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How to Grow Hass Avocados Organically

Recently, there has been a rising demand for organic crops, especially fruits. The demand for organic hass avocados has been on the upswing in the local and international markets. Farmers have shifted from farming less profitable crops like maize and beans to fruit farming. Although there are more than 40 avocado varieties, hass avocados organically grown is most preferred in the international market since it has a richer taste and higher fat content. The fruit is on high demand in international markets such as the UK, Spain, the Middle East, Russia, and China. In China, it has a market share of more than 70 percent.

How to grow hass avocados organically

Compared to conventional chemical-driven farming, organic hass avocado is cost-effective and hass many benefits. However, to achieve maximum productivity, one needs to understand the soil’s ecosystem in the region. To effectively maintain the soil productivity, the soil should be well aerated and the pH maintained at a constant. Medium sandy loams with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 are suitable for Hass avocado farming. Avocados thrive in well-drained soils and are sensitive to water-logging. Poorly drained soils support the growth of Phytophthora fungi which causes stem and end rot.

Farming Hass avocados organically starts with proper seedlings. Farmers should purchase certified and grafted seedlings for optimum results.

Spacing

The trees should be well spaced to allow free circulation of air. The spacing should range from 6m by 7m to 8m by 10m with a hectare occupying from 125 to 180 trees.

Planting and Fertilization

Planting holes of about 50cm*5cm*50cm should be dug. The topsoil should then be mixed with enough manure and DSP to improve soil fertility. After planting, the young avocado trees should be watered and mulching. Using inorganic fertilizers kills microorganisms due to acidity and degrades the water retention rate in the soil. Farmers should hence consider using compost and manure instead of inorganic fertilizers. To minimize water loss through evaporation, farmers should mulch their young trees with dry leaves or well-dried grass.

Pest control

Biological pest control practices reduce the consumption of chemicals by humans. Growing Hass avocados organically they are prone to mosquitos and whiteflies. Introducing praying mantis can help minimize the mosquito population on the farm. Since they feed in the morning, late afternoon, and at night, they can damage a large number of fruits. Proper sanitation on the farm should be observed. All fallen fruits should be removed since they provide a breeding ground for whiteflies. Alternative hosts such as guavas should not be planted close to hass avocado plants.

Rearing Bees

Bee farming has been a profitable venture for more than a decade. Rearing bees near avocado farms is important since the improve pollination hence increasing the overall yield. 

Why it is important to buy hass avocado seedlings from a certified nursery

It is quite disappointing to buy poor quality seedlings only for them to underperform and produce insignificant yields. Buying seedlings from a certified nursery has many benefits such as;

Risk management

Varietal quality and purity are strictly monitored to facilitate only the production of the best varieties. Certified seedlings enable farmers to have confidence in what they are planting.

Access to new opportunities

Purchasing certified seedlings offer recognizable proof of the variety of your avocado plants and hence farmers can access premium markets with confidence.

New genetics

Certified seedlings are resistant to most pests and tolerate harsh climatic conditions.

conditions.  

Basic methods of improving your Hass avocado productivity

Control Pests and Disease

Prevention is the most economical and efficient way of controlling pests and diseases. These methods include supplying enough nutrients to plants, weed control, maintaining optimum plant density and proper selection of seedlings. In Kenya, pest control rarely requires chemical control. Some major pests that attack Hass avocados include thrips, scale insects, and false codling moth. Avocados are also susceptible to fungal diseases such as root rot, anthracnose, Cercospora fruit spot, and scab. Root rot is common in areas with poorly drained soils, or areas prone to flooding. Farmers should ensure that the soils are aerated and well-drained. It can be prevented by planting grafted seedlings that are resistant to phytophthora fungi. In severe cases, it can be controlled with fungicides such as Ridomill. Anthracnose mainly attacks the mature fruit forming brown spots. Scab attacks the fruit, leaves, and twigs. Cerspora mainly attacks the fruits and leaves leaving yellow spots. These diseases can be controlled using copper-based fungicides with high mancozeb content. Controlling pests and diseases can help in maintaining the quality and quantity of fruits enhancing the productivity of fruit trees.

Introduce bees

Rearing bees helps in enhancing pollination in while growing hass avocados organically which increases the overall yield.
Mulch

Mulching increases the organic matter in the soil and helps in conserving moisture. Also, it enhances water retention which promotes avocado growth. Mulching should be done using well-dried grass, although dry leaves can also be used. As sawdust decomposes, it ties up nitrogen and hence should not be used.

Irrigation

Avocado trees require adequate water throughout the year and hence regular irrigation is important. Sprinklers and jets can be used for irrigation since they wash and knock off pests and eggs on the avocado plants. Water used must be salt-free since avocados are intolerant to salinity.

