Do you have trouble with pests and Diseases in your Fruit Farm?

There is nothing satisfying like the taste of a fruit straight from the garden. To add to that satisfaction knowing that the fruit is organically grown or is free from pesticides. The commercial fruit farmers in Kenya are more worried of the earnings they would get. This article recommends pest and disease control through the use of good practice, resistant varieties and low toxicity environmentally friendly products.

Pest and Disease Control in Fruit

The organic gardening philosophy is to let nature take its course, for all organisms to live in balance and therefore accept a level of pest and disease damage.

However most gardeners want to harvest good crops relatively free of pests and diseases, grown in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.

This article guides the home farmer to methods of pest and disease control that best suits their needs, taking into account –

  • Good yields, relatively free of pests and diseases.
  • Using best farm practices to minimize pests and diseases.
  • Using only safe environmentally friendly products.
  • Using products that are commonly available in home garden size packs and are legally registered for the purpose stated.

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Reducing Pest & Diseases

Using good basic farming practices to minimize pests and diseases is common to all farmers, whether conventional or organic. In simple terms—providing the best growing conditions to ensure a strong healthy crop.

The following are the simple basics –

  • In heavy soils, raise the planting area above the surrounding soil to ensure good drainage.
  • Add lots of compost and work into the soil.
  • Mulching with compost, grass clippings (free from any spray residue), or straw holds in moisture and improves soil structure.
  • Provide adequate balanced feeding—sheep manure pellets or a fruit tree fertiliser.
  • Provide good deep watering in dry periods.
  • Practice good farm hygiene by removing all diseased leaves and plants.

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Using pests and Diseases Resistant Varieties

While a few traditional varieties may be disease resistance, there are a range of modern varieties that are better. For example, the new grafted hass avocados and grafted tree tomatoes are resistant to many diseases. Using disease resistant varieties will ensure better crops and greatly minimize the need to use fungicides. We can assist you know the best varieties that are best suited to your area and resistant to disease.

Using Biological Controls

Biological control involves using another living organism to attack the bad one. This is becoming common with commercial growers, but these organisms are not available to home farmers.

What can be done however is to endeavor to use only pesticides that are soft on desirable insects such as bees, ladybirds and predator mites.

Using Pesticides

If good farming practices are followed and disease resistant varieties used, the use of pesticides can be minimized.

There is a range of  very low toxicity, environmentally friendly pesticides available to home gardeners. Also, be aware that some pesticides are toxic—both chemical and natural organic. Being natural organic doesn’t necessarily make it safe.

Prevention is better than cure. Once you have gained experience and are aware of what pests and/or diseases attack which crops, you will be able to anticipate and spray at the first sign, which is more effective and minimizes pesticide use.

NB: Follow recommended spray programmes for each type of fruit, especially the early season preventative sprays

Always read the label

  • The label is a legal document for registered pesticides.
  • Take normal precautions when handling concentrates during mixing.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after using.
  • Store out of reach of children.

Which Pesticides should I use?

Fruits are susceptible to attack from a greater range of pests and diseases than vegetables.

There are also a number of complicating issues –

  • Different pests and diseases attack different fruits.
  • Most pesticides are only approved for use on some fruits.
  • There is also significant variation in the effectiveness of pesticides.
  • Withholding periods also vary between pesticides and between different fruits.

There are generally three choices for which type of pesticide you can use — ‘organic’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or other pesticides approved for use.

Pesticides vary greatly in effectiveness. While organic pesticides are usually safer (but not always) they are generally less effective.

Synthetic pesticides approved for home farming use are very low in toxicity compared to commercially available pesticides. So much so, that they are often less toxic and more environmentally friendly than an organic equivalent.

Withholding Period

Agriculture and Food Authority has set withholding periods for each pesticide, and particular crop.  The withholding period is the period that must elapse between spraying and harvesting, and is on the label of each product. Most pesticides have withholding periods of 3 to 14 days. Always check the label.

 

What are the key pros and cons of using pesticides in our Farms?

Kenyans have now adopted use of pesticides and herbicides in the recent times. Pesticides are a mix of chemicals that are widely used on plants and crops to prevent damaging insects and animals from destroying them. The introduction of pesticides came around during the Industrial Age and completely changed the agricultural industry. They have created immense benefits and streamlined the harvesting process, however they also have had some significant negative damages to our health and environment. Let’s discover how these frequently used chemicals benefit and effect us by looking at all of the pros and cons associated.

