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Farming is the act of growing crops for food, alcohol production and cloth manufacturing. 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 (b-p, resize with umkh). 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. The "Farming (Fields)" labor must be enabled. Farm plots only display the kind of crops that they are able to grow when selected with the query key.
Depending on where the farm plot is constructed, different crops may be planted. Farm plots built above ground are not suitable for the crops grown on subterranean farm plots and vice versa. Note that the attributes Inside, Outside are of no relevance. You can grow surface plants indoors by channelling out the roof above the desired plot and then constructing a floor (b-C-f) 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).
Note that although you can construct a farm plot anywhere there is either a soil floor or a mud covering, this does not always mean seeds can be planted there. Certain biomes will not allow planting certain seeds, and some biomes will prevent the planting of all above-ground crops.
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
First, build a farm plot "building" (b-p, resize with umkh) on soil or muddy rock. 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.)
Once the farm plot has been built, you must select which crops to grow. Press q and move the cursor over the farm. You will see a list of crops you can select to grow in the current season. You can change which season is displayed by pressing a,b,c, or d. Move the blue selector up and down with - and +, and press Enter to choose a crop to plant during that season (highlighted in white).
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 (z right Enter).
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 wild 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.
Instructing a plot to remain fallow (z) during a particular season will tell dwarves not to plant in that plot during that season. Note that, 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.
|Farm Size||Potash||Per Square|
Fertilizing a farm plot increases its yield (the number of plants that grow in each planted tile). The exact improvement is not known. 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. Generally, larger farms use less, approaching a limit of 1/4 bar per square. The worst sizes are multiples of 4; if one plans to fertilize, 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.
Fertilizer may be applied to a plot by pressing f 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 s 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.
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.
Above Ground Farming
Farming of above ground crops is only possible on tiles that lie in a biome supporting their growth. Those are "land" biomes excluding the notoriously cold Glacier and Tundra, but also all Mountain biomes. Ocean biomes are also excluded, since they are not "land". The biomes where above ground farming is possible are internally referred to as 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 wild 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.
Some crops require a particular temperature range to grow; so although it may be possible to plant them in any season, to obtain optimal usage of farm plots it may be necessary to coordinate planting with seasonal temperature variations.[Verify]
Note that when creating an above ground plot, the interface may incorrectly display "No mud/soil for farm", even though mud is present. Bug:249 The message can be ignored.
Farm plots in action
Once a farm plot has been built and crops have been selected for the current season, dwarves with the growing 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" oh. 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.
Plants that remain in the field for too long will wither. These plants will eventually rot away. There's no use for withered plants. Farmers plant up to the last day of the growing season; if, when the seasons change, the previous crop can not grow anymore, all immature plants will be destroyed yielding neither seed nor plant. Therefore, it's recommended not to grow crops on the last season they're able to (for example, pig tails in autumn), to prevent losing seeds.
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 k over each square of the plot and remake as needed to follow the proper attributes.
Create a custom stockpile near your farm which only accepts seeds. This will consolidate your seeds into one place, instead of having them littered all through the dining room. As a single barrel can hold up to 10 seed bags (each of which can hold 100 seeds of a specific type), and there is a maximum of 200 seeds of each type in the whole fortress, this stockpile need only be three or four tiles. Unfortunately, due to an outstanding bug, consolidating your seeds will increase the amount of planting job cancellation spam; see the Bugs section below for workarounds.
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.
You can also 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. 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.
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, or use the seed bank idea above.
Seeds are what 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 +wild 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. It is recommended not to use barrels on seeds stockpiles, however, since the hauling habits of the current version lead to barrels getting carted around to collect each and every loose seed, interrupting the planting work.
Each plant has a seed cap set at 200. Brewing, milling, and eating raw plants will not generate additional seeds once the cap is reached, although your trader may still barter for additional seed bags and thus exceed this limit. Once the count of seeds falls below 200, new seeds will again be generated.
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.
- Haulers will frequently take a full, heavy seed barrel from a stockpile to go pick up a single seed bag, having the unfortunate side effect of making all of the hauled seeds unusable for planting and spamming job cancellations. Bug:5964
- Workaround #1: set your seed stockpile to only take from links (a). When seed supplies run low, toggle it back to "anywhere" temporarily to gather up all the loose seeds.
- Workaround #2: disable barrels (E) 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 take a whole bag to gather individual seeds, but this is better than taking 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.