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.


[edit] Starting Out

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 those are usually not available when beginning a game.

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 be turned to breeding animals. Carrots and potatoes are usually not available 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, 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. However, killed zombies will occasionally drop a single carrot or potato, which can then be cultivated and multiplied into a farm's worth. Without a village farm, this is usually the only way to get started with either of these crops. When planted, they grow to produce more of the same. 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.

[edit] Sowing

These crops can only be planted on Farmland, which is produced by using a hoe on dirt or grass. Farmland can revert to dirt in two situations: Firstly, if it is jumped on, it will revert and any crop planted will be broken (harvested, regardless of maturity). Secondly, if there is no water nearby (within four blocks on the same vertical level), 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. See below for details.)

At the beginning of the game when buckets are not available, you can simply till the dirt at the edge of a pond or lake, perhaps digging a trench to extend the water supply inland. (Flowing water blocks hydrate farmland just as well as source blocks.) However, once the player has their feet under them, they will usually want to set up some fenced farm plots. (Most farms will need surrounding fences 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 squares 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, ths plot can be repeated in either or both directions.

Leaving the water source open poses a risk of falling in, jumping out, and thereby trampling some of the farmland. The water can be covered with any block, but using a slab or carpet is better to prevent trampling (when you jump off the block). In cold biomes, covering the water will also guard it against freezing (placing a light source nearby will also do this). An alternative to the slab or carpet is to suspend a block one space above the water (so you can neither fall into the water nor jump on and off the block), and place torches on that block. Once you get pumpkins, you can replace this with a jack-o-lantern.

Placing torches (or any other light source, such as a jack-o-lantern) near the crops allows them to continue growing at night, and also 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 (details below) as well.

[edit] Growth and harvesting

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 wheat crop will be broken.
  • A light level of 10 or higher. This doesn't have to be sunlight, so torches will let them continue growing at night.
  • There is at least one block of empty space above it (transparent blocks count as empty)
  • Any player is within their chunk update radius (that is, the crops will only grow if their chunk is loaded).

In single-player or 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, however, 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, and it is then ready for harvest.

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 with any tool, but they will yield their product only when the crop is mature. At this stage, wheat will yield 0-3 Seeds and one item of Wheat, while earlier stages will yield only seeds, and fewer of those for earlier stages. Carrots and potatoes will yield 1-4 of the crop when mature, but harvesting earlier will only get back the single carrot or potato you planted. (Mature potato plants also have a 2% chance of dropping a useless poisonous potato.)

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.

[edit] Growth rate

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 10.
  • Any farmland in the 9 blocks below the crop plant (that is, the block it's planted in, and the 8 blocks around it) adds to the growth chance. The chances also depend on whether the farmland is hydrated (water within 4 blocks) or dry:
    • For the space under the plant, give a base 12% chance for hydrated farmland, or 6% for dry.
    • For each of the 8 blocks surrounding the plant, each block of hydrated farmland adds 2.25%, while dry farmland adds only 0.75%. This gives a maximum growth chance of 30%.
    • 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 growth probability 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. The growth chance is only halved once, no matter how many plants surround the original one.

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 approximately 30%, and most (4/5) planted crops will reach maturity within 37 minutes (about 2 minecraft days) Again, crop rows may be separated by empty farmland, or by a different crop.
  • Placing a row of non-farmland blocks next to a row of wheat crops reduces the growth probability to about 24%. This is necessary when using sticky pistons for automatic harvesting, and most fields will have a border of other blocks. Most planted crops in this case will reach maturity within 50 minutes (about 2.5 minecraft days)
  • Planting rows of crops between rows of non-farmland blocks reduces the growth probability to about 17%. If crops are planted outside of rows (such as a solid plot of one crop), the chance is only slightly lower at 15%. (Both chances assume all farmland is hydrated.) In either case, most crops will reach maturity within 62 minutes (about 3 minecraft days)
  • The usual worst-case conditions for growing are crops placed out of rows on dry farmland. In this case the growth probability is approximately 4%, and it will take about 4 hours for most of the crops to reach maturity (about 12 minecraft days)

Later in the game, speed may not be a priority. Fields sown solidly with a single crop do grow at half the speed, but they also let you harvest each crop individually, with the best yield for a given area.

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.

[edit] Farm designs

[edit] Compact design

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. The field can be harvested by simply dumping a bucket of water over the center, washing all the drops up against the fence. The water block can be covered with a slab, to avoid falling into it and accidentally jumping on the nearby farmland.

A single such field is not awkwardly big, but four of them can be more troublesome. 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, but this does not mix well with water-bucket harvesting.

[edit] Compact Vertical Farm

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).

[edit] Large Fast farm

If land is plentiful and large amounts of a crop are needed quickly, it is possible to expand the basic row pattern almost indefinitely, as seen below. Again, the empty rows can be filled with a different crop.

Diagram of an expanded row farm where "Dirt" is farmland.
Screenshot of an expanded row farm.

[edit] Semi-automatic Farming

An automatic wheat harvester using sticky pistons

It is not (prior to 14w04a) possible to reseed the crops automatically, so crop farms cannot be more than semi-automatic (for these three crops). However, there are several ways to harvest crops 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.
  • 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.
  • It is also possible to break crops by plunging them into complete darkness, for example in a sealed room lit by redstone lamps. Unfortunately, this still leaves the farmer to gather the crops. If water is used to gather them, it could have just as easily have harvested them as well, making the lamp setup redundant. Not to mention the hazards of darkening a large room!

As of 14w04a, it is possible to have automatic farms due to changes to Villager AI allowing them to replant crops.

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.

[edit] Water-flooded field

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.

[edit] Flooded-Cell Farm

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.

[edit] Video

[edit] Trivia

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

[edit] See also