other block that can be walked onto without jumping is better to prevent trampling. In cold biomes, covering the water with a solid block will also guard it against freezing. An alternative that also provides light so some crops can continue to grow at night is to suspend a block above the water with one space of air between them—so you can neither fall into the water nor jump on and off the block—and place torches on that block or to suspend a jack-o-lantern or glowstone block above the water.

Placing torches or other light sources near the crops allows them to continue growing at night or underground, and it prevents aggressive mobs from spawning near them. Planting crops in alternate rows (that is, rows separated by bare farmland or a different crop) will speed up growth as well.

Growth and harvesting[edit]

In-game wheat at several stages

Any of wheat, carrots, or potatoes will only grow under the following conditions:

  • It is directly above a block of farmland. If the farmland is removed or reverts to dirt, the crop will be broken.
  • A light level of 9 or higher in the block above the plant. This doesn't have to be sunlight, so torches will let crops grow at night or underground.
    • This means that an opaque block above the crop (which has light level 0 inside) will prevent growth while a transparent block can allow growth if the light inside is sufficient.
  • Any player is within their chunk update radius (that is, the crops will only grow if their chunk is loaded).

In single-player or in multiplayer with only one player nearby, crops will not grow while the player is sleeping. However, if torches are not being used, sleeping will skip past the nights when the crops would not grow.

All three crops have a total of 8 growth stages. For wheat, each stage is a little taller and darker than the last, and the crop is mature when the wheat turns brown. Carrots and potatoes have only 4 visible appearances—each pair of stages appears identical except that stage 7 shares the appearance of stages 5-6. When mature (stage 8), the plant shows carrots or potatoes protruding from the ground.

Growth happens at random intervals and is affected by growing conditions. The average duration of each stage ranges from 5 minutes (in ideal conditions) to 35 minutes (in worst-case conditions). Aside from being placed on hydrated farmland, "ideal conditions" include having light sources (for night growth) and planting crops in alternate rows: each row of plants should be next to either a different crop or empty farmland. For the plants on the edges of the plot, it's also ideal to have more farmland beyond the row ends and the outer rows; however, this is rarely done since it amounts to leaving the edges of the available field empty. Full details of the growth mechanics are given below.

Right-clicking on any crop plant with bone meal will advance it to a later stage in the growing process which is useful for speeding up the initial multiplication of seed stock.

Crop states.png

Crops can be harvested at any time by left-clicking on them with or without a tool, but when immature, they will yield only one of the corresponding seed item. When mature, wheat will yield 0-3 seeds and one item of wheat. Carrots and potatoes will yield 1-4 of the crop when mature. Mature potato plants have a 2% chance of dropping a poisonous potato in addition to the normal potatoes.

Because harvesting one block at a time can become very tedious, methods for automatically harvesting fields have been developed. The most common tactic is to flood the field with water (which harvests all the plants it touches), but other methods are possible as discussed below.

Growth rate[edit]

Probability of a crop plant being in each of the eight growth stages, as a function of time

Early in the game it may be helpful to maximize the growth rate of a crop in order to quickly multiply the seeds and/or get some wheat quickly. Doing so requires some understanding of the growth mechanics which are discussed here.

Crop growth is prompted by random update ticks—the same random events that, for example, create smoke particles above torches and play cave noises. For a given block, a random update occurs an average of once every 82 seconds. However, the delay can vary widely, and it is rare but possible for plants to gain a stage the moment after planting or grow two stages a moment apart.

During every update, a crop plant gets a chance to grow to the next stage with the exact chance depending on conditions:

  • As noted above, growth requires a light level of at least 9 in the block above the plant.
  • The farmland block the crop is planted in gives 2 "points" if dry or 4 if hydrated.
  • For each of the 8 blocks around the block in which the crop is planted, dry farmland gives 0.25 "points," and hydrated farmland gives 0.75.
    • Note that if a field is bordered with anything besides more farmland, the plants at the edge will grow more slowly.
  • If any plants of the same type are growing in the eight surrounding blocks, the "point" total is cut in half unless the crops are arranged in rows. That is, having the same sort of plant either on a diagonal or in both north-south and east-west directions cuts the growth chance, but having the same type of plant only north-south or east-west does not. The growth chance is only halved once no matter how many plants surround the central one.
  • The growth probability is then 1/(floor(25/points) + 1).

