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!

88 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues 88 - 79)

TN #88 How to Build a Kerosene Fired 180 Egg Incubator with 12V Air Circulation - 2003-01-01

Although this document will tell you how to build a particular incubator that I have used for several years, the ideas presented here should assist in building an incubator of any capacity. The orientation here is toward solving the problems in building a kerosene fired incubator in general. Furthermore, artificial egg incubation requires three pieces of equipment: the incubator, a hatcher, and a brooder. This document only covers the incubator I use, the bottom part of which could be used as a hatcher but ideally a separate hatcher should be used. Once hatched, the chicks need to be kept warm at 32° C (90° F) for two weeks or more in a brooder. Presumably the reader is already familiar with the brooding phase of chick raising as that is where most folks begin: with day old chicks from a hatchery. Before investing too much time and effort in construction you need to know this incubator requires good carpentry skills, preferably a table saw, and battery powered drill / screw driver. You will have to have access to acetylene welding equipment or someone who can fabricate for you the fuel tank and chimney. There are a number of items that may be hard to get other than from the sources I used in USA cited at the end. Building this incubator takes me a month. Finally, my hatches run 40 – 60%, below the 70 - 80% a good incubator should produce but comparable to my hens’ performance. 

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Step -by-Step How to Build
  • Incubator Operation
  • Hatching
  • Conclusion
  • Source of Materials

TN #87 Seed Drying Cabinet - 2002-01-01

Seed storage is often a problem in the tropics. However, if seeds can be properly dried, they will remain viable for a longer period of time. The seed drying cabinet described here can help improve the viability of seeds in storage.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Description
  • Diagram
  • Observations

TN #86 Forage Cutter - 2002-01-01

This simple forage cutter provides a mechanism to chop tough grasses or other forages to make them more palatable and digestible for livestock. This results in more efficient food conversion for animals and reduced wastage. It can also be used to chop materials for compost, silage, vermiculture, etc.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Materials
  • Description

TN #85 Briquette Presses for Alternate Fuel Use - 2000-01-01

Briquettes made from materials that cost little or no money to obtain, such as old newspaper or unutilized plant waste, can be a cost-effective alternate fuel to charcoal or firewood.  This could alleviate the harsh pressures put on many forests for providing enough fuel energy to meet people’s needs.  At the same time, it could prevent the wastage of materials that still have value, so they will not be ‘thrown away’, discarded as litter, or left to rot. Many different methods and technologies exist for pressing briquettes, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.  This document describes the process of making briquettes and two designs for briquette presses.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • The Briquette Process
  • Bottle Jack Briquette Press
  • Lever Arm Briquette Press

TN #84 Understanding Salt-Affected Soils - 2016-08-17

Farmers and gardeners in semi-arid and arid regions of the world face two associated but separate problems, which limit the crops they can grow and the yield of these crops. The underlying problem is lack of rainfall needed for growing plants. The second is accumulation of salts in the root zone. The two are interrelated, but do not necessarily occur together.

Plants need a certain amount of soluble salts, but excess salts in the root zone reduces plant growth by altering water uptake. When the salt content of soil water is greater than that of the water inside the plant cells, the plant roots cannot absorb the soil water. They may even lose water to the soil. Excess soil salts can also cause ion-specific toxicities or imbalances. In some cases, the cure for these problems is to simply improve drainage. However, salinity problems are often more complex and require proper soil management as well as use of salt tolerant crops.

What’s Inside:

  • Introduction
  • Formation of salt-affected soils 
  • Soil remediation
  • Soil management 
  • Plant management
  • Measuring soil salinity

TN #83 Agriculture Extension with Community-Level Workers: Lessons and Practices from Community Health and Community Animal Health Programs - 2015-11-04

Active learning and exchange of knowledge are key to farmer adoption of beneficial agricultural innovations.  Community health worker (CHW) and community animal health worker (CAHW) programs have led to a rich body of knowledge about extension, much of which is applicable to efforts aimed towards small-scale farmers. Drawn from the literature on these programs, this document captures key lessons and practices relevant to developing, implementing, and sustaining effective community agriculture extension endeavors.  The objective of this paper is to inform and strengthen agricultural extension programs that provide services through community-level workers.

TN #82 SRI, the System of Rice Intensification: Less Can be More - 2015-09-21

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a method of raising rice that produces substantially higher yields with the planting of far fewer seedlings and the use of fewer inputs than either traditional methods (i.e., flooding) or more “modern” methods (using mineral fertilizer or agrochemicals). This approach involves various practices for plant, soil, water and nutrient management. SRI has been successfully used in more than 50 countries and has been promoted extensively by Dr. Norman Uphoff with Cornell University.

TN #81: Introduction to Tropical Root Crops - 2015-02-16

Tropical root and tuber crops are consumed as staples in parts of the tropics and should be considered for their potential to produce impressive yields in small spaces.  They provide valuable options for producing food under challenging growing conditions.  Cassava and taro, for instance, are excellent choices for drought-prone or swampy areas, respectively.   In this document, tropical root crops are compared both to enable people to recognize and appreciate them as well as to familiarize readers with their strengths and weaknesses in different tropical environments. Though tropical root crops initially seem to be very similar in their uses, they exhibit important differences. 

TN #80 Seed Fairs: Fostering Local Seed Exchange to Support Regional Biodiversity - 2014-06-01

When you come across an especially promising local variety of a crop grown in your area, how can you enable other farmers to try out this variety? If a farmer gives you 30 seeds of an exceptional variety, how might you go about distributing these? How does seed flow happen in and among communities where you work?

In this article, we share about ECHO Asia’s experience helping host four very different seed fairs. We also outline several important components of a seed fair, so you can learn from our experience if your organization is interested in hosting one.

An important activity of many ECHO network partners is supporting farmers in locating, testing, and distributing plant varieties that grow well under local conditions. Crops and varieties that can produce reliably with locally accessible inputs are essential for smallholder farmers. Most farmers in the ECHO network produce and save much of their own planting seed, and some are in a transition time with using commercial seed for certain crops. Understanding farmer seed access, supplies, and practices is a critical part of improving local farming systems.

TN #79 Nutrient Quantity vs Access - 2014-01-01

In order to achieve high levels of agricultural productivity in the tropics at the lowest possible economic and ecological costs, we need to properly understand the relationship between nutrients in the soil and crop productivity. For this to happen, the current understanding needs to change. The conventional view of the relationship between soil nutrients and crop productivity in the tropics is leading to both damaging agricultural policies and inefficient and damaging farm-level practices. There is no need to use the huge quantities of chemical fertilizers that are so often recommended. In fact, often times the use of such fertilizers is unnecessary, expensive and harmful to the environment, especially because farmers often stop using organic matter when they use chemical fertilizers.

Much of the theory described here was originally developed by Drs. Artur and Ana Primavesi. For a much more in-depth analysis of the chemical and biological issues described in this article, the best book at present is Ana Primavesi’s The Ecological Management of the Soil (available in Spanish and Portuguese). This article will discuss the conventional concept of soil fertility and some of its shortcomings; a new conception of soil fertility; and how the new theory can be put into practice.