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Why you are Failing as a Grape Farmer in Kenya

grape farmer

It’s quite disappointing when the rampantly growing grapevines produce many leaves and vines but do not produce fruits. The failure to bear grapes shows that either ineffective pest and disease control programs were employed or the orchard management practices are poor. Grapes flourish in integrated farming systems. Previously, grapes were produced organically and chemicals were not applied to control pests, diseases, and weeds but the vines produced overwhelming yields. Currently, commercial grape farmers use fertilizers and chemicals extensively for optimum performance.

Why you are Failing as a Grape Farmer

Grape farmers fail due to various reasons such as:

Poor pruning and less sunlight

Vines require constant pruning for optimum performance. The rate of pruning, however, varies depending on the variety. Mostly, lower branches barely produce fruitful vines and hence they should be trimmed. Non-productive vines should be pruned during the cold season to prevent them from shading and flowering during the sunny periods.Grapevines require adequate sunlight especially during flowering, fruit formation, and fruit ripening. Flower buds develop poorly when the sunlight is not sufficient.Exposure to sunlight determines the acidity and tannin structure of wine grapes. High intensity and density of solar rays enhance flavor profiles and color concentrations for wine grapes. When you venture into grape farming without considering the elevation of the garden, the plants perform poorly and produce poor-quality wine ad table grapes with low flavor profiles.

Soil and Fertilizer

Grape vines flourish in fertile, deep, and well-drained soils. Before venturing into grape farming, you should have your soil tested by the experts to determine the nutrients absent in the soil. Vines require constant manuring and balanced fertilizer application. The feeding program employed determines the production of the vines. Excessive application of Nitrogen-based fertilizers forces the vines to grow vigorously, producing more leaves and vines instead of flowers and fruits. In the end, the yields are relatively low than expected. Farmers should devise a fertilizer and manure application program to ensure that they only apply the required amounts of fertilizers.

Flowers and Pollination

grape vines

Although grapes contain male and female flowers on the same vine, pollinating agents such as wind and insects are required. Even when all factors such as environmental conditions and feeding are taken into consideration, the production of grapevines remains low when pollination is poor.  Bees are the most efficient agents of pollination in grape farming. Farmers are recommended to practice bee farming alongside the orchards to enhance pollination.

Pests and Diseases Affecting grape farming

Grapes are susceptible to pests and diseases just like other plants and they need to be eliminated. When pests and diseases are not controlled in time, the plants underperform and a large percentage of the fruits cannot get to the market. When you employ poor pest and disease control programs, it’s difficult to enjoy the profitability of the agribusiness.

Pests

Grapes are mainly attacked by pests such as grape mealybugs, aphids, black vine weevils, spider mites, and Japanese beetle.

Diseases

Grapes are sometimes affected by fungal and bacterial diseases such as:

Fungal

Fungal diseases that affect grapes include;

  • Anthracnose
  • Botrytis
  • Dieback
  • Powdery mildew
  • Armillaria root rot
  • Esca
  • Leaf spot
Bacterial

Bacterial diseases common in grape vineyards include;

  • Crown gall
  • Black rot

Re-building soil armor

Extensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides results in soil degradation. In dry seasons, herbicide and pesticide use should be done at a controlled rate.

Contact oxfarm for soil sampling and best agronomical advice.

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Why farmers should invest in grapes

grape farmer

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.