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Writing nursery guidelines together

Although some smallholder farmers in India raise their own seedlings, there has been a gradual move toward purchasing seedlings from commercial nurseries, where plants can be grown in protected conditions.

Nursery owners face different challenges in sustaining their businesses. In mid-2016, WorldVeg conducted a study for GIZ in two states, Maharashtra and Karnataka, to identify issues in seedling production for nurseries. It was found that improper management practices could be rectified easily through training different stakeholders connected with the business. Having good guidelines for nursery growers to follow was highlighted as a particular need.

A three-day writeshop to prepare guidelines was organized in Bengaluru, India on 22-24 May 2017 for representatives from the nursery industry. Professors from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Kerala Agriculture University, freelancing consultants in the nursery business, private input supplier firms, experienced nursery entrepreneurs, and staff from the Green Innovation Centre participated. WorldVeg South Asia staff Ravishankar, Kumar Nagaraj, Ashish Kumar and Bharathi planned, coordinated and facilitated the event.

Prior to the writeshop, Ravishankar and Ashish Kumar visited nurseries in Narayangaon, Maharashtra that collapsed during recent heavy storms to better understand the problems on the ground.

Over the course of the three-day intensive discussion, the participants considered specific recommendations for project locations, but finally decided on a general practical guide that describes what to do and what not to do to manage a successful nursery, with special reference to tomato. The group also discussed ways to strengthen the frames of greenhouses, screehouses and other protective structures.

“We are very happy to be part of this writeshop,” said a participant representing input dealers.  “This is strongly needed to avoid confusion among nursery people. They usually struggle to decide on what recommendations to follow and what not to. When they encounter germination issues, they come to us with complaints about the quality of our coco peat, but fail to consider the other conditions that might be a factor.”

“It is a good initiative by an international organization like WorldVeg to bring together the experiences of different stakeholders in a single platform,” said another participant from a national research organisation. “We hope this publication will be useful even to those planning to start a vegetable nursery.”

Story:  PVL Bharathi and M Ravishankar

Photos: P Ashish Kumar

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Nursery consultant Dr. Indranil Maity talks about planting schedules.

Private input supplier, Mr. Venkatesh Rao, explains root growth in plug trays.

Ravishankar facilitates the discussions.