THE EFFECT OF DIFFERENT LIGHT INTENSITIES ON THE GERMINATION AND EARLY GROWTH OF CHRYSOPHYLLUM ALBIDUM SEEDLINGS

THE EFFECT OF DIFFERENT LIGHT INTENSITIES ON THE GERMINATION AND EARLY GROWTH OF CHRYSOPHYLLUM ALBIDUM SEEDLINGS ABSTRACT The present study investigated the effects different light intensities on the germination of Chrysophyllum albidum seeds as well as the early seedling development of the species. The treatments investigated were 100%, 60%, and 40% light intensities, under forest canopy (control I), open nursery condition (control II). The seedling growth characteristics investigated were height, collar diameter, number of leaves and biomass production. The experiment, which was monitored for about 18 months, was conducted at the departmental nursery of the Department of Forestry and Wood Technology, Federal University of Technology Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria. Results indicated a significant effect of light intensities on seed germination and early growth rate of seedlings. Cumulative germination ranged from 19.0% to 58.7% and was highest under forest canopy and lowest under 100% light intensity. Seedlings in high light environment (100% light intensity and open nursery condition) died soon after germination, indicating that full exposure to light has adverse effect on the growth of C. albidum seedlings. Development of the seedlings was observed to be best in low light environment like 40% and 60% light intensities. Except for collar diameter both 40% and 60% had similar effect on all the growth characteristics investigated in this study. Seedlings under 40% light intensity had a significantly higher collar diameter than those under 60% light intensity. Seedlings under forest canopy had very poor growth germination, suggesting the C. albidum seedlings may not tolerate high shade environment for optimum growth. Although Chrysophyllum albidum seCHAPTER ONE  1.0   INTRODUCTION  1.1 General  Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are used by billions of people around the world for  different  purposes. They have  immense  economic, nutritional,  cultural  and  social  importance, especially to rural dwellers that depend on them (Okafor, 1991; Shiembo et al.,  1996;  Adisa,  2002). Thus,  they  add  to the peoples‟  livelihood  security,  especially  the  rural dwellers, who tend to share a sort of cultural connection and significance with their  forests  and  the  NTFPs  from  them.  Although  there  is a  growing  understanding  of  the  importance of NTFPs amongst international and national governments, its importance has  not  been  fully  introduced  within  government  frameworks  and  rural  development  measures. In Nigeria, NTFPs have always served as life support for many rural dwellers,  especially those who live in and around the forests. However, the importance of NTFPs  was only brought to limelight within the past few decades (Byers et al., 2001; Sunderland  et al., 2004). They are therefore, a major part of livelihood earning in Nigeria, in both the  rural and urban sectors –implying that NTFPs have the potentials to play a major role in  alleviating the livelihood challenges of the country‟s rural poor which constitutes a little  above half of its population.   Traditionally, tropical forests have provided Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) such  as fruits, vegetable, medicines, etc to rural people for centuries. There are indigenous tree  species  everywhere  in  the  tropics  that  produce  locally  important  fruits  and  other  Non-  Timber  Forest  Products  that  have  potential  to  be  domesticated  to  provide food,  social-  cultural,  medicinal, economics  and  livelihood  benefits  to  subsistence  farmers  (Leakey   1   and Simons 1998). As rural household becomes more integrated into formal market, the  proportion of the contribution of non-timber tree products (NTFP) to household income  increases  (Ruiz-Perez et  al.  2004).  A  few  indigenous  fruits  trees  products  have  large  market  potential  in  Nigeria. Households  use indigenous  fruits  to  diversify their  income  and  the benefits  from  selling  indigenous  fruits  come  at  a  critical  time  when  income  is  generally low, and provides nutrition and food when agricultural labour demands are high  (Mithofer, 2005).   