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What are the best organic methods of controlling pests in Kenya?

organic pestcides use

Random use of pesticide is still rampant in Kenya despite the obvious risks it poses to the environment and human health.

The use of chemicals is partly because of ought to feed the escalating international population and development of resistance by pests.

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is a good substitute to chemical use, it involves selection and use of a combination of methods and materials to optimize production without harming the environment.

Although IPM is crop specific, effective implementation of IPM requires policy guidelines. Some cultural practices with general IPM application include crop rotation, intercropping, planting/harvesting timing, use of fertilizers and organic pesticides, plus plot location selection, among others.

Intercropping

Intercropping has been used successfully to control the maize and sorghum plant pest striga and the maize stem borer through push and pull technology. In the pull technology, a strip of napier grass is planted around the cereal field.

When the moth that produces the larva (stem borer) attacks the field, it first comes into contact and is attracted to napier through some chemical substances produced by the grass.

It lays eggs on it and when the eggs hatch into larvae, which bore into the napier grass stems, the plant produces a sticky substance that traps them to death.

When desmodium is planted in between the rows of cereals, it produces a ground cover which prevents growth of striga.

Further it produces chemicals that trigger germination of striga and when this happens in the cereal off season, the germinated striga dies as it has to attach to maize, sorghum or millet roots to survive.

In the push technology, desmodium produces chemical substances (kairomones) that push away stem borers. In addition to pest control and use as an animal feed, desmodium is a legume that fixes nitrogen enriching the soil and increasing its productivity with minimal use of inorganic fertilizers.

Minimize use of Pesticides through Crop  Rotation

Crop rotation can be used to control pests that attack unrelated plant species. An example is bacteria wilt in Irish potatoes, which can be curbed by rotating with maize in a ratio 1:3.

The potato is grown once in every three seasons eliminating bacteria in the soil

Timing the Planting

Research has shown that early (April) timing of the wheat planting season helps to control the Russian wheat aphid density levels with the late planted (June) crop showing high levels of infestation.

Location of the Crop

Some farmers have discovered that planting crops on low lying plots predisposes vulnerable crops to disease transmission through floodwater.

They have, therefore, made it a habit to plant crops in areas where flood water is not common or they dig trenches that redirect the flood waters from their crops. This has been applied in control of bacterial wilt in potatoes.

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Organic Fertilizers

Animal and farm yard manure; agricultural waste from livestock and crop processing plants; organic municipal solid waste can all be used to produce organic manure through composting and the biogas technologies.

The composting method decomposes the organic material in the presence of oxygen (aerobically) while the biogas method does the same in the absence of oxygen (anaerobically).

In both reactions, heat is produced which results in inactivation or killing of the common pests that would otherwise affect crops.

Unlike inorganic pesticides, organic ones have the ability to disintegrate in the environment and thus their toxicity is neutralized. Pyrethrum is one plant that produces organic pesticides.

Studies in Embu show that on average, farmers who implemented the above methods had approximately 54.5 per cent reduction in magnitude of mango rejection than those who didn’t.

Further, the participants spent approximately 46.3 per cent less on insecticide per acre than the non-participants and on average received approximately 22.4 per cent more net income than the non-participants.

(Courtesy of Seeds of Gold)

 

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Steps to follow when starting Organic Farming Business in Kenya

Below are a few tips that can help new startup farmers to successfully start an organic farming business in Kenya whereby this new agricultural business opportunities can create employment for thousands of Kenyan citizens.

Before the modern-day technology, agriculture was being done in an organic way which meant that whatever used in the Shamba be it fertilizers, pesticides etc. was natural and not genetically modified. This way agricultural produce gotten from organic farming had the essential nutrients and consumers didn’t have to worry about the effects it could cause.
Starting an organic farm in Kenya is applicable to every farmer, you can start new with this farming practice and for those already into farming you can gradually make a switch.

