Crop vs. Plant

What's the Difference?

Crop and plant are two related terms in the field of agriculture. A crop refers to a specific type of plant that is cultivated for its yield or economic value. It is typically grown in large quantities and managed for commercial purposes. On the other hand, a plant is a broader term that encompasses all living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. It includes various types of vegetation, ranging from crops to trees, flowers, and shrubs. While a crop is a specific subset of plants, plants as a whole play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance and providing numerous benefits to the environment and human life.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
DefinitionA cultivated plant that is grown on a large scale for food, fiber, or other commercial purposes.A living organism of the kingdom Plantae, including trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, ferns, mosses, and green algae, capable of photosynthesis and typically having a root, stem, leaves, and reproductive structures.
ExamplesWheat, corn, rice, soybeansApple tree, rose bush, tomato plant
PurposeGrown for human consumption, animal feed, or industrial use.Exists in various forms for ecological balance, aesthetic purposes, and as a source of food, medicine, or materials.
Life CycleAnnual, biennial, or perennial depending on the crop type.Varies depending on the plant species, can be annual, biennial, or perennial.
ReproductionCan reproduce through seeds, vegetative propagation, or grafting.Reproduces through seeds, spores, or asexual reproduction methods like vegetative propagation.
SizeCan range from small plants to large fields covering extensive areas.Varies greatly, from tiny mosses to towering trees.
UsagePrimarily cultivated for specific purposes like food production or raw materials.Used for various purposes including landscaping, gardening, food production, medicine, and environmental conservation.
Photo by Igor Son on Unsplash

Further Detail


When discussing agriculture and horticulture, two terms that often come up are "crop" and "plant." While these terms are related, they have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of crops and plants, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Definition and Purpose

A crop refers to a cultivated plant or agricultural produce that is grown and harvested for human consumption or other uses. It is typically cultivated on a large scale and plays a crucial role in food production, economic development, and trade. On the other hand, a plant is a living organism belonging to the kingdom Plantae, encompassing a wide range of species, including trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses. Plants serve various purposes, including providing oxygen, beautifying landscapes, and supporting ecosystems.

Growth and Cultivation

Crops are intentionally grown and cultivated by humans for specific purposes. They require careful planning, preparation of the soil, sowing of seeds or planting of seedlings, and regular maintenance such as watering, fertilizing, and pest control. Crops are often grown in monocultures, where a single type of plant dominates a large area, maximizing yield and efficiency. In contrast, plants can grow naturally or be intentionally cultivated. While some plants require specific conditions to thrive, others can adapt to various environments and propagate through natural processes like pollination and seed dispersal.

Types and Diversity

Crops encompass a wide range of plants that are cultivated for different purposes. They include staple food crops like rice, wheat, and corn, as well as cash crops like coffee, cotton, and tobacco. Crops can also be categorized as annuals, biennials, or perennials, depending on their life cycle. On the other hand, plants exhibit incredible diversity, with over 390,000 known species. They can be classified into various groups based on their characteristics, such as flowering plants (angiosperms), non-flowering plants (gymnosperms), and ferns.

Harvesting and Utilization

One of the primary purposes of crops is to be harvested and utilized by humans. The timing and method of harvesting depend on the specific crop and its intended use. For example, grains are typically harvested when they reach maturity and are then processed for consumption or storage. Fruits and vegetables are harvested at different stages of ripeness, depending on their desired taste and marketability. In contrast, while some plants may have parts that are edible or have medicinal properties, not all plants are harvested or utilized in the same way as crops. Many plants serve ecological purposes, providing habitats for animals, preventing soil erosion, or contributing to the overall biodiversity of an area.

Economic Importance

Crops play a vital role in the global economy, contributing to food security, employment, and international trade. They form the backbone of agricultural industries and are often major sources of income for farmers and countries that rely on agricultural exports. The cultivation and trade of crops have shaped societies and influenced historical events. In contrast, while plants also have economic importance, their contributions are more diverse and indirect. For example, the timber industry relies on trees for wood production, and the floral industry depends on plants for cut flowers and ornamental plants.

Environmental Impact

The cultivation of crops can have significant environmental impacts. Monoculture practices, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and deforestation for agricultural expansion can lead to soil degradation, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. However, sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, organic farming, and agroforestry, aim to minimize these negative effects. Plants, on the other hand, play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. They contribute to carbon sequestration, regulate the water cycle, and provide habitats for numerous species. Conserving and restoring plant diversity is essential for preserving the health of our planet.


In conclusion, while crops and plants are interconnected, they have distinct attributes that differentiate them. Crops are cultivated plants grown on a large scale for specific purposes, primarily for human consumption or economic gain. They require intentional cultivation, regular maintenance, and are harvested for utilization. On the other hand, plants encompass a vast array of species that serve various purposes, including ecological, economic, and aesthetic. Understanding the attributes of crops and plants is crucial for sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, and our overall well-being.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.