Advantages of Pesticides

More Plentiful Harvest

Unwanted pests like mice and insects eat plants at their early stages and destroy their chances of producing fruits or vegetables. They also come in an contaminate entire plants that have already bloomed, which still renders them useless. They helps to keep all of these destructive pests away from crops, which results in more plants surviving and a larger harvest.

Very Easily Available

All types of pesticides are available in stores around the world and relatively affordable prices. This makes it a great way for people to simply protect their own personal gardens and plants from intrusive little critters.

Weeds Out The Weeds

Another huge benefit of pesticides is that they also take out pesky plants, like weeds. Weeds grow in gardens and fields and take up precious soil space, drink the water meant for the other crops, and can choke out the root systems of them as well.

Lowers The Cost Of Food

Farmers typically include the cost of their losses into the price of the food that they sell to the supermarkets. This cost is then transferred down to the consumer. Losses are much less significant with the use of pesticides.

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Major Disadvantages of Pesticides

Health Concerns

The mix of chemicals that are in pesticides are not safe for human ingestion, but they are still sprayed onto the food that we eat. This raises some major concerns about the health and safety of pesticide use.

Harms Animals and the Environment

Pesticides are designed and made to kill living things, which makes them dangerous to the things that they are not intended to kill. Many animals are killed from consuming plants that have been sprayed. Other types of plants, like grass and flowers, are also greatly affected by the use of pesticides.

Worse For Children

It is highly recommended to not use pesticides in any area that a child will be playing or present frequently. This is because their vital organs are still developing, which causes them to breathe at a faster rate than adults, thus breathing in more of the pesticides. They are also much closer to the ground, which is where the chemicals and danger are.

Home Use Is Not Recommended

One of the most common places that they are used is the residential home. People assume that since they are sold, they are safe. This is not true at all. The effects of pesticides can harm pets, kill good insects and animals that you need around your home, as well as harm your children’s health.

They Build A Resistance

Just like other living things, pests can build up a resistance to the chemicals that are used in the pesticides. This means that you would eventually have to begin using more and more of the product, making it even more dangerous.

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Access To Poison Is Not Always Good

Pesticides are poison, not only to insects and pests, but to other warm blooded animals such as dogs and humans. A person can go to the store and buy these poisons, and use them on many different things that they are not intended for. Every year 7 people die from a poisoning associated with pesticides.

Facts about Pesticides

  • Scientists say that there is a link between mental illness and long term exposure to pesticides. They are saying that this is the cause of many farmer suicides.
  • Those that have been deemed unsafe remain in the soil and plants for many years, even after they are not used any longer.
  • There are many different types of pesticides, each targeting a specific groups of pest. They include rodenticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
  • The production of crops increase nearly 30 percent when they are used.

If you  can grow plants organically, then that is the best way to go!! In addition, contact us if you need any type of fruit seedlings!

Are you eating your way to death? Here are fruits that Prevent Cancer

The saying that we are what we eat is so very true. Recognizing and adopting healthy and balanced eating patterns and foods is one of the first steps to ensuring you maintain good health. The other is eating foods that you know can help prevent cancer and fight your risks of getting other diseases.

In Kenya, Cancer is quickly becoming one of the worst burden, where around 60 people die daily and nearly 30,000 cases of cancer are diagonized daily.

Cancer is caused by many factors. However, research has shown that making sure you include certain foods regularly in your diet can go a long way towards preventing from developing. The naturally occurring chemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibers in many different foods can help your body fight the growth of cancer cells. Below are several fruits and other foods that can help you prevent this menace.

Tomato

You can eat tomatoes in salads, make soup, sauces and many other dishes. Stay well away from eating the stems and leaves, but the flesh is also a moderate source of Vitamin C. Some studies suggest lycopene, an oxidant in tomatoes, has anticancer properties

Strawberries

Good news for summer strawberry lovers, strawberries contain the phytochemicals that are considered to have anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also a great sauce of Vitamin C and manganese

Apples Helps Prevent Cancer

For the best benefits of the anti-cancer phytochemicals in apples, eat their peel (but not their seeds). Apples also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are good sources of Vitamin C and fibe

Pumpkin and Water-melons

The carotenoids in various types of pumpkin and squash include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. All good antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Pumpkins and watermelons are also high in Vitamins A and C.

