A Compendium of Free Online Courses, Books and Other Resources

Natural Farming

2013 Okra Observation Trial

Rethinking a Basic Assumption in Ag Development: Risk Aversion vs Hunger and Exhaustion

South Africa Research Update


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A Compendium of Free Online Courses, Books and Other Resources

Dawn Berkelaar

No matter how much you have tried to learn before taking on an agriculture project, gaps in knowledge are inevitable. You might even be working in the area of agriculture without any formal training in the subject.

ECHO shares helpful agricultural information through our ECHOcommunity.org website, and we also offer courses in Tropical Agriculture at our Florida campus. Taking a course can be advantageous, because information is presented in a logical and sequential way. But people do not always have the resources needed to travel and take a course.

Natural Farming

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, during the late 1990s, I became aware of farming practices that utilized beneficial microorganisms to enhance small farm resources and production in the tropics. Such techniques, enabling soil recovery and improving smallscale crop and livestock production, blended tropical inputs with compatible natural farming ideas from Japan and Korea. The techniques stimulated considerable interest among local agriculturists, and it was not long before Thai farmers were reporting related benefits. Unfortunately, at the time there was very little accessible scientific information to back up many of the various claims or to explain the results.

Risk Aversion vs Hunger and Exhaustion

Dick Tinsley with Dawn Berkelaar

This article challenges the long-held assumption that smallholder farmers are risk averse and delay land preparation and planting until they are assured of adequate rainfall, and that they inefficiently used the natural resources available to them. The author proposes that farming operations are often delayed by a lack of available labor.

In this article, Dick shares that, generally speaking, farmers plant crops later than recommended, and that the general assumption for why they do this is to avoid risk. However, he argues that another and perhaps more plausible explanation is that they simply do not have enough energy to do the work required to prepare a field for planting on time. Before implementing a rural development project, Tinsley encourages change agents to take the time to determine if the beneficiaries can afford or otherwise have access to sufficient calories and other essential dietary needs to complete the daily tasks expected of them.

South Africa Research Update

Tim Motis

Does a planting basin, like a zai pit, make much of a difference in soil moisture on a sandy soil? Because water leaches through sand rather quickly, you might expect that planting depressions would not have a significant impact on soil moisture. With the soil in ECHO research plots in South Africa being comprised of 87% sand, it was important for us to address this.

2013 Okra Observation Trial

Brian Lawrence

Okra is grown for many reasons including fiber, oil, and the edible flowers and pods. Okra has been cultivated for centuries and remains a very important food crop in many parts of the Middle East and West Africa; varieties have been selected for pod shape, color, and yield. Okra readily adapts to different locations while still providing an ample supply of food. Our goals with this trial were to observe morphological differences of plant habit and leaf shape, and to find out which varieties produced the most pods within the shortest amount of time after planting