Cigar end rot disease in Bananas

Cigar end rot is a disease that can ruin your banana farming venture. It is prevalent in almost all banana growing tracts. It affects the developing fingers which results in the tip ends of the fingers drying up. The ends resemble the greying ash of a cigar. Affected fingers are rejected in the market and hence can result in huge losses. It is therefore important to control the disease before its too late. The fungal disease can also attack ripening banana fruits making a dry rot to develop at the flower ends. During transportation or storage, cigar end rot can progress to the entire fruit. This disease is common when there is high rainfall.

Disease Cycle of Cigar end rot

The pathogen gets into the banana finger through the flower resulting in the formation of a dry rot that spreads to immature banana fingers. Fungal spores/ conidia are spread by air currents and the days mainly occur in the early days of fruit formation. The infection spreads slowly as the fruit develops leading to skin blackening. With time, the tips of the infected fingers are fully covered with a powdery mass of spores. Cigar end rot is common in plantations with excessive shade and high altitude areas with moist conditions.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Presence of black necrosis which spreads from the perianth to the tip of immature fingers.
  • Dry rot develops on the pulp of the infected banana fruit. At times, the rot can spread even up to 2 centimeters from the tip of the fingers.
  • The wrinkled necrotic tissue eventually becomes completely covered with the mycelia of the fungi.
  • The entire finger can get rotten especially when the emerging fingers are affected.

Etiology

  • The formed fungal spores are hyaline, oblong to cylindrical. These spores are mostly in small groups.
  • Since they are asexual spores, conidia are borne at the ends of tapering phialides.
  • The dormant mycelia are the primary source of inoculum while air and soil-borne conidia are the secondary sources of inoculum.
    Epidemiology
  • High humidity ranging from 90-92%, high rainfall and low temperatures, and weak plants provide an ideal environment for disease development.

Management of Cigar end Rot Disease

  • Farmers should use healthy and disease-free and resistant plants.
  • Filed sanitation should be maintained at all times. Since the disease is carried by an alternate host, all potential hosts of the fungus should be removed from the banana plantation immediately. Dead, hanging leaves should be removed from the plants to lower the inoculum level.
  • Once the fruits have been formed, the perianth and pistil should be removed immediately. Infected fingers should be removed and destroyed.
  • Enough aeration should be ensured in the plantation by minimizing the overcrowding of the banana plants.
  • Polythene sleeves should be placed over the stems before the fingers emerge.
  • Maturing stems should be constantly bagged.
  • The bunches should be sprayed with copper fungicides to prevent disease formation.
  • To minimize the chances of post-harvest infestation, ripening room and packing stations should be kept clean.

If controlled, cigar end rot can result in huge losses. Over the past few years, the occurrence of the disease has increased simply because farmers are unable to employ proper management techniques. Healthy and disease-resistant varieties are what anyone should consider planting.

Why More Carbon is Needed in our Soils

Carbon is an important component that should be present in the soil. Human activities can either result in improved carbon storage or loss. Deforestation and decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM) contributes to the reduction of carbon levels in the soil. Deforestation removes the forest canopy increasing the soil temperatures when the ground becomes warmed up. The activity of the microbial decomposer community causes the decomposition of SOM in the absence of continual rates of carbon input. Loss of carbon input has increased Carbon (IV) Oxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. To maintain the carbon input in the soil, planting fruit trees is an important idea that farmers should put into consideration. Fruit trees not only help in capturing CO2 in the soil but also in keeping soil temperatures at optimum levels.

However, the rate at which a tree stores carbon varies depending on the rate at which the tree grows and how big the tree becomes. Carbon input levels are cause dictated by the capacity of the soil to store moisture, the rate at which water is lost through transpiration, evaporation, runoff,  and the ability of the soil to absorb water. These factors are determined by the proportions of silt, clay, and sand. With the right mixture in the soil structure, there are many pores in the soil. Since soils such as clay soil have micropores, they can store more water compared to sandy soils which have macropores. Apart from surface crust and compaction, soils with a good soil structure tend to hold water longer. The amount of organic matter that breaks down into nutrients and carbon plays an important role in improving the water absorption rate.

