The planning and initial expert consultancies for Ecocrop took place in 1991 and the actual work on the database started in July 1992. The database was developed by the Land and Water Development Division of FAO (AGLL) as a tool to identify plant species for given environments and uses, and as an information system contributing to a Land Use Planning concept.
The program was designed with relatively basic crop environmental requirements information. This design was chosen because the primary object of the project was to include many species and also include species less well known for which it was not possible to obtain detailed information. In April 1994 the first version of Ecocrop, containing information on 1200 species was released on diskette. This work was supported by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). FAO invested an estimate of 300 person days in the development of this first version.
The second version of Ecocrop, also developed by AGLL, was released in August 1996. It permitted the identification of more than 1700 plant species whose most important climate and soil requirements could be matched with the information on soil and climate entered by the user. The database was designed to facilitate the comparison of 12-20 different environmental requirements across different groups of species or across species of different use and could be used in all agro-ecological settings of the world. Textual information comprising a brief description of the species, its use, synonyms, common names and notes were also included. FAO invested an estimated further 400 person days in this development.
The third version of Ecocrop now available on CD-ROM was released by AGLL in the "FAO Land and Water Digital Media Series" in September 1998. The improvement for this release concentrated on the user interface whereas the information base as such remained the same. About 30 person days were invested in the partial redesign of the software.
In May 1997 the Plant Production and Protection Division of FAO (AGPC) took over the development of Ecocrop and in May 1999 the database went online as the Division developed an Internet version of the program and incorporated it into the "Plant Production and Protection Information System" (PPPIS). Again the improvement in this release was for the user interface whereas the information remained the same. About 30 person days were invested in the revision of the software.
In October 2000 Ecocrop went on-line under its own URL www.ecocrop.fao.org. The database now held information on more than 2000 species and 10 new descriptors had been added. About 300 person days were invested in adding/updating species and revision of the software.
Since then 300 more species have been added, volume 4 of the “Land and Water Digital Media Series” has been published in two new revisions and many species has been updated. During this period FAO has invested further 200 person days in the programme.