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thorn melon farming in Kenya: Farmers smiling all the way to the bank

Thorn melon, commonly known as Kiwano is a strange looking fruit that originated from South Africa and has of late been introduced to other parts of the world. It picked its name  Kiwano from Kiwi in New Zealand  due to its consistency and appearance to kiwi. However, this fruit is not biologically linked to kiwi and is actually closer in nutritive and evolutionary terms to cucumber and zucchini.

The name “thorned melon” comes from the fruit’s unusual appearance, as the outer layer of orange or gold skin is covered in small spikes. The inside of the fruit does have the gelatinous appearance of a kiwi, but the inner layer of fruit pulp is a culinary ingredient. The leaves and roots are also used for various applications, but the fruit is the most highly prized. Its seeds contain high concentrations of beneficial nutrients and organic compounds that make the fruit so healthy.

A number of Kenyans have embraced this fruit as it is believed to lower blood pressure and sugar level. Its therefore a money maker fruit and a number of farmers have benefited from it. According to Mureithi a farmer in Kiambu, kiwano sells between 25 and Ksh 30. He however notes that market fluctuates depending on supply. When there is high demand a kilo of thorn melon goes fo Sh 90 and when the demand is low it goes below to Ksh 70.

Benefits Of Planting Thorn Melon

The healthy benefits are overwhelming as highlighted below. For those interested in making money, this is why you should plant it:

  1. it’s a drought resistant plant and does not require a lot of water
  2. its labor friendly. Even when unattended it will still yield
  3. One plant can yield between 30 to 40 or more depending on care
  4. The market is readily available. One peace goes for between 10 bob to 30 bob depending on where and it’s a hot cake for those who understands the benefits
  5. it can thrive in almost all areas

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How Thorn Melon Is Used Across The World

  • The green jelly-like flesh can be taken with little sugar, or with exotic fruit salad. It can also be utilised like an alternative to vinegar in salads.
  • The fruits are also used for ornamental purposes.
  • Used in beverages and at times spooned over desserts, ice creams and yoghurts to have an exceptional taste.
  • Its leaves are medicinal and are often served cooked as the heat is said to slightly lessen the bitterness in the greens.
  • When cooking, the bitter melon leaves are added last to inhibit an overly bitter taste and can be served with rice. The leaves can also be used in curries, fries and soups.
  • The leaves are at times mixed with maize or corn meal and can also be used to make a medicinal tea. Younger leaves which have a milder flavour and delicate texture can be used in salads.
  • In some countries, the leaves are used as an anti-viral for measles and malaria, diabetes, hypertension and to aid in childbirth.
  • In some cultures, various parts of the bitter melon plant, including the leaves, are used as a contraceptive as they have been shown to have an anti-fertility effect in both males and females.
  • Boiled roots are also used to treat gonorrhoea in some cultures, according to research.

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Health Benefits of Thorn Melon

Thorn melon has many benefits as discussed below:-

Weight Loss

Considering that this fruit is more than 80% water, it has the ability to fill you up without packing on any pounds. People trying to lose weight without feeling hungry all the time often reach for a kiwano to stave off hunger pangs. The high concentration of nutrients also keeps your body nutrient-rich, even though the fruit is low in calories and fats.

Antioxidant Properties

There are high levels of alpha-tocopherol found in kiwano, which is a potent antioxidant form of vitamin E. This is very important for the health of nerves and blood vessels, while it also seeks out and neutralizes free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause everything from heart diseases to cancer.

Eye Care

The significant levels of vitamin A found in kiwano make it an important booster for vision health. Vitamin A is a type of carotenoid, which acts as an antioxidant for the eye, eliminating free radicals that can cause macular degeneration, while also slowing down or preventing the development of cataracts.

Improves Cognitive Function

Although different nutrients can positively affect the brain, vitamin E is specifically linked to slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The high levels of tocopherol variations in kiwano make it a favorite amongst all who want to keep their minds fresh.

Boosts Metabolism

Zinc is a mineral that is often overlooked in human health, but it plays a key role in metabolism and producing protein, which is necessary for wound healing and repair of organs, tissues, blood vessels, and cells. The high content of vitamin C is a perfect complement to the zinc found in kiwano, as ascorbic acid is a key component of collagen, which is another key material in repair and growth.

Slows Aging

Between vitamin A, C, natural antioxidants, and abundant organic compounds, kiwano is wonderful for staying young, both inside and out. It is known to protect the integrity of the skin and reduce age spots and wrinkles, in addition to lessening the appearance of scars and blemishes. These important nutrients keep the body younger by preventing the onset of chronic diseases through their intense antioxidant activity.

Relieves Stress & Anxiety

Research has connected some of the organic compounds in kiwano with the regulation of hormones, particularly adrenaline and other stress hormones. If you suffer from chronic stress or feel anxious, eating some kiwano can quickly ease your mind and get your body back to a calm, relaxed state.