How to maintain soil carbon levels

There are many agronomic management practices that farmers can employ to maintain soil carbon levels. These include:

  • Minimizing tillage on the farm.
  • Employing soil health and environmentally friendly farming practices.
  • Promotion of farm forestry by planting fruit trees.
  • adoption of environmental and soil health-friendly farming systems;
  • Planting cover crops especially in farms with fruit trees to minimize water loss through evaporation.
  • Mulching crops with synthetic materials or different forms of crop residues.
  • Minimizing water and soil losses by erosion and surface runoff.
  • Employing organic farming practices. Farmers can apply external organic matter such as biochar, compost, biosolids, manure, and mulch. Biosolids not only provide nutrients to the soil but also promote carbon storage. Extra soil carbon that is stored in the soil helps in capturing more moisture which means that plants will grow strong and healthy. Biowastes reduces the effects of drought on productivity and soil health.
  • Adoption of integrated nutrient management practices to increase soil fertility.

Importance of soil carbon sequestration includes;

  • It helps in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
  • It helps in minimizing CO2 emissions.
  • It reduces nutrient losses.
  • It helps in lowering atmospheric temperatures.
  • It improves productivity and soil health.
  • It creates a suitable biotic habitat.
  • It helps in reducing soil erosion
  • It enables and promotes root growth.
  • It promotes water conservation by minimizing water loss through evaporation and runoff.

The agriculture sector can play an important role in reducing emissions of GHGs if suitable measures are adopted. Since soils with a high organic matter have higher carbon dioxide sequestration potential, healthy soils can help in fighting climate change. Farmers should ensure adopt regenerative agriculture to increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystem services, and enrich the soils. Fruit farming not only helps in storing soil carbon but can also be a lifetime venture. If you are planning to venture fruit farming, you should buy seedlings at Oxfarm Ltd.

How to Identify and Control Leaf Spot In Citrus Fruits

There are two types of pathogen-caused leaf spot diseases, especially on vegetables such as lettuce and tomato and on stone fruit trees. There are those caused by fungus and those caused by bacteria. Various kinds of leaf spots have a similar appearance and effect and can be prevented or treated with the same practices. Members of the Prunus family such as orange, plum, almond, peach, and cherry are prone to bacterial leaf spot. Vegetables such as pepper and lettuce are also affected by bacterial leaf spot. It also infects perennial and annual flowering plants such as purple coneflowers, geraniums, and black-eyed Susan. Fungal leaf spots mainly attack brassicas and other vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and turnip. It also attacks poplar trees and aspen.

Causes and Symptoms of Leaf Spot

Citrus leaf spot is caused by warm temperatures and plenty of moisture. Bacteria may be transmitted to the citrus plants by rain and wind. Warm temperatures and sufficient moisture provide an ideal environment for the growth of the bacteria. The bacteria spread in the soil around the infected citrus plants, in seeds and on garden debris. It also remains in the leaves, stems, and twig cankers of the infected trees. Poor crop vigor also favors disease formation.

There are brown or black water-soaked spots with a yellow halo on the foliage which are uniform in size. Under wet conditions, these spots enlarge and increase in number. When seriously infected, the leaves turn yellow, wither and drop.

Prevention and Control

  1. Prepare orchards using seeds that are free from the disease.
  2. Consider planting varieties that are resistant to citrus leaf spot disease. Grafted plants are mainly resistant to this disease.
  3. Rake up fallen fruits and keep the soil under the tree clean.
  4. Mulch the trees to prevent the disease from splashing onto the leaves and reduce weeds.
  5. Prune your trees to improve air circulation. Lack of air circulation favors the growth of bacteria.
  6. Practice field sanitation by removing the infected parts and debris of the citrus plants and destroy them. This will reduce the spreading of the disease to other trees.

Chemical Control

Although there is no cure for bacterial leaf spots, various preventive, and organic measures can be employed to control the disease. These include:

  • Spray the affected citrus plants with baking soda. However, if applied excessively, baking sodas may burn some leaves.
  • Spraying the affected plants with copper-based fungicides such as copper hydroxide and copper sulfate,  mancozeb, and sulfur sprays at the recommended rates. Apart from killing the leaf spot, organic fungicides also prevent the formation of spores. However, farmers should apply fungicides that are beneficial to insects and non-toxic to honey bees, especially during flowering.
  • Apply manure and fertilizer constantly to maintain good health and crop vigor.

