Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Grain Crops: Overview

Author
item Graybosch, Robert

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Grain Science
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: March 5, 2004
Publication Date: August 1, 2004
Citation: Graybosch, R.A. 2004. Grain crops: overview. Encyclopedia of Grain Science.

Interpretive Summary: Plants considered 'grain crops' are those producing small, hard dry seed or fruit consumed by man or his domesticated animals as a foodstuff, or processed for food or industrial purposes. 'Grain crops' as a grouping, is, however, largely artificial. Plants producing useful grains have evolved in a number of plant families, and these families are not always closely related. Grains themselves are heterogeneous. Grains of cereal grasses represent an entire fruit (caryopsis), while those of other grain crops are the dry seeds of various types of fruits including legumes (pulses) achenes (sunflowers, buckwheats), siliques (canola), capsules (cotton), etc. Grains, therefore, are the result of convergent evolution, or the development of similar structures (grains) in diverse organisms. The actual genes involved in the formation of these structures might be different in each family of grain crops. Grain crops of significance are listed according to their common English names and the equivalent botanical names (as Genus and species). Taxonomy is the science of the identification, classification, and nomenclature of organisms. It is used to insure proper identification of organisms under study, to provide scientific accuracy to organisms in published works, to provide a universal system for the naming of organisms through use of scientific (Latin) names, and to define genetic and evolutionary relationships (or the lack thereof) between organisms via classification into groups of related species. Taxonomists have been engaged for several centuries in the naming and classification of all organisms populating our globe. Taxonomy, therefore, allows grain scientists knowledge of which grain crops are closely related (in genetic and evolutionary senses) and which are not.

Technical Abstract: Plants considered 'grain crops' are those producing small, hard dry seed or fruit consumed by man or his domesticated animals as a foodstuff, or processed for food or industrial purposes. 'Grain crops' as a grouping, is, however, largely artificial. Plants producing useful grains have evolved in a number of plant families, and these families are not always closely related. Grains themselves are heterogeneous. Grains of cereal grasses represent an entire fruit (caryopsis), while those of other grain crops are the dry seeds of various types of fruits including legumes (pulses) achenes (sunflowers, buckwheats), siliques (canola), capsules (cotton), etc. Grains, therefore, are the result of convergent evolution, or the development of similar structures (grains) in diverse organisms. The actual genes involved in the formation of these structures might be different in each family of grain crops. Grain crops of significance are listed according to their common English names and the equivalent botanical names (as Genus and species). Taxonomy is the science of the identification, classification, and nomenclature of organisms. It is used to insure proper identification of organisms under study, to provide scientific accuracy to organisms in published works, to provide a universal system for the naming of organisms through use of scientific (Latin) names, and to define genetic and evolutionary relationships (or the lack thereof) between organisms via classification into groups of related species. Taxonomists have been engaged for several centuries in the naming and classification of all organisms populating our globe. Taxonomy, therefore, allows grain scientists knowledge of which grain crops are closely related (in genetic and evolutionary senses) and which are not.

Last Modified: 8/2/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page