Vegetables are increasingly becoming an essential component for food and nutrition security in the country.
Vegetable production provides a promising economic opportunity for reducing rural poverty in farming communities in Uganda and elsewhere in African countries.
Therefore, to tap the economic viability of vegetables, there is need for governments and development partners to increase investment in the sector to double the farm productivity. Agricultural scientists regard vegetables as essential sources for the micronutrients needed for healthier diets because they contain food nutrients such as potassium, which helps to maintain blood pressure.
They are a source of dietary fibre which reduces blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart diseases. As such, scientists from the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) handling vegetable breeding under the Korea Programme on International Agriculture (Kopia) Uganda, have been breeding selected traditional and Chinese vegetables varieties for possible release to farmers.
Dr Idd Ramathan who is in charge of the breeding programme, explains to Seeds of Gold the general agronomy practices farmers growing various vegetables varieties must embrace.
General agronomy practices
Dr Ramathan notes that as a general practice, farmers growing vegetables such as, cow pea leaves, amaranth, spider flower, cabbages, tomatoes and eggplant, among others must ensure they plant the vegetables on ridges. Farming on ridges avoids soil nutrients getting washed away by rain water.
It is a good practice to prune vegetable trunks for healthy growth of leaves and for vegetables such as tomatoes; this will lead to formation of good healthy fruits. Once you prune tomato plant, a new branch will form to make more fruits.
Farmers are encouraged to graft vegetable stem onto resistant varieties to avoid pest and disease infection.
Mulching can prevent or decrease moisture loss and can help in keeping the soil warm during colder days.
Moisture fluctuations can lead to damaged plants and especially damaged fruits, while having ‘warm feet’ promotes higher yield and strong plants (phosphorous intake is highly decreased if roots are cold).
Also, good mulch decreases amount of weeds and prevents fruit from touching the soil - fruit rot.
The best mulch is organic one. It includes materials such as compost, straw, newspaper, shredded leaves, grass clippings, sawdust and wood chips among others.
As this materials decompose, they add organic material to the top of the soil. This is also very important for both heavy and sandy soils - few years of mulching and crop rotation and such soils will improve their quality significantly.
The model included training farmers on application of simple technologies such as processing organic chemicals for spraying.
Farmers were taught to use egg yolk mixture, egg shell calcium, grafting and other agronomy practises including pruning.
It is widely used in Korea for the control of various diseases and insects in organic vegetable production. Farmers in Wakiso, Mukono, Masaka, Mpigi, Gomba, and Rakai districts are currently processing seeds from local vegetable varieties for commercialisation from the experience attained.
The team is now validating data collected and are set to move to the second phase of field trials.
Second season data on yield is expected by June 2019, and thereafter application for release to the Ministry of Agriculture will be submitted by July 2019. Crops to be tested in the second phase include cucumber varieties, local cabbage varieties and Chinese cabbages.
This work will be conducted on-farm in three districts including Nakaseke, Mukono and Masaka and the activities will include nursery preparation and management, establishment of six off station trials in Masaka, Mukono, Nakaseke, Jinja and on-station at NaCRRI.
Trails maintenance of control of pests and disease using egg yolk mixture including other agronomy practices will be conducted. This will be to assess the yield rate and consumer preference
The preferred field trial method is to plant two rows of traditional cabbage varieties YR Omun – NN, Queen F1- QQ, and Barak F1- 99 with spacing 60cm by 60cm.
Cucumber varieties Gangryuk-samchok, Shinbinakhab Ashely- AA and Aca – CC will be planted in rows with spacing 100cm by 50cm
Chinese cabbage varieties Noranja, Bul-am 3HO, Chinili – CL and Heat Bright – HB will be planted in two rows with spacing of 50cm by 50cm
Pests and disease management
The pests include cabbage aphids, cabbage webworm, diamond black moth flea beetles cutworms and cabbage lopper.
Diseases are anthracnose, powdery mildew, black leg, downy mildew, club root, sclerotinia rot, soft rot, leaf spot, black rot and root- knot nematodes.
The team is targeting to train about 100 farmers and 20 extension staff, establish vegetable demo plot at Jinja Agricultural show, hold a field day at NaCRRI, Namulonge and conduct a palatability test.
The best performed varieties will be selected and should be released for farmer use by next year.