In severe cases, citrus leaf spots may affect the fruits. Farmers should ensure that they employ a consistent spray program to prevent disease development. Poor choice of the seedlings can ruin your citrus fruit farming venture. Non-resistant varieties are prone to the bacterial leaf spot which can reduce the yields greatly. Oxfarm offers high-quality seedlings that are resistant to a wide range of diseases such as citrus leaf spot. When buying seedlings, you should consider buying them at Oxfarm Organic.

Important Soil nutrients every fruit farmer should know

Symptoms of nutrient deficiency are common to fruit farmers. However, multiple nutrition disorders can occur simultaneously which makes it complicated for farmers to diagnose production problems. To determine the nutrients that are deficient in the soil, farmers should have their soil analyzed by experts. Protein is an important element required by living organisms for growth and development. One of the elements present in proteins is Nitrogen, which is a component of chlorophyll, DNA, RNA, amino acids, alkaloids, and enzymes. In fruit farming, various nutrients play an important role in enhancing the growth and quality of fruits. Commercial fruit farming is being embraced in various parts of the country due to its high returns. Watermelon, for instance, is a fruit with a short maturity period, high yields, high demand, and ready market. The fruit is composed of 92 percent water, making watermelon a suitable fruit when it is hot.

The goal of every fruit farmer is to produce high-quality fruits that satisfy the consumers. For instance, melon consumers look for quality fruits with firm flesh which means that quality and firmness are paramount.

The quality of fruits is determined by the availability of nutrients. During the establishment, vegetative growth, flowering, and fruit development stage, balanced fertilizer and manure application. The availability of all the nutrients helps in producing firm and tasty fruits. These nutrients also boost the strength and elasticity of the fruits and hence a longer shelf life.

Fruit Firmness

Some important nutrients that help in improving fruit firmness include:

Calcium

During the early growth stage, a lot of calcium is required to enhance leaf production. Although a small percentage of calcium is found in the fruit, calcium should be maintained at 15% to minimize fruit cracking and maintain quality firmness. High levels of calcium help in thickening the cell walls and, therefore, a firm and high-quality fruit.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important nutrient for enhancing chlorophyll in plants. It stabilizes cell membranes and enables the metabolism and movement of carbohydrates. Chlorosis is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency whereby the leaves to turn from green to yellow. If the magnesium deficiency prolongs, necrosis develops between the veins making the leaves of the fruit trees to curl downwards. If the deficiency continues, the leaves fall off, the plant weakens and eventually dies. This is common in citrus trees. However, magnesium should be applied at a balanced rate with Potassium, Ammonium, and Calcium to enhance the firmness of the fruits.

Fruit Quality

Nitrogen

Nitrogen plays an important role in enhancing the taste and sugar content of the fruits. However, excessive application of nitrogen results in rots and rind blemishes.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus enhances flower formation, root growth, and fruit setting. It provides energy to the plants required for photosynthesis and respiration in form of ATP. Also, it helps the plants to produce thicker skins.

Potassium

Potassium helps in increasing the sugar content of the fruit at harvest. It enables the activation of enzymes for the production of sugars and proteins. It also helps in maintaining the turgidity of cells hence making photosynthesis efficient. In strawberry, potassium increases the acid and sugar content, making the berries tastier. Potassium regulates transpiration ( the opening and closing of stomata) and enhances the translocation of nitrates.

Manganese

Manganese promotes photosynthesis in plants. It facilitates the formation of radicals during water splitting. The biochemical process happens when manganese contributes to the necessary electrons. Manganese deficiency can be facilitated by environmental factors such as extremely hot weather, ozonated water used for irrigation, and poisonous gases from motor vehicles.

Zinc

Zinc plays an essential role in promoting protein synthesis, optimal fruit set, and fruit quality. It enhances the growth of shoots and roots of plants. Deficiency of zinc results to reduced fruit size, fruit number, and decreased yields. Also, it results to necrosis, and veinal chlorosis. The availability of Zinc is reduced by bicarbonates and high pH. Zinc foliar fertilizers are more effective compared to soil fertilizers.

