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Quality of tree seedlings produced in nurseries in Malawi: an assessment of morphological attributes

Nyoka, B. I., Kamanga, R., Njoloma, J., Jamnadass, R., Mng’omba, S., Muwanje, S.
Forests, trees and livelihoods 2018 v.27 no.2 pp. 103-117
root crown, roots, seedlings, shoots, surveys, trees, Malawi
Survival of planted trees in Malawi is very low and this is attributed to many factors including the use of poor quality tree seedlings. A survey was conducted to assess the quality of tree seedlings produced by various nurseries. The survey covered 55 nurseries in four districts in central Malawi comprising 18 private, 26 communal and 11 institutional nurseries. A total of 1,500 tree seedlings were assessed for morphological attributes i.e. root collar diameter (RCD), height, root and shoot weight, shoot-to-root ratio (S:R), sturdiness quotient, Dickson’s Quality Index (DQI) and root deformity. Differences between the three nursery types were significant (p < 0.05) for some of the parameters. Overall, 33%, 58% and 67% of assessed seedlings in communal, institutional and private nurseries, respectively, had the recommended S:R ratio of less than 2, while for sturdiness quotient, 8%, 67%, and 58%, respectively, of the seedlings had less than the recommended threshold value of 6. A similar pattern was observed for RCD and DQI. Prevalence of root deformities was highest in institutional nurseries (47.5%), followed by private (45.5%) and communal nurseries had the lowest (42.6%). Given that all three nursery types have apparent, but sometimes different seedling quality issues, building knowledge and technical capacity is needed across all the nursery operators.