Pruning
Pruning triggers vegetative growth and helps in removing shoots coming out of the rootstock.

Weeding

Avocado farms should be free from weeds since they act as alternative hosts of pests such as whiteflies.

Manure application
Manure should be added regularly to plants to supply them with the necessary nutrients for optimum yields. Inorganic fertilizers should be used sparingly since they kill microorganisms responsible for decomposition and aeration in the soil.

Yield

The overall yield of Hass avocado trees depends on several factors such as plant density, soil fertility, and proper pest and disease control. Climatic conditions in most parts of the country favor the production of Hass avocados. Pesticides Minimum Residual Levels (MRL) guidelines set by the European and Asian markets remain a challenge to farmers. Without crucial information on pesticide use, fruit farmers are in danger of having their entire produce being rejected by export companies. Organic farming, however, entails minimum use of chemicals and hence the MRL guidelines are not a threat. However, they should ensure that their fruits are of high quality and free from pests and diseases.

After Coffee, Hass avocado is the second profitable crop

Kenyan hass avocado has gained popularity in the international market especially in China and Asian countries where the population is high. Hass avocado is the second most profitable crop after coffee. However, if the available fertile land is utilized and put into hass avocado farming, the crop can overtake coffee. Compared to coffee, the yields per tree are higher in hass avocado. Farmers seeking diversity in agribusiness should consider growing hass avocado. Due to climate change, there has been a significant reduction in avocado production in South Africa and countries in the southern hemisphere like Mexico. These countries were the dominators of the Asian market and hence with the decline in production, there is a ready market for Kenyan avocados.

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How to make macadamia Farming profitable venture

Macadamia farming is a lucrative venture that many farmers are beginning to get into. The increasing demand and good prices of macadamia nuts make it an ideal venture for low-income earners.

Macadamia farming has attracted a large number of farmers and it’s proving to be a profitable business venture for them. The increasing demand and high profits realized in macadamia nut farming make it an ideal business for low-income farmers.

How to make macadamia Farming a profitable venture

Different ways can be employed ton make macadamia a profitable venture. These include;

Planting high-quality seedlings

Grafted, high-quality seedlings produce more yields per tree when proper farming techniques are employed. This incorporates utilizing the available resources, land, and manpower. For instance, a grafted macadamia tree can produce an average of 180kg in one season fetching you Ksh 27,000 when one kg is going for 150 shillings. You can imagine the amount of money you will get when you have 100 trees.

Train farmers

Lack of skills and sufficient information on how to grow macadamia is the biggest challenge facing macadamia farming. Lack of information makes farmers produce low-quality nuts and in the process suffering financial losses.

Eliminate middlemen by forming groups and cooperatives

Other sectors such as tea and coffee were filled with middlemen who buy the produce from farmers at low prices. Formation of member-run cooperatives and groups that are responsible for marketing the macadamia produce and hence farmers will be able to fetch good prices for their nuts.

What are the challenges that macadamia farming face

Seasonality of the harvest

Insufficient quantities of unprocessed nuts and seasonality of harvest are one of the challenges that macadamia farmers face. Seasonality makes farmers unable to meet the increasing demand for nuts resulting in high competition from other countries. Macadamia farmers need to expand their production units which are possible through the provision of affordable, grafted seedlings.

Unscrupulous traders

The exportation of unprocessed nuts in Kenya was banned in 2009. Unfortunately, there are still unscrupulous traders who export unprocessed nuts to international markets such as China. This poses competition to processors who export processed nuts and this creates a competitive space in the international market. Previously, China was one of the main markets of Kenyan and South African macadamia nuts. Unfortunately, they have started planting macadamia trees and hence relying on the Chinese market is unsustainable.

Lack of quality seedlings

The majority of farmers grow native macadamia varieties that use a lot of resources, manpower and time but produce low yields. Low-quality seedlings perform poorly regardless of the topology, rainfall, and soil composition. Farmers should shift to grafted varieties and purchase high-quality seedlings from certified sellers since they have a short maturity period and provide high-quality nuts.

Taking to market unripe produce

This is common when the demand for macadamia is high and local production cannot meet the demand. Shipping unripe and unprocessed nuts makes farmers lose money especially when shipping to Asian markets like China. Harvesting immature nuts mainly happen when farmers beat the nuts off the tree. These days, buyers have an effective grading mechanism and they can easily separate immature nuts from the mature ones. On most occasions, they reject the unripe nuts and the loss borne to the farmer. If they buy the immature nuts, they average the prices and hence farmers are unable to enjoy the competitive prices.

Theft

When the demand for macadamia is high, farms are sometimes raided by thieves. In some regions, macadamia farms go to the extent of seeking for armed security from police officers.