Boron

Boron is required in plants for auxin activity, cell division, the formation of cell walls, xylem differentiation, the formation of apical meristem, metabolism of nucleic acid, and inhibition of callose formation. It also enhances reproduction and pollination and counters the harmful effects of Aluminum.

Since the nutrients play different roles, proper fertilization should be ensured. For instance, farmers should apply nitrogen-based fertilizers to enhance the leaf color, fruit quality, and to increase the nitrogen content in the soil. Farmers should also use fertilizers rich in calcium, phosphorus, and Magnesium, Zinc, and Boron to maintain steady growth and high-quality fruits.

Anthracnose in Watermelon

How to Manage Anthracnose in Watermelon

Over the years, the demand for watermelon has been increasing rapidly, both locally and internationally. Watermelon has become a crucial part of most fruit salads. It is common to find melon slices served in groceries, alongside lunches during weddings, conferences, cooperate retreats, and also at homes. The success of watermelon farming, however, depends on the quality of fruits and the overall yield. When the fruits are affected by pests and diseases, most likely, nobody will be willing to buy them. Anthracnose is a destructive fungal disease that can ruin your watermelon farming venture if it is not controlled. If not controlled, it can damage the fruits and lead to vine death. When the plants are severely infected, especially when there are numerous lesions, anthracnose causes vine defoliation leading to low-quality fruits and a significant yield reduction.

Symptoms of Anthracnose in Watermelon

This disease is common in cucurbits such as melon and cucumber. At its early stages, water-soaked spots appear on the leaves which become brown as the disease progresses. Eventually, these spots darken and expand over the surfaces with the foliar lesions developing cracked centers. When stems and petioles are infected, they develop shallow, elongated, tan lesions that girdle the stem resulting to plant wilting. Infected fruits form circular, sunken, black lesions, providing an ideal environment for the formation of acervuli (small fruiting bodies). Under humid conditions, acervuli produce conidia which makes the lesions to have a pinkish color, a unique characteristic of anthracnose. When the disease gets to the pedicels of young fruits, the fruit either abort or shrivel.

Conditions for Disease development

Colletotrichum orbiculare, the causative agent of anthracnose, mostly comes in the seed or infected crop debris. The fungus can be spread by overhead irrigation, insects, splashing water, farm equipment, and field workers. The development of the disease is favored by warm weather and high humidity. The optimum temperature for anthracnose is 24°C. Later infection may inhibit the marketability of the fruits during storage, shipping, and display.

How to Control Anthracnose in Watermelon

The disease develops and spreads in warm, moist conditions, although the fungus can be carried in seeds, and infected debris. Infected vines should, therefore, be removed from the farm and destroyed. Farmers can also implement a comprehensive preventative fungicide program to prevent anthracnose.

Non-chemical control method

  • Avoid composting infected plants. Instead, they should be removed and destroyed.
  • Use varieties resistant from anthracnose.
  • Plant certified watermelon seeds and healthy plants.
  • Plant trees in well-drained soil.
  • Plant the watermelon in well-drained soils.
  • Ensure constant crop rotation with non-host plants such as cucurbits and French beans every 2 to 3 years.
  • To prevent wetting the foliage, avoid overhead irrigation. Also, avoid touching the plants when they are wet.
  • Control all weeds especially the volunteer cucurbits since they can host the anthracnose fungus.
  • Control all weeds, especially wild and volunteer cucurbits
  • Avoid wounding to prevent post-harvest losses since anthracnose can develop and the wounded part of the harvested fruit.

If the disease is controlled, watermelon farming is a disease that can rake you millions of money. The demand for watermelon is yet to be met and hence this is the venture one can consider.

Soil PH

How to Manage Soil PH in Your Farm

The agriculture sector has a major contribution to the country’s economy. Horticulture, for instance, generates more than $1 billion annually. The demand for food is high not only locally but also internationally. However, food production is determined by the soil health. The primary indicator of soil health is soil pH. The yields from the farm and what you can grow can be predicted by the soil pH. It is therefore important to manage the soil pH for your crop.