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How to Start Organic Farming in Kenya

  • First of all, you have to understand what an organic farm is, it is actually nothing of the ordinary just that you are being restricted to some certain things which you have to strictly adhere in your farming practice. Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system used in the production of both livestock and crops which do not in any way encourage or involve the use genetically modified organisms, fertilizers, growth hormones and even antibiotics in order to keep the crop and the soil in a healthy condition always.
  • Decide on what kind of farming or agriculture you want to engage in, make sure you have gained enough capital and knowledge so that you can be able to understand the challenges you can encounter, how to avert it and manage the farming operation very well.
  • Get a suitable land depending on the kind of farming business you choose, make sure that the land has a suitable soil for cultivation and sizeable enough for your farming needs. Check the pH value to make sure it’s normal and as well prepare the land using organic manure if the soil composition is not okay.
  • Before commencing this kind of farming business practice, there is something you must do, which is, you have to identify yourself with the right agency or organization that is responsible for certifying organic farmers in Kenya, you can get the right information from them and they will also help you to understand the farming practice and make sure that you adhere to their requirement and rule.
  • Identify with the Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Kenya which was formerly Kenyan Organic Agriculture Network, they create awareness on the benefits of organic farming and its practice.
  • Get the right seedling specifically from farms which encourage or practices organic farming, remember you should not use genetically modified seeds, therefore to make sure you get the right one you can also request of that from the necessary organization as mention above which will gladly help you in procuring the right organic seedlings.
  • Consider how to make your own manure, natural pest, insect and weed control, how to make animal feeds etc., depending on your agricultural practice which will help to reduce the cost which might be incurred in purchasing them. It is very likely that you cannot produce all the feeds, etc., as there are ones which have been done by professionals in the field which includes their medications and vaccines, so why you purchase their essential needs do the best you can to complement the ones you buy.

This kind of farming practice has so many advantages such as being environmental friendly, no worries of harmful effects from chemicals, improve the soil and more but it is pricey because you have to source for natural alternative of whatever you are looking for but yet people do still prefer organic foods and highly sought after it regardless of its price because of its health benefits.

For more information on the best organic fertilizers to use, contact us.

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Top Skills farmers need to be successful in Kenya

Farming in Kenya is considered as one of the oldest human professions. Regrettably, this noble job of producing food has somehow went out of fashion. In most counties in Kenya, farming and agriculture in general is seen as a one-way ticket to poverty and drudgery. Young people are abandoning the countryside to seek better opportunities in urban areas.

However, Oxfarm in its research recently have met more and more young people who are taking farming as a profession and as a practical source of profit. This is mostly because of the change in the perspective of how young people see farming.

This positive view of agriculture has increased with the growth of global population. A bigger the population means more people to feed, and therefore more food to produce. Organic food is also gaining popularity due to its high nutritional benefit.

Along these lines, the need to produce food locally is also seen as a sustainable solution to the ever-increasing food requirement. Recently H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta launched his Agenda 4, and named food security as one of them. Although farming is faced by many challenges in Kenya, it still stands as one of the major pillars of Kenyan economy

Different peoples have different perspectives on what they think they must know while planning to start farming. From a management and marketing perspective, here are few tips to consider — whether you are new to farming or have been farming your whole life.

Make Farming plans

In order to have a successful farming operation, especially in today’s farm economy, it’s essential to have a plan ­— and more than one, at that.

Make a business plan and stick to it. This is a living document, so refer to it throughout the year and make changes as needed.

A marketing plan will help you decide what products you are planning to sell, when and where you will sell them (grain elevator, farmers markets, wholesale, restaurants).

A risk management plan is essential. Accidents happen, people get sick, equipment breaks, the weather is unpredictable — in short, life happens, so plan for the worst.

Make an operations plan. Think about all the activities needed to make your business successful and who will be in charge of what tasks. I.e. who will keep the books, who will run the parlor, who will do the field work, who will run the breeding program, etc.

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Cash flow

Selling agricultural products is often a cash business and you need to be careful with all that money. Create a plan that tracks every penny you earn and spend and create ways to get that cash into the bank.

Capital

Farm equipment and livestock equipment, as well as livestock itself, are expensive but they are essential investments for the farm. Think through your major purchases, determine how you will finance them and how that investment will benefit the farm.

Support system

Surround yourself with people who will pick you up when you are down but also give you tough love if you are headed in the wrong direction. Find fellow farmers and business professionals outside of farming who can give you good, honest advice from a fresh perspective.

Focus

Pick one enterprise that you really like, that you’re good at, and has money-making potential. There are only 24 hours in a day, so spend your time on the ones that make your business successful. Don’t stretch yourself thin by getting too diversified when you are not ready. The same goes for markets: Focus your time in places that are the most profitable for you.

