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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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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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Pear farming: A lucrative venture that you should invest in

Provided that proper farming methods are applied, commercial pear farming can be a lucrative business. Various cultivars can be grown in different regions depending on their adaptability. They perform well in a wide range of soils and are tolerant to drought and wet soils. However, they cannot tolerate flooding since it damages their root system.

Climatic Conditions

Most pear varieties thrive in cool regions when temperatures do not exceed 320C. Pears require abundant exposure to sunlight for maximum fruit production. Sufficient sunlight also enhances the color of the fruits. Pears require adequate rainfall, although they can be put under irrigation especially in dry areas. In warm and dry regions, commercial pear farming requires regular fertilization, irrigation, and continuous optimization of pollination. A cold season (chilling) is necessary to break dormancy and to enhance fruit bud development. Lack of chilling slows down leaf formation and causes poor fruit set. However, different varieties require different chilling requirements. In the tropics, especially in Kenya, farmers should consider growing varieties with a low chilling effect. Due to the cold season that dominates the area, Limuru is ideal for pear farming. 

Soil requirements

Pears are not selective when it comes to soil requirements. They can be grown in different soils ranging from loamy, clay loamy or sandy soils. The plants thrive in soils that are either light sandy or loamy. However, they are sensitive to pH and require a soil pH of below 8.5. Alkaline soils above this are not suitable for pear farming. High soil pH of above 8.5 seems to cause zinc deficiencies and iron chlorosis in plants.

Pear plants require Potassium and Nitrogen for normal leaf growth, flowering and fruit set, and Phosphorus for the development of a strong root system, especially when the plants are still young. They also require Magnesium, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, and Calcium for bud development, flowering, and fruition. Nutrient deficiency negatively affects fruit quality, number, and general tree health. If any of the nutrients is not available in the soil, it can be supplemented by applying fertilizers.

Pests and diseases that affect pear farming

Just like other fruits, pears are also attacked by pests such as aphids, beetles, leafhoppers, spider mites, and moths. When these pests attack the tree or the fruits, they feed on the plant causing damage to the leaves and fruits. They cause curling and yellowing of leaves, holes or spots to the fruits, and flower and fruit drop in severe cases.

They are also susceptible to a number of fungal and bacterial diseases. For instance, they are prone to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that attacks the leaves, flowers, and fruits, causing leaf and fruit discoloration and distortion. If not controlled, the infected tree becomes weak and unproductive. They are also prone to fire blight, a bacterial disease that attacks the shoots and branches, especially of young plants, and makes them appear like they are burned.

Other diseases that are collar rot, crown rot, and root rot.

Market prices for Kenya pears

Prices for Kenyan pears fluctuate depending on the market. For instance, one kilo of pears was going for KES 26 in 2018 and KES 30 in 2019. Fresh pears exported to Rwanda, Belarus, Bahrain, and Somalia have the highest prices per kilo. In the local market, one pear goes for Ksh 10 but can rise up to Ksh 15 depending on the season. When proper farming techniques are employed, a tree can produce 180kgs in a season. This means a farmer with 200 trees will harvest 36000kgs of pear fruit in one season. When a kilogram is going for KES 30, a farmer can make 1,080,000 in one season.  Pear fruits require little maintenance and hence most of the revenue generated is profit. Isn’t that a lucrative venture?

You can also look for what the government is doing for avocado farmers.

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Why You Should Buy Hass Avocado Seedlings from Certified Nurseries

Hass Avocado Seedlings in our Nurseries

Why hass avocado?

Hass avocado is preferred because of its greater yield and long harvest season. They have a tough skin and hence are not easily damaged during shipping and transportation.

Avocado farming is not new in Kenya. Most rural homes have an avocado tree in their farm and harvest twice a year. Globally, Kenya is the 6th producer of avocado. However, not most families do commercial avocado farming especially hass avocados. Most avocado trees in rural homes have little yields. Currently, the country produces about 115,000 tonnes of avocado per year. As more farmers venture into avocado farming, this set is expected to increase. Hass avocado is the most popular variety that has shown an upward trend as its demand in the export market increases and more people become aware of its health benefits.

Success in farming starts with high-quality hass avocado seedlings. With proper farming methods, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest and the amazing flavor of fruits. The yields of hass avocado trees are higher compared to other trees. A mature tree can produce more than a million flowers and blooms twice per year. It has a fast maturity and has a lifespan of several decades.

However, you need to be careful when buying seedlings. Purchasing seedlings from roadside sellers can ruin your entire avocado farming venture since they take longer to mature and only produce low yields. There are various reasons why you should buy hass avocado seedlings from certified nurseries. These include;

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Hass Avocado Seedlings From Certified Nurseries

Quality assurance

Seedlings in certified nurseries are obtained through grafting, whereby two parts of a plant are joined together to form a stronger plant. These seedlings are of high quality and perform better than those from uncertified nurseries. Since quality management systems monitor the hass avocado seedlings in these nurseries, the purity of seedlings is ensured. High quality seedlings mean that if proper farming methods are employed, the trees will produce a large number of fruits that are of high quality.

best hass avocado seedlings for better production

Short maturity

Some seedlings from non-certified nurseries take ages to mature. In certified nurseries, you can beassured that the trees will reach maturity faster hence early flowering and fruit formation. It is therefore ideal for commercial purposes.

