Commercialization of research technologies and innovations by research institutes is being intensified due to declining government funding for research and dwindling donor inflows. Lack of quality planting materials continues to be a major challenge in the production of plantains. CSIR-Crops Research Institute signed a three-year contract with a private company to supply quality plantain plantlets using the macro-propagation technology. This paper analyses challenges and the lessons learnt in the commercialization by a public research institution, with the macro-propagation for plantain seedlings production as a case study. In 2014, the total seedlings supplied to the private company was 37, 285 with a target of 90,000 while a total of 48,012 seedlings out of a target of 180,000 were produced and supplied in 2015. Lessons learnt to improve production included: (i) Effective supervision of the selection process and uprooting of suckers for paring by technical personnel to reduce diseased, pest infested materials and water suckers; (ii) Sourcing of suckers close to production sites for commercial production of plantlets in order to reduce cost of transportation and also uprooting workable quantities at a time; (iii) The uprooted suckers should be pared on time and buried to avoid deterioration which reduces the multiplication ratio of the pared suckers in the chamber; (iv) Sterilization of sawdust and black soil; (v) Building the capacity of hired labour to acquire the skills and contract them to produce the plantlets at cheaper rates. In addition, research institutions should enter into public-private-partnerships to avoid researchers having divided attention in performing their duties.
Key words: Seedlings, manipulation, macro-propagation, paring, plantlets.
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