Aids in Digestion

The high fiber content in kiwano makes it an ideal digestive aid. Dietary fiber helps to stimulate peristaltic motion and clear out the gastrointestinal tract, keeping your bowel movements regular and preventing cramping, bloating, constipation, and serious conditions like gastric ulcers or colon cancer. Dietary fiber is also a key element of heart health, as it helps to regulate the level of cholesterol in the body; it even helps to regulate insulin receptors, thereby preventing or managing diabetes.

Increases Bone Strength

Kiwanos are also turned to for their high mineral content, particularly for calcium, in order to boost bone strength and prevent the onset of osteoporosis.  While the other minerals in kiwano, including zinc, are important for bone development, growth, repair, and integrity, calcium is the most desirable mineral for our bone health.

 

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What Causes Tomatoes To Split And How do you Prevent Tomato Cracking

Tomato farming in Kenya is a common practice among many farmers. This is because everyone loves tomatoes. They are great in cooking, salads and sauces and even make a great gift. However, with these beautiful and tasty beauties comes a problem. Sometimes, right in the middle of thinking everything is alright with your tomatoes, you will find splitting tomatoes or tomato cracking. Farmers in Kenya have made losses through tomato cracking and we want to help you prevent it.

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 What causes tomatoes to split?

Fluctuation of temperatures sometimes can cause problems for newly growing tomato transplants. It is therefore very crucial to mulch your plants, either with organic mulch such as straws, wood chips or plastic. The mulch will conserve water and also prevent disease from spreading. When it comes to mulch and tomatoes, plastic mulch has shown to be the best mulch to help prevent tomato cracking. Sometimes, if you have a lot of rain after a spell of really dry weather, you’ll find splitting tomatoes on your tomato plants. A split tomato problem is really caused by lack of water. If you take away water, the tomatoes cannot stay lush and juicy, and the skin will crack just as your skin cracks if you do not have enough moisture. And when the tomatoes receive a large amount of water quickly after this, they fill with water and the skin bursts at the cracks like an overfilled water balloon.

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How to Prevent Tomato Cracking

This cracking problem in tomato is more than just an aesthetic problem. You will realize that through these cracks bacteria and fungus can be introduced into the fruit and cause them to rot or provide an easy access to pests. For you to prevent splitting in tomatoes, you will have to water your tomato plants once a week with about 1-2 inches of water. To keep tomato cracking to a minimum, be sure to keep your tomato plants watered evenly on a regular basis. Protect them from a severe drought in your absence by setting up a watering system on a timer. This way you can water your farm when you aren’t home to do it and you won’t have to deal with severe tomato cracking. It’s as easy as that to solve a split tomato problem. Finally, be sure to fertilize your tomatoes according to the instructions on your tomato fertilizer. Fertilizer or manure is important to keep the soil healthy enough to help your plants produce as many tomatoes as possible. If you follow these rules, soon enough you will have plenty of unsplit tomatoes to enjoy and to sell.

 

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Importance, Economic value and production of Coffee in Kenya

Importance

In Kenya, there is no other crop that is intertwined with the history and economic development as coffee. Coffee was introduced into Kenya at about the same time the Colonial masters were just commencing their journeys into Africa and has remained a major contributor to the country economy over more than a century since its introduction.

No matter the economic crisis, it remains in the hearts of Kenyans in terms of development. And the international consumers and buyers of Kenyan variety have not failed to appreciate the good work done by the thousands of farmers who till the land to provide some of the best coffee the world produces.

Even as we all complain, most Kenyans have in one way or another benefited from the coffee bushes. Our forefathers have used coffee, tea and other major cash crops to educate us.

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Production of Coffee

Kenyan variety is well known for its intense flavor, full body, and pleasant aroma with notes of cocoa. Coffee from Kenya is of the ‘mild arabica’ type that is used around the world by blenders and roasters to boost the quality of their blends.

It has a distinctly bright acidity and potent sweetness with a dry winy aftertaste. Among the best Kenya variety, one can find intoxicating black-currant flavor and aroma, according to the Coffee Board of Kenya

The industry in Kenya is noted for its cooperative system of production and processing. About 60-70% of Kenyan variety is produced by small scale holders.

The major growing regions in Kenya are the High Plateaus around Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares Range and some parts of Nyanza and Rift Valley. The high plateaus of Mount Kenya, plus the acidic soil provide excellent conditions for its growth. A total of 150,000 hectares of arable land in Kenya is planted with coffee.

Although it has has lately benefited from an increase in global prices, output has contracted from a high of about 130,000 metric tons in 1989 to 50,000 tons in 2012.

Experts are worried that the dramatic 50% fall in its production in Kenya in the year 2000 from over 100,000 tonnes to just above 50000 tonnes will never be recovered in the country, with the sector going through a myriad number of challenges.