Selling through brokers, instead of through direct contracts

Brokers have dominated the nut industry. Most processors buy nuts through brokers and hence farmers are unable to enjoy the competitive prices of macadamia nuts.

More and more farmers enter into macadamia farming

Over the past few years, more farmers have ventured into macadamia farming because of several factors such as;

Low returns in other sectors

Previously, coffee and tea were the leading export crops. Unfortunately, the changing global economy and middlemen have made the once-lucrative venture to shrink, with farmers incurring losses. In some regions, farmers have already started clearing their coffee bushes to create space for macadamia trees.

Versatility

Nuts can be used in various forms such as in the production of oil for cosmetic and pharmaceutical use, consumed raw, or added to food items.

Reuse and waste reduction

Macadamia husks can act as fuel reducing the usage of charcoal and firewood.

Short maturity

Macadamia matures within a short period but acts as a lifetime investment since they last for a couple of decades.Grafted macadamia seedlings mature within 2 years and have a high productivity rate. Non-grafted seedlings take 5 years to mature.

Value addition of Macadamia

In Kenya, instead of adding value locally and exporting finished products, we sell raw macadamia losing a big opportunity. For instance, importers buy raw nuts in Kenya and use them to add value to chocolate. They then export macadamia-chocolate at a higher price making them earn more money than the raw nuts they bought from Kenya. Farmers can form processing plants, add value to other products such as chocolate and then export them as finished products. For instance, they can use nuts to manufacture oil for pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, detergents, and adding value to foodstuffs such as chocolate and cakes. This way, they can enjoy 100 percent profit from their nuts.

Market Analysis of Macadamia nuts

Previously, the macadamia industry was dominated by middlemen who fetched a high percentage of hard-earned macadamia farmers’ profits. Currently, there are more than 27 certified and licensed processors who buy the nuts from farmers directly and hence eliminating middlemen. These processors also offer advice and financial services to farmers hence shielding them against losses and exploitation. Farmers should, however, be careful since some people come and purchase their nuts at low prices either due to the desperation or ignorance of the farmer and export them at high prices.

The market for Kenyan nuts is quite broad, spanning from local to international. The diversified use of macadamia nuts facilitates a wide range of market opportunities. Kenya has managed to tap the Chinese market where the demand for macadamia has been increasing. The demand has also been increasing in Europe, Asian countries and America. Due to the high demand, prices of macadamia nuts have risen even up to KES 180 per kilo. Coffee berries, on the other hand, have been retailing at KES 55 per kilo, prices which as incomparable to those of macadamia. 

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Value addition of Macadamia Nuts and Why we should embrace it

Macadamia nuts

The consumption of macadamia nuts in Asia, America, and Europe is positive and the demand has been increasing constantly. This has been fuelled by the increasing interest in healthy eating. Macadamia nuts are a source of vitamins, fibre, minerals, protein, and unsaturated fats. They are considered to be rich in iron, vitamin A, niacin, folates, thiamine and riboflavin. Raw macadamia nuts are not produced in Europe and hence most countries are forced to import.

Why we should sell value-added products

Value added products cost higher than raw macadamia nuts. For instance, importers buy raw nuts importers buy raw nuts and use them to add value chocolate and then export the macadamia-chocolate at a higher price. This way, they earn more money than the raw nuts they imported from Kenya. Farmers should aim at forming groups and coming up with processors whereby they can process their nuts to add value to other products and export value added products. This way they can manage to fetch more money than when they sell raw nuts. Currently, there are more than 27 certified and licensed processors who buy the nuts from farmers directly.

Consumption

The consumption of nuts in Europe, Asia and America is increasing at a rate of 19percent. Previously, the demand for macadamia was lower due to low harvest of macadamia nuts in various parts of the country which resulted to a decrease in consumption.

In Europe, Germany is largest consumer of macadamia, which consumed 1870 tonnes and a consumption of 116 grams of nuts per capita in 2016. Luxembourg was the largest consumer of macadamia nuts per capita due to its processing facilities consuming 1.4 kg per capita. Other major consumers of macadamia nuts in Europe are Spain, Italy, and United Kingdom. In Asia, China and Japan are the largest consumers of macadamia nuts products.

In Europe, the consumption of macadamia nuts is seasonal reaching a peak in winter months, and the consumption reduces towards the summer.

Value addition of macadamia nuts

The consumer demand of gluten-free, natural, and vegan food, especially in Europe and Asia creates opportunities for exporters in Kenya. Farmers have a guaranteed market for their produce hence they can venture into macadamia farming with confidence. However, exported produce should meet all the requirements for the international market, be free from pests, and adhere to corporate standards.

