While not the only method of producing food in Farthest Frontier, crop fields are one of the most effective. Anyone that’s ever contended with nature can attest that planting crops is not as simple as setting seeds in a patch of dirt and calling it done, and Farthest Frontier respects that. Proper care and maintenance and even soil mixture can make the difference between a bountiful yield and one choked out by disease and weeds.
Crop Field Placement
Unlike most structures in Farthest Frontier, Crop Fields are placed a little differently. After selecting it from the build menu and marking the starting point with Left-click, you can then drag the cursor around to determine the size of the field.
At a minimum, a Crop Field must be at least 5×5, but you can make it as large as 12×12. The size of the field determines the possible yield, but the number of workers required to work it efficiently also increases with the field size. Crop Fields require at least 1 worker, but can require up to 7 for a 12×12 field.
Note that a field can be expanded further, once placed, from its UI, if you wish to enlarge it at a later time.
When placing a Crop Field, pay close attention to the fertility overlay. The environment you are planting in can have a dramatic impact on future success. While it is possible to improve the land’s fertility over time, a barren wasteland not only has low starting fertility but will also gain fertility more slowly.
Once placed, a Crop Field needs to be prepared for planting by farmers. Any debris, such as rocks and trees, must be cleared out and then the ground needs to be tilled. The entire process takes a significant amount of time and can take years if the terrain is difficult. Work also halts once it gets too cold and the soil too hard from freezing winter temperatures. Naturally, a larger field has a larger work area and takes proportionally longer.
When a field is ready for planting, you can select what crops to plant from its UI. Crop fields work on a 3-year rotation, with each line indicating what crops are planted in what order that year. When a new year starts, the next line in the rotation begins. This 3-year cycle repeats indefinitely.
A crop rotation allows you to grow different crops on the same field, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to fine-tune the fertility and weed suppression of the field. Each crop has a different impact on the soil, which should be considered when setting up a rotation.
Note that harvest time can also have an impact on your town’s efficiency. If several fields are ready for harvest around the same time, more farmers will be needed to gather them before they rot. Spreading out harvests, for example by planting Clover (which does not require harvesting) at a time when other fields are ready for harvest, can actually reduce the number of farmers needed to run your crop fields.
Plant too many crops that drain the soil of nutrients without balancing them out with nitrogen fixing plants, and you will soon be left with a barren patch of dirt.
In the crop field UI, you can also see a detailed summary of the field’s soil and its impact on yields. Field fertility has a positive impact the higher it is, while weed level and rockiness reduce yield the higher they are.
Soil mixture is an advanced aspect of planting crops. Each crop has a different desirable ratio of clay and sand in the soil, netting up to a +10% bonus in ideal conditions. Putting crops in the field rotation with similar soil mixture needs will net better harvests overall.
In the Crop selection list, you can see detailed information for each crop that can help you decide what to plant and when in each planting season. Some crops handle heat better, while others require cooler temperatures. Unlike most crops, grains cannot be eaten directly after harvest and must be further processed in a wind mill, and the resulting flour baked in a bakery. While wheat has a very high yield, it is more sensitive to fertility level and also depletes fertility faster than many other crops. Wheat can also be affected by some severe diseases.
You can also see how each crop handles weed growth and how it impacts the fertility of the soil. Each crop also takes a different amount of time from planting before it is ready for harvest. Some crops have very high yield, but might take most of the planting season to grow, leaving little time for growing anything else.
Crops also have varying shelf life, with leafy greens spoiling more readily than grains and root vegetables, a factor worth considering when storing food for short-term and long-term consumption.
There are many ways to set up crop rotations in Farthest Frontier.
A freshly-tilled field, no matter where it is placed, has to contend with rocky soil and weeds. These factors reduce harvest as the desired plants are choked out by poor soil and fast-growing weeds.
While some crops are resilient and can handle rocky soil, and some even suppress weed growth, care must be taken to keep fields at their peak, or to improve the state of the soil.
Field Maintenance is a task that can be assigned to the crop rotation. During maintenance, rather than planting crops, farmers will work the earth to remove weeds and rocks.
Over time, this process dramatically improves the soil, but weeds will inevitably return if a field isn’t maintained periodically.
By virtue of living, humans and animals generate waste. This waste takes many forms, from the manure cattle produce to the waste products leftover from meals.
If not collected, waste can accumulate, increasing risk of disease and attracting rats. The Compost Yard is the solution to this problem. Beyond clearing waste from homes and gathering it from livestock, the nightsoil collectors perform another duty at this structure, and that is to produce compost.
It takes a significant amount of time to gather enough compostable waste and to allow it to decompose into compost, but once ready it can be added to your crop fields from the Compost Yard’s UI.
Once added, the compost is applied to a field at the start of the next crop rotation. This results in an immediate bonus to soil fertility, which in turns yields bigger harvests. Compost is another excellent way to sustain healthy crop growth by returning lost nutrients to the earth.
While nature’s bounty is plentiful, it can also be cruel. Planted crops can be eaten by wildlife, rot if not harvested at the right time, or develop diseases. Diseased crops suffer from severely reduced yields as the plants are ravaged by fungus, pests and parasites.
In Farthest Frontier’s times, often very little can be done to save a harvest once a field is infected, but further damage can be mitigated by rotating to crops not impacted by the disease and ensuring that nearby fields are not growing the same crops, lest the disease spread further and cripple those harvests as well.
Diseases do not strike suddenly but instead accumulate in the soil over time, so sufficiently spacing out crops that are susceptible to the same disease can often prevent severe outbreaks.