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Simon, J.E., J. Janick, and A. Hetzroni. 1996. The NewCROP electronic network. p. 142-147. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.

The NewCROP Electronic Network*

James E. Simon, Jules Janick, and Amots Hetzroni

    1. CropSEARCH
    2. CropREFERENCE
    3. CropEXPERTS
    4. NewcropNEWS
    5. NewcropEVENTS
    6. FarmMARKETS
  7. Table 1
  8. Table 2
  9. Fig. 1
  10. Fig. 2
  11. Fig. 3
  12. Fig. 4

The New Crops Resource On-Line Program (=NewCROP) is an electronic information system that provides a window to new and specialty crops, crop experts, farm markets and highlights the activities of the Indiana Center for New Crops and Plant Products. NewCROP is composed of a large collection of computer files and databases that reside on a Macintosh computer server in our Center. This computer is connected to the internet and acts as a network server by allowing users from all over the world to connect simultaneously and read the information. The files on the server are formatted to conform with the format adapted by World Wide Web (WWW) browsers such as www, lynx, mosaic, Internet Explorer, and Netscape. Netscape is the preferred browser. One of the key features of this server is that users can easily link to other documents anywhere in NewCROP or externally to other sites on the internet which focus on new crops and plant products. The connection is established when the user selects, typically by clicking the "mouse," on highlighted words or pictures in the document.


The NewCROP Server runs on a MacIntosh OS--Power PC 7100 with 40 megabytes RAM. The server is housed on a 1 gigabyte external hard-drive, currently occupying about 300 mb of hard-drive space and permits access to six outside users simultaneously. HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML) is written using editing programs such as Alpha, HTML Web Weaver, HTML editor and HTML SuperText. Construction of NewCROP WWW server began Oct. 1994 and the system went on-line March 15, 1995. The Universal Resource Locator (URL) or address of NewCROP is:


A successful connection into the NewCROP WWW server leads to the Home or Welcome Page which provides the user with links to other places of interest (Fig. 1). The topic choices are underlined bold text. By clicking the mouse over any of the bolded text (e.g. CropSEARCH), a new screen will appear with information pertaining to the selected topic. The available topics include CropSEARCH, indexed database of crop plants; CropREFERENCE, reference books and manuals; CropEXPERT, directory of new crop researchers; NewCropNEWS, newsletters of the New Crop Center; NewCropEVENTS, announcements and upcoming events; FarmMARKET, farmer's markets of the U.S. The server has links on every page providing easy access back to the Welcome Page. An extensive list of pointers provides access to external new-crops and plant products-related web sites, external Data-Bases, and Libraries.


The major feature of the server is CropSEARCH, an indexed database of crop plants that contains records with basic information on crop plants. This information can be accessed by the user by clicking the mouse on a common name or scientific binomial (Fig. 2). The basic skeleton was based on about 580 descriptions of food and feed crops found in Magness et al. (1971) but we continue to supplement this list with additional information in the form of photographs, new plant listings, and new databases. In addition, crop descriptions are being enriched by the incorporation of FactSHEETS (Fig. 3), consisting of in-depth information including botany, crop culture, natural products, production guide, toxicity, listing of experts, sources of germplasm, and key literature. We are now in the process of adding a list of about 400 energy crops from an unpublished manuscript of James Duke and a list of 500 famine plants from Robert Freedman.

Access to information is aided by a powerful search mechanism built into the server (AppleSearch) so that crops an be potentially accessed by a single word contained in crop descriptions in the data base (e.g. plant name, bulb, tuber, fruit). CropSEARCH is a dynamic resource which is continually being updated and expanded. We foresee scanning seminal papers for each crop into the database to provide even further information.


This database presently consists of a list of monographs and general reference books on new crops. This list presently is subdivided (e.g. General, Legumes, Nuts, Medicinal Aromatic Spices & Herbs).


This resource lists names of experts plus addresses, phone, and fax subdivided by basic crop groupings. These include: General; Cereals & Pseudocereals; Fiber Crops; Forages; Fruits (Subtropical, Tropical, Temperate); Industrial Crops; Legumes; Medicinals, Aromatic Spices & Herbs, Mushrooms; Nuts; Oilseeds; Ornamentals (Floral, Landscape); and Vegetables (Fruit, Leafy, Root).


All the issues of the newsletter of the Indiana's Center for New Crops and Plant Products are available on the server and there is a link to the Australian New Crop Association Newsletter. We foresee that this grouping could be expanded to include other relevant newsletters including that from the Center for Alternative Crops and Produces, University of Minnesota.


This calendar of upcoming events includes national and international conferences and workshops, and is kept current. Many of the listings include detailed information about the program, some have direct WWW links to conference secretariats, and symposium organizers for more complete information.


This database is a comprehensive listing of farmers' markets operating in the United States at the end of 1993 (Johnson and Bragg 1994). The directory list all markets within each state by name, address, telephone numbers, and contact person when available, and whether the market operates seasonal or year-round. It also contains a "Gateway Link" to other market-related sites, e.g. Open-Air Market Network.