In Kenya, instead of adding value locally and exporting finished products, we sell raw macadamia losing a big opportunity. The global macadamia nuts market has expanded especially after the application of the nuts in personal care, food & beverage, and others. The food & beverage sector accounts for the largest share in the global nuts market due to the extensive use of nuts in culinary segments, dairy and frozen desserts, bakery, and confectionery. These days, macadamia are used to add value to breakfast biscuits, chocolate products, breakfast cereals, macadamia nut butter, cakes, and breakfast biscuits. There is also widespread use of macadamia oil in personal care and cosmetic products such as shampoos, lotions, and moisturizers due to high palmitoleic acid and natural antioxidant properties. 

Macadamia nuts enjoy a good reputation in among Asian and European consumers. The consumption of nuts is expected to increase in the cosmetic and snack segment. In European countries, macadamia are regarded as a healthy alternative of junk food such as extruded snacks and crisps and healthier than peanuts.

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Local and Global Market Analysis of Macadamia nuts

Macadamia nuts

Global macadamia market shows a steady upward trend

The global macadamia market has continued to show a steady upward trend and it’s expected to be a billion-dollar industry by 2024. The demand for macadamia nuts has been rising globally, although the supply is still low in the international market. This has resulted in variations in the demand and supply of nuts. To speed up the development of the macadamia market, there is a need for investments in the industry including contributions from the government and NGOs. 

Factors that result in the high demand for macadamia nuts

Various factors have fueled the demand for nuts which include:

  1. The nutritional value and health benefits of macadamia nuts especially their high content of minerals and vitamins.
  2. The growing use of macadamia in cosmetics and personal care products such as shampoos.
  3. The growing use of macadamia nuts to add value to confectionery products and beverages.
  4. The increasing awareness among consumers about natural cosmetic ingredients.

Due to their high demand, the prices of macadamia have been relatively high in the international market and the majority of nut farmers have smiled at the bank. In the macadamia value chain, about 30 percent buy macadamia seedlings from companies. However, only a small percentage sells their nuts to companies directly demonstrating a weak relationship between macadamia companies and the farmers. The relationship is quite strong between brokers and farmers. However, some companies buy nuts directly from farmers.

Importance of selling directly to companies

Selling to companies is important since farmers get basic training on macadamia farming.

Farmers can enjoy relative price stability and organic certification.

They also learn about product innovation, international collaboration, and gain technological know-how.

Market analysis of macadamia nuts

The market for Kenyan nuts is quite broad, spanning from local to international. The diversified use of macadamia nuts facilitates a wide range of market opportunities. Kenya has managed to tap the Chinese market where the demand for macadamia has been increasing. The demand has also been increasing in Europe, Asian countries and America. Recently, the high demand has even made the prices of macadamia nuts to rise to KES 180 per kilo.

In Europe and Asia, the processing of macadamia nuts has been increasing rapidly. Raw macadamia cannot be produced in Europe and most parts of Asia due to the climatic conditions and hence the nuts have to be imported. Europe and Asia offer the largest market for macadamia. In Europe, macadamia are mainly processed by blanching, roasting, salting, and spicing. Luxembourg is one of the top nut processing countries in Europe. Market opportunities can be found in the growing markets of Eastern and Central Europe. Currently, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands are the largest import markets for Kenyan macadamia offering good opportunities for exporters in Kenya. In Asia, China offers the best market for Kenyan nuts.

Due to the high consumption of macadamia products, steady growth is expected. Since 2015, macadamia imports have increased in Europe at a rate of 10% in volume and 19% in value which shows that import prices have increased. Heavy investment in macadamia farming in Kenya can help farmers to gain a higher market share for their nuts in the European market over leading suppliers from the USA, Australia and other parts of the world. In Kenya, macadamia farming has no restrictions and regulations in the international market and therefore the prices are determined by the demand and supply of nuts in the market. Farmers should hence consider venturing into the lucrative business.

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Differences between yellow and purple passion Fruits

Passion fruit is tangy, sweet and delicious that has a low-glycemic index. Apart from being sweet, it is an antioxidant-rich fruit. They grow vigorously into climbing vines and can serve as green walls for your property. They are evergreen throughout their growing period, covering trellises and arches and hence can act as excellent privacy screens. However, they require maintenance and can be invasive. In Kenya, the yellow and purple passions thrive in different parts of the country. However, there are several differences between the yellow and passion which include;

Difference between yellow and purple passion fruits

Characteristics of Yellow passion

  • Has a large fruit with a yellow rind
  • Has a more acid flavor
  • It’s resistant to Fusarium wilt and nematodes
  • It has brown seeds
  • It has a more vigorous vine and more tolerant to frost
  • The flowers are self-sterile with heavy and sticky pollen and hence wind pollination is ineffective. Since their pollen is sticky and the flowers have to be pollinated, bees are the most effective pollinators.