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Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills

Almost anyone can learn how to grow crops or manage livestock, but good analytical skills are the difference between simply going through the motions and thinking issues through and doing tasks well. For example, in the ever-changing landscape of farming (literally and figuratively), an organic farmer will use comprehensive skills to monitor and assess the quality of their land, crops or livestock and to solve problems as they arise.

As a farmer, you often must think on the fly, so great critical thinking skills are also key. For example, can you think your way around tough weather conditions appropriately?

Excellent analytical and critical thinking skills will allow you to analyze the toughest situations, gather new information and formulate a plan that may be outside of the box. You won’t be able to solve every organic farm problem with a textbook.

Be flexible

Don’t be afraid to change your plans when things are not working. Review your farm plans and make the changes necessary to continue to make your operation successful.

 

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Benefits of organic farming and organic foods

organic farming

This is a type of farming that which encourages against use of synthetic fertilizers, growth regulators, pesticides and other additives. Organic farming relies on crop rotation, animal manures, crop residues, legumes, green manure, mechanical cultivation as well as organic wastes/fertilizers. These methods improve soil productivity through improving plant nutrients and biological pest control, controlling weeds, insects and other pests.

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Almost all types of agricultural products can be produced organically, such a crop farming, dairy farming, poultry farming, flowers e.t.c. Thus, organic farming creates a sustainable lifestyle for generations to come. Organic farming increases soils fertility by improving the living component of the soil, the microbial inhabitants that release, transform, and transfer nutrients. Soil organic matter contributes to good soil structure and water-holding capacity.

Farmers through organic farming feed soil biota and soil organic matter with cover crops, compost, and biologically based soil amendments. These produce healthy plants that are better able to resist disease and insect predation. In organic farming, pests and diseases is prevented through good plant nutrition and management. Organic farmers use cover crops and sophisticated crop rotations to change the field ecology, effectively disrupting habitat for weeds, insects, and disease organisms. Weeds are controlled through crop rotation, mechanical tillage, and hand-weeding, as well as through cover crops, mulches, flame weeding, and other management methods.

Organic farming relies heavily on a diverse population of soil organisms, beneficial insects, and birds to keep pests in check. When, pests increase, farmers use a variety of strategies such as insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers.

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Importance of organic farming and organic foods

  • Organic farming can be learnt by any conventional farmer.
  • It eliminates the use of expensive synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, minimizing soil erosion by up to 50% and increasing crop yields up to five-folds.
  • Conventional farmers can adopt new, more effective organic farming methods easily through a well-planned transition strategy.
  • Organic farms can support substantially higher levels of wildlife especially in low lands and where animals can roam in pastures or graze on grassland. Not only does wildlife benefit, but entire ecosystems and ground water are improved by simply following organic farming methods.
  • This type of farming practices not only benefit farmers and consumers; but the dairies can benefit. When dairies feed their cows organic feed and graze them on organic fields, the cows experience better health, less sickness, diseases and ultimately produce better tasting milk for consumers.
  • Products grown organically are free from chemicals, preservatives that at times cost the consumers. The taste is just awesome.
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How to grow “Williams” Hybrid Banana

The banana is one of the most produced and commercialized fruits in the world. Suckers spring up around the main plant. The eldest sucker replaces the main plant when it fruits and dies, and this process of succession continues indefinitely. Tender, smooth, oblong or elliptic, flesh-stalled leaves numbering 4 or 5 to 15, are arranged spirally, and can be up to 2.7 m long and 60 cm wide. The inflorescence, a transformed wing point, is a terminal spike, shooting out from the heart in the tip of the stem. 

Ecological Requirements:

  • Altitudes – Altitudes of below 1800 m above sea level are generally recommended for the production of bananas.
  • Temperature – For optimal growth, bananas require a warm humid climate. An average temperature of 20°C to 30°C is required. Below 20°C, normal plant growth is retarded. Lacatan and Valery tolerates cold weather better than other varieties. Cooler areas (higher altitudes) slow down plant development and the inflorescence may also fail to emerge.
  • Rainfall – Bananas can grow well with an annual rainfall of 1000 to 2500 mm. optimal yields require a well distributed annual rainfall of 1400 mm or more, without long dry spells.
  • Soils – Bananas can be grown in a wide range of soils as long as there is good drainage and adequate fertility. They can tolerate short periods of flooding but do require good soil aeration. Light to medium, well drained loam soil is the best. Fertile deep soils rich in humus should be chosen wherever possible. For best growth, a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 is recommended.