Onions

The humble onion is thought to have many anti-cancer compounds. These include organosulfur compounds, quercetin and anthocyanins thought to lower the risk of many types of cancer. Different varieties such as spring onions, shallots, brown/yellow and red onions have different strengths

Lemons

Lemons and other citrus fruits contain the phytochemicals d-limonene and terpenes, thought to help halt the growth of cancer cells. Juice them and use the peel for added nutritional benefits. They are also rich in Vitamin C

Pineapples

The Bromelain enzyme found in pineapples, for instance, is capable of breaking up the protective layer in tumors. It is found in the stem and fruit of pineapples. It can also promote DNA repair and normal growth of cells. Hence, apart from its cancer-killing properties, it makes normal cells healthier and stronger

Grapes

Grapes prevent cancerClinical cancer research has also shown evidence that grape seed extract can kill three-fourths of leukemia cells by triggering a protein called JNK, which encourages apoptosis in cancer cells. The antioxidant Resveratrol, found in grape seeds, can also influence natural death of cancer cells in the:

  • Lungs
  • Bowel
  • Skin
  • Breast
  • Stomach
  • Prostate.

Grape seed extract and Resveratrol, in fact, have been incorporated in many health supplements because of their therapeutic properties.

Bananas

Some compounds in bananas have been found to be effective in preventing further production of leukemia and liver cancer cells. High consumption of bananas was also linked to a decrease in the risk of:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Oral cancer.

They are also rich in potassium, which is good for the muscles and heart

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Pomegranate

Pomegranate is rich in tannins and flavonoids, both antioxidants which have drawn attention for their healing properties. Preliminary research suggests pomegranate extract can help prevent cancer and the growth of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer

Kiwi fruit prevent cancer

Kiwi is well-known for its high vitamin C content, boasting even more than oranges. It is also a powerful antioxidant, as Vitamin C prevents free radical damage. Kiwi consists of flavonoids and carotenoids that protect DNA from the damage or oxidative stress that is cancer. Being packed with vitamins, kiwi is a strong immune booster. It proves its effectiveness in healing different cancers like:

  • Liver cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer

Kiwi extracts prevent cancer cell proliferation, and its active photochemical, catechin, helps in the prevention of cancer and reduces the toxicity of anti-cancer agents.

The question Kenyans will ask is where they can buy the fruits. We all know how some fruits such as pomegranate, grapes, kiwi, strawberry and apples are expensive. Don’t worry, you can have all these fruits in your backyard. Contact us today and we will make this happen.

 

Tree Tomato farming

Why you should venture in Grafted Tree Tomato Trees instead of non-Grafted

We have heard few people (ignorant) saying that grafted tree tomato are not the best to plant and that the fruits aren’t sweet. Our testimony is different, very few people are growing tree tomatoes and the few that are growing specialize on the non-grafted ones. We must tell you the truth about the secret of growing grafted tree tomato.

Grafting on any crop is done to increase production. What many people don’t know is that normal tree tomato doesn’t have tap root, it only has fibrous roots, this makes it impossible for the tree to get enough water and nutrients from the soil. In addition, it is very week and in most cases its blown by weed.

We normally graft our Red Oratia tree tomato with Bug weed (Muthakwa), this is a wild tree that grows in any condition naturally. The main reason of grafting tree tomato with muthakwa is because, muthakwa is never affected by nematodes and has a tap-root making it ideal to get nutrients from the soil.

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Non-Grafted vs Grafted Tree tomato trees (Production)

Tree tomato grows naturally with less care however, if you are doing it commercially or intend to do it commercially, you must look out at a few things that are very essential. These includes, water application, manure application, fertilizer application, pests and diseases control. However those are just general things that ought to be followed to the latter but there is a major concern which is nematodes. Farmers will bear us witness that nematodes are the biggest threat to tomato, potato and tamarillo farming. So how do you fight them? this question has been asked by many farmers and the answer we tell them is that it is hard to do so. However, after several tests and research, it has been approved that grafting tree tomato with Muthakwa is a major boost in the fight against nematodes.

