Thursday, January 31, 2013

100 Mile Walk

To raise awareness and support for ECHO Asia's work and to show solidarity for partnering agencies, in early December Rick Burnette (current ECHO Asia Director), Kimberly Duncan (ECHO Asia Intern) and Bunsak Tongdee (UHDP Director) walked 100 miles from the city of Chiang Mai to the ECHO Asia Seed Bank in the Mae Ai District of Chiang Mai.   Along the way, they were joined by Karl Frogner (UBI), Boonsong Thansritong (ECHO Asia) and Abram Bicksler (ECHO Asia's next director) as well as interns and volunteers from the ECHO Asia Seed Bank (Jen Smeage and friend Joel, Sam Bollenbacher, Ruth Tshin, Seth Morgan, Ben Burnette and William Burnette).

The walk took place over six days, beginning in Chiang Mai's urban environment, passing through fields and mountains, villages and small towns before ending at the seed bank not far from Thailand's border with Myanmar.  The entire trip took place on foot except for a 50-meter leg across the Ping River on a tiny boat in Chiang Dao (we took a wrong turn).

ECHO Asia is grateful for so many who supported this effort with contributions and encouragement.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Companion Planting at the Seed Bank

ECHO Asia intern, Jen Smeage, has spent the last several months evaluating companion planting at the seed bank.  According to the Wikipedia Companion planting entry (, this approach, whereby different crops are grown together, is intended to enable mixtures of select plants to assist each other in various ways, including with nutrient uptake, pest control and pollination.  Ultimately, this synergy is intended to increase crop production.  In addition to planting known compatible vegetables, various types of flowering plants are also planted to attract both beneficial insects, including pollinators such as bees and predators that eat pests such as aphids.  Some companion plants also serve as "trap crops," attracting pests away from vulnerable crops.  Some examples (University of Rhode Island; include:
  • Basil planted among tomatoes may repel tomato hornworms.
  • Marigolds, mint, thyme, or chamomile may repel cabbage moths.
  • Radishes make excellent trap crops for cucumber beetles among squash and cucumbers. Radishes also attract flea beetles when planted near cole crops.
Companion crops being evaluated at the seed bank include cosmos, calendula, hyssop, allysum, peppermint and marigold.  Jen says that the companion crops are definitely attracting lots of pollinating bees at the seed bank as well as lady bugs and lacewings that eat pests such as aphids.  And she sees trap crops, such as allysum, attracting aphids.  However, the current cool-dry season doesn't have as much insect pressure as the upcoming hot and rainy seasons.  So the coming months will offer a critical time to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the companion crops on in pest management at the seed bank. 

For persons who delight in pure, orderly, organized stands of crops, companion planting be too messy for them.  But for those who appreciate the positive effects that crop biodiversity might bring, not to mention patches of color in a sea of green, then companion planting should definitely be considered and evaluated.    

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Favorite Photos from 2012

Bunong Village, Cambodia

Northeast Cambodia

Senmonorom, Northeast Cambodia

ECHO Asia Cambodia Workshop

Sahibganj, India

Outside of Sahibganj, India

Sahibganj, India

ECHO Asia Seed Bank Team and Volunteers

Legumes growing in hill fields, Huay Pong Village, Thailand

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

ECHO Asia Myanmar Workshop

ECHO Asia Myanmar Workshop

Rice harvester, outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Street side gardening, Chiang Mai

Road to Fang, North Thailand

Roadside forest, North Thailand

North Thailand

Threshing rice, North Thailand

Rice fields near Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Doi Chiang Dao Mountain, North Thailand

Near Chiang Dao Cave, North Thailand

North Thailand

Mae Hong Son, Thailand