In principle, it should be possible to characterize soil and climate so that areas that are similar, even though widely scattered, could use the same technology. In practice this has proved very difficult. As the number of factors increases sufficiently to carefully characterize sites, those that are similar become smaller and smaller in number. Researchers often refer to "site-specific technology." This simply means that any particular technology is specifically suited only to the site for which it was designed. This is true whether the technology is cultural techniques or pest control methods.
Two very large projects were specifically designed to overcome the problems of site-specific technology. In one of these the technology was to be developed at specific sites and demonstrated to be useful at similar sites. This project was unable to fulfill its objectives. In a second project years of experimentation at distant locations finally came through with a mathematical model to predict the yield of a crop at one location based on its performance at other locations. All test locations had to be thoroughly characterized. This has been done with only one crop, corn (maize). The technique is too cumbersome to be of practical value, and the old-fashioned technique of a varietal trial is still the best method of determining the value of a particular crop or technology.
There are no final answers to the questions, "What crop should I grow?" and "How should the crop be grown?" Superficially, agriculture is simply crops, climate, and land. But in reality each is extremely complex, requiring knowledge, experience, and judgment. On the other hand, the crop production potentialities are revealed by trial and error. There is no substitute for hard work and a sharp eye.
Some logical questions follow "What crop can I grow?" The answers may require considerably more study. What are appropriate varieties? Where can seed be obtained, and how can it be maintained? What are the appropriate seasons for planting? How can it best be fertilized? What insects, other pests, and diseases may occur, and how can they be controlled? When and how is the crop to be harvested? How can it be stored, processed and utilized? Will people accept it? Will it be economical in terms of energy, time, and money? Part of ECHO's work is to give you perspectives on these issues to equip you to answer such questions.
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