Rice which is to be transplanted into lowland puddled soil must first be nursed on seedbeds. The main reason for nursing rice is simple: to give the seedlings a substantial head start on weeds. Three types of nurseries are used in Sierra Leone -- the wet bed nursery, the dry bed nursery, and the dapog. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, and you will probably end up using different nursing methods dependirig on the situation. Always keep in mind that it is really very easy to raise healthy seedlings if you are prepared to take enough time to do the job properly. Success in raising healthy rice seadlings depends mainly on constant supervision of the seedbeds and proper management.
Outline of Contents
I. The Wet Bed Nursery
II. The Dry Bed Nursery
III The Dapog Nursery
I . The Wet Bed Nursery
The wet bed method of raising rice seedlings is the most popular worldwide, Although wet bed nursing is not traditional in Sierra Leone, extension agents have been able to introduce the use of wet bed nurseries with fair success.
The nursing of rice seedlings by the wet bed method is carried out on raised beds within the swamp. Select a fertile, level plot with good water control. Soil preparation, should always be very thorough. At least one plowing and a careful puddling are necessary to loosen the soil, as well as to facilitate the decomposition of organic matter. The addition of organic material to plots designated as nursery areas can help ensure seedling vitality, provided it is added early enough to decompose completely.
After soil preparation is completed, peg out the nursery bed, with bush poles and string. The beds should be approximately one meter (1m) wide. The relatively narrow width ensures that any area within the bed can easily be reached from either side. Leave alleyways of approximately 40 cm between the beds for use later as irrigation, channels. Scoop soil from the alleyways by hoe or by hand to construct the beds, which eventually should be raised 10 cm above the original surface of the plot. Work thorough the raised soil wit}-, your fingers, breaking up clumps and removing sticks, roots, and stones (this will facilitate uprooting of the seedlings later on). Finally, smooth the surface of the bed, using a board or your flattened hard.
Broadcast pre-germinated seed on the beds, being sure to achieve an even distribution. It i very important not to space the seeds too close, as they will crowd each other out when they begin to grow. An application rate of five (5) pounds /10m bed gives excellent results. When the seeds have been sown, smooth over them with your hands to cover with a thin layer of soil. This will help protect them against heavy rain or birds. In some cases it will also be necessary to cover the newly-sown beds with pal.`, frond.>, banana leaves, grass, or brush.
It is extremely important to keep the beds moist at all tines. Although water is usually not a problem with the wet bed, make sure the farmer checks the nursery at least twice a day If it is not raining every day, moisten the beds morning arid evening by splashing water up from the irrigation channels between the beds.
Seedlings in the wet bed nursery can be attacked by insects, although pest infestation is generally not a big problem (if it is, encourage the farmer to make subsequent beds toward the centers of the swamp, away from the brushy peripheries where insects breed). If it becomes necessary to resort to the 'se of a chemical pesticide, do not spray until the seedlings are at least five days old.
The seedlings should be ready for transplanting from 14 days onwards, depending on the variety and the conditions. Younger seedlings are always preferable, as they establish themselves more quickly. The "fourth leaf" stage is generally regarded as optimal. Remember to flood the beds completely beforehand (submerge the soil, not the rice) to minimize damage to the seedlings. Uproot seedlings by holding a few at a time between thumb and forefinger at the base of the culm and pulling sideways. Always handle seedlings with extreme care. Seedlings which are handled gently during uprooting and transporting recover much more quickly when transplanted than those which are crushed, bruised, or allowed to dry out.
Advantages of the wet bed nursery:
- situated right in the swamp
- irrigation water readily available
- seedlings grow rapidly seedlings easy to uproot
- minimal disease and pest problems
- excellent for dry season crops
II. The Dry Bed Nursery
Most traditional swamp farmers in Sierra Leone use a form of dry bed nursery. However, almost invariably the beds are constructed hastily, without proper tillage of the soil, and the resulting seedlings tend to be of poor quality. Don't be misled into thinking that dry bed nurseries cannot produce healthy seedlings; under proper management, dry bed nurseries can produce excellent seedlings.