Factors Affecting PH

Most crops perform well when the pH levels are neutral, ranging between 6 to 7.5. Low pH can inhibit the nitrogen cycle. Some inherent factors affecting soil pH include soil texture, mineral content, and climate. Minerals in the parent material determine the pH of newly formed soils. When the rainfall amounts are high, the soil pH decreasing as a result of acidification caused by leaching. In dry environments, the soil pH is either alkaline or neutral since weathering and leaching are low. However, soils with high organic matter content have a high buffering capacity and hence more resistant to changes in pH. Mostly, sandy soils contain little organic matter content leading to high rates of infiltration and water percolation and low buffering capacity. This makes them susceptible to acidification.

Nitrogen levels in the soil also affect the soil pH. Some sources of nitrogen such as manure, fertilizers, and legumes either form or contain ammonium. As the ammonium is being converted into nitrates, during the nitrification process, it releases H ions. The nitrate provided or formed combines with basic cations such as potassium, calcium and magnesium leaching the soil. These bases are replaced or removed by the H ions and in the process the soil becomes acidic. The application of sulfur fertilizers increases soil acidity making the pH levels to become lower.

Know Your Levels

Farmers need to know the pH levels of their soils to know which management techniques to employ. Regular soil testing is therefore important to help you know the crops that you can grow. Soil testing also helps you know the best time to apply fertilizers, the quantity to use, and the nutrients required by the soil. To have an accurate soil pH of the farm, multiple soil tests are recommended.

Management Techniques

Different crops thrive well at varying soil pH. For instance, legumes require neutral pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.0. Grains perform well at a pH that is slightly acidic to neutral – 6.0 to 7.0.

Some of the measures that can be applied to raise the soil pH or reduce acidification include:

  • Liming to increase the pH of acidic soils. Lime not only corrects the soil acidity but also provides the soil with important nutrients such as Magnesium and Calcium, and prevents elements like Aluminium and Manganese from harmful to plants.
  • Proper fertilization: fertilizers should be applied as per the plant’s needs. This is because elements such as nitrogen and sulfur can raise soil acidity. Proper irrigation management should be used to minimize the leaching of nitrates.
  • To minimize the acidifying effects of nitrogen fertilizers, farmers should diversify crop rotation.
  • Applying irrigation water and manure and other organic material that have a high content of calcium or magnesium bicarbonates.

Using cover crops, diverse rotation with high-residue crops, and applying solid manure improves soil buffering capacity, increases organic matter content, and minimizes changes in soil pH. Due to the global-positioning, solid infrastructure, and favorable climate, the agriculture industry is growing at a fast rate. However, the farmers will not be able to meet the demand for food if the soil pH is not maintained. Soil testing should be put into emphasis to ensure that food production does not reduce.

How to Control Tuta Absoluta in Tomatoes

The heavy rains have facilitated an increase in the cost and demand of tomatoes. This is because the rains have damaged the roads and resulted in an increase in the diseases that have affected tomatoes, especially on open field farms. In the process, this has disrupted the supply of tomatoes.
Growing tomatoes can be disastrous if your crops get infested by Tuta absoluta. Over the past few years, a large number of farmers have suffered huge losses after their precious crops were infested and destroyed by the dangerous pest. If effective control measures are not employed early enough, the pest can destroy an entire tomato farm.

Detection

For effective management, proper diagnosis is important. The input dealers, service providers, and farmers need to correctly identify the possible symptoms of Tuta absoluta such as coalesced lesions.

Damage caused

The pest mainly spreads through seedlings, tomato fruits, and containers. Tuta absoluta can also come from production greenhouses or through the soil. It feeds on all parts of the tomato plant such as the stem, leaves, inflorescences, and the fruits. Symptoms of the tomato leaf miners include leaf mines, rolled leaves, lesions, abnormal shape, necrotic areas, and exit holes. If these symptoms are detected, corrective measures should be taken. Leaf mines are found on the upper and lower parts of the leaf lamina. With keep observation, one can see white or cream tunnel marks on the leaves and sometimes green caterpillars inside the tunnel. The caterpillars produce silk-like substance at an advanced stage which partially webs and folds the leaves to protect the developing larva until it matures. At times, the leaves completely die off and the fruits reduce in size and fall off before reaching maturity. When the fruits are damaged, fungal diseases enter resulting in rotting of the tomato fruits before harvesting. The yield of tomatoes can reduce by even more than 60% if the tomato fruits are severely infested by Tuta absoluta.

