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Understand your Soil before Investing in Fruit Production

Fruit farming is a lucrative industry that raking in billions of dollars every year. However, farmers cannot enjoy the profitability of the agribusiness if they do not understand the conditions of their soil. With the right soil, it’s easy to solve the challenges of nutrient deficiency and evade several diseases.

Understand the soil properties

Most fruits flourish in the following conditions:

Deep, fertile, well-drained soils

Plants such as macadamia, avocado, tree tomato, and apples flourish in deep and well-drained soils. Adequate drainage helps prevent the development of fungal diseases and root rot. Before planting, it’s important to perform a soil test to understand the soil fertility, drainage, texture, and other soil properties. The drainage should be molded before planting.

A pH range of between 5.5 to 7.5

Fruit trees are easily affected by the alkalinity, acidity, and salinity of the soil. Plants perform best at a pH range of between 5.5 to7.5. After the soil is tested, a professional will determine whether the soil is suitable for the crop you want to grow or not. After assessing soil health and pH, professionals and agronomists will help you devise the best technique to adjust the soil pH and to maintain ideal soil conditions in the orchard. Some soil-improvement techniques that can be used include:

  • Increasing the organic matter with manure, crop rotation, cover crops, and adding compost manure
  • Applying nitrogen-based fertilizers, especially during the early and vegetative stages
  • Adding lime to the soil to neutralize the soil pH

Get your soil tested by professionals

When the soil has attained the optimum conditions for fruit and vegetable production, achieving a healthier fruit season becomes easier. It’s not possible to fully understand the soil conditions by just looking, smelling, or feeling it. Commercial fruit farmers, especially those that practice large-scale production invest in regular soil testing to ensure that they achieve optimum performance and production. Integrating regular soil testing with regenerative and sustainable soil practices will minimize the costs of amending the soil and the need for fertilizers.

It’s important to understand your soil throughout the plant’s growing season. Before planting, soil testing will help you understand the nutrients which are present and absent in the soil. This will help both smallholder and large-scale growers to devise effective manuring and fertilizer application programs. Besides, it will help farmers determine whether the pH is suitable for fruit production or it needs to be adjusted. Also, soil testing will help the growers to understand the soil’s ability to resist diseases and any soil-borne diseases that are likely to occur.

 Organic- friendly soil fumigation

Soil fumigation is an important practice to prevent soil-borne and bacterial diseases in plants such as apples, citrus, macadamia, grapes, and avocado.

After testing and treating your soil, the next step is to select the most suitable variety.

Choose appropriate varieties based on the soil properties

The growing conditions of different varieties vary. Apart from the climatic conditions and geographical location, the choice of the varieties selected is also influenced by the geographical location and soil properties. It’s recommended to understand the soil requirements before planting fruit seedlings.

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Tips to consider when fertilizing apple trees

Devising an effective fertilizer application program is a complex challenge to farmers in different parts of the world. It takes a lot of expertise and proper management to get on the right track, from conventional to organic farming. Organic fertilizers are required by all plants and are used extensively by farmers practicing floriculture and horticulture.

Nutrient Deficiencies in Fruit Trees

Nutrient deficiencies can greatly affect the performance and productivity of apple trees. When practicing organic farming, most of the fertilizers used are organic, although small amounts of chemical fertilizers are important. Apple trees require various micronutrients in high levels at different growth stages such as Calcium, Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sulfur, and Magnesium. Besides, they require small traces of micronutrients like Molybdenum, Iron, Cobalt, Silicon, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Sodium, Boron, and Chloride. Nitrogen is required in large amounts in the early stages and when the trees are growing vigorously. During the flowering and fruiting stage, NPK formulations with a high potassium percentage should be applied or sprayed.

Some indications of nutrient deficiencies in apple plants include:

  • Slightly red leaves indicate lack of nitrogen
  • Yellow and green patches on fruits is an indication of potassium deficiency
  • Corky areas on apple fruits indicate boron deficiency
  • Curling backward of leaves is an indication of phosphorus deficiency.
  • Deformed fruits
  • Chlorosis
  • Cracking of fruits
  • Peak blight of fruits indicates lack of calcium

Understand the crop needs and apply the right amount of fertilizers

The amount of fertilizers required by apple trees varies depending on the soil fertility, manure applied, and the growth stage. Several things can happen when incorrect amounts of fertilizers are applied.  

