At AboutMechanics, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Are the Different Types of Cereal Crops?

Benjamin Arie
Benjamin Arie

Cereal crop, or grain crops, and are an important food source in many parts of the world. While there are different varieties of these crops, all are grass plants that contain an edible seed or kernel, called a caryopsis. Grain crops can be processed in different ways to form food such as bread and pasta. The three most common types of cereal crops are rice, wheat, and corn.

The term "cereal" comes from Ceres, the Roman god of agriculture. As this name suggests, cereals are a vital part of the farming and agriculture industries in many countries. Cereal crops are classified as staple foods, which means that they are a significant part of the human diet and are regularly eaten for their high energy content.

Wheat is a very common cereal crop.
Wheat is a very common cereal crop.

All true cereal crops belong to the Poaceae grass family. These plants are often purposely planted in large fields. When the grass is fully grown, it can be harvested by hand or using agricultural machinery. The kernels found on a Poaceae grass plant are high in nutritional content, and can either be eaten whole or ground into derivative products, including flour.

Barley, a type of cereal grain.
Barley, a type of cereal grain.

Corn is the most widely produced of the cereal crops. This crop is commonly called maize in many places, such as Africa and South America. A corn plant has a tough bamboo-like stalk and large green leaves. The top of a mature corn plant holds a large cob containing many kernels, which can eaten raw but are commonly separated from the plant and cooked.

Different types of rice, a cereal crop.
Different types of rice, a cereal crop.

The second most produced of all cereal crops is rice. A large percentage of people living in Asia and the Middle East consume rice as an everyday food source. It is estimated that one-fifth of all calories consumed worldwide come from rice products. Rice plants have long, thin leaves and are able to grow almost anywhere with high rainfall. Individual grains of rice are usually removed from the plant, and eaten as brown rice or further refined into white rice.

Corn plants.
Corn plants.

Wheat is the third most common of all the cereal crops. People in the North American, European, and oceanic regions of the world eat a vast amount of wheat products. This crop has more natural protein than corn or rice, and represents the top source of vegetable protein for all humans. Like the rice plant, a wheat crop has long tapered leaves. Wheat grain is typically stripped from the fully grown grass plant before having the outer husk stripped or ground into flour.

Discussion Comments


@browncoat - The thing is that wheat has been developed to a point where it does exactly what we like, which is to produce really fluffy bakery products. Which is why it's so popular and so difficult to replace.

I don't think any other grain will do that properly, even if they are more nutritionally sound and so we don't use them because they don't make "real" bread.

If food scientists could work out how to make millet flour fluff up when it's baked with yeast the way that wheat flour does, we'd have no problem replacing it.


@Fa5t3r - It's probably true that the production in the States raises it up, but don't underestimate the fact that corn is basically the staple grain in other parts of the world. A lot of South American cuisine, for example, is based around corn flour and many European diets include it as a regular vegetable as well.

It also get used a lot in fuel production, so it might have something to do with that as well.

It's wheat that I think is the real shame. Corn has a lot of uses and I can see the argument there for it as a versatile crop, but wheat is difficult to grow and doesn't have many nutrients (particularly when it has been refined).

If I could change one of these it would probably be wheat.


I never would have guessed that corn would come before rice and wheat. I think that's probably because so much is produced in the US and other countries for reasons other than as a starch crop.

Corn mostly gets processed into high fructose corn syrup which gets put into almost every kind of processed food you can imagine. Seriously, look at the labels sometime. It's actually kind of scary how common it is. And the fact that they put it into everything is supposed to be one reason for the obesity epidemic, as well as the rise in diabetes rates.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Wheat is a very common cereal crop.
      Wheat is a very common cereal crop.
    • Barley, a type of cereal grain.
      By: schankz
      Barley, a type of cereal grain.
    • Different types of rice, a cereal crop.
      By: Elena Schweitzer
      Different types of rice, a cereal crop.
    • Corn plants.
      By: Mykola Mazuryk
      Corn plants.
    • Corn can be eaten with little preparation.
      By: atoss
      Corn can be eaten with little preparation.
    • Cereal crops, or grain crops, are used to make pasta.
      By: Gleam
      Cereal crops, or grain crops, are used to make pasta.