‘How I became a tomato tree grafter’
Daniel Mwai is a farmer from Inoi Ward, Kirinyaga County, with a passion and interest in tree, flower and fruit nurseries.
The farmer says that he began a tree nursery for indigenous trees by getting seedlings from Kamuruana Hills forest and Mt. Kenya which are not far from his home.
While he was contracted to do landscaping in other people’s compounds, he developed an interest in flowers and started propagating seedlings through cuttings, layering, suckers and bulbs which he used to develop his flower nursery.
In the year 2010, he ventured into fruit nurseries and taught himself how to graft fruits to develop better varieties and improve their quality.
He said he began with the grafting of yellow passion with the purple passion, the rootstock would be a yellow passion which would give extensive rooting system and the scion would be the purple passion enabling the new plant to develop resistance to pests and diseases and yield more. He also grafted oranges, avocadoes and tree tomatoes.
While he was in the process of collecting seedlings, he observed that the wild trees such as vernonia Auriculiferia (Muthakwa) of the same family with tree tomato were more enduring and looked stronger, unlike the tree tomato which had a lifespan of fewer than three years.
He, therefore, made a trial, grafting the two trees with Muthakwa tree being the rootstalk and the scion as the tree tomato.
“The result was positive. The grafted trees were not only strong and healthy, but they also produced more fruits that were sweater and bigger in size,” Mwai said.
He said he started grafting more tree tomatoes which he would inform people about through the word of mouth and through this; he was able to market the seedlings. “In the year 2016, more people had seen the results and the demand for the grafted tree tomato increased where I sold to more than 500 farmers at a price of Sh50 per seedlings,” he said.
Mwai says he collects seeds from the Muthakwa tree and grows them as the rootstock in the nursery for the seedlings.
He says he knows that the seeds are fully grown when the birds’ start feeding on them. Then, the tree tomato which is the scion is grafted after three months so as to ensure quick production.
“If the scion has attained the right size, the grafted plant will start to produce fruits early, unlike when the scion is young,” the farmer explains.
Mwai says the benefits of the grafted tree tomato over the normal tree tomato in that the Muthakwa tree contains a taproot and other extensive rooting systems absent in the tree tomato which has a shallow rooting system.
“This enables the plant to absorb water, minerals salts and nutrients hence enabling it to produce more without being affected by the scarcity of water and nutrients,” he said.