I know some of you will refute these results, but we have the prove. We have both grafted and non grafted tree tomatoes and we can assure you that the production is double if not triple. The Muthakwa tree tomato grows taller, its strong and have many branches. Do you know what this means? it means that the tree is able to carry a big load (doesn’t abort that much). The tree has tap root, it’s not affected by nematodes and its firm. Its lifespan is also enhanced as it can continuously produce fruits for more than six years.

For more information contact us or visit one of farms in Nairobi or Nyeri.

Amazing benefits of Nduma (Arrow roots) That you Never Knew

Arrow roots a.k.a Nduma as Kenyans like to call them are tubers which were indigenously grown. They were highly regarded in ancient times. Due to the increased lifestyle diseases, many Kenyans are urged to eat healthy and one of the most recommended source of starch is arrowroot.

arrow root farming was previously regarded as a hard crop to grow since it required you to be near a river or a swamp. However, there are hybrid arrowroot varieties especially from Burundi that can grow anywhere including uplands and doesn’t need much water.

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Arrow roots have few calories. 100 arrow roots have approximately 65 calories; which is lower compared to cassava, yams and potatoes. The powder made from arrow roots is fine, has no smell and it’s granular starch that is mostly used as a thickener or stabilizing agent in the food industry. Some of the health advantages of the Arrowroot (Nduma) include the following:

Circulation Issues: The rich nutrient mixture in arrow roots comprises of high levels of iron and copper. The two elements form part of the red blood cells. Arrow roots help in preventing anemia and other blood circulation related difficulties.

Metabolic Processes: Arrow roots have high Vitamin B concentration which makes it an important enzymatic and metabolic substance. It helps in regulating processes in the human body.

Birth defects: Folate, present in Vitamin B is also present in arrow roots. The component is important for expectant mothers and can help prevent neural tube defects.

Stomach Concerns: Arrowroot is a gluten-free substance – prevent gastrointestinal discomfort, pain, and danger that those handling a gluten intolerance must face every day.

Arrowroot, unlike other vegetable tubers contain high level of protein which aid in building the body and other tissues. Additionally, protein is used to make enzymes and hormones.

Weight Loss Concerns: Arrowroot is extremely low in calories as compared to other starches like yams, potatoes, or cassava. For this reason, people trying to remain on a diet can get complex carbohydrates and a wealth of nutrients, as well as a healthy dose of dietary fiber, and eliminate the desire to snack between meals.

Digestion: Dietary fiber is one of the most important parts of our digestive process, as it helps move food through the bowels in an efficient manner, while also stimulating the uptake of nutrients. Arrowroot also helps in reducing the effect of constipation and controlling level of blood sugar.

In addition, arrow roots have moderate amounts of some important minerals such as copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, zinc and iron. Potassium is an essential part of cells and body fluids that assist in regulation of the heart beat and blood pressure in the body. Nduma is a healthy meal for all Kenyans from all tribes and are highly regarded.

If you need the hybrid seedlings don’t hesitate to call us.

 

Ruto Talks about Diversification

Think Big and Diversify into Macadamia and Hass avocado Farming: DP Ruto

Maize farmers in the North Rift have been lamenting over maize prices which has never been stable. Last year the National Cereals and Produce Board bought maize from farmers at Ksh 3600. However, this year the cabinet has recommended Ksh 2300. This has caused uproar in the north lift as Mp’s Alfred Keter and his counterparts Joshua Kuttuny and Silas Tiren have been in the forefront in condemning the prices. Regarding this issue, DP Ruto has hit back at the politicians who according to him, thinks too small and are opposed to calls of diversification to other types of crops other than maize.

DP RUTO ON DIVERSIFICATION

“I heard some people say the other day that they are not interested in diversification because you cannot put avocados in a store or you cannot feed avocados on initiates,” he said.

“People are producing for markets to export while others are thinking of how to produce to go and put in a store. That is how low some people think in our country.”

In a scathing attack on the DP, the rebel Jubilee legislators alleged the DP has bought a 500-acre piece of land in Congo and that he was positioning himself as the principal maize supplier by discouraging the region from maize farming.

“You can’t be telling us to diversify in avocados, plant macadamia but you are not telling us what happened to maize,” Keter said.

