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Citrus Fruit farming in Kenya: What you should Know

Growing citrus is a long-term investment, so it’s a good idea to be informed before undertaking this type of farming. These plants are large shrubs or small to moderate-sized trees, reaching 5–15 m tall, with spiny shoots and alternately arranged evergreen leaves. They Include;

  • Limes,
  • Sour & sweet oranges,
  • Lemons,
  • Grapefruits,
  • Tangarines

Ecological Requirements

The growth, development and production of citrus plant depends on the physical characteristics of the soil such as drainage, water-holding capacity, structure, soil depth, and the degree to which water can infiltrate the soil, among others. These characteristics however differ in the various soil types.

  • Citrus can be grown in a wide range of soil types. However, for best results, they should be grown in well-drained soils, which are fertile, well-aerated and with a pH of between 6-6.5.
  • Citrus trees should be planted in a sunny and wind-protected area, and in frost-free regions because they cannot tolerate severe frosts.
  • They can tolerate high temperatures provided the trees are well supplied with soil moisture.
  • Well-distributed annual rainfall of not less than 1000 mm is needed for fair crop.

Read: How to grow Williams Hybrid Banana

Planting

  • Clear the field and dig planting holes 60 x 60 x 60 cm well before the onset of rains.
  • At transplanting use well-rotted manure with topsoil.
  • Spacing varies widely, depending on elevation, rootstock and variety. Generally, trees need a wider spacing at sea level than those transplanted at higher altitudes. Usually the plant density varies from 150 to 500 trees per ha, which means distances of 4 x 5 m (limes and lemons), 5 x 6 m (oranges, grapefruits and mandarins) or 7 x 8 m (oranges, grapefruits and mandarins). In some countries citrus is planted in hedge rows.
  • It is very important to ensure that seedlings are not transplanted too deep.
  • After transplanting, the seedlings ought to be at the same height or preferably, somewhat higher than in the nursery.
  • Under no circumstances must the graft union ever be in contact with the soil or with mulching material if used.

Read: Pests and Diseases control in capscum farming

Maturity/Harvest

  • Upon Planting, Citrus matures and starts producing fruits after 3 years.
  • Depending on the climate, citrus fruits may take 6 to 8 months to ripen.
  • Citrus fruits will not ripen off the tree, so refrain from picking them too early.
  • The best indicator of ripeness is taste.
  • Harvest the fruit by cutting them off with pruning shears or by pulling the fruit stalk from the tree