Notes to broadcasters
The following radio spots highlight the advantages to farmers of growing many different kinds of crops, instead of just a few. Use the spots to promote interest in your programs on biodiversity, or as examples to introduce a longer program you may wish to prepare.
Growing different varieties of crops is a good idea. Why? Well, if you grow only a few crops, and one or more of those crops fail, you might not have enough food for your family or to sell. But if you grow many different crops and crop varieties, you improve your chances. And a variety of different foods is a better diet — which means better health for your family.
Many farmers these days grow only a few kinds of crops. That’s usually because they can sell the crops that their family doesn’t need and get a good price. But there are many good reasons for growing a lot of different crops and crop varieties and for growing them on small areas or rows that are mixed in with other crops.
What are the advantages of growing many different crops? First, you get different foods for your family’s different needs. Some foods give you energy, others keep you from getting sick, while others help your children grow, and keep everyone strong. By growing many different crops your livestock will also have a healthy diet. In addition, your crops will provide medicines, fuel, and building materials.
All farmers know that different crops grow well in different conditions. Some crops grow well in dry areas. Others grow better when it’s wet or when the air is moist. There are also crops that will die if the weather gets really cold. All this is to say that different crops have a better chance of surviving in different conditions. For example, if the weather gets very dry, or there’s a heavy rain or a frost, one of your crops may be damaged. If you’ve planted lots of crops though, there is a good chance that some will survive and will stay healthy. So you will be safer from the risks the weather can bring.
Here’s something to think about. If you sell your produce, growing many crops may reduce your risk of losing money. Think what may happen if you and your neighbours all grow the same few crops. Even if you have a large crop to sell, you will be competing with your neighbours. You may have to lower your price, so your income from that crop will be less. But you can reduce your losses if you harvest and sell other crops at the same time.
You can reduce crop damage from pests and diseases by planting many different crops. This is because most insects and diseases attack only certain kinds or varieties of crops. Insects and diseases spread quickly if you have planted a large area with the crop they like to attack. If you grow many different crops and you plant them in small areas or rows mixed in with other crops, it’s not as easy for insects to find the crops they like.
Grow as many varieties as possible of each crop. Different varieties have different abilities to tolerate pests and diseases. Different varieties mature at different times. Different varieties have different flavours and different cooking qualities.
Suppose you plant three kinds of beans. If there is an early drought, the early variety may produce very little, but the late variety will be able to produce a crop when there are late rains. And even when the weather is good, planting early and late varieties means that you have supplies of that vegetable for eating or selling for a longer time.
It is important for all of us to continue planting traditional varieties of crops. These are the varieties that farmers have grown for many years. Your parents and grandparents probably grew them. These local varieties grow well in your climate and are not badly damaged by pests. They taste good and cook well. Usually there is no need to buy expensive chemical pesticides and fertilizers to grow these varieties.
And just because you still grow these traditional varieties doesn’t mean that you can’t also grow new crops. Experiment with mixtures of both.
If people stop growing traditional varieties of crops, these good foods may be lost forever. It is risky and dangerous to lose varieties of vegetables, grains and fruits that are so well adapted to local growing conditions and cultures. The best way to conserve these plants is to keep them growing in your gardens and fields.
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- Reviewed by: Hélène Chiasson, Urgel-Delisle & associés inc, Québec, Canada.
- This script was adapted from Grow many different crops and crop varieties, DCFRN script 18-5, 1990.