INCREASING FOOD SECURITY THROUGH MACROPROPAGATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
The basic needs in life are food, shelter, and clothing. In developed countries, these are no concern whereas in developing countries, there are still promises made by politicians to win an election. Therefore, food security in developing countries like most African countries (for example: Nigeria) is a major concern. Effort is continually made to ensure there is enough food supply, to reduce hunger and starvation. But there are countable limitations to achieving the said good food security.
The reasons shadowing growth in food security are;
- Lack of enabling environment for food and agricultural research
- lack of funds and grants
- Inconsistent power supply for processing and preserving food produce.
- No viable road network for accessing and transporting food produce.
- Lack of improved crop varieties
- Diversion of people’s interest from farming occupation to white-collar job
- Lack of agricultural machinery to ease agricultural stress.
- Inconsistent or lack of training for farmers
- No functional government policy
Due to the above, there is a need to start teaching easy techniques that favour increased food security, without the use of high machinery, laboratory, and reagents—an example of such techniques is macropropagation.
This is simply a method of propagation that uses a large piece of plant to generate a large number of plantlets. This is applied to plants like Musa spp (banana and plantain) whereby a part of the plant is cultivated in a very porous substrate to get a large number of plantlets. Bananas and plantain have high relevance due to their high richness in food nutrients, especially carbohydrates. In developing countries like Nigeria, they are sold at virtually every junction as a quick meal, served on most occasions, and used to prepare different assorted delicacies. The plant fruits year-round and requires little or no care as maintenance. They also have high propagation capacity; hence, they can shoot out multiple young ones in a very short time. Acquiring skills on how to increase the productivity of such relevant plants is highly important.
ADVANTAGES OF MACROPROPAGATION
Small space is required: unlike other propagation techniques like micropropagation which requires multiple spaces for different stages, just one or at most two spaces are required for all the processes.
It requires fewer machines and infrastructures: basic tools needed for this method are average of what we have or can access from our environment.
Less cost-intensive: this method does not require materials or reagents that are very costly.
No intense specialization or certification required: With most other propagation techniques, a lot of certifications are required or a certain level of education.
Minimum loss encounter: Some propagation methods require high sterility and contamination usually leads to damage to tissues. In macropropagation, it may reduce the shooting ability of the corm.
MACROPROPAGATION OF Musa SPP (plantains and bananas)
There are processes to achieving this, as listed below.
Construction of propagator: at this level, the aim is to build a facility called a propagator, where the processed corm will be cultivated. It is usually built with wooden planks and nails. It’s the measurement is based on the available space, resources, and the capacity to manage. The height of the propagator is always the plank’s width. It’s usually shaped rectangular and placed on a cemented floor or waterproofed ground to prevent the root from entering the soil. If the root penetrates the soil, it will cut during shoot detachment. Plantlets without roots will experience challenges in anchoring and getting nutrients from the soil, hence, leading to the death of the plantlets. The propagator should also be kept under a shade.
Filling of propagator: As earlier stated the propagator is for cultivation, this implies that it should carry substrate. The substrates used are usually soilless and porous; this is to enable easy harvesting of suckers and replanting of the corms. Such substrates include sawdust, rice husk, spear grass, etc. To prepare the substrate for use, the substrate is sterilized with steam. To achieve it, a reasonable amount of water is measured into a drum carrying rocks. The water is measured a little below the rock; because the stone ensures that water does not touch the substrate during steaming. The substrates are bagged and suspended on the stone, ensuring no contact between the bag and water. Cover the drum with a lid, set up fire on the drum, and stop the fire about 30 minutes after the water boils. Bring out the steamed substrate and spread it in a clean propagator until it reaches the height of the propagator. Allow it to stay for 24 hours or more to remove the heat before cultivating the processed corms.
Sucker collection and Corm preparation: Sword suckers that are disease free and healthy are sourced from the farm. To prepare it, remove the pseudostem and the roots from the sucker. Wash thoroughly in clean water to remove both plant and soil debris. With the use of a clean and sharp knife, carefully peel or cut off the leaf sheets of the corm one after the other to expose the bud and meristematic region at about 2 mm above the corm. The meristematic region is drilled or scarified by making an X line at the top of the corm to ensure that the corm does not shoot from the top. The prepared corm is surface sterilized by soaking it in a sterilant for 20 minutes. The sterilant could be a mixture of water and fungicide or 10 ml of sodium hypochlorite in twenty-five liters of water. The corms are aired for a day before they are cultivated into the propagator.
Planting of corm: plant or cultivate the processed corms to the substrates by maintaining a distance of 10 inches between one corm and another, and between corms and propagator. Ensure that the corms are not touching the floor and that the substrate covers the corms very well. A spacing of 10 inches between one corm and another, and between corms and propagator is observed.
Propagator Maintenance/management: immediately after planting, the media should be watered until it is soaked. The first irrigation will consume a high volume of water, unlike subsequent ones. Water the substrate at intervals of a day or two following the measurement that will not encourage water logging. Water logging the environment could encourage the presence of some disease vectors like mosquitoes, hence increasing malaria attacks. Also, apply anti-rodents and lizards because they could feed on the corms and their shoots, they could also be threatening to human life.
Preparation of pot and weaning media: after detaching, the plantlets are not planted directly in the field, they are rather kept in a weaning media and environment which will enable them to survive the shock experienced. A nylon pot sizing about 4 inches in width and 5 inches in height, or a bigger pot is processed by creating holes at the base and a little above the base. This is to reduce waterlogging of the plantlets in the pots. The media is prepared by mixing the soil and compost manure at a ratio of 3:1. The pot is then filled with the prepared substrate in readiness for detachment of suckers.
Detachment or harvesting of shoots: within 4 to 8 weeks, 3 to 7 shoots would have been produced, depending on the spp of the Musa plant, viability, and efficiency if executing the macropropagation processes. Shoots with three to four leaves are detached with a very clean and sharp knife. While detaching, ensure that roots are not damaged and a sizable amount of tissue is cut alongside the shoot. This tissue serves as food storage before the plantlet fully acclimatizes to the environment, where it can now source its food. The shoot is then planted into a weaning pot and carefully watered intermittently to avoid water logging and loss of nutrients. After two to four weeks, the plant is ready to be transferred to the field where it can grow and fruit. On the field, dig a hole that can accommodate the pot and use a razor blade or sharp knife to cut off the nylon pot. Then, put the entire plant with weaning media into the dug hole, and cover carefully. This transplanting gives better results if it is done at the onset of the rainy season.