The beauty of Propagated Seedlings vis-vis  conventionally raised

The beauty of Propagated Seedlings vis-vis conventionally raised

By Steven Mulanda

Seedling propagation has come out as a business which new age farmers have tapped into after noticing how farmers struggle with seed germination, pests, diseases and poor climatic condition. Most players involved in this craft have also turned out to be agronomists, offering valuable agronomical expertise to farmers. Raising healthy seedlings a problem that affects mostly horticulture farmers. Seedlings require a lot of care and the right conditions before they can be transplanted. The fact that some farmers have stuck to the traditional nurseries which is just a piece of land set apart from the rest doesn’t make it easier.

Specialized seed propagators have invested heavily in the business. They have invested in seed planting trays, planting material, greenhouses, watering systems, water sources among others to raise quality seedlings. Moreover, they also give an option of farmers bringing their own seeds to be raised for them. With this, seedling propagators take the risk on behalf of the farmer because the farmer only pays for what has germinated. This model aims at cushioning farmers from incurring losses.

Sanjay Malde of Plant Raisers based in Isinya, Kajiado County avers that the beauty of buying ready propagated seedlings is that it assures farmers of a uniform germination rate unlike the conventional method of growing seeds. It has been proved that a farmer runs the risk of up to 30% germination failure rate using conventional methods of growing vegetables from seed. On other hand, vegetable seeds that have been grown using modern technology in greenhouses have a germination success rate of between 85-90%.

The company majorly deals with small holder farmers who have the impetus of farming because they are able to trace their progress, they are willing to learn and rectify where necessary.

“Specialized seed care for vegetables is no longer the privilege of large scale farmers. It has become necessary for smallholder farmers, to seek professional care for their vegetable seeds in order to guarantee maximum germination rates. This is now possible, thanks to Plant Raisers-Isinya and other seed raisers. The need to use modern technology in germination of seedlings cannot be overemphasized. This is particularly important if unnecessary crop failure is to be avoided. The conventional methods of growing vegetables from seeds, has demonstrated poor germination rates leading to crop failure. Not only does this impact negatively on the total crop yield, but also results in losses that could easily be avoided given the fact that Hybrid seeds are expensive. This means that a farmer can either ruin or maximize on their crop yield, depending on the farming method adopted,” he stated.

Samantha Masengeli is a smallholder farmer who carries her craft in Emali Makueni County; she is one among the farmers who source their seedlings from Plant Raisers. “A friend of mine who farms in Thika requested me to visit Plant Raisers -Isinya. The beauty with Sanjay Malde; is he is able to walk with me from planting to harvesting. For any disease and pest outbreak he advices on cultural, biological and chemical mechanisms to adopt,” she said.

A walk around Plant Raisers farm one realizes that they have different crops growing. Sanjay confirms that the farm is a demo to demonstrate to farmers how the seedlings they intend to purchase perform while planted. To him, this enables a farmer to make the right judgment on which varieties they can invest their money on.

He narrates that when one order seedlings for planting his first query to farmer is whether they have access to a source of water which can sustain the farming program for a full year. With this, he is able to guide the farmer. “I have had instances where a farmer walks in with lots of cash he needs to buy seedlings to plant 10 acres which he advises against. This should not be the case, because you are setting up such a farmer to fail. My advice is that they should begin small, learn and know how to overcome challenges while growing in bits and always hands on,” Sanjay narrates.

Within the retail and export sector Plant Raisers supplies over a 100 different varieties of vegetable seedlings with the range constantly being monitored and expanded. The seedlings are grown in modified recyclable trays and are supported by coordinated labeling and packaging.

Plant Raisers was established in May 2010. We originally started operations with four employees and one 480 square meter propagation unit. Today Plant Raisers employs ten people and has propagation units totaling over two thousand square meters with a capacity of growing 12million seedlings per annum.

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