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Economic Value of Coffee

Agriculture is the back bone of Kenya’s economy. In 2005 agriculture, including forestry and fishing, accounted for about 24 percent of GDP, as well as for 18 percent of wage employment and 50 percent of revenue from exports.

Coffee is one of the major cash crops in Kenya, coming third after tea and horticultural produce. In 2005 horticulture accounted for 23 percent and tea for 22 percent of total export earnings. However, it has declined in importance, accounting for just 5 percent of export receipts in 2005. Even with this decline over the last 10-20 years, the coffee industry injected over 100 billion shillings to the country’s Gross Domestic Product over the last 10 years to 2011, according to the Office of the President

It is estimated that over 700,000 small-scale and large-scale farmers are involved in coffee farming. In addition, the coffee industry, due to its forward and backward linkages, directly and indirectly benefits about 5 million people in the country.

The contribution of coffee into the economic well being of the country cannot therefore be wished away, considering it touches the lives of about one-eighth of the population

Coffee earnings have been adversely affected by reduced world prices since the 1970s highs that occurred as a result of collapse of quota agreements in the early 1990s that had been put in place by members of the International Coffee Organization since 1963. The collapse of the quota system led to a drastic reduction in coffee prices around the world; Kenya felt the full effect of the low prices.

Farmers who had been used to fairly stable prices for many years could not afford to take good care of the crop any more due to steep rise in input costs (due to the effect of the Structural Adjustment programs pushed for by the IMF and World Bank on Kenya) on one hand, and a steep fall in prices of the crop on the other.

They therefore abandoned the crop in the farms or in the extreme, cut down the whole crop and used the farms for alternative crops such as Hass Avocados.

Even as people complain about prices of coffee and how its not doing well, it still remains one of the  best cash crops and farmers still enjoy its fruits.

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Kenyans can grow garlic instead of importing from china: here is the starter guide

Did you know that we still import garlic from China and Tanzania? Its worrying since garlic can grow well in Kenya and does not require much as you would have thought.

Unlike other high-value crops, garlic is not hard to grow because there are a few important requirements that can be easily met. Generally, fertile well-drained soil, adequate moisture, and, of course, planting the right seeds (disease-free germinated cloves) is all you need to successfully grow garlic.

In Kenya, it has successfully been cultivated in parts of Narok, Nakuru and Meru, only that it is done on a small scale. 80% of the garlic used in Kenya is imported from China and the prices for this commodity have remained at an all-time high.

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How to grow your own garlic

We always recommend farmers to start with conducting a soil test to ensure that their soil has the right minerals and the correct PH. The pH should range from 4.5 to 8.3, but an ideal pH is between 6.5 and 6.7.

  • When planting, the spacing you use should be advised by the irrigation method to be employed, weeding methods of choice and the target yield – quantity vs quality. Plant between 100 and 200kg of cloves on an acre.
  • It is advisable to plant garlic in double rows or in wide beds of four to six rows with 10 to 20cm between plants. Tighter spacing in the beds will produce more bulbs but of smaller size with the net tonnage per square foot being higher than when you plant with wider spacing.
  • Prepare your land by ploughing and harrowing, then broadcast 10 tonnes of well-composted manure in advance. Avoid areas under trees or other sources of shade.
  • Buy your germinated cloves from a reputable dealer. Avoid buying the seeds from the market place or unscrupulous dealers because they may not be disease-free.
  • Once you have the cloves, break-up the bulbs not longer than 24 hours before you plant them while being careful not to bruise or damage them. Place cloves 3-4cm below the surface, root down.
  • You will need to water your garlic during dry periods throughout the growing season, and stop completely during the last few weeks.
  • Carefully remove any weeds whenever they appear, and avoid prolonged use of herbicides as they retard plant growth.

During growth, lack of water is the most common stress because garlic does not compensate for drought periods by prolonged growth. Even a short period of drought affects the yield, especially during bulb expansion because lack of water predisposes the crop to infestation by insects.

Garlic will tell you when it is time to harvest. Start harvesting when the lower leaves begin to yellow and fold and the garlic grows “weak at the neck” and begins to fall on the ground. Harvesting too early decreases total yield and reduces quality of the bulb. It will also cause rapid deterioration during storage.

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Market

It is estimated that Kenya imports up to 80% of garlic from China. That can tell you how much demand we have locally that we are unable to meet. After packaging and importing all the way from China, garlic is sold at a wholesale price of about Sh200 per kg.

Plan and implement today if you can, they demand is overwhelming which means that the future can only be bright for garlic farmers.

