|This article is about the current version of DF.|
Farming is the act of growing crops for food, alcohol production, cloth manufacturing, and paper making. While small forts can easily be sustained by plant gathering, hunting and trading, farming is vital to large settlements.
Farming is done at a farm plot building (-, resize with ). Building uses no resources, and can only be done on soil or muddied rock. Mud-free stone will not allow the building of a farm plot on top. Farming requires the "Farming (Fields)" labor, and uses the Grower skill. Farm plots only display the kind of crops that they are able to grow when selected with the uery key.
Depending on where the farm plot is constructed, different crops may be planted. Farm plots built Above Ground are not suitable for Subterranean crops and vice versa. Note that the attributes Inside, Outside are of no relevance. You can grow surface plants indoors by channeling out the roof above the desired plot and then constructing a floor (--) over the open space. Doing this changes the tile from Dark to Light, despite there being a roof (you do not need to make the roof out of glass for this to work). A plot with mixed Light and Dark tiles may show plants as "available" when only a tiny fraction of the tiles in the farm are valid for planting them.
Note that although you can construct a farm plot anywhere there's either a soil floor or a mud covering, this doesn't always mean the seeds you have – especially imported ones – can be planted there. Not all crops can be grown in a given biome, and some biomes will prevent the planting of all above-ground crops. Even seeds you obtained as a result of plant gathering might not be plantable where you've chosen to put your farm, if they came from a different biome.
The yellow warning message, No mud/soil for farm, Mud is left by water, is displayed on all above-ground tiles, regardless of whether the farm will function.v0.34.11 This warning may be ignored. Tiles that actually lack mud or soil are excluded from the construction entirely with a red warning message (either Blocked or Needs soil or mud). See the article on crops for details on the conditions needed to grow the available plants.
Introduction to Farming
Building a farm
First, select an area for your farm. Building a farm on a soil layer is easiest (farming in non-soil layers will require irrigation). Aboveground farms can simply be built on the surface (though this exposes your farmers to attack); subterranean farms will need to have a suitable area dug out underground. Once you've decided on a location, open the uild menu and select lot to build your farm.
To define the width and height of your farm plot, use to increase vertically, to decrease vertically, to increase horizontally, and to decrease horizontally. Keep your farms small – 2x2, up to 4x4, or so. Farms are surprisingly productive. You can always make more farms later if you run low on plants, and having several small farms lets you diversify your crops. (Each farm plot can only grow one kind of plant per season.) Position the farm plot with the directional keys as normal. Once you are satisfied with the size and position of the plot, confirm it with , and out of the build menu. Now a dwarf with the "Farming (Fields)" labor will come and prepare the plot for planting. (If you don't have a dwarf with farming enabled, the farm plot won't get built.)
Once the farm plot has been built, you must select which crops to grow. Press and move the cursor over the farm. You will see a list of crops you can select to grow in the local biome and current season. Move the blue selector up and down with and , and press to choose a crop to plant during that season (highlighted in white). Crops displayed in red cannot be grown at the moment, either due to a lack of seeds, or (if you have seeds) a lack of growing days left before the crop goes out of season. You can change which season is displayed by pressing ,,, or . Make sure each season has a crop selected, otherwise you'll end up with an idle field for that 1/4 of the year. Instructing a plot to remain fallow () during a particular season will tell dwarves not to plant in that plot during that season, though there is little reason for this. Currently, unlike in real life, crop rotation is not necessary; soil productivity is only affected by fertilizing, and the same crop may be grown indefinitely without a decrease in performance, even without fertilizer.
From the uery menu, you can press to fertilize your crop with potash. Fertilized crops produce larger stacks of plants, which can be vital to grow your seed supply early on and your food supply later on. Pressing enables the "Seas Fert" option, which automatically fertilizes this particular plot at the beginning of each season (assuming your dwarves have sufficient potash). You must have the appropriate seeds to plant a crop on a plot. To easily see how many of each seed you have, you can go to the Kitchen menu ( ).