Characteristics of purple passion

  • Has a smaller fruit with a purple rind
  • Has a less acidic flavor, a sweet pulp, and a higher juice proportion
  • It has black seeds
  • Has a less vigorous vine
  • It can self-pollinate and has light pollen. Pollination is, however, best under humid conditions.

When crossing purple and yellow passion, it is important to use the purple parent as the seed parent since the flowers of yellow passion are not receptive to pollen from the purple passion variety. Crossing the yellow and purple passion enables the plant to withstand the woodiness virus.

Best places to grow passion fruits

In Kenya, passion fruits are grown in Nyeri, Kiambu especially in Thika, Kakamega, Murang’a and Kisii. However, before engaging in passion farming, you should have your soil thoroughly assessed. The soil should be examined to identify the soil texture, type, depth, nutrient and nematode levels, and chemical analysis. They perform best in light to heavy sandy loams with good drainage and of medium texture.

Climatic and soil conditions

Yellow passion is mainly for the fresh fruit market and grows well at altitudes of 0 – 800 m. This means that it can thrive in the coastal region. On the other hand, the purple passion performs well at high altitudes of 1200–2000 m and barely flowers at altitudes of below 1000. It can perform well in high altitude areas such as Thika, Murang’a, Nyeri, and Meru. The yellow passion can be used as a rootstock for grafting of the purple variety.

Passion grows well at a pH of 5.5-7. It does not thrive in acidic soils, although lime can be applied to neutralize the acidity. To minimize the chances of diseases such as collar rot, passion fruits should be grown in well-drained and aerated soils. Passion fruits require adequate rainfall although it can be put under irrigation especially in dry areas. However, it does not require extreme temperatures and hence the vines should be sheltered especially in dry areas. The optimum temperatures for yellow passion range between 250C-300C and between 180C-250C. In extremely low temperatures, pollen does not germinate and the plants produce few flowers.

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Places that Grape farming thrives

If you are a wine lover, you might have heard salespeople or winemakers proclaiming some bottles to be unique thanks to high elevation vineyards. Why do they emphasize on high elevation when it comes to finished wine? Vineyards are set on high elevations because of greater temperature fluctuations, solar rays, and scarcity of water resources. High elevation grape farming is exposed to environmental limitations and challenges that help shape highly-acclaimed and unique wines. In Kenya, in Meru, Mombasa, Kibwezi, Mandera, and Naivasha, and parts of Nyeri like Othaya. are the best grape farming areas.

How Solar Rays and Temperature Affect Wine at Elevation

The acidity and tannin structure of a wine is developed in the vineyard and it’s mainly determined by the temperature shift that the vineyard sees from day to night and the exposure to the sun. The intensity and density of solar rays increase as you move upward in elevation. This means that the temperature and direct sunlight hitting the vineyard increases.

Hillside vineyards tend to receive more concentrated and direct sunlight which makes the grapefruits develop thicker skin enhancing the color concentrations and resulting in stronger tannins and flavor profiles.  Greater temperature shifts between day and night are experienced in high elevation areas. When the sun sets, temperatures drop although this shift depends on the altitude. The cooler nights throughout the vineyard enable the grapes to conserve their acidity resulting in age-worthy wines. Temperature shifts also help to lengthen the growing season giving grapes more time to develop and mature on the vines. With a sloping terrain, Naivasha is one of the places where grapes can perform well. It has a warm and dry climate where grapes can receive the sun throughout the day.

Climatic conditions for growing grapes

Kenya’s climate that ranges from tropical climate to highland, arid and semi-arid climate makes it ideal for grape farming. Sufficient water, adequate sun, and heat favor viticulture. These factors are important to promote healthy growth of the vines. During fruiting, grapes require warm or hot temperatures and hence the weather must be dry and sunny. Warm temperatures increase the sugar content of the grapes.

This explains why grapes grown under irrigation in arid and semi-arid areas such as Mandera are sweeter than those from humid regions. Apart from the cool climate, Kenya has cool nights, warm days, fertile soils, and moderate rainfall which provide the optimum conditions for grape farming.

The crop thrives in well-drained soils especially in sandy and loamy soils.

Vines can be damaged by frost which happens when temperatures go below 00C. During vegetative growth, the physiological processes of grapevines begin when the temperatures are above 100C. In Kenya, the average temperatures range between 170C – 200C which are ideal for vegetative growth and flowering.

When temperatures rise above 200C, most of the physiological processes are complete and the grape clusters begin to ripen. Naivasha has temperate climates that give the vines long, warm periods which are important during flowering, fruit set, and fruit ripening.

