Patrick Trail, Yuwadee Danmalidoi, Abram Bicksler, and Rick Burnette
Several species of edible ferns exist around the world, ranging from the tropics to more temperate regions, and most commonly include the bracken ferns (Pteridium spp.), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and the Stenochlaena spp. ferns. However, the focus of this study is on the vegetable fern (Diplazium esculentum Reytz.), a tropical perennial vegetable crop typically found growing in the Asia and Oceania regions. Sakai et.al. (2016) categorize this edible vegetable fern as a Non-Timber Forest Product or NTFP. It is a regionally significant vegetable crop in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and the US state of Hawaii (Lin et al., 2009). The young tender fronds of the fern (commonly referred to as ‘fiddleheads’) are typically eaten fresh, boiled, blanched, or cooked in curries, depending on the region in which they are consumed (Duncan, 2012).
Patrick Trail, Boonsong Thansrithong, & Sombat Chalermliamthong
This article was first published in ECHO Asia Note # 42
The integration of livestock on the smallholder farm is often a key component to the long-term sustainability of the farm, specifically by means of critical nutrient cycling. Livestock play a unique and critical role on the farm, transforming plant and waste materials into important sources of energy, either for consumption on the farm, or for sale beyond it. As omnivores, pigs are one of the most efficient converters of on-farm ‘waste’, transforming materials unsuited for human consumption, into meat, manure, and income.
On the ECHO Asia Farm we seek to create our own ‘Farm-Generated Feeds’ for the purpose of leveraging the materials we have available to us, while bringing down our costs of livestock production. In addition to the meat and income produced through our cows, pigs, chickens, and fish, we also value them for their manure, which we compost and use in crop production among other things.
Patrick Trail, Yuwadee Danmalidoi, Saw Moo Pler, Abram Bicksler and Boonsong Thansrithong
Keeping in mind the insulating qualities and low-cost of construction of natural building techniques, ECHO Asia began testing different methods at the Asia Impact. In 2018, ECHO conducted a small experiment in Thailand and Myanmar to test these hypotheses, specifically within the Southeast Asian context, where temperature and humidity are higher than the climates in which these facilities have previously been implemented. Lablab seeds were stored over the course of one year inside of three different natural building facilities: (1) an Earth Bag House, (2) a Hillside Bunker, and (3) a Buried Clay Cistern. Seeds were placed inside of each facility, with half of the seeds being sealed in jars using a modified Bicycle Vacuum Pump, while the other half remained unsealed in paper bags. The underground facilities, the buried cistern and the hillside bunker, recorded very high rates of humidity, while the freestanding earth bag house appears to have achieved lower overall humidity. In combination with vacuum-sealing, seed germination rates in each of the 3 storage facilities remained steady over the course of one year, maintaining germination rates above 90% at the end of the experiment.
Andy Deaville and Ruth Portnoff
Information from ECHO Network member Daryl Edwards from his work in Zimbabwe suggested that using quality compost containing 10% cow manure results in a maize harvest similar to that obtained with 100% cow manure. This could be significant to farmers who have small farm sizes and limited livestock and manure resources. The proposition was tested in the field on ECHO’s demonstration farm in North Fort Myers, Florida. Four compost mixes (10%, 25%, and 100% cow manure, as well as 25% Mucuna pruriens; remaining portions of each compost mix were made up of equal parts of woody and leafy green plant material) were applied as pre-plant fertilizers to maize planting stations established according to a conservation farming system called Foundations For Farming (FFF). The compost was made in September (2010), and the trial was carried out between May and September of 2011. Data were collected on seed germination, tasseling, number of ears per plant and yield (dried on-cob and shelled weights of the harvested corn). Maize grain yield ranged from 4.4 to 5.4 t/ha. During the same season, a non-fertilized maize plot on another section of the ECHO Global Farm yielded 2.2 t/ha. Compost treatment had no effect on yield or any other crop growth parameter measured. Results indicate that, with compost comprised of as little as 10% cow manure or 25% Mucuna pruriens, farmers can obtain similar maize yields as 100% composted cow manure.