  • For instance, excessive application of fertilizers makes the plants concentrate on producing a lot of shoots and leaves instead of fruits.
  • Failing to use fertilizers or applying extremely little fertilizers can lead to nutrient deficiencies, stunted growth, and poor health. Besides, the plants under-perform and their ability to fight pests and diseases reduces.

Know when to apply fertilizers

Fertilizers should be applied 3 times per year.

  • The first application should be done before flowering
  • The second application should be made after flowering
  • The third application should be done a month later

However, in the early growth stages, and during vegetative growth, fertilizers can be applied at different times of the year depending on the nutrients required. Fertilizers should, however, be applied at controlled rates. Manure and other organic products should be applied regularly to keep the soil healthy and fertile.

Mulch the plants

Mulching, especially young plants, minimizes the growth of weeds, enhances the soil texture, increases the organic matter, minimizes water loss through evaporation, and increases soil micro-organisms. The need for nitrogen-based fertilizers reduces as soil health improves.

In commercial apple production, it’s important to get your soil tested by professionals to identify the nutrients that are present and absent. This can help farmers to devise effective fertilizer and manuring programs. To enjoy the profitability of apple farming, consult Oxfarm Ltd for professional soil analysis services.

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Mango Exports To Europe Expected To Resume In September

Kenya expects to resume exporting mangoes to the European Union markets in September. The country had imposed a ban on exporting mangoes to Europe due to high levels of fruit flies. The temporary ban was imposed to protect the market and to ensure that farmers implement acceptable pest management practices. Fortunately, the eight-year self-imposed ban has been uplifted after the tests sent to the European Union indicated low fruit fly incidences.

According to Mr. Yako, the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) assistant director in charge of regulations and compliance, fruit fly infestation levels have been reducing drastically. This assures that producers and exporters can resume enjoying the lucrative EU markets.

Local fruit farmers have been battling with the fruit fly for almost two decades when Sri Lanka reported the presence of the pest in the country in 2003. Between 2010 and 2014, the presence of fruit fly infestation on Kenyan mangoes resulted in interceptions of several consignments by European Union regulatory authorities.

To minimize the fruit fly populations and to create pest-free zones, new strategies have been implemented. For instance, the government has been providing traps to small-scale farmers and has also launched the Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign. Besides, mango producers have been advised to embrace modern agricultural practices, use traps, and adhere to integrated pest management practices.

When the ban was enforced, Kenya shifted the exports to Middle East markets, selling the fruits at relatively lower prices compared to EU states. When mango exports to the EU resume, prices are expected to hike from Ksh 8 to Ksh 30 per fruit. In Europe for instance, a 4 kg carton costs Ksh 350 which translates into an average of Ksh 35 per fruit.

The government is collaborating with small-scale and large-scale producers to implement successful approaches to tame the spread of fruit flies and it has assured that there will be no complications in reopening the market.

Even as the market resumes, it has been noted that mangoes still find their way to Europe through third part markets, especially in Middle East countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.  To maintain its reputation and to prevent the entry of quarantine pests to EU states, the country has imposed tougher measures and wants a mark of origin on all horticultural produce exported to the European Union and other parts of the world.  A mark of origin will assure buyers in the European Union that the mangoes are coming from Kenya. Besides farmers will fetch higher returns compared to that from Middle East markets.

In Kenya, mango production is a significant economic enterprise. Commercial farmers mainly grow varieties known as Keitt, Kent, Apple, and Ngowe. Apart from a competitive advantage in the export markets, Kenyan mangoes have a unique value proposition. They are mainly produced in the Ukambani region especially Machakos, Makueni, and Kitui Counties, and in the Coastal regions. In Makueni, Apple, Kent, and Keitt are the most commonly grown varieties.

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What is the market potential for Kenyan lemons in Europe?

Despite the rising demand for lemons, there has been a low supply in the local and export markets which has made the prices hike. The consumption and usage of lemons have increased due to their health benefits and high nutritional value. Besides, they contain essential immunity-building vitamins for fighting COVID-19. The prices are expected to hike to Ksh 200 per kilo since the demand supersedes the supply.