Local  plantings,  product  development  and  market expansion  are  the  first  steps  in    domesticating  indigenous  fruit  trees  in  their  fields,  homesteads  and  communal  lands  (Maghembe et  al.  1998,  Leakey et  al. 2004),  adapting  them  to  their  needs  and  environmental  conditions  by  deliberately  or  inadvertently  selecting  for  certain    characteristics.  Domestication  involves  accelerated  and  human-induced  evolution  to  bring  species  into  wider  cultivation  through  a  farmer-driven  and  market-led  process  (ICRAF  1997). However,  without  an  expanded  or  new  market,  the  incentives  to  domesticate  indigenous  fruit  trees  are  not  sufficient  (Simons  and  Leakey,  1998;  Akinnifesi et al. 2006). Improvements in tree yield and earlier fruiting of indigenous fruit  tree  create  incentives  for  farmers  to  cultivate  indigenous  fruits  and,  that  household  vulnerability to hunger and poverty can be reduced (Mithofer and Waibel 2003; Mithofer  et al., 2006).     2   Chrysophyllum is a genus of about 70-80 species of tropical trees, growing to a height of  10-20 m. The genus is native to tropical regions throughout the world, with the greatest  number  of  species  found  in  north southern America.  One  species, Chrysophyllum  oliviforme, extends from north to southern Florida. Chrysophyllum albidum is one of the  most  popular  species  within  the  Chrysophyllum  genus. Chrysophyllum  albidum (also  known  as  African  star  apple)  belongs  to  the  family  of Sapotaceae (Keay,  1989).  It  is  primarily  a  forest  tree  species  and  their  natural  occurrences  have  been  reported  in  Nigeria,  Cote  d‟  Ivoire,  Cameroon,  Uganda,  Kenya,  Sierra  Leone, Central  African  Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, etc (Bada, 1997; Boateng and Yeboah, 2008;  Onyekwelu and Stimm, 2011).   Chrysophyllum  albidum is among forest  tree  species  that  provides NTFPs of  immense  domestic  importance  to  rural  and  urban  dwellers  in  West  Africa,  with  great  export  potentials (Nwoboshi, 2000). The fruit pulp is widely consumed and thus plays important  role  in  food  security. Apart from serving as  a  delicacy and an alternative source of food  during the “hungry season” (i.e. November to April, when farm crops are planted), it also  provides  alternative  source  of  income and rural  employment  through  the  collection  and  sale of the fruits. Chrysophyllum albidum has been noted to be of great nutritional, social  and medicinal  importance  (Okigbo,  1978;  Okafor,  1979). Reports  have  shown  that  the  economic importance of C. albidum has increased in recent years due to awareness in its  nutritional and medicinal value (Afem, 2000).   However, the immense economic importance, the increasing demand as well as price for  the  fruit,  etc  has  led  to  intense  exploitation  pressure on  the  tree  species,  which  has   3   resulted  in  its  stocks  diminishing  at  an  alarming  rate. Consequently, C.  albidum, along  with  other  important  fruit  tree  species  like Irvingia  gabonensis and Treculia  africana has  been  classified  as  a  highly  endangered  or  threatened  tree  species  (Sarumi et  al.,  1996;  FORMECU, 1999). For sustainable provision of the fruits, domestication of this species is  inevitable. According to Finkeldey and Hattemer (2007) the three important elements of    domestication are inventory, selection and change of the reproduction system. The study  evaluates  the  effect  of  different  light  intensities  on  the  germination  of  the C.  albidum  seeds as well as the early growth of its seedlings under different light intensities.     Light  influence  the  growth  of  plant seedlings.  While  some  plant  species  survive  under  low light intensity, other plants species survive under high light intensity. The importance  of  light  to  plant  is  significant  because  it  goes  a  long  way  to  affect  the  physiological  processes  such  as  stomata  action,  germination,  chlorophyll  formation  and  transpiration  (Nwoboshi, 1982). Therefore, this study focuses on the effect of various light intensities  on germination of C. albidum seeds as well as on the early growth of its seedlings under  green house environment. It is expected that this will contribute to our understanding of  the ecological mechanism of plant growth and their distributions (Anjana, 2010) as well  as  understand  the  effect  of  light  on  seed  germination  and  early  growth  performance  of  tree seedlings.   