 

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New arrow-roots Varieties That grows on Simple Moisture Beds

Arrow-roots farming

Murithi an arrow root farmer in Imenti, Meru County harvests more than 5700 kg or arrow-roots s s every eight months. According to muriithi, the arrow-roots  that he grows does not require much water but yields in plenty. The crop is planted in what he calls moisture beds lined with polythene. The polythene prevents seepage of water while the top is mulched to prevent moisture loss.

According to Kiambi an expert in arrow root farming, a farmer needs 11m by 2m polythene liner, organic fertilizer, well-composted manure, ash and arrow-roots  corms to start. Each moisture bed measures 10m by 1.2m. You remove about 0.3m of the top soil, which is then mixed with manure. Five wheelbarrows of manure are required for one moisture bed that costs about Sh5,000 to prepare.

The polythene liner is laid on the floor of the bed and covered with the soil mixed with manure. A farmer has to apply ash on the soil to regulate acidity as well as control worms that destroy the tubers.

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Waterbeds

After watering and saturating the bed, you should make holes spaced 9 by 9 inches. You then plant the arrow-roots  corms while putting 150ml of organic fertilizer in each hole. Up to 10 moisture beds can be prepared on a quarter of an acre, with each holding up to 220 arrow-roots corms. With good husbandry, a farmer can harvest tubers weighing up to 2kg per corm, which translates to an average of 400kg per bed in six to nine months, earning Sh20,000.

A farmer has to maintain the moisture by watering the beds once every week and mulching with grass during the dry season. The size of the bed allows for weeding and harvesting without stepping on it. Mulching helps to control weeds, increases warmth in the bed and prevents moisture loss.

Three months after planting the arrow-roots  corms, a farmer should add three inches of soil mixed with manure on the beds to get bigger tubers.

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How to Prevent Pests and Diseases Affecting arrow-roots

End users want bigger tubers. Earthening up ensures that we have tubers measuring 4 by 9 inches and weighing 2kg. That is good quality for the local and international market. As the crop grows, one should scout for pests and diseases like tuber rotting caused by worms that bore into the produce. The worms are kept at bay by use of ash to lower soil acidity, which makes them thrive. Withering of leaves before maturity is an indication of pests and diseases.

Before harvesting, starve the beds of water for two weeks to allow them to harden. This gives room for the tubers to shed much of the water and develop a floury texture when cooked. The moisture bed is watered on the harvesting day to ease uprooting of the tubers

The leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese.

 

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Best Methods Of Becoming A Successful Coffee Farmer

Arabica Coffee

The coffee plant is a warm climate trim that can develop to a height of somewhere in the range of 16 and 40 feet. In many farms the trees are kept at six feet for better yields and easier picking. The trees have lavish, sparkly green leaves joined to long thin branches. At the point when the plant is in season, little white blooms show up from the base of the leaves. After pollination, the blossoms are replaced by fruits.

Kenya grows mainly Arabica on rich volcanic soils found in the highlands of the country and most is produced by small-scale farmers. Kenya coffee has a bright acidity and a wonderful sweetness with a dry winy aftertaste, according to the Coffee Research Foundation. A good Kenya coffee will also have a black-current flavor and aroma, it says.

Coffee is also one of Kenya’s largest revenue earners and has farmers this year smiling from cheek to cheek, over the good prices. Kenya’s varieties are currently among the most expensive globally.

Management of Coffee

Management and growing of coffee has gone through the bad times over the years, only until just recently because prices were down and it had lost appeal. Many farmers had dumped or uprooted the crop. Others had totally neglected their bushes, which were bringing more losses than benefits. But now, things have changed and many are rushing to grow the crop or tend to it again. Problem is how do you go about it?

There are various varieties of the crop developed to suit different altitudes and growing areas. Coffee growing from bean to cup also goes through various stages. The process starts from selection of the right variety for your area, sowing the seed in beds, transplanting into special foil planting bags, final transplanting, fertilizing, pruning for older crops, spraying and harvesting. Alternatively, seedlings are bought from CRF and its centers.

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Coffee varieties grown in Kenya

There are two main varieties :- Arabica and Robusta

Arabica beans are mild in the cup, with comparatively less caffeine, while Robusta has more aromatic. The Robusta tree appears bushier, the leaves are larger and the berries form in clusters

  • Coffee Research Foundation (CRF) currently produces four commercial cultivars (varieties) of Arabica coffee. Different varieties are recommended for various altitudes.
  • K7 – low altitude coffee areas with serious Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR).
  • SL 28 – medium to high coffee areas without serious CLR.
  • SL 34 – high coffee zone with good rainfall.
  • Ruiru 11 – all coffee growing areas. Resistant to both Coffee Berry Disease (CBD) and CLR.

K7
K7 cultivar was selected at Legetet Estate in Muhoroni from the French Mission Coffee. It is distinguished by its spreading habit on young laterals although older primaries tend to be decumbent or drooping. It has characteristic medium to narrow leaves with young shoot-tips that are intermediate bronze in colour. The cultivar has resistance to some races of CLR as well as partial resistance to CBD. It is suited for lower altitudes where CLR is prevalent. The bean and liquor qualities are good.

