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All you need to know about seed propagation

By John Githinji
Timothy Kimani Murage

During his short stint as a salesman for an agrochemical company, Timothy Kimani Murage noticed that sourcing for disease-free seeds was a challenge to most farmers.

The 28-year-old Egerton University Bachelor of Science in Agri-Business Management graduate set his sight on helping farmers solve the challenge of sourcing for seeds. It is out of this urge that his seed propagation venture was born.

He did not have a problem building his customer base since the farmers he used to interact with when he was at Monsanto Kenya Limited form a big part of his clientele. Also, this is the first seed propagation business in Nyahururu.

For those who may wish to visit Murage, he is at Kibathi village, some 4km from Nyahururu town on the Nyahururu-Ol Kalou highway.

A few months after quitting his sales job, he raised Sh320,000 which he used to construct his first greenhouse measuring eight metres by 30 metres. A month after completing the greenhouse, he set up 250 seedling trays. Today he has about 500,000 seedlings.

He sells the seedlings to farmers in Ng’arua, Pesi and Rumuruti in Laikipia and other farmers in Nyandarua.

The money he got from selling the seeds enabled him to set up a second greenhouse.

After setting up the greenhouses, the challenge he faced was acquiring materials needed for germination of seeds. Among them is vermiculite and peat-mos which are the germination medium.

“Vermiculite is mainly found in Athi River while peat-mos is imported but we buy from dealers in Nairobi. The cost is Sh600 for 50kg vermiculite and Sh800 for peat-mos of similar weight,” said Murage.

Propagating the seeds

“We charge propagation per seedling. If the farmer has brought the seed to be propagated, it will cost him Sh1.50 for tomatoes and Sh1 for cabbages because cabbages are less delicate than tomatoes which are prone to many infections and require much attention.

“Capsicum costs Sh2 as it has a lot of challenges in terms of germination, it has high seed dormancy and takes much time and temperature in the germination room. It takes a period of two weeks in the greenhouse.”

He says that propagation is best since it has less wastage of seeds and high yields unlike the usual seed bed.

“Once we buy the tray, they are washed with a chemical known as evicur energy which disinfects it.

"We then mix the peat-mos and vermiculite into ratio of 1:1, then we half-fill the ratios into the tray then dig holes manually, place the seeds and cover them with another ratio, water them and take to the germination room.

"In the room, we maintain a temperature of 30 to 40 degrees Celsius,” explains Kimani.

It takes three to four days for the seeds to germinate and are later transferred to the greenhouse where the germinated seeds are irrigated on a daily basis depending on the weather.

“We also have a spray programme for chemicals (fungicides and insecticide) and fertilisers so as to boost the crop. We also boost the crop immunity such that when the customer takes it from the green house after three to four weeks, it has the ability to adopt to the changes,” says Kimani.

After sale services

After giving the seeds to the farmer they do a follow-up to ensure that the farmer meets the required conditions while planting. 

“We do the follow up about three to four days before the crop has reached its maturity to ensure that the farmer has done the required spacing, used recommended fertiliser or to note any shortcomings which we might have solutions to," says Kimani

“This month’s weather is suitable for the production of tomatoes in Nyahururu. The month of February is good for cabbages.”

“My main challenge is unavailability of the trays," he says.  

smartharvest@standardmedia.co.ke    

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