Since your dwarves require food, booze and clothing, you should set up a combination of plants that will supply all of these. Plump helmets are a good beginning crop for a first cave farm, and strawberries are a good choice for outdoor fields – both can be eaten raw, or brewed. Pig tails produce cloth, which will become important once your clothing starts to wear. Check the crops page for details on different seeds. Cooking plants destroys their seeds, so you should disable the cooking of plants in the Kitchen menu. Eating them, brewing them, or processing them through a farmer's workshop, quern, or millstone, will produce seeds.
Help, my farmers won't farm!
- Verify that you have farmers – that is, dwarves with the "Farming (fields)" labor enabled, and verify that your farmers have free time – farming appears to be a low-priority task, so it's a good idea to disable ALL other labors on one or two dedicated farmers. (Experienced farmers also produce better yields.)
- Verify that the farm plot has a crop selected for the current season. (Each season must be set up separately, and some crops only grow in certain seasons.)
- Verify that you have seeds for the chosen crop, and that those seeds are accessible to your farmers (not forbidden, locked behind a door, being carried across the map by one of your haulers, etc.).
- Verify that your farmers can reach your farm plot (no locked doors, disconnected stairways, etc.).
- Verify that your farm plot is acceptable. An underground plot that has been exposed to sunlight will never grow underground plants again. It may be necessary to remove the plot and rebuild it so that you can select aboveground crops to plant. Farm plots which are partially belowground and aboveground will never be fully planted. Additionally, some aboveground biomes (such as mountains and glaciers) are unsuitable for farming and will never grow crops.
Yield and fertilization
|Farm Size||Potash||Per Square|
|4 (1x4, 2x2)||2||0.500|
|6 (1x6, 2x3)||2||0.333|
|8 (1x8, 2x4)||3||0.375|
|9 (1x9, 3x3)||3||0.333|
|10 (1x10, 2x5)||3||0.300|
|12 (2x6, 3x4)||4||0.333|
|16 (2x8, 4x4)||5||0.312|
|18 (2x9, 3x6)||5||0.278|
|20 (2x10, 4x5)||6||0.300|
|24 (3x8, 4x6)||7||0.292|
|36 (4x9, 6x6)||10||0.278|
Each farm tile requires a single seed to be planted. Unfertilized farm tiles can produce a stack of 0-6 plants when harvested, depending upon the skill of the planter and random chance. Experimentally, fertilizing a farm plot boosts production by 1-3 additional plants per stack each harvest, though the exact mechanism is unknown. For unskilled planters, yield can be effectively doubled with the use of fertilizer. This can be particularly important early on, when your fortress's seed supply is limited, because those extra plants mean more seeds for planting next season. Many crops, like quarry bushes, are impossible to farm effectively in the beginning without fertilizer. Larger harvest stack sizes can also dramatically increase the efficiency of downstream industries; see the grower article for more discussion. To fertilize a farm plot, one needs potash, which is produced by processing ash. Each plot must be re-fertilized each season, and the fertilizer must be in place at the time the seeds reach maturity. It does not matter whether the plot is fertilized at the time of planting. 
Fertilizing a farm plot requires floor(plot_size / 4) + 1 potash. The table on the right illustrates the efficiency of potash as a function of plot size - the most efficient (for a specific amount of potash) are in bold, the least efficient are in italics, and sizes that are most efficient but very difficult to create in-game (not rectangular numbers less than or equal to 10 per side) are both bold & italicized. Generally, larger farms use less, approaching a limit of 1/4 bar per square. The worst yields per tile are multiples of 4; if one plans to optimize harvest yield, it's most efficient to have plots of size 4n - 1, where n is the number of potash used. Suitable sizes are 1x3, 1x7, 3x5, 3x9, 5x7, and 7x9. If one plans to optimize farmer experience, plots of size 2 or 4 can be fertilized and seeded quickest, and experience can be distributed among more farmers. This ensures that if a bounty of crop is needed in the future, your farmers can yield more without potash, can plant and harvest quicker, and will have more time for other jobs in between. Of course, the price you'll pay for this is more time spent highlighting each individual farm and changing the crops if you wish to adjust your farming plan.
Fertilizer may be applied to a plot by pressing while viewing the plot. Only dwarves with the Farming (Fields) labor will apply fertilizer; this grants 30 XP of farming experience for each unit of potash used. Pressing toggles seasonal fertilization. This does nothing until the next season, at which time the plot will be automatically fertilized. Note that if you do not have a potash stockpile near your farm plots, your legendary farmers may spend all of their time hauling single bars of potash from all the way on the other side of your fortress, rather than growing food.