Other factors that influence viticulture are humidity, sunlight, and wind. Grapes do not require high humidity or strong winds and perform best in places where they are put under irrigation. They thrive in places with light winds such as Naivasha and Meru.

When there is little moisture, irrigation should be ensured. However, irrigation should be withheld after heavy rains to minimize excessive vegetative growth and to force the crop to go dormant. The cropping season is from September to March. Between August and September, fruit buds should be forming and hence the plants should be kept healthy and well manured.

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When should you plant plantain Bananas?

Currently, plantain farming is one of the most lucrative ventures in agriculture. Unfortunately, most farmers lack the necessary knowledge needed to start a plantain plantation and hence miss out on the profitability of agri-business. Plantains have fruits similar to bananas, but unlike bananas, the fruits remain green and don’t turn yellow when they ripen. Plantain fruits are mainly boiled, steamed, or fried although they are also eaten raw. With high demand, they can be a good source of revenue even to local farmers.

Climatic factors

Plantain is sensitive to temperatures and hence cannot thrive in areas that are extremely cold or too hot. The tropical climate is ideal for plantain, especially in areas where temperatures are between 200C to 300C. The optimum temperature for plantain farming is 270C . These bananas cannot survive in temperatures below 140C. At low temperatures, the leaves and the fruit turns yellow and eventually the plant dies. The bright sun, warm temperatures, and adequate rainfall create an optimum environment for plantain farming.

They require adequate rainfall although they can be put under irrigation. If they have enough water, they can handle extreme temperatures and cool weather. However, in extreme temperatures, they do not thrive.

A pH of between 5.5 and 7.0 is the best for plantain farming.

In Kenya, plantain farming can thrive in most parts of the country especially places such as Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Nyeri, Kisii, Muranga, Embu, Nyamira, and Kirinyaga.

Time to Plant Plantain Bananas

Plantain suckers can be planted after land preparation. The land should be prepared before the rainy season and the suckers planted during the rainy season. During the first 3 to 4 months after planting, the plants should be well watered to ensure vigorous vegetative growth. This means that they should not be planted in the last month of the rainy season. This means that they can either be planted between March and April or between October and November.

However, fetch good returns, farmers can also plant during the dry season and put the plants under irrigation. Most farmers plant immediately when the rains start and flood the market when the plantains mature which causes the prices to be very low. Planting during the dry season or in the middle of the rainy season puts farmers in a better proposition since they will harvest they plantain off-season and hence get high prices.

Weeding and fertilizer application

Weeds can compete for nutrients with plantain plants slowing down their growth. Constant weeding is hence important. Chemical weed control is, however, not recommended.

The application of fertilizers will be based on soil fertility. To know the soil fertility, a soil test is recommended before planting. If the application of fertilizers is necessary, it should be applied in the right proportions. Manure should be added regularly to improve soil fertility. Mulching should also be applied since it not also minimizes water loss through evaporation but also improves the soil fertility when the mulch decomposes.

Maturity and Harvesting

Plantain fruits take between 8 to 10 months to mature and be ready for harvest. Harvesting is done when the plants begin to ripen. A bunch ripens within one week. The plant produces more fruits throughout the entire season. The fruits should be harvested carefully so as not to hurt the fruits.

Marketing

The profitability depends on how they are maintained. The demand for plantain has been increasing over the years and there is always a ready market for the fruits. In Kenya, the consumption of plantain fruits is high. Farmers can either sell the fruits in the local market, to companies that process plantain into flour or export to the international market. In East Africa, South Africa, and Asia, the market for plantain is large and is increasing over the years.

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More and more farmers enter into macadamia farming

Macadamia farming has proven to be a profitable venture, and many farmers in the country have started to grow macadamia trees. The high profits and increasing demand for macadamia nuts have made nut farming an ideal venture even for low-income farmers. Increased small scale production has made Kenyan macadamia nuts to gain recognition globally. Over the past few years, more farmers have ventured into macadamia farming because of several factors such as;

Low returns in other sectors

Previously, cash crops such as tea and coffee were the leading exports in the country. However, due to the high number of middlemen and the changing economy, the once-lucrative venture shrank and farmers ended up making losses. When coffee farming was profitable, farmers planted macadamia trees to provide shade to their coffee plants. Today, most farmers have shifted to more profitable crops with most of them venturing into macadamia farming. In some regions, farmers have started clearing their coffee bushes to pave way for macadamia. For instance, the prices of macadamia nuts in 2018 rose to KES 180 per kilo in 2018 and part of 2019. Compared to crops such as maize that were going for even KES 20 per kilo and coffee which was going for about KES 55 per kilo, the prices of nuts can be considered incomparable. Close to September, the prices rose to KES 200 per kilo. The attractive prices were fuelled by the high demand in the international market.