The MPs did not, however, back their allegations with any evidence.

They claimed Ruto was behind the prices which they termed too low.

“We want to tell the DP that we know the problems and cartels frustrating farmers are directly linked to him and his office and that is why we want all leaders probed,” Keter said.

But Ruto says that the government has signed many export treaties and it is time the region stopped overdependence on subsistence maize production.

“The President was in China for the China Expo and the primary thing he went to do is ensure we open the Chinese market to Kenyan exports,” Ruto said.

He said the answer to achieving double-digit growth of the GDP and manufacturing growth of up to 15 per cent lies in the country’s export strategy.

The Dp said the government is keen on increasing potato production five-fold and expanding rice production by 300 per cent.

Ruto said the government is focused on diversification to achieve the Big Four Agenda.

He said the MPs need to be encouraged to see the bigger picture and the economic potential that diversified farming will bring the region and the country at large.

He said Kenya can now access the Chinese export market through exports.

“We now have signed the phytosanitary agreement that will now make it possible for Kenyans to export macadamia, avocados, horticulture, tea, coffee and pyrethrum to the Chinese market,” Ruto said.

He urged counties to exploit the rising export market space by repositioning their production strategies to feed the export market.

“That will be the turning point for our economic fortunes as a country,” Ruto said.

Reasons Why Hass Avocado is Preferred over other Varieties

So, what are the advantages of diversification?

If diversification into hass avocado and macadamia is done, you’re likely to grasp a range of benefits which you don’t often find in a traditional farm:

  • Increased revenue – by taking on new activities you and your family are likely to enjoy an increased farm income and a better quality of life.
  • Adaptability – branching out encourages you to be willing to change and look out for other opportunities. By adding a new activity you will learn what works for you and your farm and be better able to make further changes in the future and respond to new opportunities as they arise.
  • Security – by moving into new activities farms can provide you and your family members with a long term future and greater stability. By branching out you will increase the number of sources of revenue for your farm ensuring that you are less susceptible to any one income source letting you down.
  • Tradition – diversifying can provide you and your family with a means of carrying on your farming tradition. While the focus of diversifying may be on increasing income and securing a future it can provide the means of subsidising and continuing the traditional activities that are valued and enjoyed.
  • Develop new skills – running a new venture will provide the opportunity to increase your skills and expand your network of business contacts. From management to marketing and finance to customer service diversifying will develop your business flair.

Being realistic in your budgeting is critical as a common pitfall is to over estimate income and to under estimate the costs of running the business.

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Let us not over-rely on just one type of crop. We urge farmers to start thinking about the future and outside the box. If you are a coffee farmer, why don’t you inter-crop with macadamia, there is no harm in so doing. If you are a tea farmer, plant hass avocados at the edges of your farm.

The other farmers such as maize farmers, I urge you to have a section where you can plant other crops and fruits. Most successful farmers are those who have done diversification.

Thinking Of Farming Business? Think Mushroom Farming

As you might have noticed, we have been organizing mushroom farming training tours now and then. This has been inspired by the changing eating patterns of Kenyans and the need for more agribusiness ideas.

As young agriprenuers, we can firmly tell you that mushroom farming is the best agribusiness to think of especially if you are young and with inadequate farming space.

The fungi crop has numerous nutritional and medicinal benefits,  the demand for mushrooms is huge unexplored and unexploited, and the market offers unprecedented access to wealth and financial freedom. The Capital and daily expenditure are also affordable compared to other conventional crops.

Mushrooms contain more protein than fish or chicken, all Vitamins except A and D. Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus Zinc and Iron. They also contain a number of medicinal benefits, including lowering high blood pressure/hypertension, strengthening of weak bones, teeth and nails due to their high content in calcium. Mushrooms also heal impotency, improve cerebral development in children between the ages of 0 and 3, boost immunity, detoxify the body therefore preventing terminal diseases like colon cancer and improve fertility.

Nevertheless, it is the financial benefits of growing mushrooms that are breathtaking. For instance, a kilo of Oyster Mushrooms cost Ksh 800. In a small room of 5 meters by 5 meters, a small scale farmer can easily harvest a produce of 10 kilos of mushrooms weekly, which adds up to Ksh8,000 and Ksh32,000 monthly. Very few crops can fetch you this much.

