Seedling production is one of the key steps in scaling up or domestication of any species. Each step has to be properly planned and implemented. The way seedlings are handled and managed in a nursery contributes to their survival rate after planting and their subsequent growth performance. Improving seedling quality correlates positively to their survival, growth and productivity. Seedling quality is governed by the genetic make-up of the parent trees and the physical growth of the seedlings. Several types of nurseries exist: individual or private, community or group, central or research, commercial and training nursery.
Nursery practices must be consistent and the various techniques closely integrated. If one element in the chain is lacking there will be a negative impact on seedling quality. Good quality seedlings cannot be produced without care and tending. Nursery plants need to be protected from extremes of environmental conditions until they are strong enough to withstand them. To ensure high quality of seedlings and to provide more opportunities (income, technology transfer), local people are encouraged to establish small-scale community nurseries.
The need for training of trainers and the development of training modules on nursery management and propagation techniques is important. The training should aim to train the TOTs who will help in the training of other local communities. Interactive teaching techniques and practical sessions should be employed to facilitate the learning. Training of trainers in nursery management (both technical and economic) and use of existing networks to disseminate technologies is vital. This may be achieved through rural resource centres (RRCs) that will allow maximum interaction of technicians, farmers and nursery operators.
RRCs serve as hubs for production and distribution of high quality tree planting materials, development and dissemination of techniques, training of nursery managers, farmers, small-scale processors and extension officers. They could also serve as collection points and marketing centres for tree products, notably quality seeds and seedlings, medicinal plant products and fruits. RRCs are normally equipped with seed storage and propagation facilities, meeting and training facilities, mother-blocks and demonstration plots. This has a multiplier effect of leading to the establishment of satellite nurseries and provision of technical backstopping to majority of stakeholders.
RRCs provide opportunities to gain insights into:
- Validation of method or practice modules
- Nursery establishment and management
- Seed source, collection, storage and germination
- Vegetative propagation (cutting, grafting and marcotting)
- How to run a nursery as a business
This manual aims to facilitate the learning process by incorporating practical activities that provide better and clearer understanding of the principles involved in nursery establishment and management and to enable participants to translate such knowledge and skills into entrepreneurial action projects. This session highlights steps in setting up of nurseries, soil mixture and mixing, pot filling and placing, sowing and transplanting of seedlings, watering, weed control, shading, nutrient and pest management and protection of seedlings from mechanical damage. It also covers technical ways of checking and evaluating the quality of seedlings.