Control

Controlling Tuta absoluta is a challenging process. This is because it has a short life cycle, a fast reproductive rate, a concealed larvae stage inside the tomato plant parts and nocturnal adults. The life cycle of the tomato leaf miner is completed within 35 days. The effectiveness of chemical control depends on the nature of damage of the pest. Integrated Pest Management should be adopted to ensure that sustainable management measures are employed in the control of Tuta absoluta. Chemical, cultural or biological measures can be employed to control the destructive pest.

Chemical control

Spraying the same product frequently results in pest resistance, therefore, the insecticides should be alternated after two sprays. Regular crop monitoring and scouting help farmers to make the right decision on when to spray and the insecticide to prevent severe infestation of pesticides.  Due to the trans-laminar damage of Tuta absoluta and the fast development of resistance, insecticide use has become challenging. However, the pest can be controlled with insecticides such as Radiant, Tracer, Belt, Tihan, Escort, and Coragen. Farmers should also sterilize the soil before planting to ensure that they kill any eggs present in the soil.

Cultural control

Cultural control involves measures such as plowing, irrigation, and crop rotation with non-solanaceous crops such as capsicum, beans, and maize. Plants such as potato, Pepino, eggplant, tobacco, and nightshade should not be grown on tomato fields since they host the pest. The tomato farms should be kept weed-free since some weeds such as Datura spp. and managu act as alternative hosts of Tuta absoluta. Solarization and elimination of symptomatic leaves can also help in controlling the pest. Infested tomato fruits and debris should not be dumped in markets, collection points, and at farm edges. They should be instead be buried in deep holes.

Biological control

Biologically, Tuta absoluta can be controlled using predatory bug ‘Macrolophus pygnaeus’, Trichogramma spp, and  Entomopathogenic fungi

Sustainability

Integrated pest management measures help in promoting sustainability in tomato farming. The methods employed should enable farmers to produce high-quality tomatoes hence more returns. Extensive application of cultural and biological control has a positive impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem.

New European Union Regulations on Plant Health

The European Union provides the biggest market for Kenya’s exports. Fruit flies are one of the phytosanitary pests that cause devastating effects on fruits. Previously, mangoes were one of the most exported fruit from Kenya. For a long time, Kenya has been exporting processed and unprocessed mangoes to international markets such as the European Union. However, the exportation of unprocessed mangoes to the European Union has been stopped due to the presence of fruit flies. Fruit infestation by exotic and native pests has facilitated to reduced market access, affecting family incomes and foreign exchange negatively.

(EU) 2016/2019

Phytosanitary rules aim to protect European forestry and agriculture by preventing the entry of non-native pests and diseases. Due to climate change, pests can easily survive in Europe. It was hence important to update the existing rules to curb the increased risks and to put uniform rules across the Member states of the European Union. To prevent the entry of pests into the EU states, a new plant health regulation (EU) 2016/2031 has already come into operation. Those who exporting horticultural products such as fruits and vegetables must take strict measures to comply with the new rules. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that the rules are aimed at simplifying, modernizing, and improving the existing health and safety standards for the agri-food chain. Smarter rules show that efficient pest and disease control measures must be enforced.

Plant health is essential for the protection of the EU’s forests, nature, plant production, and biodiversity. The regulation (EU)2016/2031 emphasizes on effectively mitigating phytosanitary risks. Currently, there are some plants whose phytosanitary risks have to be thoroughly assessed.

The new European Union regulation improves traceability and brings changes in the classification of plant pests

According to the new rules, pests are classified as either priority pests which are harmful pests that rarely occur in the European Union, protected zone quarantine pests which are only seen in certain regions in the EU, and Union quarantine pests which occur in most parts of the EU. There are degrading pests such as proliferation disease that reduce the quantity of the crop and weaken its quality which can cause massive losses. To prevent the entry of pests in the EU, a phytosanitary certificate will be required for fresh plants such as vegetables and fruits.

Phytosanitary certificate

A certificate will be required for all fruits and vegetables except for coconut, banana, dates, and pineapple. High-risk products must be thoroughly inspected by EFSA to determine the conditions in which they must be imported. Phytosanitary certification is also required for cut flowers, seeds, grain products, cut trees and branches, and hop bales.