Lemons still dominate the citrus pandemic demand wave in the European market. The wholesale demand for fresh lemons is still high despite having little flexibility. The regular shortfalls and growing consumption provide unlimited opportunities to lemon farmers in Kenya. Although Spain is the dominant supplier, their production is still low to sustain the increasing demand, especially in Northern Europe. Since the supply is still low, most nations are forced to import lemons from other non-European nations. The Netherlands provides the largest markets for lemons.

Why is the demand for Kenyan fresh lemons in the European markets expected to increase?

Previously, the European market was depending on supplies from Spain. Spain was producing more than 80 percent of the total lemons consumed in Europe. However, regular shortfalls in the Spanish supply and the increasing consumption of lemons have fueled the demand for non-European lemons, with most nations exporting from Africa and South America. In the 2015-2016 season, there was a tremendous reduction in the Spanish supplies by close to 23% due to harsh climatic conditions that affected the trees during the flowering stage. From 2016, lemon imports into Europe increased rapidly than expected. Since the supply reduced when the Spanish production decreased, the prices for lemons hiked and the demand has been rising each year to fill in the demand gap.

Besides, Europe also relies on supplies from Turkey, South Africa, and Argentina, especially in summer. Currently, the lemon trade is susceptible due to fluctuations since the number of countries supplying lemons to Europe is limited. Prices are likely to increase if the supplies from any of the main lemon exporters are affected by fruit diseases or the changing climate.

Regular shortfalls from the Spanish supply and the increasing consumption of lemons provide unlimited opportunities for Kenyan producers to exploit. Europe provides a large market for lemons and Kenyan lemons lie in a better position of accessing the lucrative European market. The good relationship between Kenya and the European Union makes it easier for Kenyan lemons to penetrate the European Union markets. An increase in prices is expected from June or July. However, Kenyan producers should produce high-quality fruits to be able to deal with the strong competition from other exporters such as Turkey, Spain, Argentina, and South Africa.

Which European countries should Kenyan lemon producers and exporters target?

The demand for imported lemons is highest in Northern Europe especially in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. However, these nations mainly rely on supplies from Spain. To complement its production, Italy imports from other countries while Poland mainly imports Turkish lemons. The Netherlands imports large volumes of non-European lemons from other countries such as Argentina and South Africa to meet the increasing demand. These markets can provide unlimited opportunities for Kenyan producers and exporters since the demand for non-European lemons quite high.

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Tips that can help you devise effective crop protection strategies in fruit farming

Crop protection is a challenge for most tree nut, fruit, and vegetable farmers. Attacks by pests, fungal and bacterial diseases, depleted soil, and harsh climatic conditions cause massive damage to crops in different parts of the country causing significant losses for farmers. There are various strategies you should implement to ensure optimum crop protection.

Develop a regular monitoring weed, pest, and disease monitoring program

To achieve sustainable crop production, it’s important to invest in crop monitoring. It helps growers to detect pests and possible disease development, understand the performance of their crops, and helps them create resilient farming systems. Crop monitoring minimizes crop protection costs which can arise when plants are heavily infested by pests or attacked by diseases. In fruit production, it’s important to develop a centralized and independent monitoring system to help growers devise successful pest, disease, and weed control strategies.

Manage pests and diseases on time

Pests and diseases can adversely affect crop performance and overall production. At times, they can destroy the entire produce fruits causing losses to the farmer.

  • Pests and diseases in fruit trees can be controlled in various ways such as:
  • Planting high-quality varieties that are resistant to various pests and diseases
  • Defending young plants against pest and disease pressures
  • Use chemical control, especially in severe cases to control pests and disease development. However, pesticides and fungicides should be applied at controlled levels. For instance, using copper-based pesticides extensively can cause damage to newly emerged leaves of pear, plum, and apple trees.
  • Embrace cultural pest control
  • Introduce beneficial insects such as ladybugs to minimize the populations of pests such as aphids, mites, and scales.