The NewCROP Server is a subscribing location to the NewCROP LISTSERV which functions as an interactive electronic "bulletin board" for the world community of new crop workers. The NewCROP LISTSERV discussion group operates from an IBM mainframe computer at the Purdue University Computer Center. At present, there are about 300 subscribers, most from the U.S. and Canada but also from over 30 other countries. While many subscribers tend to be university-based researchers or educators and extension specialists seeking specialized information, most subscribers come from the commercial sector. The number of subscribers is dynamic but there has been a general trend upward. All LISTSERV communications are downloaded so that there is an archived listing of its use. A series of four tutorials provide directions and help for those seeking to both subscribe and use the LISTSERV. To subscribe to NewCROPS LISTSERV, send an e-mail message to:

and then in the message area type: SUBSCRIBE NEWCROPS <Your name, Institution>


There has been a strong demand for new crops information by the commercial and academic communities. In part, this may be due to the increased interest in new crops for crop diversification and to find new extractable chemicals and plant products from traditional and new crops. Since bringing the NewCROP server on-line, the number of files requested by users continues to increase. By the end of the first week of going on-line, where our only promotion was to announce the NewCROP in the new crops LISTSERV, more than 1,000 files were searched and sent to users. During the period from March 12, 1995 through July 15, 1995, file usage increased from 1,000 to almost 5,000 (Fig. 4).

International demand for new crop information is very high. For example, during the week of July 16-24, 1995, users from 18 different countries accessed the NewCROP server and made 774 contacts (Table 1). This does not account for the number of files requested and transferred out of the system, only the number of times a user successfully connected into the server.

There also has been considerable domestic interest in new crops. There were 2,876 domestic contacts into the NewCROP server the week of July 16-24, 1995 (Table 2). While 41% of contacts originated from U.S. educational sources (presumably universities, colleges and extension), more than 52% originated from commercial sources, an observation which was unexpected. The 3% of contacts which came from U.S. government (e.g. USDA, state agencies), probably reflects new crop researchers. These data show that there is a considerable demand for such a new crop information system, and when coupled with the positive direct feedback received from users, we conclude that NewCROP has been an effective vehicle to reach thousands of professionals in the private and public sector, and can function as an outreach for extension and training. This electronic information network clearly can deliver production, processing and marketing information in an efficient and timely manner to both commercial and academic sectors. The challenge before us is to continue to build and maintain NewCROP to meet user needs.


NewCROP became operational on March 15, 1995 and now can be viewed over the WWW by mosaic, netscape, lynx, and other software browsers that provide access into the internet. The electronic network involves interactive communication via a LISTSERV bulletin board and non-interactive communication via NewCROP. The non-interactive branch is composed of a virtual library based upon CropSEARCH, CropREFERENCE, CropEXPERT, NewCropNEWS, NewCropEVENTS, and FarmMARKETS. The server also has links to a multitude of other WWW servers related to new crops and plant products. NewCROP is being used domestically and internationally by both the private and public sectors and offers an effective vehicle as a new crop information center and distribution resource.


*This work was supported by grants from the Indiana Business and Modernization Technology Corporation and the Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Purdue University. We acknowledge the efforts of Ben Alkire, Paul Angers, Denys Charles, Terry McCain, Nissim Ozer, and Anna Whipkey.
Table 1. A one-week sample survey of international use and demand for NewCROP (A New Crops Resource On-Line Program). The total number of files requested and sent to on-line users from countries outside of the United States, listed by country domains. Week of July 16-24, 1995.

Country Number % of total
Australia 86 11.1
Belgium 6 0.8
Canada 140 18.1
Finland 3 0.4
France 3 0.4
Germany 2 0.2
Italy 5 0.6
Japan 1 0.1
Mexico 3 0.2
Netherlands 59 7.6
New Zealand 54 6.9
Norway 13 1.7
Portugal 12 1.6
Singapore 5 0.6
Spain 11 1.4
Sweden 2 0.2
Switzerland 13 1.6
United Kingdom 66 8.5
Unresolved 290 37.5
Total 774 100.0

Table 2. A one-week sample survey of domestic use and demand for NewCROP. The total number of files requested and sent to on-line domestic users, listed by user's professional/industrial affiliation. Week of July 16-24, 1995.

U.S. user Number % of total
Commercial 1506 52.4
Educational 1189 41.4
Government 75 2.6
Military 74 1.5
Organization 62 2.2
Total 2876 100.0

Fig. 1. NewCROP Home or Welcome Page.

Fig. 2. CropSEARCH indexed crop database.

Fig. 3. Pawpaw (A) article from Magness et al. (B) crop FactSHEET.

Fig. 4. Number of files requested and sent from Purdue NewCROP server each week from Mar. 12–July 15, 1995.

Last update August 15, 1997 aw