Seed and other planting materials must be available for planting by farmers at the right time, in sufficient quantity and of varieties adapted to the area where they are to be grown in order to satisfy the needs of subsistence and commercial farmers. In addition, these materials must fulfil minimum quality requirements. However, access to seed is often constrained physically and economically, and in many situations like after the occurrence of calamities, farmers encounter serious difficulties to obtain them, putting at risk their livelihoods and the food security of their families and of wide sectors of the population. Having good knowledge of the planting periods is often critical to the success of interventions requiring seed supplies in order to assist farmers in food crop production. Removing a major handicap such as lack of knowledge of planting dates, seed rates and other basic information related to crop production minimizes the uncertainties regarding the timeliness and suitability of actions towards the resumption of the productive capacity of farmers. Even under normal circumstances, a good knowledge and easy access to this information is substantial for planning extension activities and for the overall crop production campaigns.
With the aim of determining the right period during which the seeds of the most important food crops must be available for successful crop production in the most important agro-ecological zones of each country, FAO/AGPS has compiled data from the Latin America and Caribbean Region and Africa in order to prepare a set of country calendars of the major food crops. Complementary information such as planting rates, growing periods and common cropping practices for the major food crops is also included when available. Following the experiences gathered in this exercise, similar activities will be carried out in other regions.
The crop calendars will eventually be used as a tool in planning and management of activities related to seeds and crops, in particular in the rehabilitation of farming systems after disasters. Access to this information will be valuable to the Ministries of Agriculture of the FAO member countries for use by agricultural planners, extensionists and other seed and crop production personnel. This information will also be relevant to FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) as well as to farmers, international organizations, agricultural NGOs and other relief institutions.
The species included in the Crop calendar are the major food crops, as selected in each particular country. Crops are grouped into five major categories: cereals and pseudo-cereals, oil and sugar crops, pulses, vegetables and roots and tubers.
The definition of each crop is made on the following basis:
To reflect the variation of planting dates in different regions of each country, the agro-ecological zones will be used as a key element to structure the information. Agro-ecological zones are defined in terms of climate, landform and soils and describe the specific range of potentials and constraints for agricultural production.
In each country the sowing/planting period for each crop and agro-ecological zone is included. Since the planting date of a crop may vary among farmers within a region and also from one year to another depending on the particular conditions, the sowing/planting date is presented as a time period.
For crops and agro-ecological zones where sowing/planting can be done throughout all the year, this is explicitly mentioned. In these cases, if there is a preferred planting period it is also included. Furthermore, some crops are cultivated in more than one season of the year. When this happens, all the sowing/planting periods are included.