ECHO Asia Notes is a quarterly technical e-bulletin containing articles of interest to agriculture and community development workers in Asia.

This list contains articles from ECHO Asia Notes, many of which have been translated into regional languages.  

66 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 31 - 27)

Feed Options for Ruminants in the Tropics - 2017-06-08

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 31.

The amazing multi-stomached ruminant comes in many forms, with varied nutritional requirements. Ruminants are even-toed, cloven-hoofed, four-legged, cud-chewing mammals of the suborder Ruminantia (within order Artiodactyla). Cattle, water buffalo, goats, and yaks are some of the ruminants found in Southeast Asia.

Many options are available for feeding ruminants on the small farm. Before selecting a feeding strategy for your situation, be sure that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Every farm is unique, and farmers must determine the most appropriate and cost-effective techniques for their needs.


Creating a Low-Cost Seed Dryer for Use in Local Seed Banks - 2017-06-08

This article is from ECHO Asia Note # 31.

Saving your own seeds can be a cost-effective way to access crop seed for future planting and to help maintain the planet’s plant biodiversity. Whether you plant your own saved seeds, give them away to friends and neighbors, or distribute them through your organization, the ability to effectively harvest, clean, prepare, dry, and store seeds is important to help maintain seed germination and viability. This note will focus on the importance of drying seeds to proper seed moisture content, and will provide details about two low-cost seed dryers that we have built and use at the ECHO Asia Impact Center Seed Bank. 


Permaculture in Development - 2017-02-02

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #30

The word permaculture is mentioned with increasing frequency in speeches, books and magazine articles on sustainability and food security. What is permaculture? Is it a movement? A philosophy? Simply a set of design tools? In this article, I answer the above questions by looking at permaculture from a variety of angles. First, I briefl y describe permaculture’s history, underlying ethics, and key principles and common practices. Then I discuss common criticisms of permaculture and explain the underlying perspective that shapes its use in addressing a community’s food, water and shelter needs (i.e., the lens through which a permaculturalist views development). Finally, I share how permaculture has infl uenced my own life and work, both as a Christian and as an agriculture development worker.

Soils of Mainland Southeast Asia - 2017-02-02

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #30

Editor’s Note: Peter is a freelance consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a M.Sc. in Agriculture from Leipzig, Germany. Peter is a former researcher in “The Uplands Program,” a collaborative research program between Hohenheim University (Germany), Chiang Mai University (Thailand), and others. Contact:

We have been looking for a reference guide to the soils of Southeast Asia for some time, and in the past have had to rely upon the fragmented soil classifi cations provided by most Southeast Asian countries. Those guides tended to include old data and were certainly not interactive. In this article, Peter Elstner explores the digital soil map of the world and the resulting seven major soil classes of Southeast Asia. Soils are the backbone and foundation for all sustainable agriculture and development, and knowing the type of soil in your community is essential for knowing the types of crops, development, and land use that can occur there. Be sure to check out the Reference Soil Groups (starting on page 6). We hope that this guide will inspire you to explore the digital soil map and learn more about the soils in your area.]

This report describes and analyzes the soil distribution and characteristics of the main soil types in Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA) that comprise the countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam (Map 1).

Diagnosing Crop Nutrient Deficiencies in the Field - 2016-10-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #29

The old adage ‘You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know you have one’ underpins the basic science of diagnosing plant nutrient deficiencies. For years, farmers and scientists have worked together to identify a set of visual clues that can be used to determine nutrient deficiencies in a variety of agronomic crops. These clues and symptoms can be extremely useful, especially when soil and plant tissue testing methods are neither feasible nor available.

A Primer on Coffee Harvesting and Processing

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #29

Processing methods for coffee can drastically change the quality and taste of the final product, for better or for worse. By choosing a method that positively impacts quality, flavor, and cost, a coffee producer can optimize the coffee’s potential, at the same time optimizing a farmer’s income from that higher-quality coffee. Using an improved method to remove the coffee bean from the coffee cherry is one of the most effective ways to increase quality.

Seed Saving in the Tropics: Lessons Learned from the Network - 2016-07-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #28

For both farmers and researchers in the tropics, seed saving can be very frustrating. In Mondulkiri province, farmers are rarely able to keep seed for more than the six months between harvest and the new planting season. Seeds stored longer than this tend to either pick up moisture from the extra humid air during the wet season and lose viability, or suffer from insect pests that proliferate and destroy the seed. At our resource center, we had wanted to build up a seed inventory of many useful plant species without having to grow out each variety every year. However, similar to the farmers, our seed had often quickly lost viability or was destroyed by pests while stored.

Refrigeration and freezing of most orthodox seeds are well known methods for extending seed life, (See ECHO Asia Note 14 “Vacuum Sealing versus Refrigeration”), but don’t offer an appropriate solution in areas like Mondulkiri province, where electricity, if available, is unreliable and expensive. In partnership with ECHO Asia and with funding from the Presbyterian Hunger Program, staff members at Ntuk Nti have been conducting research over the past year to design and test appropriate options for seed saving. In this article we share some of our findings - useful methods to improve seed storage without electricity that even the poorest and most isolated farmers can use.

Farm-Generated Feed: Chicken Feed Production - 2016-07-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #28

Farm-generated fertility contributes to a more sustainable agricultural system. Crop residues and manures are part of the nutrient cycle for plant production and can lower input costs through the use of thermophilic composting, vermiculture, bokashi production, and/or green manures. Farm-generated feeds can also reduce expenses, as farmers manage and utilize resources already available to them. Chickens in particular can be very expensive to feed on a small scale with purchased commercial feeds. In this ECHO Asia Note, we will explore a variety of alternatives for small flock feeds.

Soil Microorganisms: What They Do and How to Measure Them - 2016-03-01

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #27

Microorganisms are defined as any living things too small for the eye to see; they include fungi, algae, and bacteria (Rao, 1995). These small organisms can be found everywhere: in water, air, and in the soil. On a farm, microorganism numbers are especially high in compost, manure, and the juice from IM (Indigenous Microorganisms; or juice from EM, Effective Microorganisms). Microorganisms are an important component of the soil; they help to decompose organic matter, while also making nutrients available to plants from rocks and air, and aiding in soil adhesion (Tisdall, 1994; Hayat et al., 2010). Soil microorganisms also play a critical role in keeping plants healthy, as they help with nutrient cycling, break down herbicides, and—if good microorganisms are in abundance—reduce bacterial plant diseases (Anderson, 1984; Mendes et al., 2011).

Constructing an Improved Cold Room for Seed Storage - 2016-03-01

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #27

When planning to construct a “Cold Room” or “Seed Storage Room” for the purpose of preserving seed viability, one must first consider principles for optimum seed storage. In ECHO Asia Note 14 (July 2012), we shared results from our comparison of vacuum sealing versus refrigeration, and highlighted the importance of moisture control and temperature control in seed storage. We found moisture control (vacuum sealing) to be more effective in maintaining seed viability than temperature control (refrigeration). It is ECHO Asia’s experience that seeds are best stored in the tropics by first using vacuum sealing after drying (to preserve low seed moisture content), then storing the packaged seeds in cool temperatures. When designing a cold room for optimum seed storage conditions, good insulation and cooling are important; however, without a proper moisture barrier, the cooling process will draw moisture from the outside and create condensation, leading to increased moisture content. In cases where seeds are not also stored in vacuum sealed bags themselves, or when the seal on the vacuum-sealed bags breaks, this additional moisture can damage seeds.