Title :On-farm Propagation of Melia volkensii through Seed in Mbeere South Sub-County
Audience :Farmers and Extension Agents
Mbeere South Sub-County of Embu County is located in Eastern Kenya and lies within latitude and longitude 0°41' and 45.92" North 37°41' and 10.03" East respectively. The Sub-County is semi-arid to arid in nature, receives bimodal annual rainfall of between 500 and 700 mm, and temperatures range from 14oC to 34oC. The area is characterized by gentle gradient with shallow sandy and alkaline soils, which are prone to environmental degradation, leading to crop failure, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity and reduced income. The main livelihood activities of farmers in the area include; livestock keeping, and, food crop and tree growing. Melia volkensii (Melia), an indigenous multipurpose tree is one of the species that is well adapted to the region, and which farmers are now domesticating.
Melia is a fast growing, drought tolerant tree that produces high quality timber which is termite resistant. Melia is also used for other important products that include; poles, posts, fodder, bee forage, medicine, and firewood. In the past, growing of Melia was constrained by lack of know-how on propagation, which included extraction of seed from the woody endocarp, seed pre-treatment methods, and seed dormancy which led to poor germination. In addition, germinated seedlings were susceptible to fungal attack causing large post-germination losses. However, many of these challenges have since been addressed through research by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).
Mr. Jim Kassim Gakiavi of Makima Village, Mbeere South Sub-county has adopted Melia propagation technology developed and promoted by KEFRI to domesticate and grow Melia on-farm as a viable enterprise.
To enhance Melia seedling production through seed for on-farm planting and sale for income generation
Mr. Gakiavi was trained by KEFRI on propagation of Melia from seed. Having acquired the necessary skills, the farmer established a Melia tree nursery in 2014. To ensure quality seed and seedling production, the processes involved are summarized as follows:
Seed source selection and collection
• Identify disease free and well-formed mother trees growing naturally on the farm.
• Collect fresh mature fruits that have developed brownish yellow patches from the identified trees.
• Use a stick and hands to pick fruits from the trees.
Note: Do not collect already fallen fruits as they could be immature and harbour pests or diseases.
Seed extraction and processing
- Pound the collected Melia fruit with a wooden plunk to remove fleshy pulp and release the nuts. A mortal and pestle may also be used.
Cleaning and Sun-drying
- Wash the de-pulped nuts with clean water.
- Sun-dry the nuts in preparation for cracking.
- Place a dry nut on a piece of timber with a depression the size of the nut.
- Crack the nut using a knife and a wooden plank by applying minimum force to break the nut without damaging the seeds.
- Extract 2 - 4 seeds from the cracked nuts with your hands.
- Obtain river sand. Sand is a preferred germination medium as it is often free of micro-organisms.
- Lay sacks on the seedbed to avoid direct contact between sand and soil and to help in moisture retention.
- Spread the river sand on the layer of sacks.
- Treat the river sand with Ridomil fungicide before sowing Melia seeds
- Nip seed by breaking its sharp tip.
- Soak the nipped seeds in water treated with Ridomil fungicide for 12 - 24 hours.
- Slit the seed coat longitudinally with a sharp sterile blade from the nipped end downwards to the other end.
- Broadcast slit seeds on the treated river sand.
- Cover seeds with a thin layer of river sand.
- Water the seedbed with enough water.
- Cover the seedbed with a black polythene sheet continuously for 5 days.
Potting and Pricking out
- Prepare a potting mixture of rich humus soil and farm-yard manure in a ratio of 3:1.
- Fill the pots with the potting mixture before seeds germinate.
- Prick out, immediately seeds start germinating and before seed coat falls off to increase survival rates and reduce shock.
- Pricking out should be done in the morning under a shade when temperature is low.
- Transfer the potted seedlings to transplant beds for tending until they are ready for planting out.
Note: Pricking out is a delicate activity that requires caution and patience.
- Use black polyethylene sheet to cover and protect the seedlings from direct sunlight and rain. The black polyethylene sheet helps also to retain heat.
- Remove shading gradually as a hardening off process after six weeks.
- Water when necessary to maintain the soil moisture until seedlings are ready for planting.
Note: To control fungal attack use Ridomil fungicide.
|Fruiting Melia tree
|| Harvested ripe Melia fruits
|| De-pulped Melia nuts |
|Cracking Melia nut on wooden board using a knife
|Extracting Melia seeds from a cracked nut
|| Nipping Melia seed |
| Melia seeds soaked in water
||Slitting soaked Melia seed using a sharp sterile blade
|| Sowing Melia seeds on a seedbed filled with river sand |
|Seedbed covered with black polythene sheet for
| Melia seedlings in the nursery
|| Melia plantation on-farm during wet season |
|Melia plantation on-farm during dry season|
• Increased production capacity to over 5,000 quality Melia seedlings
• Improved income from sale of Melia seedlings at Ksh. 40 (US$ 0.4) per seedling.
• Improved livelihood.
• Improved food security from intercropping Melia with legumes.
• Availability on-farm of timber and non-timber forest products.
• Improved productivity and aesthetic values of the land.
• Opportunity for capacity building for community members as well as schools through training.
• Creation of employment opportunities for women and youth in Makima village.
• Improved on-farm tree cover, soil fertility, soil biodiversity, conservation, and resilience to climate change
• Acquired knowledge and skills on Melia propagation, establishment and management from KEFRI for self-reliance.
• Farmer has built capacity of communities including youth in Makima village and beyond.
• Income generated is adequate to sustain and expand the good practice.
• Expansion of planting of Melia on farm.
The farmer made several modifications to the good practice as follows:
• Use of sacks in seedbed for moisture retention and to avoid direct contact between river sand and existing soil, hence reducing the chances of disease infection.
• Use of black polyethylene sheet as a shade instead of a clear transparent polythene sheet in the nursery. Black polyethylene sheet enhances seedling growth compared to clear polythene sheet due to its high heat retention during low temperature months.
• Pricking out seedlings immediately after germination when seed coat is not yet fully open. Previously, seedlings were pricked out when the seed coat was fully open. The farmer observed that survival rate was higher in the former than the latter method of pricking out.
• Shortage of water.
• Shortage of skilled and experienced labour for propagation of Melia seedlings.
• Production of Melia seedlings has high potential to provide income if well implemented.
• The good practice offers employment opportunity to vulnerable groups such as youth and women.
• Melia propagation skills can be acquired by interested persons including the poor, rich, youth and women.
• Planting Melia on degraded land can greatly improve productivity of such sites.
Propagation of Melia seedlings is a viable enterprise that can contribute to; improved livelihood and enhanced on-farm tree planting, consequently leading to improved land productivity, food security, and environmental sustainability.