In the same house of 5 by 5 meters, production can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. Therefore, bringing in an income of Ksh64,000, Ksh96,000 and Ksh128,000 respectively. From what is known by many mushrooms continuously sprout for a period of 3 months from the time the harvesting begins.

However, the most productive months are the first two. Unlike conventional crops, mushrooms are planted in fresh pasteurized organic substances known as substrate. These can be one or a combination of the following, Sugar Cane baggasse, Maize Stovers cut in minute pieces, Wheat Straw, Ground Nut Shells, crushed Maize cobs, Rice Husks and Molasses.

The pasteurization of these substances is carried out through boiling of steaming the substrate. Pasteurization eliminates all harmful organisms that deter mushroom production, while maintaining the nutritional content. After the substrate cools down, it is then mixed with mushroom seed called Spawn in a process called inoculation.

The planted substrate is then packed in several transparent polythene bags after holes are created in them. The polythene bags are then hung up in the mushroom house. A month and a half after the planting process, mushrooms begin sprouting.

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Where Does One Get Mushroom Market In Kenya?

When on thinks of farming, what comes of our minds, is where will I get market for my produce?

Traditionally, hotels offer a simple market that constantly demand mushrooms. For a first-time supplier, hotels often demand packaged samples of the product. After the first impression, they then require the signing of an agreement that bounds the client to reliably supply them with their required amount of mushrooms.

The number of hotels that demand mushrooms are staggering, 800 beach hotels along the coast of Kenya, hotels in all the major cities and towns. Several Pizza outlets around the country and several restaurants and hospitals.

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Then there are the unlimited individual customers in the social media that offer a consistent and reliable clientele. The beauty of the social media is simple, a supplier can repeatedly post pictures of the packaged mushroom product on the most popular farmers groups in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and What’s app. Together with the Nutritional and Medicinal benefits and the contacts.

Keep checking for our next training on how to go about mushroom farming in Kenya. We always say that farmers come first, we lead while others follow.

 

 

How to earn a living from Watermelon farming in Kenya

Watermelon farming is taking shape in Kenya as the fruit is being embraced by most Kenyans. In almost every town, you will find some fruit vendors with watermelons. Don’t ask yourself why, they are fetching good prices. Imagine a piece of watermelon selling at Ksh 20, how many pieces does a big watermelon have? To answer your question, a single melon can have as many pieces as 20, selling @Ksh 20 this will amount to Ksh 400.

At farm gate, a farmer can get good returns for as high as Ksh 100. What matters is how you handle the watermelons when harvesting and while transporting to the market. If not properly handled, spoilt watermelons will indeed reduce your income. The cost of production is estimated at Sh100,000 per acre.

Watermelon is planted directly from seeds. Although other people prefer planting them on nursery then transferring the later. It all comes to your own decision.

What are the common Varieties of Watermelons Grown in Kenya

There are several varieties that are suitable in Kenya. They include:

  1. Sukari F1 Hybrid- this averages 7kgs per fruit and is very popular due to its size and sweetness.
  2. Early scarlet F1.
  3. Sugar baby, who fruits average 3-4kgs and crops mature early 62-80days.
  4. Charleston grey variety fruits that average 9kg and is late maturing 85-110 days. It is also the best drought resistant variety.
  5. Pato F1 it’s as sweet as Sukari F1.
  6. Sweet beauty- which it takes 80 days of maturity and has red-flesh.
  7. Golden midget which takes 70days to mature. Bears petite, yellow skinned with pink flesh.

Irrigation

Watermelon requires lots of water and nutrients. Thus a farmer must have a stable source of water and the soil should be rich of nutrients. If not,  a farmer should add organic fertilizer.

Sunlight

While Watermelon requires a lot of water it also needs a lot of sun. It is good to note that watermelons do not cope well with extreme weather conditions. Humid and foggy conditions are the best weather conditions for fungal diseases and this will wipe out all the watermelon in no time. Thus, temperatures of about 20c-25c are the best to grow and ripen watermelons.

PLANTING WATERMELON

Start the water melon seeds in the ground, right where they are supposed to grow. Though some people do transplant them,  it is better to know that they may not adapt well at first after the transplant hence others may die or take time to recover. In order to get it right, put manure to the ground before planting and plough well to make sure they mix well with the soil. Watermelons grow well in soils with alkaline PH.  It is therefore advisable to add lime to the soil so as to maintain the alkaline PH. This should be done at an interval of 3 years.

