Selecting suitable tropical crops
THE MOST-ASKED QUESTION. What question do we receive the most frequently from ECHO's network? Easily it is some variation of, "What crops can people consider for the region where I work?" This is usually followed by some description of climate, soils, etc. Often some especially difficult condition is outlined-too much or too little rain, farms that are too small, steep, rocky, hot, infertile, swampy, or remote.
This is also one of the most frustrating questions to try to answer. We asked Dr. Frank Martin to put together something that would help you answer the question for yourself. He found it the most difficult assignment we have given him. "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 proven very difficult." He knows of two large projects which tried to accomplish this, but neither turned up anything that appears to be useful. "The old- fashioned technique of a variety trial is still the best method to determine the value of a particular crop for your region."
The article that follows contains three levels of complexity. In one table, the most complex, he pulls together 140 crops, including both annuals and perennials, and vegetable, field and fruit crops. It will be useful as a rough screen to chose or eliminate crops you might consider. Other tables list several plants based only on rainfall amount and distribution and on temperature. No attempt was made to prepare an exhaustive list. For each of these climates, he has chosen several useful and probably familiar plants that would be well worth a try.
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