Risk management

Using certified seedlings gives the farmer a better chance at landing a good crop insurance deal.

Access to new opportunities

Certified hass seedlings enable farmers to access new opportunities since the proof the avocado variety can be provided. Also, farmers can easily access identity-preserved markets.

New genetics

Grafted seedlings in certified nurseries are tolerant to adverse climatic conditions and resistant to pests. Hass avocado seedlings from these nurseries are resistance to certain viruses, soil nematodes, and viruses. They are tolerant of harsh conditions such as drought and salinity.

Where to Buy

Hass avocado seedlings can be purchased from a certified nursery where farmers can be trained and get equipped with information on how they can take care of their seedlings to get the best performance. Farmers can also get information on phytosanitary conditions that are required for them to access the hass avocado export market. For farmers who want to venture into this lucrative business, they should consider purchasing seedlings from Oxfarm Ag Ltd who offer high quality, grafted seedlings that mature within a short period.

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Basic methods of improving your Hass avocado productivity

Hass Avocado Farming

Fruit farming is an important venture but becomes more interesting and profitable when it is done as an agribusiness. There are various ways in which you can improve your hass avocado productivity. These include;

Planting in Suitable Climate

When growing hass avocado for commercial purposes, climate plays an important role in determining if your plants thrive. They should be planted in a suitable climate that favors avocado farming for optimum production. Hass avocado thrives in average temperatures ranging from 140C to 270C. The plant requires high humidity, especially during the flowering and fruit setting stage.

Constant Irrigation of Hass Avocado

Soil moisture is an important factor that should be taken into consideration in hass avocado farming. During vegetative growth, avocado orchards grow vigorously and require constant irrigation. During the dry season, reduced irrigation slows down the growth rate. In poorly drained soils, the plants should be irrigated at a controlled rate to enable them to take up water efficiently and to minimize waterlogging. Avocado plants are sensitive to frost and hence water stress should be minimized during the flowering and fruiting stage.

Fertilization

Hass avocado plants require nutrients throughout their growth. Although they can grow in all types of soils, they perform better in fertile and well-drained soils. Organically, this can be done by applying manure regularly. Plants respond well to heavy manure application, especially when it contains high nitrogen content. Fertilizers should be applied based on soil and leaf analysis. A complete soil analysis should be conducted a few months before planting to check the nutrient status. Also, an irrigation water analysis and leaf analysis should be conducted. The soil nutrients status, plant size, water quality, plant density, soil nutrients status, and yield expectation determines the type of fertilizer required by the hass avocado plants. However, fertilizers should not be applied to early on young transplanted trees. Fertilizers should be applied when the plants are properly established and growing vigorously. To ensure optimum results, fertigation should be ensured for irrigated hass avocado trees to enable even distribution of fertilizers.

Important Nutrients Required by Hass Avocado

Nitrogen, Potash, and Phosphorus should be applied regularly to the plants especially during vegetative growth. Avocado trees also require Magnesium, Zinc, and Sulphur. For instance, Urea should be applied at an interval of 3-4 months. Nitrogen deficiency causes early leaf shedding, pale, small leaves, slow growth, and yellowing of veins in severe cases. Too much nitrogen, however, results in excessive vegetative growth and reduced production. Regular leaf analysis should be conducted to determine when nitrogen application is required. To achieve healthy production and an excellent growth rate, inorganic fertilizers should be applied along with manure.

Pests and Diseases control

The most efficient and economical method of pest and disease control is prevention. These preventive measures include weed control, proper selection of planting material, maintaining optimum plant density and proper fertilizer application. The presence of pests in avocado plants reduces productivity significantly. 

Pests in avocado production are not common in Kenya. Pest control rarely requires chemical control. To improve avocado productivity, pests and diseases should, however, be controlled. Some major pests that attack avocado include:

  1. Thrips
  2. Scale insects
  3. False codling moth

Fungal diseases also affect hass avocados and need to be controlled early enough. Major diseases are:

  1. Anthracnose. It attacks fruits especially the mature ones forming dark brown spots. It can be controlled by using fungicides such as Mancozeb, Triforine, Metiram, and Benomyl.
  2. Root Rot. This disease is common in flood-prone areas and places with poorly drained soils and attacks the roots. Some preventive measures include planting grafted hass avocado seedlings. Chemically, it can be controlled using chemicals such as Aliette and Ridomil.
  3. Cespora Fruit Spot. The disease attacks fruits and leaves leaving yellow spots on fruits later on turn brownish. It can be controlled with copper-based fungicides such as Mancozeb, Benomyl, and Trifoline.
  4. Scab. It mainly attacks twigs, leaves, and fruits. It can be controlled by spraying fungicides such as Mancozeb and Triforine.