From this we can figure the growth periods for the common cases:




























  • For the fastest growth per seed, a full layer of hydrated farmland with crops in rows is ideal. Under these conditions, the probability of growth during each update is ⅓, or approximately 33%. Most (4/5) planted crops will reach maturity within 37 minutes (about 2 minecraft days). For all plants to have this probability, crop rows must be separated by empty farmland or by a different crop, and the edges and corners of the field must be empty farmland. However, this probability also applies to crops adjacent to only one non-farmland block (e.g. a single block of water in the middle of a field for hydration or a torch) due to the floor function.


















  • For hydrated crops in rows at the edge of a field (having 3 blocks of non-farmland along one side), the growth probability is 1/4 (25%). Most planted crops in this case will reach maturity within 50 minutes (about 2.5 minecraft days).









  • For hydrated crops in rows at the corner of a field (having 5 blocks of non-farmland adjacent), the growth probability is 1/5 (20%). Most crops will reach maturity within 62 minutes (about 3 minecraft days).



























  • Hydrated crops not in rows have approximately half the growth probabilities: 1/6 (16.7%) for mid-field plants, 1/7 (14%) for edges, and 1/9 (11%) for corners.


















  • The usual worst-case conditions for growing are crops placed out of rows on dry farmland. In this case the growth probability is 1/13 (approximately 8%) for the middle crops, 1/16 (6%) for the edges, and 1/19 (5%) for the corners.
















  • The worst case would be two crops diagonally adjacent on dry farmland (all other surrounding blocks being non-farmland) which has a growth probability of 1/23, about 4%.

Later in the game, the highest yield per area of a given field may be more important than the fastest growth per seed. Fields sown solidly to achieve this with a single crop do grow at half the speed, but they also let you separate each type of crop into its own respective field and harvest one type all at once. However, one large field with alternating rows of different crops would still grow faster than smaller fields each sown solidly with a single crop.

The progression of crops over time is shown in the plot above. Each line represents the probability of finding a given crop in that particular growth stage, assuming ideal conditions. The plots for non-ideal conditions look similar with only the scale of the x-axis (time passed) being longer.

Farm designs[edit]

Compact design[edit]


















































































The basic farm plot is a 9×9 plot of farmland with the center block replaced by water. Normally this will be surrounded by fences, making it 11×11. This basic plot can be used for wheat, carrots, or potatoes, or even for pumpkins and/or melons. As described above, it may be planted solidly, with rows of a single crop (leaving some rows empty) for faster growth, or with rows of multiple crops for fastest total yield per area. For night growth, light may be suspended above the water block and placed around the edges.

The field can be harvested quickly by simply dumping a bucket of water over the center, washing all the drops up against the fence.

This design may be easily extended in both the X and Z directions. If lighting the field for night growth, additional lights will be needed (again they may be suspended in the air) where the corners of the basic plots meet.

To farm multiple crops in a single field's footprint, you can stack the fields (with two-block spaces) making a vertical farm. One complication here is that a block is needed to hold the water on each level; since this prevents falling into the next level's water hole the slabs can be omitted except on the top level. Alternatively, you can irrigate all levels with a waterfall through the center blocks.

Compact vertical farm[edit]

The next extension of that idea is to provide a touch of automation. The following farm design uses two central columns on a 9×10 plot, to irrigate (water blocks), light (Jack-o-lanterns) and automatically retrieve the crops (dispensers loaded with water buckets). (With just one central column and a 9 by 9 block farm, a single water dispenser wouldn't be able to reach all the crops.) The dispensers can be triggered with buttons or tripwires. Adding plot borders and fences, and a stairway along one edge, expands the whole system (with four levels) to 12×12×12. Some notes on this scheme:

  • Alternating rows of different crops will still speed growth, but as noted above, speed may not be a priority at this point. Planting the crops solidly on separate levels is more convenient for harvesting what you need at a given moment, and they can grow while you do other stuff.
  • The water dispensers will not harvest melons or pumpkins, but may instead destroy their stems. You may want to unload the dispensers on the melon/pumpkin level, or skip them entirely. If you skip the dispensers on any but the top level, you will need some other block to hold up the water above (so it's convenient to put the melon/pumpkin field on top).

Semi-automatic farming[edit]

An automatic wheat harvester using sticky pistons

There are ways to harvest crops semi-automatically.