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SL 28
The SL 28 cultivar was selected at the former Scott Laboratories (now the National Agricultural Laboratories, NARL situated at Kabete) on a single tree basis from the Tanganyika Drought Resistant variety selected in Northern Tanzania in 1931. The prefix SL in the variety name are acronymous for Scott Laboratories where the variety was selected. The name is completed by a serial number (28) for the selection. The variety is suited for medium to high altitude coffee growing zones.

SL 34
SL 34 was also selected at the former Scott Laboratories from French Mission Coffee. The cultivar is adapted to high altitude areas with good rainfall. It is majorly characterized by dark bronze shoot tipped plants with a few green-tipped strains. The laterals have semi-erect habit which tend to become decumbent or drooping on older primaries. The cultivar produces high yields of fine quality coffee but is susceptible to CBD, CLR and BBC.

Ruiru 11
Ruiru 11 variety was released in 1985. The variety name has the prefix “Ruiru” referring to the location of the Kenyan Coffee Research Station where the variety was developed. The name is completed by an additional two code numbers, 11. The first code number denotes the type of variety as a one way cross between two designated parent populations and the second number defines the sequence of release, in this case the first release. The variety is not only resistant to CBD and CLR but is also compact allowing farmers to intensity production per unit land especially in high potential areas where population is high and coffee is in competition with other crops and farm enterprises required for food security and income. Ruiru 11 is planted at a density of 2500/3300 trees/ha compared to 1300 trees/ha for the traditional varieties. This translates into a higher production per unit area of land. The variety comes into production earlier, hence earlier realization of benefits to the farmers. The development of Ruiru 11 also took into consideration the importance of quality as a major marketing parameter. Since the quality of the traditional varieties was already popular among consumers of Kenyan coffee, Ruiru 11 was developed with quality attributes similar to the traditional varieties. 

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Planting:

  • Planting materials can be picked from the
  • Coffee Research Foundation.
  • the seeds germinate if sown within eight weeks following the harvest. They are sown one to two centimetres deep in specially constructed beds.
  • After five to eight weeks the tiny plants reach the surface. As soon as the first pair of leaves appear, sometimes even sooner, the seedlings are transplanted to special foil planting bags called polycovers or to peat pots. They are then set 20 to 25 cm apart in large, predominantly shaded beds.
  • Six months later, the young plants are 30 to 50 cm tall. They are then transplanted to their final place in the coffee plantation, now at a distance of one to three meters apart.
  • The newer varieties of coffee trees begin to bear fruit from the second or third year. Older varieties produce their first harvest after five years. The new Batian variety starts producing fruit after two years.

A tree does well in well aerated areas with well drained with fertile soil. Coffee trees need a lot of oxygen to their roots during the growth process, which is why many farmers rely on aerating the soil to help them thrive and grow.

According to Mr Maina, an experienced farmer, says coffee trees require a steady amount of rainfall at anywhere from 1500 to 2000 mm per year. If there is less rainfall yearly within the coffee growing region, then that deficit needs to be accounted for through irrigation.

Many of the finest trees are grown at higher altitudes at over 3000 feet. The reason that this is so important to growing coffee plants, is because it provides cloud cover and mist.

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Why coffee farmers are encouraged to inter-crop with macadamia nuts

Coffee was once a major cash crop for Kenyan farmers but of late things have changed as trees such as  macadamia nad avocado are replacing both tea and coffee. Coffee crops are incredibly sensitive to temperature changes. Increasing temperatures world-wide could make it difficult to grow coffee. Farmers have tried to lower the temperature for coffee plants by inter-cropping them with shade trees. But so far, they haven’t been very successful. The trees provided too much shade and competed with the coffee plants for nutrients. The farmers lost money because they didn’t produce as much coffee.

A perfect match would be a tree that provides the right amount of shade. It would ideally also be a tree that produced a second cash crop.

Researchers have realized that coffee inter-cropped with macadamia trees is a ‘perfect marriage.’ This partnership benefits the coffee plants and improves environmental conditions. It also provides a considerable source of income to coffee producers.  According to research conducted in Brazil, the researchers discovered that the two crops were cooperating, and the union could help farmers economically.

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Advantages of inter-cropping coffee with Macadamia

Currently, 90% of Kenyan coffee farms grow coffee as a mono-crop. But based on the current trends, more farmers may decide to inter-crop with macadamia trees. The research found that farmers could use several varieties of macadamia in the inter-cropping system. But Muranga 20 macadamia cultivar is the most suitable for inter-cropping with coffee. This variety of macadamia tree provides the best economic result. The economic benefit of this combination is 178% higher than the monocropped coffee.