Lower yields in other sectors

Compared to other crops such as coffee, macadamia produces more yields. For instance, one acre can accommodate up to 70 macadamia trees. One tree can produce up to 100kgs of nuts. With a price of KES 160, a farmer with 70 trees can make about 1,120,000 per year. Other crops such as tea, coffee, and maize can barely reach this figure, considering their high cost of production. However, farmers should adhere to the right farming methods to achieve optimum benefits.

Versatility and Ready Market For Macadamia Farming

Previously, the macadamia nut industry was dominated by middlemen who took a large number of farmers’ profits. However, with about 27 licensed processors that buy nuts directly from farmers, farmers are well cushioned against losses and exploitation. Kenyan nuts are popular in the local and international markets due to their crunchy nature. This has ushered fierce competition among raw nut exporters, local, and foreign roasters. The demand for macadamia nuts is high in Europe and Asia and hence there is always a ready market for Kenyan nuts. However, for farmers to get higher returns, Kenya should encourage investments in value addition. The global market has expanded due to the application of nuts in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, food, and beverages. In the food & beverage sector, nuts can be used in confectionery, dairy and frozen desserts, bakery, and culinary segments. In cosmetic and personal care products, they can be used to add value to lotions, shampoos, and moisturizers.

Short maturity and last longer

Macadamia trees are a lifetime investment that matures within a short time. Grafted seedlings mature within 2 years and have a high productivity rate. These trees produce high yields for a couple of decades unlike other crops such as maize which last only a few months.

Reuse and waste reduction

Macadamia husks can act as fuel in rural and urban areasreducing the usage of charcoal and firewood.

Kenyan farmers have experienced poor prices and losses of their produce and hence most of them shifting to other streams of income. With the development of macadamia farming, farmers can smile again. Macadamia trees require little maintenance unlike other crops such as coffee but fetch high profits. Farmers should consider planting grafted seedlings that mature fast. However, farmers should ensure that they get grafted seedlings from certified nurseries. As the macadamia industry grows, more farmers should venture into the lucrative business to help meet the increasing demand and enjoy high prices.

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Why farmers should invest in grapes

In case you have purchased grapes from a fruit vendor recently, you must have bought a packet between KES 250 and KES 300. Both in supermarkets and fruit stores, that’s the average price range. Grape farming is a lucrative venture that is yet to be tapped. With an agricultural land located in a place with an ideal climate, topography, and soils that favors grape farming, farmers can also make it into English wine.

Why farmers should invest in grapes

There various reasons why farmers should invest in grape farming. This includes;

It’s a growing industry

English wine production has been increasing steadily over the years. With accreditation from wine experts, journalists, and international wine competitions, a spotlight is shining on Kenyan grapes. In the UK, the wine industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the agricultural sector that is aiming to reach an output of 10 million bottles by this year and 40 million bottles in the next two decades. This means that more than 2 million vines should be planted to help meet this goal. Why not become part of the boom?

Higher prices than other sectors

Previously, the majority of farmers engaged in subsistence farming growing crops such as maize and beans, and cash crop farming such as coffee and tea. Unfortunately, the prices of these products have fallen to the extent that farmers can barely make any profits. For instance, a kilo of coffee has been retailing at KES 55 and KES 20 for maize. Farmers have therefore been looking for other streams of income to keep farms sustainable and barely generating significant revenue from their crops. Grape farming is a lucrative venture that can give farmers high returns especially when proper farming methods have been put in place. Compared to other crops, the prices of grapes are quite high considering that a kilo of grapes can go for even up to KES 300.

Rising Demand

The demand for grapes has been increasing rapidly over the years due to its use in wines and food processing industries. Grapes can either consumed fresh or processed into different forms like jellies, jam, raisins, juices, and wine. Wine is the most expensive grape product.

The increase in demand for wine and the increase in the number of wine processors have fuelled the rise in demand for grapes. Worldwide, the wine market is expected to reach USD 415 billion by 2024. The largest importers of grapes in the world are Europe especially the United Kingdom and the United States. The demand in the international market is high and is yet to be met.

Pest and Diseases affecting grape farming

Pests

Grapes are attacked by sucking insects such as aphids, spider mites, black vine weevils, grape mealybugs, and Japanese beetle. These pests can be controlled by registered pesticides although chemical control is rarely needed. Neem oil and insecticidal soaps can also be used to control insects.