Managing weather risks

Crops are always susceptible to weather risks and unpredictable climatic conditions. Phenomena such as hail, drought, floods, and extreme temperatures can cause serious crop damage, especially in the early, flowering, and fruit development stages. Before venturing into fruit farming, it’s important to understand the weather patterns in your region and to understand the ecological requirements of the tree you are planning to grow. Fruit trees such as citrus, avocado, and macadamia can tolerate harsh climatic conditions while strawberries, grapes, and watermelon are easily affected. Understanding your climate will help you plant crops that are suitable for your region and to prepare the field for harsh weather conditions.

Weed Management

Weeds deprive the grown fruit trees, competing with them for nutrients and water. Besides, some weeds carry diseases while others act as hosts for pests such as Tuta absoluta. Each year, farmers lose a significant percentage of their harvests because of weeds, pests, and diseases. They can be controlled in various ways such as:

  • Mulching
  • Planting cover crops such as legumes
  • Chemical control using herbicides
  • Biological and agrotechnical control

Stay ahead in Fruit farming with Oxfarm Ltd solutions

Whether you are a novice organic fruit grower seeking crop protection strategies or an established convectional farmer looking to adapt to the changing climate and rising water shortages, Oxfarm has different solutions to help your crops flourish. Apart from drip irrigation systems and high-quality seedlings, Oxfarm also provides enticing packages to help you establish your commercial orchard and helps you devise effective pest, disease, and farm management strategies. As a way of helping farmers enjoy the productivity and profitability of fruit farming, Oxfarm provides an extensive selection of crop protection solutions that farmers can use in their orchards.

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The Unconventional Relationship Between Fruit Farmers and the Changing Climate

The relationship between a farmer and the weather varies from people who are not affected or depend on the changing weather conditions. For people who love outdoor activities such as hiking and traveling, a sunny day is all they would wish. However, farmers want balanced weather conditions, with moderate rainfall alternating with a sunny day.

On most occasions, the relationship can be hard to describe since the weather has become indispensable and unpredictable. Besides, the ecological requirements for different crops vary.

All farmers require rainfall

The water requirements for different crops, which mean that most crops show a different response when the water levels are beyond what they require. Farmers usually pray for balanced temperatures, sunshine, and rainfall for their crops to achieve maximum productivity. However, this does not happen and they have to adapt to the unpredictable weather patterns and adopt various strategies to achieve the balance.

Working with different weather requirements

Fruit trees require different weather conditions to flourish, which means that farmers have different weather needs. For farmers rearing livestock and growing multiple crops, the view of optimum weather becomes more complex.

A rainy season with cold-weather helps out thirsty crops. However, another crop might require a warm, dry spell to fully mature for harvest. For instance, crops such as grapes require temperature shifts between day and night to preserve their acidity and to lengthen the growing season, giving them more time to mature. However, extreme temperature variations in other crops such as watermelon and citrus promote disease development. Before investing in fruit trees, farmers should first understand the ecological requirements of the plant they want to grow and the soil and weather conditions in their region.

The need for conversation in extreme weather unifies farmers

With the increasing effects of climate change and extreme global warming, predicting weather patterns has become difficult. No farmer hopes for harsh weather conditions such as extreme cold or heat, drought, and flooding.

When a certain region is affected by extreme conditions, the need for conversations to devise better ways to adapt to the changing climate brings different farmers together. For fruit farmers, when severe weather conditions strike, farmers from different agricultural communities come together to share ideas and resources to cushion themselves from the impact. For instance, prolonged heavy rainfall favors the development of diseases such as powdery mildew, anthracnose, and root rot in plants such as strawberries, grapes, and watermelon. Prolonged drier seasons with extreme temperatures favor the growth of thrips which can cause massive damage to plants, especially when they attack fruit trees during the flowering stage. Such uncertain times bring farmers together to share ideas on better strategies they can implement in their farms to keep their crops healthy and productive.

Prioritizing on weather monitoring helps in achieving success

The weather requirements for different crops vary. Some crops require a certain temperature range to germinate, grow, and form fruits. Temperatures, humidity, rainfall, and wind can be used to predict the occurrence of various diseases and pests. Investing in weather monitoring can help farmers obtain essential information to assist them in devising planting plans, crop protection and farm management programs, and harvesting strategies. This helps the crops to achieve optimum performance and to avoid yield losses.