Muranga 20 is nearly a match made in heaven for intercropping with coffee. It’s a hybrid macadamia developed in Kenya  and has a smaller canopy than other types of macadamia trees. The smaller canopy means it competes less with the coffee plants while still providing shade. The farmers don’t have to prune the trees as often.

But the perks don’t stop there. Intercropping also improves soil fertility. This means farmers can produce more crops with less fertilizers and pesticides. Plus, shaded coffee plantations can reduce water pollution and help decrease the greenhouse effect. With a marriage this good, Kenya, which is the one of the world’s largest producer and exporter of coffee, may also become the largest producer of macadamia.

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Ludovick Karanja is a farmer in Kiambu County who has been planting coffee since 1968. According to Charles Njoroge an Agronomist, coffee can be intercropped with Macadamia. Unlike other trees, macadamia as highlighted above is a commercial tree which also if taken care properly can earn the farmer some income as well as providing shade.

A kilo of Coffee in the current market can give you a range of 70-100 while macadamia sells between 150-220 per kilo. An acre of land can host about 750 coffee bushes and 50-55 trees of macadamia if inter-cropped.

According to Naushad Merali, Group Chair, Sasini Ltd, Sasini Ltd is building a Mega Macadamia processing company as they plan on entering into Macadamia business. Once processed, a kilo of Macadamia can fetch upto Ks 1500 per Kilo.

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How to Grow Tomatoes in a Greenhouse in Kenya

In the modern way of farming through green-houses, tomatoes are the most grown crops. With good temperature management and enough sunshine, greenhouse growers in most areas of the planet will get two tomato crops annually. Indoor conditions do need a lot of careful handling to forestall diseases and to pollinate the flowers successfully. Most families in Kenya today use tomatoes in their daily cooking. As a farmer, this is a great opportunity, and with a greenhouse,you are sure of more.

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Setting Up

Temperature

Tomatoes grow best at daytime temperatures of 21–27ºC, and nighttime temperatures of 16–18ºC. Make sure you can maintain these temperatures in your greenhouse for the next several months before you plant.

  • Ideally, bring temperatures to the lower end of this range on cold days, and raise them to the upper end (or even slightly higher) during clear, sunny days.
  • You’ll also need to keep humidity below 90% to prevent excessive leaf mold. Ventilate regularly to bring fresh, dry air into the greenhouse, especially on cool, cloudy mornings.

Select certified tomato variety

There are varieties of tomato varieties, so for detailed information it’s best to talk to local extension officers. There are a few guidelines and tips that apply to all regions, however:

  • Tomatoes marketed as greenhouse varieties are more tolerant of greenhouse conditions.
  • The letters VFNT and A after the name mean the variety is resistant to disease.
  • “Indeterminate” tomatoes grow and produce fruit indefinitely, taking advantage of the longer growing season inside a greenhouse. If you’re short on space, plant a “determinate” variety, which stops at a certain height.

Choose a growing medium

Tomatoes can grow in any well-drained soils. . You can use your preferred soil-less mix, or one of these options:

  • Perlite bags or rock wool slabs are the cheapest options in many areas.
  • Some growers prefer a 1:1 mix of manure and top soils
  • Purchase sterile soil mix or make your own. Never use soil or compost from your garden without sterilizing. Choose this option if you do not want to install an irrigation system.

Irrigation system

Most growers install drip tubing to deliver water to each plant. A fertilizer injector attached to the tubing can automate fertilizing as well.

  • Tomatoes are also easy to grow in a hydroponics system.

Planting

Plant each seed in its own

Poke a ¼ inch (6mm) hole into each hole. Drop a single seed into each hole. Cover lightly with the potting mix.

  • Plant about 10 or 15% more seeds than you plan on growing, so you can discard the least healthy seedlings.

Moisten with water or dilute nutrient solution

Use plain water for soil, or seedling nutrient solution for soil-less mixes. Either way, water until the mixture is just damp enough to press into a clump, with only a few drops squeezed out. Water regularly to keep the mix damp.

  • A 5:2:5 nutrient solution that contains calcium and magnesium is ideal. Dilute the solution according to label instructions.
  • Do not bring the seeds into the greenhouse until they’ve sprouted, so you can check for disease and pests. Provide plenty of sunlight and keep the temperature at 24–27ºC during the day.

Adjust pH and calcium levels

Before the final transplant, you may want to check soil pH, which ideally falls between 5.8 and 6.8.If your soil is too acidic, add about 1 tsp (5 mL) hydrated lime for each gallon (3.8 L) of potting mix. Besides raising the pH, this adds calcium that can prevent blossom rot later on.

