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ECHO Tech Notes are subject-specific publications about topics important to those working in the tropics and subtropics. Our material is authored by ECHO staff and outside writers, all with experience and knowledge of their subject. These documents are free for your use and will hopefully serve a valuable role in your working library of resources in agricultural development!

96 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 98 - 89)

TN #98 Integrated Pest Management - 20-05-2022

The current global situation calls for a multi-pronged approach to pest management. To be widely applicable, this approach must provide farmers with options to control pests at various scales of production (from small farms to very large operations) with a diversity of resources. Integrated pest management (IPM), a strategy based on farmer innovations, is highly adaptable to specific contexts and reduces dependency on pesticides while still recognizing their use. 

IPM is a management approach that focuses on the larger system and aims for long-term prevention of pests using a combination of preventative and suppressive control strategies. An individual farmer’s IPM plan should constantly improve as it cycles. This article will address each stage in the cycle of improving your IPM plan.

Cite as:

ECHO Staff. 2022. Integrated Pest Management. ECHO Technical Note no. 98

TN #97 Small-Scale Nursery Management - 29-03-2021

Cultivating plants, sharing seeds and cuttings with neighbors, and seeking better crop varieties are as old as agriculture. We use the word “nursery” for places where we care for and nurture things that are precious and vulnerable, like children and plants. Creating habitats to grow healthy seedlings is an integral part of the farming cycle, an important contribution to a thriving community, and both a rewarding and challenging business opportunity.

A nursery can be as small as a farmer’s seedbed for the immediate planting of a single crop, or as large as a complex business with hundreds of species and varieties for sale to the public. This Technical Note describes important aspects of planning and running a small nursery to supply trees and other perennial plants for personal or community use. Content is targeted towards agricultural practitioners working with small-scale farmers in tropical and subtropical climates. Included in the document are comments and insights from people with extensive experience in operating tree nurseries in parts of Central Africa (Roy Danforth), Madagascar (Dan Turk), Guatemala (Dwight Carter), and Haiti/Nicaragua/Indonesia (Rafael Flores).

Cite this article as:

Fifer, G. and T. Motis. 2021. Nursery Management. ECHO Technical Note No. 97.

TN #96 Earthbag Seed Banks - 29-06-2020

Seed storage in the tropics has been a frequent topic of ECHO publications and trainings due to its importance to the smallholder farmer. Access to quality seeds is imperative for agronomic and horticultural crop production. While on-farm seed saving benefits the smallholder farmer, cooperative seed storage through the creation of seed banks bolsters farmers at the community level.

Seed banks provide secure structures for seed storage, while also serving as genetic repositories for important plants in the community. Centralizing the seed saving process also allows for cooperative investment in appropriate technologies and data management. As members of a community learn these management skills, they are empowered to save seeds themselves.

Seed preservation in the tropics is rife with difficulties due to high temperatures and humidity, so investing in worthwhile storage technologies is instrumental in smallholder communities. Of course, the process of establishing a seed bank involves community buy-in, stakeholder cooperation, and resource investment. While the social elements of seed banking are important, thisTechnical Note focuses on earthbag building techniques as a resource-effective means of establishing a seed bank. ECHO has now installed earthbag seed banks at two of its global offices: one in Thailand and one in Florida. This publication will outline the benefits of earthbag seed banks, as well as how to get started with your own project.

Cite this article as:

Kiefer, C., T. Motis, and E. Toevs 2020. Earthbag Seed Banks. ECHO Technical Note No. 96.

TN #95 100-Fold Vegetable Gardens with Low-Cost Wicking Beds - 23-07-2019

I discovered 100-fold gardens while researching ways to irrigate plants directly in the root zone. I wanted to know how to practically and affordably control some of the variables that influence plant growth, such as water availability and soil fertility. I read about “wicking beds,” which are watered from below as water moves up towards plants’ rooting zone from a reservoir lined with plastic. Watering from below prevents water loss while maintaining constant soil moisture and supplying water and nutrients in accordance with plant needs. 

Wicking beds are a way of maximizing vegetable production on raised beds, but many people do not have a prior understanding of wicking in the context of gardening—so I call my version 100-fold gardens.

What’s Inside:


Benefits of 100-Fold Gardens

Constructing a 100-Fold Garden Bed

How Wicking Beds Work

Variations of Wicking Beds


Cite this article as:

Edwards, L. and ECHO staff 2019. 100-Fold Vegetable Gardens with Low-Cost Wicking Beds . ECHO Technical Note no. 95.

TN #94 Parasitic Plants in African Agriculture - 21-03-2019

This Technical Note provides an overview of parasitic plants of agricultural significance in Africa. Parasitic weeds cause drought stress and stunted crops. Affected plants include cereal grains (e.g., sorghum [Sorghum bicolor] and maize [Zea mays]) and grain legumes (e.g., cowpea [Vigna unguiculata]) that farmers rely on for food. Damage to these and other crops is generally heightened by low soil fertility and drought stress, conditions that are faced by many African smallholders. Parasitic weeds can lead to severe yield losses, making them an important constraint to food security in many areas.

