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Desert Diary


Cultural diversity as a good thing has been in the news a lot recently. But it's not only in culture that variety is a good thing. Biological diversity is almost as often mentioned as cultural. An area less heard from, though, is agricultural diversity. When the pattern is to raise a single crop, a situation known as monoculture, all sorts of bad things can happen. Acre upon acre of cotton or corn or wheat is hog heaven for insects or fungal bad guys, with the common reaction a pouring on of chemicals for control. Chemicals that often, in themselves, are an ecological disaster. The potato famine of Ireland in 1846 to 1850 took as many as 1 million lives, the result of a fungal disease devastating the basic crop upon which millions depended.

The Southwest has been blessed in this matter. Unlike the cotton culture of the southeastern United States or the wheat-dependent Great Plains, our farmers have been able to diversify and switch out crops according to climatic and economic conditions. Cotton, chili, pecans—call us versatile.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. rule

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.