Tobacco farmers urged to embrace float tray seedbed technology

THE Tobacco Research Board has challenged tobacco farmers in Manicaland to embrace the use of the greenhouse float system to produce high quality tobacco seedlings for planting.

The Manica Post learnt that unlike the traditional seedbed system, the greenhouse float system uses fewer chemicals and in smaller quantities, employs economical integrated management of diseases and pests and uses less water and fertiliser.

It also produces superior more uniform drought tolerant seedlings, offers additional flexibility in planting and also facilitates easier field management arising from a more uniform crop. The float tray technology allows the farmer to use land optimally as 20 square metres of the seedbed produces seedlings enough to cover a hectare after transplanting, something that is not possible with the conventional seedbed.

Speaking during the 107th edition of Manicaland Agricultural Show, TRB training and extension manager Mr Goodson Khudu said the greenhouse float system could farmers’ livelihoods in hot areas if used effectively.

“Farmers are adopting the new technologies slowly, but if used effectively in hotter areas they can produce more tobacco and change their livelihoods at lower costs as compared to the traditional seedbed system.

“A farmer requires 100 square metres to produce seedlings for one hectare, while with the float system, the farmer only needs 72 trays to produce uniform seedlings for the same hectare.

“Unlike the conversional system which requires watering three times a day and the use of chemicals, the float system can go for weeks without watering and does not require pesticides. The float system makes seedlings robust due to clipping severity, reduction in disease pressure, salt injury and limits production costs and environment threat,” said Mr Khudu.

“We now have new bans namely rocket ban and the counter current ban. These new technologies also reduce fuel usage by half cost during in tobacco bans and produce more and uniform seedlings. In that case, we are urging farmers to resort to the use of coal in their bans to reduce deforestation,” he said. He added that farmers in other areas were only lacking awareness, but TRB was working hand in hand with Agritex to figure out areas that need help in tobacco production.