Polypot system: a cost saving practice for improved tobacco seedling quality in Malawi
This trial investigated a tobacco seedling production system known as the Polypot which is a slight variant of the Motherbed. It aimed to evaluate the effectiveness, benefits and challenges of the Polypot in relation to the other seedling production systems at three locations in Malawi from 2013 to 2016. The trial tested three seedling production systems, namely Conventional, Motherbed and Polypot. Data was collected on seedling heights, root volumes, stem diameters, number of leaves per seedling and number of over-grown seedlings, amount of water used and survival rates of each system. Results showed that seedlings from Polypots and Motherbeds were relatively taller in height, with thicker stems, had more leaves and bigger root volumes than the seedlings from the Conventional system. Seedlings raised from the Polypot system saved 71 % water compared to the Conventional seedbeds. And when planted out in the field, seedlings from the Polypot system had almost 100 % stand count compared to the ones from the Conventional beds. On yield, the Polypot, although statistically similar to Motherbed, had a 10 % yield advantage over the Motherbed system and 21 % yield advantage over the Conventional system. The Polypot also saved 69 % of watering labour compared to the Conventional system. Almost all selected farmers who tested this system claimed that the system is efficient, easy to use, secure and reliable. The partial budget analysis showed that there was a gain of USD 115.40 per hectare (1 USD = MWK 720) as in December 2016) when farmers tested the Polypot instead of the Conventional system. It was therefore the finding of this study that the Polypot system offered farmers an opportunity to reduce the cost of tobacco production in the nursery while undertaking mitigating measures against climate change in situations of water scarcity.