What’s Inside:


Stem Parasites

Root Parasites

Summary of Control Options

Cite this article as:

Musselmen, L. 2019. Parasitic Plants in African Agriculture. ECHO Technical Note no. 94.

TN #93 Vacuum-Sealing Options for Storing Seeds - 07-01-2019

Two broad categories of seeds exist, referred to as recalcitrant and orthodox. The former must be kept moist and planted soon after they are collected; large-seeded fruits such as mango and avocado are typical examples. The second type of seeds are discussed in this document. Orthodox seeds are generally smaller than recalcitrant seeds and represent almost any grain, legume, or vegetable crop. Orthodox seeds can be dried and stored for extended periods of time—often for many years, depending on the crop and storage conditions.

This document presents ways to remove air from seed containers, for the purpose of extending the viability of stored seeds. The technologies presented here are most relevant to community-level seed banks or development practitioners looking for options for storing small volumes of high-value seed for planting. They would not be practical for storing large quantities of grain for human or animal consumption. With the exception of commercial vacuum sealers, the technologies presented are inexpensive, and many can be constructed with local materials.

What's Inside:

Bicycle pump vacuum sealer

Syringe vacuum pump

Brake bleeder vacuum pump

Kitchen food sealers and related items


Cite this article as:

Motis, T. 2019. Vacuum-Sealing Options for Storing Seeds . ECHO Technical Note no. 93.

TN #92 Bamboo for Construction - 17-05-2018

Many plants deemed as invaluable for the smallholder farmer offer nutritious food for the family, fodder for animals, or timber for construction. Remarkably, bamboo offers all three of these assets from the same perennial plant! This Technical Note will focus on how to most effectively harvest, preserve and use bamboo as timber for construction purposes.

What’s Inside:


Plant Description


Preservation & Post-Harvest Treatment



References and Resources

Cite this article as:

Bielema, C. 2018. Bamboo for Construction . ECHO Technical Note no. 92.

TN #91 Underutilized Crops for Small Farm Abundance - 09-02-2018

Traditional diets included a wide variety of ingredients from myriad wild and domesticated plants. Regional cuisines were shaped by native species in their local environment and by gradually-adopted plants from distant places. The modern global food system and market pressures have reversed this trend, so that today’s diets rely on a dwindling number of crops for a growing number of people. This has profound effects on health and leads to dependence on unstable commodity markets. Malnutrition and food insecurity are critical issues for society’s most vulnerable citizens.

This Technical Note (TN) will explore the unique plants that are used around the world to add variety and dependability to diets. Some species are wild or naturalized and can be found in forests, fields, and wetlands. Some are old cultivars of widely grown crops that have fallen out of use. Others are popular in one part of the world, but could be a valuable contribution to diets around the globe. Many have multiple uses and benefits. An essential part of ECHO’s mission is to make seeds or cuttings of these traditional plants available to at-risk communities.

This TN addresses underutilized crops from the perspective of the smallholder farmer and community-based development worker. It will not discuss national and international policies, or international genetic preservation efforts. It will discuss underutilized plants and climate change from the perspective of local- and farm-level resilience, but will not examine global mitigation and adaptation implications. Livestock, aquaculture, or marine species are not addressed in this TN.

What’s Inside:


Benefits and Abundance

Challenges, Concerns, and Cautions

Selecting Underutilized Plants

Evaluation and Promotion of Underutilized Crops

Cite this article as:

Fifer, G. 2018. Underutilized Crops for Small Farm Abundance. ECHO Technical Note no. 91.

TN #90 Low-Budget Research Ideas - 29-09-2017

As an organization that equips people with informational resources to reduce hunger, ECHO values the role of science in validating agricultural practices. Over the years, we have received numerous inquiries from university faculty and students looking for ways to do research that benefits small-scale farmers. Since funds for such projects are often limited, this document focuses on topics that can be researched with minimal cost. 

Many of the ideas presented here can be researched in a small laboratory in a northern climate. Others may require travel to a tropical or subtropical setting, or procurement of plant material from someone working in the appropriate climate. How could you have such an opportunity? One possibility is to see if your institution has special ties to an overseas college or community. Perhaps you know a development worker in another country who faces the problem you are pursuing, and you could arrange to spend some time there. 

What’s Inside:


Category 1. Topics: Do These “Solutions” Really Work?

Category 2. Work Out the Details References

Cite this article as:

Price, M.L. 2010. Low-Budget Research Ideas. ECHO Technical Note no. 90.

TN #89 Women and Agriculture - 06-06-2017

A version of this material first appeared in EDN 134. Gender dynamics in relation to agriculture is a big topic, and one we had not previously written about in EDN. In recent years, widespread attention has been paid to the disparity that often exists between men and women when it comes to agriculture and access to related resources. I talked to several members of ECHO’s network (who are also former interns and staff members) to get their input, based on their experiences in a wide range of cultures and communities. This TN also incorporates feedback from other members of our network. Let us know if you have thoughts to share after reading it!

What’s Inside:


Learning about Gender Dynamics

Constraints Women May Face

Addressing the Challenges


Cite this article as:

Berkelaar, D. 2017. Women and Agriculture. ECHO Technical Note no. 89.