Diseases

Fungal

Most diseases affecting grapes are fungal. They include:

  1. Anthracnose (Bird’s eye rot) – can be controlled by planting less susceptible cultivars.
  2. Armillaria root rot – can be controlled through fumigation, especially in soils suspected to have carried the disease.
  3. Botrytis – can be controlled by planting less susceptible cultivars, avoiding over-fertilizing, and reduce excessive vegetative growth. In severe cases, chemical control can be employed.
  4. Dieback – Chemical control can be used to control the disease.
  5. Powdery mildew – Good air circulation should be ensured to prevent the spreading of the disease. Copper-based fungicides can also be used.
  6. Leaf spot – Appropriate fungicides can be used. Pune the infected parts and plant pathogen-free plants.
  7. Esca – Remove the infected parts plants immediately they are detected.

Bacterial

These diseases are also common and can be devastating since they spread from vine to vine especially where vines are planted in an orchard situation. They include:

  1. Black rot – Can be controlled using fungicides.
  2. Crown gall – Can be prevented by planting disease-free stock and avoid injuring the plants. It can also be controlled by solarisation and soil fumigation. 

Market for Grapes

The demand for locally grown grapes is yet to be met both for wine and table purposes. About 99% of table grapes are mainly imported from Egypt and South Africa. These countries have many hectares under grapevines because of their established wine production. Kenya has an ideal environment for growing and producing grapes locally. Farmers should consider venturing this industry as the demand for grapes in the local and international markets is increasing. In Kenya, there are only two commercial wineries that produce wine with one of them importing fresh grapes since we are unable to produce enough grapes to meet their demand. The demand is also high in jam and juice makers.It is evident therefore that the demand is very high while the supply of grapes is almost insignificant and it’s the high time farmers start filling this gap. Currently, there is little competition among farmers since there is only a small number growing the crop.

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Three Main Types of Avocados in Kenya: Why you should plant hass avocados

What is the difference between Hass, Fuerte, and Kienyeji avocados?

Kenya provides an ideal environment for avocados especially due to the subtropical climates. African avocados have gained recognition globally, with the majority of exported avocado varieties being from South Africa and Kenya. Hass and Fuerte are the most exported varieties from Kenya. There are slight differences between Hass, Fuerte, and Kienyeji avocados. For instance,

Hass avocados 

The skin of hass avocado becomes dark when ripe. The ripeness can be determined by a gentle squeeze. They are served when the inside is white-green. This variety has an intense flavor and creamy flesh making it suitable for making guacamole. Hass avocado takes lesser time to mature and produce more yields.

Fuerte avocados

 This variety has a characteristic elongated form with glossy and thin skin. They have a bright green, loose, textured skin that is easy to peel. They do not soften and hence hard to determine when they are ripe. They have a low-fat content and calorie count compared to hass avocados. They are mainly used to make salads since they can be easily sliced and diced.

Kienyeji Avocados

Compared to hass avocado, local avocados are larger in size and have a low-fat content. For instance, 3 slices of kienyeji avocado contain about 3 grams of fat while has avocado contains 4.6 grams. They take a couple of years to mature and some can even take a decade.

Why hass avocado is preferred

The demand of hass avocados in the local and international markets has been increasing over the years. There are various reasons why hass avocado is preferred. These include:

Greater yield

The hass plant is far much preferred for its long harvest season and greater yield.

The hass plant produces greater yield and a long harvest season and hence more revenue to the farmers.

Long shelf life

The fruits have a tough skin which helps in minimizing damaging of fruits during transportation. Compared to other varieties, they have a longer shelf life and can last up to 3 weeks from the time of harvest. Thus makes shipment and handling convenient.

Health benefits

Unlike other varieties, they have more health benefits. For instance, they contain oleic acid which helps in fighting inflammation in the body and protects against diabetes and heart diseases.

Also, they contain antioxidants and important minerals such as carotenoids, copper, and vitamin K.

Fertilizing avocado plants

Fertilizer treatments in avocado farms are determined by soil and leaf analysis results. In less fertile soils, farmers may need to supplement their plants with nutrients that are not in the soil. Adding fertilizers immediately after planting is not recommended since it can burn the roots of the young tree. Some of the nutrients that are required by avocado plants include Nitrogen, Calcium, Boron, and Zinc. The soil pH also plays an important role and should also be taken into consideration.

Nitrogen speeds up vegetative growth and encourages canopy health. Fertilizers containing boron and calcium should be added to enhance flowering, fruit set, and to improve the fruit quality. The soil pH can be regulated by using lime.

Irrigation

Avocado plants require adequate water supply throughout the year. Too much water and little water can have adverse effects on the plants.

When the plants don’t get enough water;

  1. Plants experience stress which results in early flowering and poor fruit set.
  2. Increased flower and fruit abortion
  3. Poor quality fruits and reduced fruit size

Too much water results to;

  1. Nutrient imbalances
  2. Promotes root rot
  3. Reduced tree vigor.