1.2  Statement of the problem     Despite  the  importance  of C. albidum, and  other  forest  food  tree  species,  they  have  been  greatly neglected, especially with respect to their regeneration and domestication. The yield   4   of  current  crop  of  trees  is  decreasing  due  to  old  age  and  the  fact  that  they  have  been  harvested for decades. Thus, if the current practice of allowing C. albidum, to grow in the  wild (i.e. naturally) and without deliberate silvicultural interventions  is allowed to continue,  the  probability  of  obtaining  their  much  valued  products  on  a  sustained  basis  will  be  very  low. Due to lack of care, a lot of the trees of the species have died or are in the process of  doing  so.  In  Nigeria, C. albidum is  classified  among  the  endangered  tree  species  (FORMECU, 1999), with a high possibility of going into extinction in the near future except  something is done to conserve them or increase their population. Artificial regeneration and  subsequent improvement of the species (domestication) appears to be a very viable option of  saving the species from extinction and ensuring that its products are supplied on a sustained  basis.  Consequently,  this  study  proposes  to  investigate the seed germination  and  early  growth  of C.  albidum seedlings under  different  light  intensities under  controlled  environment  (screen  house) in  the  nursery  as  a  first  and  necessary  step  towards  the    domestication of the species. It is hoped that this will lead to a good understanding of the  silviculture of the species.   1.3  Objective of the study   The general objective of this study is to examine the effect of different light intensity on  seed germination and early growth rate of Chrysophyllum albidum seedlings.  The specific objectives are to;    1. Investigate  the  germination  potentials  of C.  albidum seeds  under  different  light          intensities  in  a  controlled  environment  (screen  houses), open  nursery  conditions        (control I) and under forest canopy (control II)     5     2. Raise and monitor the survival, and early growth characteristics of the seedlings of        C. albidum under three different light intensities, open nursery conditions (control I)        as well as under forest canopy (control II).     1.4  Justification   Nigeria  tropical  rainforest and  derived  savanna  ecosystems serve  as  habitat  for C.  albidum because of their favourable ecological condition that readily support the growth  of  the  species. However,  there  is  need  for  further  domestication  because  of  increase  in  demand  trend  of  its  product and  the  fact  that  the  current  tree  crops  are  old  and  over-  exploited. The success of any initiative to obtain good fruits is no doubt an important step  towards domestication of C. albidum that would provide good fruits and seeds (Okafor,  1991).       Although some investigations  have  been  carried  out  on C. albidum fruit  and  seeds  (Okafor, 1991; Adebisi, 1997; Bada, 1997; Onyekwelu and Akindele, 2002; Onyekwelu  and Fayose, 2007), no documented study on the silviculture of the species in the nursery,  especially  the  germination  of  the  seeds  and  early  growth  rate  of  the  seedlings  under  different light intensities exist. Nursery investigation of the growth characteristics of the  species should be the next step in the effort to domesticate the species, which is the focus  of  this  project  work. This  study  will  investigate seed germination  and  early  growth  characteristics of the Chrysophyllum albidum seedlings under different light intensities in  the nursery.    6   1.5 Scope of the study   This research work was carried out at the nursery site of the Department of Forestry and  Wood  Technology,  Federal  University  of  Technology  Akure,  Nigeria.  Chrysophyllum  albidum seeds  were  sown  in  polypots  filled  with  forest  topsoils.  The  seedlings  were  raised  inside  three  different screen  houses of  varying  light  intensities  (40%,  60%  and  100%), under forest canopy (control I) as well as open nursery condition (control II). The  seeds were collected from mother trees of the species in the tropical rainforest of Nigeria.  Seed germination as well as early growth rate of the seedlings were monitored for twelve  weeks.

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