Potash Production Chain: Wood Stockpile > Wood Furnace produces Ash (as bars) > Ashery produces potash (as bars). Note: 5 bars are stored in a bin. An Ashery requires a block, barrel, and bucket as components.
Exact yield mechanics
- Base yield is set to 1.
- If the farm plot is at least 25% fertilized, increase yield by rand(2) (a random number from 0 to 1).
- If the farm plot is at least 50% fertilized, increase yield by rand(2).
- If the farm plot is at least 75% fertilized, increase yield by rand(2).
- If the farm plot is 100% fertilized, increase yield by rand(2).
- If rand(5) (a random number from 0 to 4) is less than the Planting skill for the seed (the Farmer's skill level when the seed was planted, capped at 20 = Legendary+5), increase yield by rand(2).
- If rand(10) is less than the Planting skill for the seed, increase yield by rand(2).
- If rand(15) is less than the Planting skill for the seed, increase yield by rand(2).
- If rand(20) is less than the Planting skill for the seed, increase yield by rand(2).
- If rand(25) is less than the Planting skill for the seed (again, capped at 20) and rand(3) is equal to 0, increase yield by rand(2).
To grow the six "dwarven" plants, you will need an underground farm plot. The seeds and spawn available to your dwarves at embark will only grow underground. Underground farm plots must be placed on soil or muddy stone.
Muddying a stone floor requires temporarily covering it with water; common methods include a bucket brigade or controlled flooding (see: Irrigation) by temporarily diverting a river or pool, using a floodgate or door to stop the flow. You may also find a muddied area in a cavern, but note that each tile underneath the farm plot must be muddied. Most caverns have entire open areas which will be permanently covered in mud, but if you dig into the walls of a cavern or chisel away a pillar, the freshly cut floor area will not be muddied until you get it wet. Underground caverns are dirty, and frequently contain piles of mud that are perfect for quickly setting up farms. However, given the wide variety of creatures found in caverns, you may want to take precautions. Consider keeping a squad close at hand to guard the farm, or walling off a muddied area for your dwarves' exclusive use.
Underground farming is not restricted to soil layers and caverns; underground floor of any material – rough stone, smoothed stone, ore, gem – can support subterranean farm plots once there is a layer of mud covering it. See irrigation for tips on getting the right amount of water to the farm plots.
Farming of above ground crops is only possible on tiles that lie in a biome supporting their growth. Which crops are farmable depends on the biome - only plants native to a biome can actually be grown in a location: you cannot farm yams in a taiga, or hemp in a tropical rainforest. There are also biomes where aboveground farming is entirely impossible, since no crops are native to them: these are the notoriously cold glacier and tundra, but also all mountain and ocean biomes. The most widespread crops can be farmed in all land biomes with the exceptions mentioned above; this ubiquitous availability uses the internal reference NOT_FREEZING, but that label is somewhat misleading, since it's a shorthand for a group of specific biomes and doesn't imply anything about the actual temperature - mountains and oceans are generally infertile, no matter what temperature range the embark screen lists, and a Taiga with "freezing" temperatures allows farming above ground plants.
Above-ground farming is basically the same as underground farming, with the simplifying distinction that above ground plots typically do not require preparatory work. However, there are some complications.
The first complication is that seeds cannot be chosen at embark, as dwarven civilizations do not have access to those sort of plants. They can be bought from elven and human caravans; above-ground plants can be gathered using the Plant gathering designation, and then brewed, milled, threshed or eaten directly (depending on the plant) to produce seeds.
The second complication is that the farming must be done on soil or muddied rock, which is above ground. Typically, it is done on the surface, which is dangerous (due to aggressive animals, ambushes and sieges). However, any land which has ever been exposed to sunlight becomes permanently marked as "above ground". So, if you have multiple Z-layers of soil; you can channel some above-ground land, remove the resulting ramps, then construct a floor, above where the surface once was. The (now inside and protected) lower soil will still be suitable for farming outdoor plants like strawberries, longland grass, rope reed, and anything else you may find. If your soil is not thick enough, you may still get a secure above ground farm by doing the same with any stone and muddying it. Alternatively, you may build a greenhouse by walling around some soil.