National Plant Health Act

The new plant health legislation that came into effect on 14th December lays down the provisions for supplementing the plant health regulation. These rules will help in enforcing effective measures to protect the EU’s plants and territories and in the process modernizing the plant health regime. Compared to the current legislation, notable changes are on the import of plants from outside the EU, self monitoring, the use of plant passports, and the classification of plant pests. These changes will have a significant impact on the exporters, farmers and importers.

Proper Care

The high percentage of the quarantined codling moth pest in chili from Kenya has forced the European Union to stop importing it from Kenya. Exporters and farmers have to employ a costly mechanism to control the pest and meet the requirements for the lucrative market. This means that they should create a pest-free zone or export dry chili. Since a thorough assessment is done on all products, the presence of pests, especially the regulated ones will make the EU authorities to apply serious consequences to the exporters.

Sustainable Agriculture Through Innovation

What Is Innovation?

Innovation is an important factor when it comes to sustainability in agriculture. Responding to climate change, sustainability should be ensured to preserve water, land and biodiversity resources. To respond to opportunities and meet these challenges, it will be important to embrace innovative approaches to boost productivity. An agroecosystem needs production systems that can withstand natural stressors such as pests, diseases, and harsh climatic conditions, trade barriers, and economic cycles to be sustainable. The market for staple crops in various parts of the world is increasing rapidly which means that various ways have to be enforced to meet the rising demand and at the same time not replenishing the available resources. Innovation is hence required to enhance productivity growth and at the same time improving sustainability. To achieve sustainable use of resources, it is important to transform the existing patterns of production and consumption. Sustainable agriculture aims to meet the current food demand without replenishing the available resources.

Benefits of Innovation

Innovation starts with improving seeds and irrigation systems. Industries need to innovate new and better products both in the food sector and the chemical industry. Innovation has many benefits in the agriculture sector. For instance,

  1. It helps in solving problems and increasing the market share in the export market.
  2. It reduces farming costs and wastage of resources, leaving farmers in a better position to focus on their long-term goals. 
  3. Innovation leads to increased turnover and improved profitability.
  4. It also boosts the market position of Kenyan products.
  5. Innovation in farming results in higher crop yields. Innovation facilitates the development of better crops that can thrive in harsh conditions, resistant to most pests and diseases and at the same time producing high-quality yields.

Innovations That promote sustainable agriculture

Technology: Artificial Intelligence and Io T

Precision agriculture is already gaining popularity and its widely used in various parts of the world to improve productivity. This ranges from big data to the use of drones, robots and the application of herbicides and fertilizers using aerial vehicles. These innovations can be used to automate farming practices, monitor crops and to optimize planting schedules. Since technology assists in conservation efforts, many countries are concentrating on agritech. Lately, there have been concerns arising over agricultural sustainability such as predicting water shortages soon. This means that farmers have to employ smart farming to ensure efficient water use. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used to collect and analyze data from their farms and the surrounding environment to help farmers to implement appropriate farming practices. This can enable farming even in areas with limited water access and enhance sustainable agriculture.  Based on information technology, an integrated farm management solution can be an effective way of modernizing the management of natural resources. Technological innovation in agriculture extends the farmer’s capacity by automating most tasks, enhancing farm management, agronomy, and crop management. For instance, the various software design enables farmers to apply precise fertilization strategies based on the crop conditions which helps farmers to boost yields and also reduce reliance on fertilizers.

Agroecology

Agroecology incorporates the farmer’s knowledge and experience with scientific insight and modern ecology. Based on the agroecological approach, everything produced on the farm is beneficial. For instance, debris and animal droppings can be used to make manure that improves soil quality. In return, the yields and nutritional values of the crops increases. Agricultural waste can also be used to feed animals.