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Spacing

Spacing of watermelon generally is 1.5m from row to row and 1m from plant to plant.  Watermelon can grow best in hot dry areas under irrigation and rain-fed in marginal areas. Watermelon can also perform well in higher areas during hot season under irrigation. When under irrigation develop a good systematic watering system since fruits become stressed when the pattern changes and this affect the fruit development and spray program.

Remember that watermelons germinate in 7 days and the first fruits are seen from day 30.  It’s believed boron helps the plants to produce sweet fruits.

Taking care of watermelons

  1. Mulching with black plastics will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth, and keep developing fruits clean.
  2. Watering is very important from planting until fruit begins to form. While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
  3. Keep the soil always moist but not waterlogged. Water at the vine base in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves and avoid overhead watering. Reduce watering once the fruits are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melons.
  4. If you choose to fertilize make sure it delivers more nitrogen than phosphorous and potassium. However after flowering begins use a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
  5. Pruning isn’t necessary, but vine productivity may be improved if you do not allow lateral vines to grow and stick to the main vine. When the plant is young, just cut off the end buds as they form before they become vines. You can also pinch off some blossoms to focus the energy on fewer melons .
  6. Vines produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the males appear. Do not be concerned if the male flowers fall off. The female flowers, (which have a swollen bulb at the base) will stay on the vine and bear a fruit.
  7. Blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to the bees.
  8. As fruit is ripening, prevent rotting by gently lifting it and putting some cardboard or straw between the fruit and the soil.

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Weeding

It’s important to weed the land by removing weeds that compete for water and nutrients with the plant. This can be done the third or the second week after germination using herbicides or jembes.

Pest And Diseases Control.

The major and common diseases of watermelon are the leaf spot, dumping off, powdery mildew and blight. It can also be attacked by Beetles, mites, leaf miners and thrips.

Dumping off is a fungal disease that causes the seed to rot before they germinate.

Spider mites are serious pests of watermelons especially during hot, dry weather and they feed on the plant sap and can defoliate vines in a few weeks. Leaf miners cause injuries to leaves resulting to destruction of leaf tissue.

Thrips are insects which invade flowers and feed on plant juice, they are visible to the naked eye.

Always use recommended fungicides, insecticides and herbicides and this are available in local agrovets.  Always read the labels and follow instructions. This will not only help to protect your plant, but will also protect your health and environment. Apply chemicals using appropriate equipment at the recommended application rate. The labels should provide information on recommended use, ingredients, mode of action, and formulation of the product.

Harvesting

Watermelon’s maturity depends on the breed. As stated above, some species vary from the  other but all fall under a maturity period of 80-100 days. In order to see if the fruit is ready for market turn the fruit around to see if the fruit is having a yellow patch on the side on which its lying on the ground with. If it is difficult to pass your finger nail in the watermelon, it’s well ready for harvest and you can even confirm by cutting one to see if it has matured.  They are ready for harvest if matured. You can also thump it. If the watermelon sounds hollow, its ripe. You can also check on the tendrils. If it’s green, wait. If it’s half dead the watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe.

Farming only requires passion and patience. You can do it!

cotton

Cotton Farming: Why President Uhuru Wants Kenya to grow GMO Cotton

President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked technocrats to look at the possibility of Kenyans growing genetically modified BT cotton.

If Implemented, Kenya will become the first in East Africa to grow GMOs in open fields, and fourth in Africa after South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan.

The launch for commercialization is expected in January 2019, while farmers are likely to plant their first BT cotton seeds in March.

The development follows the recent approval for national performance trials for BT cotton by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Already, the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) has planted the first BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in open fields for environmental testing in Kibos, Kisumu in the west of the country.

“We expect that in the next seven months we shall have sufficient data from the field trials for scrutiny by the various government agencies including Nema,” said the director of Horticulture Research Institute at Kalro Dr Charles Waturu.

The president instructed the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Trade, Industry and Cooperatives to come up with a quick mechanism for the revival of cotton production, including the possibility of farming BT cotton as part of measures to restore the dwindling sector.