The various crops require particular environments to grow. On an embark which crosses multiple biomes, it's not unusual for aboveground farms in different biomes to have different lists of available crops.
Farm plots in action
|Crops||Game ticks until harvest||Days until harvest|
|Plump helmet, pig tail||30000||25 days|
|Cave wheat, sweet pod, quarry bush, dimple cup||50000||41.666 days|
Once a farm plot has been built and crops have been selected for the current season, dwarves with the "Farming (Fields)" labor enabled will begin planting the selected seeds. One seed is used per tile. The higher a dwarf's grower skill in planting, the more plants will be harvested from each seed planted. The farming labor is fairly low in priority, so if you want a full-time farmer, it is best to disable all other labors.
Plants take time to grow, depending on their type. Once a plant is fully grown, a dwarf will harvest it. By default, any dwarf will do this. Harvesting plants is not affected by any skill, although it provides a small amount of grower experience. So it's a good idea to set only your planters to harvest, not anyone. To do that, set option "Only Farmers Harvest" . This is useful only to train your planter faster; once they're skilled enough, everyone can be allowed to harvest again so the haulers can take care of half the farming work.
In the farm plot shown on the right,
≈ indicates tiles awaiting planting,
═ indicates tiles that have been planted and are now growing, and
τ indicates longland grass plants that are ready for harvesting.
If harvested plants are not moved to a stockpile in time, they will wither, and eventually rot away, there being no use for withered plants. If, when the seasons change, the previous crop can not grow anymore, all immature plants will be destroyed, yielding neither seed nor plant. If the farmers are "aware" of this limitation, they will automatically stop planting crops that haven't enough time to ripen, but you might lose a few seeds in your first year when growers of insufficient skill plant seeds too close to the cutoff. Depending on the number of growers and their experience and the rate at which the plant grows, not all squares of large plots may be used. Any farm plot that has both Above Ground and Subterranean tile attributes within the plot will only be partially-planted, if at all. Verify using over each square of the plot and remake as needed to follow the proper attributes.
A beginning fortress has 7 dwarves, each of which consumes 7 units of food and drink per dwarf per season, needs 196 for the whole fortress for the year. This starting group can theoretically be supported by a single farm tile, but in practice a larger farm will be necessary since a young fortress is unable to use farm tiles to their fullest potential.
A properly-managed and fully-utilized 3x3 plot growing plump helmets can produce an average of up to 2700 units of alcohol per year, enough to provide food (through booze-cooking with seeds) and drink for a fortress of 95 dwarves. A similar 5x5 plot can produce up to 7500 units of food and drink per year, enough to support 265 dwarves.
Use the stocks menu, and go to the Kitchen tab. From here you can see how many of each kind of food you have. If you're running out of a certain kind of seed, toggle the corresponding plant "Cook" setting to red. Cooking plants doesn't leave a seed. If you have too many of a certain kind of seed, or of plump helmet, as noted above, toggle the seed "Cook" setting to blue. Just make sure you check on the stocks and toggle it back before you run out. It may also be a good idea to set aside a few seeds from each type of crop and forbid them, as a seed bank in case of fun times.
Seeds are used to grow crops. You may begin the game with a certain number of seeds, trade for them, or gather them. In addition to this, eating, milling and brewing plants often yield a seed (assuming your fortress hasn't hit the seed cap for that plant). Cooking plants does not yield seeds, and cooking seeds makes them unusable for planting, so you may want to watch out and make sure you don't convert the last of your plants into +strawberry roast+ without the ability to make more.
You can create a custom stockpile near your farm which will only accept seeds. This will consolidate your seeds into one place, instead of having them littered all through the dining room. Seeds are stored in bags (up to 100 seeds per bag), and seed bags can be stored in barrels. However it is recommended to not use barrels on seed stockpiles, since the hauling habits lead to barrels getting carted around to collect each and every loose seed, interrupting the planting work; see the Bugs section below for workarounds.
For DF2014 the theoretical seed stockpile maximum size is 31 tiles for 200 seeds of each of 155 crops, but the actual maximum needed is much less because no fort will be situated in the right place to grow all of those. Four tiles gives enough space for 20 different crops.