Select a level or gently sloping area near a convenient water source . The hillsides immediately adjacent to a swamp generally make excellent locations for dry bed nurseries. Flow and harrow the soil twice to obtain a fine till . At least 10-15cm of topsoil must be opened up and well pulverized. Addition of decomposed organic matter and/or partially burned rice straw or rice husks will help in keeping the soil aeratad and will make it easier to uproot the seedlings.
Peg out the beds in the same manner as wet beds. Scoop soil from the alleyways, using a hoe or shovel. Level the beds and crush any remaining clods by hand or with a stick.
Broadcast the pre-germinated seed just as you would on a wet bed. The application rate should be similar -five (5) pounds/10m bed is good. Be careful to cover the seeds completely with a thin layer of soil. If heavy rains or birds threaten, cover the beds with fronds or leaves.
The beds should be watered thoroughly immediately after planting and twice every day thereafter. Soak the bed - well ( to near saturation). If irrigation water is available, water can be sent along the channels and splashed onto the beds otherwise, water must be carried in by hand It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of constantly watering dry bed nurseries. Seedlings growing, on wet beds can usually absorb sufficient water from below the surface, but dry bed seedlings are totally dependent on rain and hand waterrig. If the beds dry out for even one day, the growth of the seedling may be seriously impaired. Do not encourage a farmer to construct dry bed nurseries unless he can be depended on to water them regulary.
Dry bed seedlings will not grow as fast as wet bed seedlings. Seedlings on the dry bed should be ready for transplanting from 21 days onwards. Water the bed to saturation before uprooting:, to make sure the soil is moist and loose .
Advantages of the dry bed nursery:
- seedlings develop excellent root
- seedlings easy to uproot
- beds can be made near the farmer's house
III. The Dapog Nursery
The dapog method of raising seedling originated in the Philippines and. is now, fairly common in South and Southeast
The dapong nursery is constructed for the raising of seedlings without any soil whatsoever. Rice seeds contain sufficient food in the endosperm to permit the young seedling seedlings to grow for up to 14 days without receving any outside nutrients except air, water, and sunlight. Consequently, it is possible to nurse seedlings without actually sowing them in soil.
The dapong nursery can be located anywhere convenient, as long as it is near a reliable water supply. It is usually a good ideal to locate dapong nurseries where they earl be watched at all times, since they require constant watering and very susceptible to bird (including chicken) attack. Construct a raised earthern bed roughly one meter square -- the exact shape isn' too important -- and cover it with green bahana leaves, or better yet plastic sheeting. Keep the surface of the bed as level as possible, but construct a low raised border to hold the seeds in place after they have been sown and to prevent water from escaping.
Soak and. pre-germinate the seed as with the other types of nursery Pre-germinate a little more seed than usual, because dapog seedlings are quite small when transplanted and difficult to separate; almost inevitably, the farmer will need more of them. Spread the seed in a solid, even layer on the dapog to a depth of approximately 2 cm (5-6 seeds thick). Gently sprinkle water over the seeds, taking care not to dislodge them. As the seeds expand during the next few days, press them firmly in place with a board to keep them compacted
Keep the seeds moist at all times! Without the insulation of a layer of soil, they will dry out very quickly if they are not watered constantly. From about the third day, keep the bed continuously flooded with a thin layer of water.
Regardless of the duration of the variety, dapog-raised seedlings will be ready for transplanting after 9-14 days -by then the food material contained in the endosperm will have been exhausted, and the seedlings will quickly begin to die off. On the day of transplanting, simply roll up the entire seedling mass (the roots will have matted together to form a soft of rug), throw it over your shoulder, and head for the swamp.
Advantages of the dapog nursery:
- fastest method of raising seedlings
- small nursing area
- situated near farmer's house
- excellent for replacing small quantities of seedlings destroyed by pests
- dapog seedlings recover fast from transplanting because they are not uprooted