In the realm of agriculture, Israel has long been hailed as a pioneer of innovative and efficient practices. Having immersed myself in a year-long agriculture internship in this agricultural powerhouse, I am eager to share the wealth of knowledge garnered from their state-of-the-art grape nursery. This transformative technology not only holds the promise of elevating the quality of Nepali grapes but also presents a unique opportunity to lessen our dependence on grape imports from neighbouring countries and increase export.
Seedlings in the Making:
The journey begins with the production of plastic trays, each meticulously crafted to accommodate 100 pits. These pits serve as the rooting grounds for grape rootstock cuttings, nestled in a carefully curated mixture of coconut coir, pit, and moss. The foundation for robust grape plants is laid at this stage. The quality of the mother plant material, obtained from years of research in research stations, is paramount—rootstocks with superior root quality, hardiness, disease resistance, pest resistance, salt tolerance, and excellent nutrient absorption, and scions boasting high fruit yield, top-quality fruit, and resistance to diseases and pests.
Protected Growth Environment:
After being brought into the nursery, these plants are cultivated in white plastic pots filled with a coconut coir, pit, and moss mixture. Drip irrigation, an artful technique ensuring precise water and nutrient supply, sustains the plants in these pots nestled within expansive tunnels different for rootstocks and scions. To combat potential insect threats, nylon nets line the tunnels. AI-controlled plastic windows and easily operable black shadow nets manage temperature, sunlight exposure, and protect against wind and rainfall. For added protection against diseases, hand and foot sanitizers are provided at tunnel entrances, with workers who work inside tunnels are provided with disposable aprons and hand gloves.
The multiplication of mother plants is a nuanced and careful process. One’s mother plants are grown up, branches are meticulously cut, wrapped in wet paper, and stored in white plastic within freezer boxes. Once inside the laboratory, these branches are transformed into one-node cuttings, dipped in rooting hormone powder, and planted in trays containing 100 small pits of wet nutrient rich media. These trays find their home in a closed room with controlled conditions of temperature, humidity, light, and air. After an incubation period of 8 days, the trays transition outside under less controlled conditions of humidity, light and temperature to facilitate optimal rooting. After that, these trays are carefully introduced to sunlight for hardening and then planted in white pots inside tunnels.
Rootstock Preparation: A Symphony of Precision
The preparation of rootstock branches is a meticulous process, requiring careful attention to detail and adherence to controlled conditions. This critical stage ensures the development of a robust foundation for the grapevines. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
- Selection of Strong, Thin Branches:
- Harvesting involves identifying strong, thin branches hardened by pinching from the rootstock mother plant.
- These branches, carefully chosen for their hardiness and suitability, serve as the groundwork for future grapevines.
- Cutting into Two-Node Segments:
- The selected branches are cut into segments, each containing two nodes inside the laboratory.
- This step is crucial as it provides the basis for successful grafting, ensuring that each segment possesses the necessary qualities(thickness, hardness, internode length, leaf size and below node length) for rootstock development.
- Propagation under Controlled Laboratory Conditions:
- The two-node segments undergo propagation within a controlled laboratory environment.
- Conditions of light, temperature, and humidity are carefully regulated to foster optimal growth and development.
- Auxin Powder Application:
- To stimulate root growth, the thin branches are subjected to auxin powder, a plant hormone that encourages the formation of roots.
- The application of auxin powder is a strategic measure to enhance the rootstock’s ability to establish a robust root system.
- Controlled Incubation Period:
- Following auxin powder application, the branches are planted vertically on each pit of the tray and then these trays are taken inside the room with carefully controlled conditions of light, humidity, and temperature for an incubation period.
- This period allows for the gradual development of roots, ensuring that the resulting rootstock will be well-prepared for the subsequent grafting process.
- Transition to External Environment:
- After an incubation period, trays containing the rootstock branches are introduced to the external environment.
- The transition is gradual, starting with 80% shadow to acclimate the rootstock to sunlight.
- Progressive Sunlight Exposure:
- The trays continue to progress in sunlight exposure, with conditions systematically adjusted.
- This process is designed to further strengthen the roots and ensure the rootstock’s readiness for grafting.
Grafting Procedure: Crafting the Future of Grapevines
The grafting procedure is a delicate and precise art that involves the fusion of rootstock and scion, setting the stage for the growth of high-quality grapevines. Here’s a detailed exploration of the steps involved:
- Arrangement of Rootstock Cuttings:
- Trays containing rooted cuttings of rootstock branches, usually 100 in each tray, are arranged for the grafting procedure.
- These rooted cuttings have undergone the preparatory stages, ensuring they are primed for successful grafting.
- Cutting Between Two Nodes:
- Each rooted cutting in the tray is carefully cut between two nodes, ensuring a clean and precise incision.
- The slanting cut is a crucial element of the grafting process, facilitating optimal joining with the scion.
- Removal of Top Node of Rootstock:
- The top node of the rootstock is removed, creating a space for the integration of the scion.
- This step streamlines the grafting process, allowing for a seamless connection between the rootstock and scion.
- Joining with Desired Scion Variety:
- The prepared rootstock is then joined with the desired variety of scion, which embodies high fruit-yielding and top-quality fruit attributes.
- The precise joining of the rootstock and scion is a critical aspect of successful grafting.
- Preservation of Scion Freshness:
- Scion branches, taken from the mother plant, are instantly placed inside a refrigerator to prevent wilting.
- This rapid preservation of scion freshness ensures the vitality of the scion for the grafting process.
- Temperature and Light Control:
- Grafting rooms are equipped with temperature control mechanisms, often employing air conditioners to maintain an optimal environment.
- Light conditions within the grafting room are also meticulously controlled to support the grafting process.
- Transition to Controlled Conditions:
- After grafting, the trays containing the joined rootstock and scion undergo a transition to rooms with controlled conditions of light, humidity, and temperature.
- This controlled environment fosters the initial stages of graft integration.
- Progressive Exposure to External Environment:
- Gradually, the trays are introduced to the external environment with 80% shadow, accompanied by controlled water vapour to maintain humidity.
- This gradual exposure ensures the successful acclimatisation of the grafted plants.
- Shadow Reduction and Sunlight Exposure:
- The shadow percentage is gradually reduced, exposing the grafted trays to increasing amounts of sunlight.
- This carefully orchestrated progression aims to strengthen the grafted joints and foster optimal growth.
- Rootstock Bud Removal and Continued Growth:
- After 25 days of meticulous care and development, the rootstock buds on each grafted plant are removed.
- The grafted plants are then nurtured until the joints are strong, and the scion part is fully grown, marking their readiness for sale.
This comprehensive approach, witnessed and acquired in Israel, presents a potential blueprint for Nepal to cultivate high-quality grapes on its hilly terrain. Furthermore, it offers a viable pathway towards self-sufficiency in grape cultivation, enhancing both the quality of our grapes and the economic prosperity of our agricultural sector. The time has come for Nepal to embark on a grape revolution, drawing inspiration from the innovative practices witnessed on the fertile grounds of Israel.