Each plant has a fortress-wide seed cap set at 200 (this value can be adjusted in d_init.txt). Brewing, milling, and eating raw plants will not generate additional seeds once the cap is reached, although you may still get additional seed bags via trading and thus exceed this limit. Once the count of seeds falls below 200, new seeds will again be generated.
There is also a fortress-wide total seed cap, initially set at 3000 (also configurable in d_init.txt). Once your fortress reaches this cap new seeds will still be generated, but the oldest seeds on the map will disappear. Unfortunately, this cap counts all seeds on the map, including those carried by traders Bug:8108, and removes old seeds even if they have already been planted Bug:8107. Finally, because the two caps behave differently, they can cause undesirable behavior when both are in operation Bug:8091.
Seeds may be toggled for cooking on the Kitchen tab of the stocks menu. Disabling seed cooking will keep your seeds safe from starving dwarves. Although the item properties label them as EDIBLE_RAW, rock nuts, like all other seeds, are not consumed as-is.
When your crops are ripe, your dwarves will harvest them from the farm plots. This will yield one or more stacks of plants, which will be hauled to the appropriate stockpile. It is generally a good idea to have sufficient barrels to hold the food, as food is subject to withering and the predation of vermin. Metal barrels are especially effective against vermin. You can create a custom stockpile that will only accept plants, to avoid having it all mixed up with your meat and drinks. It would be a good idea to have this stockpile near your still, farmer's workshop, kitchen, etc. You may also choose to make more specialized stockpiles, for instance if your windmill is located far away from your farms, you might have small nearby stockpiles dedicated solely to millable plants and flour so as to save on hauling.
The Kitchen tab on the stocks menu allows you to control which crops, if any, your dwarves will use as ingredients when cooking. Be careful when you are cultivating new crops or running low on others, and make sure you don't cook the last of them instead of recovering the valuable seeds. Note that experienced farmers and crop fertilization significantly increase the return on planted seeds, and can be quite useful when attempting to build your seed stockpile.
If you suffer from plump helmet overflow, create a plump-helmet-only stockpile, forbid plump helmets from all other food stockpiles, and let the crops in the field die if they can't be picked. It is worth noting that withering crops in the field do not produce miasma.
Interestingly, farming does work in adventure mode, though it requires the use of DFHack's advfort plugin - buy fruit at a market, brew them into booze and seeds, build farming plots, plant the seeds. Unfortunately the time it takes for stuff to grow is adapted to fortress mode, and it make an inordinate amount of time for your adventurer to do a single harvest.
- "Store item in container" jobs block access to items already in the container. This causes stored seeds to become unavailable, spamming job cancellations. Bug:9004
- Workaround #1: set your seed stockpile to only take from links (). When seed supplies run low, toggle it back to "anywhere" temporarily to gather up all the loose seeds.
- Workaround #2: disable barrels () in the seed stockpile. This means making the stockpile larger, as only one seed bag will be stored per tile. However, at 100 seeds per bag and with the 200 seed cap per seed type (cf. seed), this still only amounts to 12 tiles for a full underground-crop seed stockpile, assuming each seed type is only stored in 2 bags. Haulers will still lock a whole bag to gather individual seeds, but this is better than locking a whole barrel full of seed bags.
- Workaround #3: create two custom stockpiles which only accept seeds. Disable barrels in the first stockpile, and set it to give to the second stockpile. Set the second to only take from links.
- Workaround #4: disable seeds in all stockpiles and recruit a few extra farmers. No hauled seeds means no planting job cancellation spam.
- Fortress-wide seed cap counts seeds carried by traders Bug:8108
- Fortress-wide seed cap removes seeds that have already been planted Bug:8107
- Conflict between seed caps can cause all seeds for a crop to disappear Bug:8091
- Some crops can't be processed, and so can't be used or replanted Bug:6940
- partial workaround by editing the raws for bitter vetch (possibly works for other crops too)
Crops will sometimes be displayed as red in the field listing. This means that planting the crop would be fruitless, as it will not survive long enough to be harvested (due to it not being plantable during the next season). Note that this will only happen if your dwarves actually know that the crop will die, which will be learned either by observation (i.e. having the seeds die during a season transition) or by being planted by a sufficiently skilled Farmer.
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