  • If your pH is fine, mix in gypsum or calcium sulfate instead to add calcium without changing the pH. Alternatively, just choose a fertilizer that contains calcium and apply every week or two.
  • In a hydroponics setup, you can supply calcium by injecting calcium nitrate into the irrigation feed. This requires a second injector, as calcium nitrate cannot be stored with your main fertilizer.

Caring for the Tomatoes

Fertilize regularly

Start fertilizing the day you transplant the tomatoes into their final pot. Use a complete fertilizer high in nitrogen (N) and potassium (K), such as a 15-5-15 or 5-2-5. Dilute and apply the fertilizer according to label instructions.

  • Reduce fertilizer as the final fruits ripen. Do not fertilize in late autumn or winter, unless using artificial grow lights and reliable heaters.

Remove suckers weekly

Once a week, pinch off “suckers,” or side shoots that emerge where a leaf meets the main stem. Leave only the main bud at the top of the steam, plus the highest sucker below it. This trains the plant to grow upward instead of wide.

  • If the top of your plant is damaged, the top sucker can become the new main stem.

Stake the tomato plants

Tie the plants loosely to stakes with twine to keep them upright. Use plastic garden clips where necessary to secure the twine.

  • Commercial operations save on materials by stringing a wire over each row, with a support post every 20 ft (6m). Wrap the twine around each plant and fasten to the overhead wire.

Pollinate the flowers

Unlike many plants, a tomato can pollinate itself — but it needs some help. The pollen in a tomato flower is trapped inside a tube, and must be released through vibration. Since most greenhouses lack bees or high wind, you’ll need to act as the pollinator once flowers are fully open.

Read: Top 10 tastiest and rarest fruits in the world

Prune leaves and fruit

Tomatoes
Tomatoes in a green house

Apart from weekly sucker removal, pruning is not necessary until the plant starts to fruit:

  • Once fruit starts to grow, thin each cluster down to four or five fruits, removing the smallest or most misshapen. Very large fruits or winter conditions may require going down to three per cluster. Varieties with small fruits may not need any thinning.
  • As the fruit matures, snap off older leaves from the lower clusters. This helps improve air circulation.

Harvest as late as possible.

The longer the tomatoes stay on the vine, the fuller and redder they become.

  • Commercial growers typically pick a little early, when the fruit is 60–90% red, to allow for time in shipping.

If you need to know more about drip irrigation kits and how to apply it in your green house, contact us today.

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How to make millions from watermelons farming

Any successful agribusiness in Kenya is either derived through dream, vision, hobby, passion or money. Every person has a dream, some of them from childhood. However, unless you act on your vision/dream, it will remain to be that; dream. Some of you would like to grow watermelons and do not know how.

Watermelons are very popular in Kenya and one bite into a sweet, juicy watermelon can make you smile. It has a high demand, which makes it a profitable fruit to grow. With a growing concern among Kenyans to stay healthy, watermelons are an instant favorite as they are mostly made of water, are plenty in nutrients and are low in calories. The best part is growing watermelons in Kenya is easy, you can reap a lot of profit from a mere acre of land. Watermelons need space to grow because of their vines, so make sure you space them well. Here is how to grow watermelons in Kenya.

soils

Watermelons are known to do well in sandy loam soils that are slightly acidic and well-drained. When watermelons are planted on heavy soils, they develop slowly, making the fruits size and quality to be inferior.
Temperatures
Watermelons do well in temperatures ranging between 220 and 280 C. Cold temperatures below 150C may cause stagnation of fruits.

Rainfall

Optimum rainfall requirement per cropping season is 600 mm and 400 mm is considered minimum. Excessive humidity may favor leaf diseases and also affect flowering.

Propagation

Watermelons are commonly direct seeded, except under conditions where the growing season is short, whereby transplants raised in containers are used. For the direct seeded, the planting depth is about 2cm and between row spacing is 1.5-1.8m, while the intra-row spacing is 30-60cm.

Transplants

Instead of planting directly in the field and have 3 weeks of accumulated weeds germination and insect attacks to battle with, planting of seeds in seed trays in a protected area for later transplant into the field when at least 2 permanent leaves have developed, is a very viable option. Watermelon is grafted in some production areas

Application of Fertilizers

Application of nitrogenous fertilisers is based on soil type. Soils with high organic matter require 80kg N/ha, while light soils require 140kg N/ha.
The nitrogenous fertiliser should be applied and incorporated into the soil at planting time. Phosphorus and potassium applications are based on soil tests, and both should also be applied at the time of planting.

Pollination of Watermelons

Watermelons produce separate male and female flowers. Male flowers are produced initially, followed by production of both sexes usually at a ratio of 1 female to 7 males. Watermelon flowers are viable for only one day hence important to have pollinating insects.

Weeding

To be done regularly to keep the field clean. Avoid injuring the plants when weeding. Fruit pruning-Remove blossom-end rot fruits to promote additional fruit set and better size of the remaining melons. If a market demands larger melons, remove all but three or four well shaped melons from each plant. To avoid disease spread, do not prune melons when vines are wet.

