Grafting solutions to reduce pathogens

In Ghana, there is a growing concern among some conventional and organic vegetable farmers about the destruction of their crops by soil-borne pathogens/diseases such as bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, and root-knot nematodes. The situation is even worse among subsistence farmers who are growing tomatoes in the open field and whose crops are being infected by all three pathogens simultaneously as either primary or secondary infections. The use of agro-chemical treatments has been the only option for farmers and this has raised some concerns over the cost. This is coupled with the fact that consumers are very critical of residues in vegetables, as noted from a country whose vegetable exports have been hit with a ban in recent times.

In most farming communities dry season vegetable production is done close to rivers and streams which creates the possibility of contaminating these rivers and the underground water with agro-chemical from run off and drainage if not done properly. In an effort to address some of these problems there has been a surge in the construction of greenhouses across the country with the idea that growing in soil less media (cocopeat) will exclude the soil-borne pathogens plus provide an added advantage of growing crops in a controlled and protected environment.

Interestingly, there are cases of outbreaks of bacterial wilt diseases caused by the bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum in most tomato production greenhouses.

In response to these challenges, I am proposing the use of a grafting technology dubbed “grafting solutions”, which will see major vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers being grafted for greenhouse and open field farmers. Currently, I have grafted more than 2,000 tomato plants as trial for greenhouse tomato production using locally identified wild resistant root stocks in addition to some commercial root stocks. This has proven to be very successful against these pathogens.

In spite of the success realized so far, I continue to test more root stock seeds for yield and other crop performance indices to settle on the best root stock and scion combinations in the area of compatibility and fruit quality. Also, to cut costs, I am using very simple inputs such as drinking straws as grafting tubes or clips, razor blades and Styrofoam boxes. My chief motivation behind this idea is to supply affordable grafted plants to the greenhouse and open field farmers whilst also creating employment for youth.

To create awareness of the possibility of using grafted plants, I demonstrate the process of grafting during training programs with some level of hands-on practice for participants whom I believe will be ambassadors and channel the information to other farmers. Through such training programs, I have received some requests for grafted plants which I intend to meet by close of the year 2019. This will enable me to upscale and meet demand.

Charles Agyeman, Ghana

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