Calliandra (calliandra calothyrsus), commonly known as “red calliandra (English), kaliisambuzi (Luganda) and mkaliandra (Swahili)”.
Calliandra, a fodder tree with red flowers, can be fed to cattle, goats, sheep, rabbits and poultry.
Calliandra leaves and young stems can be dried in a shade to avoid losing nutrients. The dried leaves can be stored for a long time and used to make pellets for cattle, goats or rabbits.
Calliandra seeds, seedlings and calliandra leaf meal are sought after by livestock farmers.
Raising Calliandra seedlings
- Raise the seedlings during the dry season so that they are ready to be transplanted at the beginning of the rainy season.
- Use black fertile soil for raising calliandra seedlings. A good general nursery mix is three parts of sieved soil, one part sand and one part compost.
- Calliandra seed has a hard seed coat that can affect its germination. Soak the seeds for 12 hours until they look swollen before planting to improve germination. Remove all floating seeds.
- The soil should be moist enough to run freely into the tube and easily firmed to form the bottom of the tube. The plastic bags should contain drainage holes at their base. The plastic bags are available in the Container Village in Kampala or hardware shops.
- Sow two seeds per bag. If both seeds germinate, transplant one to an empty bag. Germination will occur in four to 10 days.
- When your seedlings have two or more sets of leaves and are large enough to handle, separate seedlings growing together and transfer them into their own pots of potting mix. Start pricking out assoon as the seedlings are big enough to handle.
- Make a shade structure one metre (3ft) in height and cover lightly with dry grass, papyrus mats, or dry banana leaves ensuring that some light passes through. As the seedlings grow, gradually reduce the shade to get the seedlings used to direct sunlight.
- It is important to water the bed sufficiently (but not too much) twice a day — in the morning and evening — especially within the first two months after sowing the seeds.
- Remove all types of weeds as soon as you notice them to ensure better growth of the calliandra seedlings.
- Pests like crickets, grasshoppers and cutworms can cause heavy losses of seedlings if left unchecked. Some farmers apply mixtures made from plants like tobacco and garlic to repel insect pests.
- This is the process of slicing through the roots at the drip line of an established seedling to encourage growth of new feeder roots.
- Under good management, calliandra seedlings are ready for transplanting eight to 10 weeks after sowing. Hardening is the process of exposing seedlings gradually to outdoor conditions. It enables the seedlings to withstand the changes in environmental conditions they will get exposed to when planted outside in the garden.
- For effective management, you have to keep nursery records (cost of seed, labour, water, number of seedlings produced and income, among others).