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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.  

92 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 21 - 17) |

Increase Yields and Save Money with Innovative SRI Tools - 2014-06-14

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #21

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a promising rice-farming methodology that is able both to lower production costs—of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, and water—and to increase yield by enabling each rice plant to reach its full potential. However, the SRI approach involves transplanting young seedlings, a labor-intensive practice that farmers are often resistant to adapt. This article will introduce appropriate SRI tools that save both time and energy, making the technique more accessible to (Thai) farmers

SRI Transplanting Tools - 2014-06-14

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #21

This article contains diagrams of the SRI Rolling Marker, Rotary Weeder, and Grass Cutter discussed in other articles from Echo Asia Note 21.

Producing the Biocontrol Fungi Trichoderma and Beauveria

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #20

In nature, dozens of species of harmful fungi can quickly kill a plant, including Fusarium spp., the causal agents of Fusarium wilt, and Phakospora pachyrhizi, the causal agent of soybean rust. Fungi are unable to produce nutrients on their own, so they must find another source; sometimes that source is old bread, orange peels, a rotting tree trunk, or a plant’s translocation tissues. These pathogenic fungi thrive in conditions of poor air circulation, slow water drainage, over-irrigation or too much rainfall. Such poor conditions can often be prevented by spacing plants properly, following an irrigation schedule, and removing fungus-prone debris, such as old plant material and weeds. No matter what we do, though, there is a good chance that pathogenic fungi will infect our plants at one time or another.

Unfortunately, in our modern world, chemical fertilizers and pesticides have become the norm in agricultural production, causing severe and serious environmental pollution. Use of these agricultural methods can lead farmers to become dependent on more and more inputs, as environmental imbalance ensues.

Fortunately, Fungi Kingdom is not exclusively populated by pathogenic intruders, dwelling unpoliced in the murky corners of the invisible world. Two particular beneficials of the fungal world, Trichoderma spp. and Beauveria bassiana, have been widely studied for their beneficial properties in agricultural production. The potential of these fungi species is especially exciting because of their ability to improve agricultural productivity while decreasing the development of fungicide-resistant pathogens.

Farm-Generated Feed: Fish Feed Production

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #20

Farm-generated fertility makes agriculture more sustainable. Crop residues and manures are part of the nutrient cycle and can lower input costs through the use of thermophilic composting, vermiculture, bokashi production, or green manures. Farm-generated feeds can also reduce expenses, if farmers manage and utilize the resources already available to them. For, example, farmers might develop pasture using planned grazing for cattle; make hog feed from crop residue and by-products (such as whey and skim milk); cultivate legume shrubs for cut-and-carry operations for goats; and grow floating ferns and other water crops for fish and poultry.

As densities of livestock increase, the industrious farmer finds ways and means to increase his farm nutrient stream for the benefit of his system. This article will examine the methods and techniques necessary for the smallholder farmer to succeed with farm-derived fish feeds. A farmer should first fully exploit his extensive (and more passive) existing systems, and then consider intensifying his overall operation.

Running a Diesel Engine on Biogas

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #19

It is completely possible to run a diesel engine on biogas; however, a number of considerations must be taken into account before it may be considered a serious option in a development program. This article will explore some key considerations when attempting to burn biogas in a diesel engine.

First, it is important to distinguish between different types of diesel engines. Diesel engines are pretty similar in operation and have been around since Rudolf Diesel first developed the engine in the 1800’s. They rely on compression ignition (CI) of a small amount of diesel fuel that is injected into the ignition chamber. Simultaneously, a valve is opened to allow air into the ignition chamber. The valve is closed and the piston compresses the mixture. When the air/fuel mix reaches its ‘stoichiometric point’ (i.e. the point at which the ratio of fuel:air is enough to chemically combust), it ignites under the pressure created when the piston reaches Top Dead Centre (TDC), which is normally around a 17:1 compression ratio. As the mixture ignites, the piston is forced downwards, driving the connecting rod and thus turning the engine. Modern diesel engine cars have sophisticated fuel systems and engine management systems that make the engine very efficient but more ‘highly strung’; the introduction of an impure gas (such as biogas) into the equation will result in problems.

Research Note: Creating an Optimum Potting Mixture for Resource-Constrained Growers

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #19

In a tropical setting, growing seedlings can be a difficult task. A major factor of concern for nursery production is water-logging (Zhu, 2007). During the rainy season, oversaturated soils can effectively suffocate root systems of a seedling by restricting flow of oxygen and other important minerals (Forcella, 2000). Nursery plants potted in dense soils are more prone to the negative effects of water-logging. Traditionally, the incorporation of materials such as perlite and vermiculite into potting mixtures helps to combat soil compaction and facilitate drainage. However, both perlite and vermiculite can be restrictively expensive for growers, especially resource constrained growers, like many of those with whom you work.

Nursery research from recent years has focused on finding viable, sustainable, low-cost alternative materials for potting mixes, often utilizing waste products of other industries such as: wood shavings, municipal compost, rice hull, and coconut coir (Arenas, 2002; Meerow, 1994; Ahmad et al., 2012). Rice hulls and coconut coir, which are plentiful in Asia, have the potential to effectively minimize risk for water-logging while replacing an expensive input such as perlite or vermiculite. Coir material has a high water-holding capacity within its fibers and good drainage through the pore space it creates in a substrate. Rice hull is an abundant byproduct of the rice milling industry and ubiquitous in tropical settings. Like coir, it creates pore space in mixtures needed for appropriate drainage and does not degrade quickly over time. Together, these two materials are promising low-cost alternatives to peat in nursery potting mixtures.

