In vegetable production, seedling propagation is one of the key field activities toward a successful agribusiness venture. Farmers have practised traditional seedling production in Nigeria over the years. This indigenous knowledge has been passed from generation to generation.
One prominent method employed is broadcasting an agricultural method where seeds are manually dispersed or spread over the prepared surface of the soil (seedling bed) by throwing the seeds across the bed. This method is quick, easy, and less labour-intensive. However, this method is highly discouraged due to poor germination rate where farmers lose over 50 per cent of the seeds, susceptibility of seeds to insects and pest attacks, easy washing away of seeds by runoff water or flooding, excessive rainfall, poor growth and damage of seedling’s tender roots during transplanting.
As part of 2SCALE’s intervention in the vegetable partnership with VD&S and Royal Blue Contractors, farmers in different clusters in Kano, Oyo and Ekiti states were trained on improved vegetable seedling production techniques in propagation units between June and September 2021. A total of 224 farmers were trained. About 6 months after this training, over 40 per cent of the farmers have adopted this improved technique and have seen the benefits it has brought to their vegetable farms. Some of the essential parts of training included how to build the propagation units, how to establish vegetable farms using nursery seedlings, use of coco peats, potting soil and the right quantity for each tray.
A seedling propagation unit is a place where seedlings are raised before they are ready for transplanting to permanent plots on the farm. This unit is essential due to the delicate nature of vegetable seedlings. They are constructed using affordable and readily accessible materials such as wood, nets and ropes. As opposed to broadcasting, seedling trays are used. This ensures better nutrient availability for each seed and significantly reduces transportation and transplanting shocks experienced using the traditional method. They are also built in a way that the seedlings are well-ventilated and have adequate access to sunlight. To avoid flooding, the seedlings are watered at pre-determined intervals. All these aspects lead to high germination rates and quality seedlings, usually transplanted after 21-30 days or when they are about 7-10 cm tall.