Promotion of nurseries for fruits and plantation crops

N Devachandra, L Wangchu, S Romen Singh, B Singh and BN Hazarika
Contd from previous issue
There shall be blocks for elite mother plants of fruits/plantation crops from where scions/bud sticks would be collected. Separate blocks for desirable rootstocks are to be maintained. Poly/shade/net houses form and essential nursery structures. A tank or pond or a tube well serve as a permanent source of water. Establishing a small composting unit ensures manure required for the nursery. It is advisable to lay polythene sheets even inside the nursery structures and fill with soil to make beds.
This practice prevents invasion of nematodes from the nearby areas inside the structures as nematodes are reported to be sensitive to UV rays in the open conditions. So, container based nursery plants are raised and placed inside the structures. Direct raising of nurseries in seed beds inside the polyhouse/net-house is avoided. Pests and pathogens are advisably managed with least or no chemicals. Weeds are managed manually as and when required. Trained labourers having good skill of budding and grafting are to be employed. Nowadays forecast crop selection is adopted while raising the nurseries depending upon requirement or ‘ordered’ for the coming season.
It is not an exaggeration that establishing and running a fruit nursery is not difficult. The agri-preneurs as well as some progressive growers in NER are competent enough. There may be a tendency to have apprehensions regarding marketing potential: Where would we market the nursery produces?;  Who would procure regularly and so on and so forth. The counter point of the above apprehension is the ever-expanding volume and area of the existing nurseries.
They are opening up their well furnished retail outlets in two-three numbers in nearby towns and cities. They are also establishing satellite nurseries in the outskirts where cost of land and labour is affordable. A fruit nursery can be started with a capital as low as Rs. one lac and can also be a hi-tech one requiring more than Rs. one crore investment.
Low cost nurseries may have roofing materials of the nursery structures with locally available materials like thatch, paddy straw, toko pat; and later if affordable then various ranges of shade-nets can be used. Use of UV protected polyethylene sheets as in polyhouses is also popular. For instance, a medium scale horticulture nursery in ½  an acre area with a 30ft X 50ft shade net can be established with a cost of around Rs.5.00 lac. Taking the project period for seven years with average annual working capital of Rs.1.20 Lac, the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) would be more than 2:1.
Among others, establishment of horticulture fruit nurseries is one of those agri-allied ventures considered eligible for availing 44% subsidy (of the establishment project cost) under the Agri Clinic Agri Business Centre (ACABC) schemes of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, GoI monitored by MANAGE, Hyderabad. The eligible agripreneurs under this scheme are graduates from Agri-allied courses or any other graduates with a diploma or alike course in any of the Agri-allied activity like sericulture, vermicompost, bee-keeping etc. to name a few.
In the long run, establishment of reliable fruit nurseries would benefit every stakeholder in the fruit  supply chain. The owner agripreneurs would earn handsomely, farmers and growers would get assured disease free quality planting materials which are free from pests and pathogens (both foliage and soil borne); agri-horticulture professionals would be appreciated; consumers would get assured quality produces and processing industries can have their ‘catchment areas’ of desired raw materials-(fruits and plantation crops).  
It is high time that states of NER should implement and enact the Nurseries Registration Act as soon as possible. It is noteworthy to mention that the state of Assam had  initiated a unique mechanism of ‘Recognising Horticulture Nurseries’ wherein Joint Director Horticulture, takes the role of administrative authority.
Due to the absence of the Nurseries Registration Act, the existing as well as prospective nurserymen cannot get their nurseries registered. On the other hand ensuring quality planting materials and the authenticity of varieties claimed cannot be verified. Therefore, a practical step towards Recognition or Registration of Nurseries may be sensitized both by the Nurserymen and Agri-Horti Professionals in all the states of NER.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that promotion of horticulture farming in our NER has turned out to be a much more remunerative venture or boon for nurseries located in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh generating few crores of income every year for these states. Hence, it is very much timely for all the stakeholders to promote, encourage and support establishment as well as expansion of nurseries- whether small, medium or large in every major agri-horticulture zone of NER. Nurseries in our region may target for producing planting materials raised through organic nursery practices, which would be one of its kind. Though we are yet to be in the horticulture map or fruit map in the country, we have the required potential to occupy a significant position not only in the fruit map but also in the nursery map of the country.

For further details contact:-  Public Relations & Media Management Cell, Imphal. Email: [email protected]