BIO-FERTILISERS

The extensive use of chemicals and fertilizers has made the management of pests and diseases more complicated. Constant use of chemicals has resulted in the evolution of resistant breeds of pests. Chemicals and fertilizers have also resulted in water pollution, destroying the soil and the ecosystem. The European Union and China provide the largest market for Kenyan products. However, they have enforced strict measures to minimize the entry of pests into their territories. Recently, the new EU Plant Health Regulation (2016/2031) was enforced which illustrates that plants getting into the European Union should be pest-free. Previously, the EU had stopped importing Kenyan chili due to the presence of the Codling moth on chili. Although Kenya and Uganda have opted to sell chili in the middle-east where the demand is high, the prices are relatively low compared to Europe. The shift in markets has been facilitated by EU’s trade restrictions based on the presence of pests especially quarantine pests.

The phytosanitary requirements imposed by the international market poses challenges in the agriculture sector. For instance, the set MRL means that farmers have to apply pesticides at a controlled rate hence not fully eliminating the targeted pest or disease. Integrated Pest Management can be a good solution to these challenges. Bio-solutions and bio-fertilizers help in suppressing harmful pests while still improving the soil system.

The demand for food is constantly rising as the global population increases. The increased urbanization also facilitates the high demand and therefore smart techniques need to be employed to meet this demand. Since the demand for food is putting pressure on the environment, there is a need for sustainable farming to ensure that agriculture does not contribute to climate change. The European Union and China are emphasizing on sustainability in agriculture and its high time that farmers start employing smart farming techniques.

Delaying bolting in herbs and vegetables

It is quite disappointing when you plant vegetables or herbs and they become seedy after a couple of weeks. Instead of the plants utilizing the available energy to form bulbs or leafy green bits that you want to harvest, it instead forms flowers and seeds. Naturally, most plants reproduce through the production of seeds.

Bolting is the formation of a flowering stem on horticultural crops before they are harvested. The production of seeds shows that the growing season of the crop is coming to an end. Once bolting happens, the plants no longer grow and they either go dormant or die. Since all the energy is focused on the production of seeds, the crops become woody, tough and tasteless. The plant withdraws water and sugar from the bulbs and leaves and uses it to feed the flowers. Some plants such as lettuce produce bitter compounds to put off foraging predators.

Causes of Bolting to Seed, and How to Prevent It

Stress: when they are exposed to stress, plants mostly flower. Environmental factors such as temperature, weather, pests, and diseases stress the plant. For instance, cold weather makes the plants to become dormant. Lack of warmth alters the growth cycle and in the process the plant bolts. Fluctuations in temperature also result in bolting. Low temperatures cause the plants to become dormant while warm temperatures promote plant growth. When these temperatures fluctuate, the plants end up forming flowers.

Over-fertilization: Application of large amounts of fertilizers causes vigorous and uneven growth of crops in their early development and in the process of forming flowers.

Loose soil: For instance, in onions, loose soil makes the onion roots to be easily disturbed. This causes stress on the onion plant and it responds bolting.

Bolting in Onions

How to Delay Bolting

Although bolting cannot be prevented, it can at least be slowed. Various ways that can be taken into consideration to slow the process include:

Planting bolt-resistant varieties. Some varieties are resistant to bolting. In Kenya, for instance, onions are exposed to high temperatures which can easily initiate flower bud formation. For biennials such as carrots and onions, resistant varieties are hence a good option.

Sowing time: Some biennial vegetables are sensitive to cold snaps and hence the sowing time can be delayed up to when the temperatures are stable.

Mulch heat-sensitive vegetables and herbs. Mulching will offer a controlled environment, providing the desired temperature for forming heads in plants such as broccoli and coriander. If the roots get hot, the plants will form flower buds.

Harvest the crops early when the temperatures are cool.ince you keep cutting off growth from plants such as spinach, kales, lettuce and broccoli, the plant is stimulated to replace the cut part.

Use the right fertilizer. Different fertilizers offer different nutrients to the plants. When applying fertilizers in vegetables and herbs, you should be careful. Some fertilizers are meant for leaves while others are specifically for flower and fruit formation. For instance, if you apply fertilizers meant for fruiting plants on leafy vegetables, the nutrients will encourage the plant to form flowers. Leafy vegetables and herbs require fertilizers with high nitrogen (N).

Some of the crops which tend to bolt include cabbage, lettuce, brassicas, spinach, beetroot, onions, carrots, turnip, arugula. Farmers need to seek agronomical support to understand important growth patterns to get maximum yields from their crops. With support, farmers can get adequate information on problems that their plants are exposed to and how to prevent them.