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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.  

101 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 29 - 25) |

Diagnosing Crop Nutrient Deficiencies in the Field

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.

Seed Saving in the Tropics: Lessons Learned from the Network

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

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

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

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.

A Small Farm Water Management Case Study: Fighting Climate Change and Promoting Self Sufficiency

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #26

Mr. Bunlom Taokaew is the son of rice farmers. He chose a career as a businessman after he finished school. Because he didn’t make enough of a living, he went into debt to the order of hundreds of thousands of baht. He borrowed money from his father, a farmer using integrated farming methods, many times to repay his debts, until finally his father told him to return to being a farmer instead. Mr. Bunlom decided to take his advice, but he didn’t believe farming would help relieve him of his debts. He started by building a structure to cultivate oyster mushrooms, which didn’t require a large investment, and little by little he started to produce enough to sell locally, reducing his living costs, until there was enough money left over to save, and until, finally, he was able to repay his debts. His sustainable life began more than ten years ago. It was a result of following in the footsteps of His Majesty the King, and his own father, who set an example he could follow.

Making and Testing an Alternative Herbicide for Smallholder Farmers

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #26

ECHO Asia Impact Center staff members first heard about alternative herbicide recipes that use fermented papaya and pineapple from a retired technical school teacher and organic farmer, Kru Pratoom. As weeding is a big part of any farmer’s life, the Seed Bank staff wanted to try out a lower-risk herbicide to see if its effects on weeds would warrant its use. They also wanted to ensure that this herbicide would not pose a risk to soil pH, microbiology, structure, and plant uptake and health. This ECHO Asia Research Note describes the process used to create this herbicide, as well as a sampling technique to determine its efficacy on weeds. Look for a future note about the methodology used to help determine its effects on soil microorganisms and health.

An Introduction to the Mound, Reservoir, and Paddy Model of Water Management - 2015-12-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #26

This series of articles on water management has been reprinted with permission from Thailand’s Natural Farming Magazine and serves as an introduction to small-scale water management. Many of the ideas offered in these articles are consistent with permaculture design principles, which promote farmer resiliency against varying weather extremes. To read more about permaculture options for smallholder farms, please see this “Permaculture in Development” article by Brad Ward in ECHO Development Note #129.

Options for Smallholder Farms: Water Management Design Principles - 2015-09-01

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #26

At the beginning of last year, Thailand experienced its most severe drought in twenty years. Only four years ago it also experienced its most severe flooding. Natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency and severity; it is therefore vital to establish defenses against catastrophes like these. One such defence is redesigning areas based on the “mound, reservoir, and paddy” model of water management, which is one way of implementing a concept promoted by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. This model is an efficient method of coping with water disasters, whether flooding or drought.

Bringing Balance and Caution to Tropical Forage Crops - 2015-08-01

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #25

Invasive alien species (often IAS in the literature) are those species introduced to an area outside their normal or native range, either purposefully or by accident, whose colonization causes significant harm. The species may become weeds, pests or pathogens, affecting both human interests and natural systems, and impacting agricultural systems, native ecosystems, biological diversity, or human well-being (Perrings et al. 2002; UNEP; CBD). Wellknown examples of invasive alien species include kudzu in the United States, water hyacinth throughout the tropics, zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, and European starlings in North America.