  • Most common is water: Flowing water will break crops, and produce their usual drops. This can be used to harvest crops semi-automatically, and carry the resulting items to some central location such as a hopper. A water flood will not revert farmland back into dirt.
  • Sticky pistons can be used to move the farmland block itself, breaking the crop without reverting the farmland to dirt. Water currents for collecting the items can be placed under the farmland rather than beside it, making this method more compact than harvesting directly with pistons. A pair of pistons, appropriately clocked, could be used to shift an entire row of farmland.
  • Crops are also broken when directly pushed by pistons, with the usual drops. Unfortunately, this will revert the farmland back into dirt, so that it needs to be re-tilled after every harvest, rather defeating the point of automation.

Automatic harvesting is generally an all-or-nothing business - harvesting every plant regardless of whether it is actually mature or not. In this situation, it is best not to wait for every last plant to finish growing, as there will always be a few that take much longer than normal. The optimal time to harvest wheat in particular turns out to be when 80% (4/5) of the plants have matured, and this is at least acceptable for carrots and potatoes. Assuming that the field is immediately replanted, harvesting at this time will result in the greatest overall rate of production, along with a surplus of seeds for wheat. The section on Growth Rates gives the optimum harvesting time in minutes for some common planting arrangements.

Because bonemeal can force crops to grow more quickly—ignoring normal concerns like growth rate or ambient light—it can be used to create large amounts of wheat or other crops quickly. A number of farm designs focus on using bonemeal exclusively, sacrificing volume and growth efficiency for speed/ease of planting and harvesting. An example which takes advantage of the inventory mechanics to minimize the time required to plant and harvest can be seen here. Note however, that with the recent bonemeal nerfs, it now requires several pieces of bonemeal to take a crop plant from seed to maturity.


Water-flooded field[edit]

This design uses a row of pistons to flood a long farm from one end. Note that the farm needs to slope down one block for every eight in length. Dispensers could also be used to supply the water, and the output could easily be channelled to a hopper.

Flooded-Cell Farm[edit]

Layer by layer map of one cell.

This farm is divided into cells of 29 plants, where each cell is flooded individually by a single piston and water block (or bucket-bearing dispenser) The drops are washed into a stream, gathering them to a single point.

There’s a stream of water in the center of the farm, which needs to go down 1 block every 8 blocks toward a collection point. (This can be mirrored on the other side of the collection point, to cut the total depth needed.

On one or both sides of the stream are farming cells. The cells are separated from each other with two block high walls. (If a 1-block high wall or fencing is used, some of the drops may fall onto the barrier and out of the flow.) Under every wall separating the cells from each other is a source block of water, to hydrate the farmland on both sides of the wall.

The design as shown uses a piston to control the flow of water. The piston is normally ON, so the piston is extended. Above the extended piston shaft is a water source block, surrounded with 8 (or even 4) glass blocks or panes. (Glass is needed so that light goes through to the plants). When the switch is turned OFF the piston retracts and the water flows through.

In more recent versions of Minecraft, the piston setup can be replaced with a dispenser containing a bucket of water (and using a button instead of a lever for the switch). Either way, the pistons or dispensers should be wired together behind the cells (with repeaters as needed), to allow triggering them from some central point.

When released, the water will harvest the crops and wash them into the stream. At the end of the stream, you can collect your drops, or place a hopper to do it for you.


Fully automatic farming[edit]

Fully-automatic farms can be constructed using Farmer villagers to replant the crops. Three general designs are possible:

  • Since seeds aren't food, a villager with inventory full of seeds will continue to harvest and replant crops but cannot pick up the resulting wheat. Hoppers or hopper minecarts below the farmland can collect the wheat.
  • For carrots and potatoes, a villager will replant the field but will stop harvesting once he has enough food in his inventory. A redstone mechanism timed to the growth rate of the crops is used to periodically pour water over the farmland to wash the crops into a collection system.
  • For carrots, potatoes, or bread, a second villager with empty inventory may be placed nearby such that the farmer will attempt to share food but the throws cannot reach the second villager. Or the second villager may have an inventory full of seeds (or wheat for non-farmers) so he cannot pick up any food. Hoppers where the thrown food will land can collect the thrown food.

In all cases, the farm must be entirely within the bounds of a village or must be more than 32 blocks away from the outer boundary of any village. Otherwise the villager will try to make his way to the nearby village instead of tending the crops.

Video[edit]

Trivia[edit]

  • Farmland cannot absorb water from the bottom.
  • Farmland placed at an altitude of 1 will not grow crops on its own.

See also[edit]