Cereals, any of various grass plants that yield edible grain. Rye, wheat, barley, oats and corn are cultivated in Austria and used in food production and as animal feed, the stalks are used as animal feed and litter.
Wheat (Emmer), barley and rye have been cultivated since the Neolithic period. In the Middle Ages, cultivation increased due to improvements in the plough and scythe, and crops were rotated in a three-field system (summer grain, winter grain, fallow). Granaries were built in towns to prevent famines caused by grain shortage. Since the 19th century, artificial fertilisers, improved strains of cereals and mechanical agricultural tools have led to better yields, which counteracted poor harvests and thus helped prevent famines. Since the 1950s wheat production has increased at the expense of rye. Since about 1960, the cultivation of corn has also been on the increase.
In 1994, 240,900 hectares wheat (triticum aestivum), 73,700 hectares rye (secale cereale) 265,300 hectares barley (hordeum vulgare), 52,700 hectares oats (avena sativa) 8,000 hectares mixed feed (wheat and rye) and spelt (triticum aestivum var. spelta) were cultivated, mainly for human food and animal feed. Cereal is grown on 45% of arable land in Austria. 23% of the cereal grains are used in bread production. Excessive cultivation of cereals has led to overproduction, which today can be reduced by encouraging farmers to grow alternative crops such as protein or oil-containing plants (legume, sunflowers, rape, etc.). In 1993, overall cereal production amounted to 2.44 million tons, which means that Austria produced 8 % more grain than it used (and 28 % more than needed for bread production). Per capita and year the Austrians consume 49.1 kg of wheat flour and 12.6 kg of rye flour. Yields range from 3.5 t and 5 t per hectare. Soft grain wheat is grown for the production of bread and animal feed, durum wheat for the production of semolina and noodles. Barley with tightly packed rows of grain is cultivated for stock feed and barley with two rows of grain is made into malt and used in beer production.