Tomatoes are one of the widely grown vegetables in the world. In Uganda, it is estimated that about three million homesteads grow tomatoes, some for home consumption and others, for sale.
Speaking at the launch of a key turning innovation, where tomatoes are grafted to keep away pests including the deadly wilt locally known as kiwotoka. The tomato wilt is the devil that threatens to destroy the souls of the tomato growers.
When we are planting our tomatoes, we pray that they are not visited by this devil, John Nsamba, a tomato farmer says. Nsamba grows tomatoes in Busiika in Luwero district. The wilt destroys tomato farms if infected plants are not isolated and identified early. Farmers want the right seeds and knowledge to achieve better yields and eliminate diseases, Karugu Macharia, the regional director of Solidaridad says.
For the plants to be grafted and to remain healthy, they should be watered the previous night so that when cut or grafted they can heal quickly. Before grafting, ensure that the razorblades and clips have been cleaned and sterilized. Prepare the jar of disinfectant (Sodium hypochlorite/ JIK solution) with water and keep knives in that jar; change knives during grafting to avoid transferring germs from plant to plant.
Steps to note:
Grafting must be carried out in a shade and in a wind-free environment.
Both the rootstock and the scion should be cut at an angle of 45 degrees.
Cut scion between the first and second true leaf and cut the rootstock right above the first true leaf.
After cutting, attach them with a clip immediately without touching the cut ends.
After grafting, transfer the seedlings to a humid chamber, made up of two layers of a black and white vinyl tunnel (polythene) and a base, made up of ordinary soil or sand, where they are maintained for three days.
The chamber blocks out sunlight to prevent evapo-transpiration.
In the chamber, the seedlings should be watered from the bottom and not directly. When watered directly, the roots will grow upward, instead of downwards.
The other option is to water the humid chamber base first, then place the grafted seedlings within the trays above.
After three days in the chamber, the polythene covering is removed for at least 30 minutes every morning for four day. Thereafter, they should be kept dry for another four days to make then new plant firm.
Seven days after grafting and staying in the humid chamber, the seedlings can be watered directly. When they acquire eight to nine leaves, they are ready for transplanting. This is usually at around he sixth to seventh week.
National Crops Resources Research Institute's Dr African Kangire says during the transplanting, the seedlings should not be planted deep in the soil and the grafting point should not be covered with soil.
According to Dr Herbert Talwana from the Department of Agricultural Production at Makerere University, farmers are more than ready to adapt to the grafted tomatoes. A survey conducted revealed that farmers are willing to take up the technology even if it means paying more money for it.
Josephat Byaruhang, the agriculture policy officer at the Embassy of the Netherlands and was the chief guest at the IRESO Project launch, encouraged farmers to adopt technologies that can improve yields and get rid of the wilt.