The Participatory Approach: Illustrations from Experience

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #18

“Participatory methods” in community development initially emerged in the 1970s, and interest in their use has continued to increase among practitioners, especially in recent years.1 Many practitioners agree that this growing acceptance is a good thing, as it has made us pay attention to the ways we engage with the communities we want to help. However, I would invite us to look beyond the methods to consider what I will call the “participatory approach” – the philosophy, goals, and assumptions that enable us to work in genuine participation with communities.

The participatory approach is not so much a matter of methods as a mindset: listening to and respecting the people of the community; encouraging them in attaining their goals; providing training, mentoring, and help, but not taking over the process. PRA, PLA, ABCD, GRAAP, AI,2 and a host of other abbreviations are methods for following the participatory approach – but, they are merely tools. Consider a sculptor or woodcarver. He needs command of his tools, but he is much more than a technician. An artist of any type must work with the characteristics of his medium, rather than against them. A woodcarver looks at the grain and shape of the raw piece of wood he’ll use. He considers how easily it cuts and splits, whether it’s a soft or hard wood, and whether it should be oiled or waxed or varnished or left unfinished. That’s what an artist does when working with an inanimate medium – it’s even more complicated when he works with something that is alive! The maker of a bonsai has to consider how the tree he chooses grows. And the trainer of a thoroughbred race horse has to understand how a given horse runs – and even more, how it thinks. When we in the area of community development work with people, and with groups of people, we face an even greater level of complexity! A change agent cannot go in with a fixed plan of what he wants the community to become. He must work with the community, acknowledging that they are the ones who will live with the consequences of whatever changes occur, and that they are therefore the rightful owners of the community.

New Seed Bank Additions - 2013-09-15

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #18

We are pleased to offer three new types of seeds (Cosmos, African Marigold, and Zinnia) at the ECHO Asia Seed Bank, none of which have been offered to our member network before. You will notice that these are not our “typical” ECHO seeds, because they are all flowers! Although not edible, these beautiful flowers form the basis for Integrated Pest Management, increase biodiversity in garden plots and farm fields, and offer market potential.

Since inception, we at ECHO Asia have striven to produce our seed crops in a sustainable, earth-friendly way. We believe that increased biodiversity and natural pest attractants and deterrents mimic ecology, reduce risk, and benefit our production principles. A group of plants known as companion plants help to achieve all three goals on our Seed Bank farm.

Simply put, companion planting is “the establishment of two or more plant species in close proximity so that some cultural benefit (pest control, higher yield, etc.) is derived. The concept embraces a number of strategies that increase the biodiversity of agroecosystems” (Kuepper and Dodson, 2001). In this case, the flowers are companion plants that benefit our seed crops.

Greetings from the New Director of the ECHO Asia Regional Impact Center

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #18

As the new director of the ECHO Asia Impact Center, I would like to take this opportunity to greet all of you, our network members. I would also like to thank you for being part of our network, which continues to span the globe and which exists as an information hub for development practitioners and farmers around the world. Throughout ECHO’s 30-year history, we have worked diligently to gather hunger-related solutions from around the world and to share them with our active network. These solutions promote sustainable farming techniques, nutritional plants, and appropriate technologies; they are well-tested and have been proven successful over and over again. The bottom line of ECHO, evidenced in the work of its Regional Impact Centers around the world, is to help the resource-poor and the hungry by enabling them to feed themselves and to improve their livelihoods through locally relevant solutions. It is an honor to be engaged in this ongoing work, and to work alongside you, our network members, as a part of ECHO’s team.

Much of the momentum that the ECHO Asia Impact Center carries owes to the dedication of Rick and Ellen Burnette. After an 18-year career in community development in Thailand working with the Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP), Rick and Ellen Burnette took the pioneer leadership role of ECHO’s first Impact Center in 2009. The last four years have seen exponential growth in the resources and services offered to the resource-poor in the region through ECHO. As many of you already know, last year, with prayer and God’s leading, Rick Burnette accepted the position to head ECHO’s Agricultural Department in Fort Myers, Florida. He began his new job there on July 1, 2013.

With a spirit of thankfulness for the incredible work of the Burnettes at the ECHO Asia Impact Center, I would like to introduce myself. I would also like to take this opportunity to look, together with you, at what the future has to offer.

An Introduction to Bokashi Fertilizers and Soil Amendments

This article is from ECHO Asia Note #17

Around the world, many agriculturists and gardeners are adopting soil amendments and fertilizers that are called bokashi. Bokashi is a Japanese word that has no good translation into English, according to Yukiko Oyanagi, a staffer with the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Japan. However, all types of bokashi are produced through fermentation processes.

There are at least two distinct types of bokashi being promoted and used by agriculturists, farmers and gardeners. One we shall describe as fermented bokashi fertilizer and the other is kitchen bokashi. Both are described in this article.