The success of new planting in perennial crop like coffee depends primarily on planting of vigorous, disease free seeding in the field. Therefore, utmost attention is required to raise desirable planting material in the nursery.
Site for Nursery
A gentle sloping land without big shade trees and a nearby water source is preferable for the nursery site. Water should not stagnate in the nursery site. The soil should be light to medium loamy and free from soil-borne pathogens like nematodes. The nursery site should be fenced off from cattle and other grazing animals and should be provide with overhead pendal for shade.
For sowing the seeds, germination beds of 1 m width and 6 m length raised to a height of 15 cm from ground level should be prepared. For this, incorporate four baskets (10kg) of well-rotted cattle manure or compost, 2kg of finely sieved agricultural lime and 400 g of rock phosphorate in each bed. The beds should be spaced 30 to 45 cm apart and provided with a gentle slope between two beds to avoid water stagnation. If the nursery soil is a heavy loam, it may be necessary to add coarse sand that will facilitate drainage and aeration. If one is using clay soil, then it should be mixed with coarse sand properly to enable easy air circulation. A deficit in air circulation leads to stunted seeding growth or can even result in the death o9f plants.
Selected and certified seeds are sown during December-January with their flat side facing the soil, at a distance of 2.5 to 3.0 cm in regular rows. They are covered with a thin layer of finely sieved soil. After sowing, the beds are mulched with a layer of paddy straw which ensures optimal temperatures for seed germination and protects the seed from desiccation. The beds are watered daily in the morning with a rose can. Under optimal conditions, seeds will germinate in about 45 days and attain button or tope stage. At this point, remove the paddy straw cover. The seedlings are then transplanted into either a polybag nursery (basket) or into secondary nursery beds.
Polybag (Basket) Nursery
Preparation for the polybag (basket) nursery should commence well before transplanting. Fertile top soil, preferably from virgin forest lands, should be collected and dried thoroughly. Later the dry soil is sieved. A nursery mixture of six parts of sieved jungle soil, two parts of well-rotted and sieved cattle manure or compost and one part of fine river sand is used for filling up the nursery bags. Polybag of 22.5 x 15 cm size and 150 gauge thickness with adequate number of 3 mm holes (10 to 12/bag) at the bottom half are preferred. The prepared nursery mixture is moistened with water and firmly filled into nursery bags. These bags are arranged in rows of convenient width (10 to 12 bags/row) within rectangular frames of held in position with bamboo or wooden props driven firmly into the ground at suitable distances.
Coffee seedlings are transplanted into nursery baskets at the ‘button’ stage. Using a bamboo stick, seedlings are gently lifted from the germinating beds. This ensures minimal injury to the roots. Prior to transplanting, the nursery baskets are watered and vertical hole about 5 cm deep is made in the soil at the center of the basket. Seedlings are planted in the hole after nipping off the tip of the tap root. Care should be taken also be taken that the shoot system is placed at the same height above the soil as it was in the germination beds. Transplanting is done preferably in the cool hours of early morning or late afternoon. Seedlings uprooted from the primary bed should not be stored for long time but transplanted immediately. It is preferable to dip the roots of seedlings in cow dung slurry or water to prevent desiccation. The baskets plants are usually planted in the main field during late monsoon (August-September). These can withstand long distance transport.
Secondary Nursery Beds
In some regions, seedlings at the button stage are directly transplanted into raised secondary nursery beds. These beds are made of the same soil as that of germination beds. Seedlings are planted 30 cm apart after nipping off the tap root. The beds are mulched and watered regularly. Secondary nursery beds are preferred when ball plants are required for field planting in the next planting season. If the ball plants are to be transported over long distances, soil around the roots should be removed and the seedings may be planted into polythene bags with a mixture of moss, humus and FYM.
Aftercare of seedlings
The seedlings are to be watered daily, early in the morning depending upon weather conditions. Overhead pendant shade must be provided until the commencement of regular monsoon. Seedlings are manured once in two months with urea dissolved in water or supernatant solution of fermented cow dung slurry. For every square meter area, 20 g urea dissolved in 4.5 1of water is sufficient.
Boosting of seedling growth
In case of delayed sowing and transplanting, the seedlings may not attain desired growth in time for field planting. Under such conditions the growth of seedlings can be boosted by spraying any one of the following growth regulators in combination with urea at least one month before field planting or when the seedlings are at 4 to 5 pairs leaf stage. The growth regulator options are planofix 50ml+urea 1 kg or Agronaa 50 ml + urea 1 kg in 2001 of water