Other Factors Influencing Productivity

Mulching

Mulching minimizes soil erosion especially in sloping orchards and minimizes water loss through evaporation. This will help to minimize moisture stress.

Tree Spacing

Spacing is a key factor in maintaining and maximizing productivity. Good spacing helps in ensuring aeration in the orchard. High-density plantation results in higher production although it leads to problems in canopy cultivation in later years.

Pollination

Avocado trees are not self-pollination plants in nature and hence require artificial pollination for fruit production. Cross-pollination with another cultivar is important for the best fruit setting. Practicing bee farming near avocado farms can improve pollination in hass avocados.

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Cigar end rot disease in Bananas

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

Disease Cycle of Cigar end rot

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

Common Signs & Symptoms

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

Etiology

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

Management of Cigar end Rot Disease

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

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

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How to Identify and Control Leaf Spot In Citrus Fruits

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

Causes and Symptoms of Leaf Spot

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

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

Prevention and Control

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

Chemical Control

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

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

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

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Important Soil nutrients every fruit farmer should know

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

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

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

Fruit Firmness

Some important nutrients that help in improving fruit firmness include:

Calcium

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

Magnesium

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

Fruit Quality

Nitrogen

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

Phosphorus

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

Potassium

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

Manganese

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

Zinc

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

Boron

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

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

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How to Manage Soil PH in Your Farm

Soil PH

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

Factors Affecting PH

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

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

Know Your Levels

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

Management Techniques

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

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

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

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

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The power of technology: 4 major advancements in the agricultural sector

With the latest gadgets and innovations, technology has transformed today’s agriculture. The number of entrepreneurs and investors who are investing their money in agriculture has been rising rapidly. In the future, agriculture will look completely different from what it is today. There have been major advancements in telecommunication, engineering of farm machinery and equipment, and computer software. In Kenya, mobile technology has been used extensively to improve small and large scale farming. It helps in reducing post-harvest and weather-related losses, improving farm operations, comparing different market rates, controlling farm machinery and equipment, monitoring the supplies and in the process making farming more efficient. Some of the major technologies that will take agriculture to another level are sensors, automation and mechanical engineering, and mobile devices.

Mobile devices

Since most farm equipment can be connected to mobile devices most farmers are incorporating mobile devices in their farm operations. There are many apps that perform a wide range of functions such as controlling water meters, checking the weather, collecting field-level information and selling farm products.

The greatest challenge facing avocado farming

Smart farming

Combining different technologies, farmers can be able to create smart farming systems. Smart farming utilizes internet-connected tools to leverage and capture data required for decision making.

Sensors

Sensors play an important role in farming such as traceability, helping farmers to get real-time information and data regarding their equipment, livestock, and crops. Furthermore, they promote accuracy since the data undergoes complex diagnosis and analysis before a report is given. Today, sensors are connecting to sophisticated systems that analyze the collected data automatically. To grow high-performance crops, farmers are employing high tech systems. Sensors are also used for comparing weather conditions and testing the soil. Some of the sensors used in agriculture include:

Livestock biometrics: Collars with GPS and biometrics can be used to collect and relay real-time information about the livestock automatically.

Soil and Air sensors: These are sensors that can help farmers to understand water, soil and air conditions of their farms.

Crop sensors: These sensors are used to collect information related to the crops. They can help farmers understand the field conditions before fertilizer application and the amount of fertilizer required in the field. Drones can be utilized to monitor the crops’ health and know the correct remedy to prescribe in case the crops are not healthy. For instance, they can identify if the crops have been infested by pests or powdery mildew and relay the information to the farmers for analysis. During irrigation, sensors can be mounted on the irrigation systems to measure the amount of moisture in the soil which can help the farmer to know when there is enough moisture in the soil. Since the rate of irrigation is different in different crops, the information relayed by these sensors can vary. To assess the performance of the crops, drones can be fitted with sensors and GPS technology.

Equipment telematics: This technology is used for communication or from far. For instance, tractors can be started and given a few minutes to warm up before they start working.

What Are The Benefits of Organic Fruit Farming

Automation & Mechanical Engineering

In the next few years, farm equipment and machinery will be automated. Automation incorporates the use of robotics, micro-robots, computer applications and systems to monitor and maintain the crops. Some of the recent advancements include:

Variable-rate swath control: This is an advancement of geo-location technologies that help farmers to save on fertilizers, seeds, and herbicides by pre-computing the field size, overlapping inputs and automating tasks such as fertilizer application.

Agricultural robots: These days, tractors can be used to apply to be installed with devices that can be used to apply pesticides and liquid fertilizers to crops in the field. Agricultural robots can be programmed to perform tasks such as seeding and harvesting automatically.