Read: Ksh 2000 for an Apple? Here are the most expensive fruits in the world

Harvesting

If a farmer wants to know whether watermelons are ripe and ready for harvesting, he should tap their tough covering with his finger. If they produce a dull sound, it means they are ready. You can also check the bottom part that lies on the ground; if it’s yellow, the fruit has ripened.
One acre of land if given the care as it is required should produce 15,000 fruits that weighs between 8Kg to 12 Kg or more, depending on the variety. Assuming you get 10,000 fruits in your first harvest, you can easily make Ksh 1,300,000 if you sell at Ksh 100. Watermelons can be harvested twice an year making it possible to make millions. Waste no time, invest in agribusiness as it is the future.

Read: Water storage can help farmers during dry seasons

Storage

Ensure minimum handling of melons, as extra handling is expensive and may harm the fruits.
Rotation-Watermelons can be rotated with cereals, legumes or cabbages

Pests

  • Whiteflies
  • Aphids
  • Flea Beetles
  • Red spider mites
  • Diseases

  • Damping-off diseases
  • Root-knot nematodes
  • Powdery mildew

 

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Ultimate guide for beans farming in Kenya

Beans farming in Kenya is not as common as maize. However, it is one of the common grown crops in Kenya. In fact, it is often inter-cropped with the main crop for maximum absorption of nutrients by both plants. Our guide will help interested parties, both farmers and traders to have a clear mind on beans farming and how they can get money as far as beans are concerned.

Varieties of beans grown in Kenya

Beans popularity in Kenya may be due to the fact that bean recipes are numerous and beans are consumed almost with everything and contain quite a considerable amount of protein. Before venturing into beans farming, it is advisable to look at the different varieties available. If a farmer knows the different types of beans he will be able to choose the best based on its performance. Below are the several varieties;

  • Rosecoco beans Kenya
  • Mwezi moja beans
  • Chelalang beans
  • Mwitemania beans
  • Yellow beans

Do your research well as a farmer and identify which variety does well in your area and guarantees high yields.

Read: Some of the best fruits to grow in Kenya

Yield per Acre of Beans

The hybrid varieties nowadays are very impressive and has a high yield compared to the traditional varieties. Most of the improved varieties produce about 20 pods for each plant, which translate to about 25, 90 kg bags per acre. Notably, this crop is high yielding when all the conditions are optimal.

Dry beans market

Beans are source of proteins which makes Kenya depend highly on them. The market for beans is overwhelming, both locally and international. Depending on quality and type of beans, the prices per 90 kg bag of beans ranges between Ksh 7,000 and Ksh 12,000. Particularly, beans fetch better prices when it is not harvesting period. Some varieties are also more expensive than others. The rose coco and kidney beans, for instance, are a bit pricey compared to the other varieties which are available in large quantities. Beans with a high supply across the country will fetch a lower price compared to those that thrive in specific areas. Irrespective of the type of beans, the market for beans is always there and since it’s a grain, you can store it and sell when the prices are high.

Price of beans in Kenya

Just like any other agricultural product, prices for beans fluctuate depending on a number of factors including demand and supply. The crop will tend to be expensive when they are in high demand, which is often around planting time when farmers need seeds for planting, and also during periods with no new crops. The cost may also depend on the region you are in and when you are buying or selling. So different areas in Kenya register varying prices of beans. Averagely, beans prices in Kenya range from Kshs. 7,000 to Kshs. 12,000 in major towns of

Kenya from low to high seasons. The best thing to do when scouting for better rates is to check the indices often provided by trading companies and the government on the prices of beans in major towns including Eldoret, Nakuru, Kisumu, Nairobi, and Mombasa. It is not surprising that each town could register a different price for the same variety of beans. This is because different factors play out when determining the prices.

Read: Why you should have a working business plan for you to succeed in commercial maize farming

Beans production

It is always good to have a projection before embarking on planting the crop. This is where you consider farming as a business and have a clear business plan. You will need to have a structured plan on what to expect through the farming period and how to counter different eventualities. Your projections against the real data will give a vivid picture of whether or not to proceed with the venture. Apart from this, knowing exactly what to do is necessary. Below are some tips that might help you with your business plan;

  • Know the appropriate beans planting season in Kenya
  • Choose the best beans varieties in your area
  • Consider ideal ecological requirements – This includes temperatures of about 20 to 25 degrees, altitude of between 1,000 m to 2,100 m above sea level, rainfall of between 900 mm to 1,200 mm per year and a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5

Although the market for beans is always there and appealing, beans farming is not an easy task especially if you are to do it commercially. However, it is always possible to register good yields if you do it right and follow the above steps. You also need to have achievable goals.