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Agriculture Task Force to Look Into Cotton Farming

At the same time Uhuru directed that a second taskforce be constituted to address woes facing maize farmers and find a lasting solution to the issue.

The taskforce will be led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.

President Kenyatta made the announcement during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega town.

This directive comes in the wake of protests by maize farmers who have not been paid for deliveries to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The board, which manages the strategic reserves of the staple food, ran out of cash it was allocated because it paid brokers who supplied it with cheap maize from Uganda at the expense of Kenyan farmers.

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The disillusioned farmers are still holding on to about 500,000 bags of last season’s crop estimated to be worth Sh1.6 billion while NCPB owes them Sh3.5 billion for maize it purchased from them for the strategic reserve.

While speaking in Kakamega, President Kenyatta warned that stern action would be taken against NCPB officials who engage in corrupt practices involving cartels.

He also warned that stern action would be taken against corrupt officials who authorised the payments to brokers, leaving farmers in unnecessary suffering after toiling to earn a livelihood from the cash crop.

 

7 Things To Consider Before Leasing Land for Farming

In Kenya, land is becoming scarce and one of the aspiring farmer’s greatest nightmare is accessing farming land at an affordable price. The prices have hiked and what young and new farmers are doing is scooping up land and renting it. Renting land minimizes risk and it’s the most affordable way of participating in food security and sustainability. However before getting yourself in this business of farming rented farm, here are some things you should consider.

Discover Your Market

Even those farmers who have their own land, its necessary to identify your market -that is , your very first potential customers. You need to first locate the markets where you will sell your products. These could be farmers markets, direct customer targets such as farm-to-table restaurants and independent groceries, or people traveling through the area where you hope to farm. Then search an ever-widening radius around that central market location until you find suitable land at the price you can afford. Before you start to farm, figure out where to rent

Land around Semi and Urban areas

Land in towns and cities seem to be scarce, however it is readily available. There these 50*100 plots in towns and with intensive farming techniques, this can be enough land to turn a modest profit with small crops that make the most efficient use of small spaces.

However, there is this land that is on the outskirts of suburbs before reaching cities and towns, semi-urban spaces are big enough with small acreage to hold an entire hobby farm. For beginners, less land can be more manageable than a rural farm. A semi-urban area might boast some city-like development, but land is available in larger tracts. Semi-urban sites can give your farm a rural feel, while retaining proximity to customers.

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Facts about Rural farming

In Kenya where white collar job is adored and few young people into farming, you will find that many current landowners and farmers are at retirement age and many find their children living in cities without the desire to return to farming. It’s in your best interest as a farmer to have your land used and to not see it fall into disrepair. Therefore, as an aspiring farmer you can always rent/lease land in rural areas.

A lot of Networking

A deceased farmer’s land might be held by a trust and left vacant by family members who have no interest in ever farming it. In Kenya, most ancestral land can’t be sold but only inherited and one can lease. This kind of farms that’s potentially available for long-term rent is often not advertised. The best tool for finding it is networking.

Ask for Help

One trait that most people don’t have is asking for help. Ask all of your friends and family for some land you can start with. The key is to get something started as soon as you can. Getting started on your own lawn or on borrowed land makes your business visible; creating opportunity to make your land needs known.

Online Marketing

The world has changed and only time will tell where it will take us. Even if you farm for fun,  your hobby farm basically doesn’t exist if it doesn’t have an online presence, especially if you’re planning to farm in the rural areas. Tell your story and share your food philosophy with a simple website or social media, to share the birth and evolution of your farm to gain support and excitement for your business. Use the results to gather market data and apply it to growing your business.

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Lease For Long

This will definitely be driven by a number of factors. Short-term leases or rentals are certainly an option, if it’s your only option. Short-term leases and rentals are least desirable for both the lessor and the lessee. Both offer flexibility but neither offers stability. Decades-long leases are common in rural areas, and they usually include scheduled intervals for revisiting the contract. A lease should be agreeable and beneficial to both farmer and landowner. Maintaining a respectful relationship should lend itself to revisiting the contract as issues arise.

If you are an aspiring farmer, we can help you get some land in the outcasts of major towns in Kenya and if you have land that you would like to lease contact us.

At Oxfarm Ag, farming is our passion and our business!