Spacing

The spacing depends on the variety, soil fertility level, and rainfall (water availability). The following spacing is recommended under a five-year cycle on a fertile soil with adequate rainfall:

  • Short variety (Dwarf Cavendish, Giant Cavendish) 2.5m × 3m.
  • Medium variety (Valery, Williams) 3.0m × 4.0m
  • Tall variety (Lacatan, Poyo) 4.0m× 4.0.

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Planting

  • A planting hole measuring 90 cm ×90 cm × 60 cm is recommended although this may vary depending on water availability. In dry and semi arid areas it is recommended to use larger holes measuring 90 cm × 90 cm × 60 cm. the topsoil and the subsoil should be kept separately. Mix the topsoil with one bucket (about 20 kg) of well decomposed manure and 150 g of TPS. Refill the hole with the top soil first followed by the sub soil.
  • To ensure good anchorage, a sucker or a corm with the eyes facing upward should be placed 30 cm deep in the planting hole. A heavy cover of mulch should be placed around each plant to conserve soil moisture. Under rain fed conditions, planting should be carried out only at the onset of the rains. However, if irrigation water is available, planting can be done throughout the year.

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Maturity/Harvesting

  • The time for planting to maturity of a banana depends on area and variety. A plant takes roughly 8 to 12 months to mature. Maturity indices vary widely among varieties. Angularities or fullness of fingers, as well as color change are some of the standard criteria used. Immature bananas are very angular but fill out to a rounded shape at full maturity.
  • Fruits are ready for harvesting 90 – 150 days after fingers start to form. Fingers are considered mature for harvest when they are ¾ round (75% maturity)
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Sustainable Fruit Production through Organic Farming

What is sustainable Agriculture?

Sustainable farming through organic farming has often been described as a way of growing food in a way that it does not have an adverse effect on the environment, that is healthy for the consumer, the animals and the land on which it is grown/raised, that takes into consideration the health and welfare of the workers, and which supports and gives back to the local community. Sustainable agriculture is not only about conserving, but preserving as well. As a rule of thumb, sustainable agriculture believes what gets taken out of the environment should be put back into the environment.

Fruit production faces a whole range of sustainability issues today, spanning all the economic, environmental, and social dimensions mentioned above. For growers of all crops, economic sustainability must be addressed in the short-term or their operation will fail in an unsubsidized system. The economic issues include rising production costs (e.g. labor) with static or declining prices; retail consolidation leading to more sellers than buyers and less economic power for producers; declining demand for some fruits; global competition and counter seasonal production in opposing hemispheres.

Environmental issues around pesticides, water use and quality, energy, biodiversity, and air (e.g. methyl bromide) all relate to sustainability, but often on a longer time frame than economics. And social sustainability encompasses worker safety and other labor issues, the health-imparting benefits of fruit in the diet, urbanization and land use changes, and food security.

The sustainability issues influencing fruit production will depend on the scale, the marketing channels, and the geographic context of location. A small scale, direct market tree-tomato grower will face different challenges than a large scale export oriented apple producer. Apple producers in Kenya face different challenges than their counterparts in Egypt. Therefore, any discussion of sustainability must take context into account.

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Rise Of Organic farming in Fruit Production

Organic farmingOrganic farming is one approach to increasing sustainability in agriculture that is market-driven and growing rapidly. The origins of organic farming come from a focus on improving organic matter in the soil in order to grow healthy plants that can resist pests and diseases, and that provide maximum health to the people and animals that eat them. One guiding principle is the use of natural materials for crop production and the avoidance of synthetic materials (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides). Another principle is to work with the natural systems and processes as much as possible, concurring with the.

Thus, organic farming shares virtually all the goals articulated by sustainable agriculture proponents. As organic farming expanded in the 1980s, certification programs became necessary to guarantee to the consumer that the product they were buying, and generally paying a higher price for, was indeed produced as they expected. The ‘no chemicals’ or ‘no synthetics’ principles were often the strongest impressions in the consumer mind.

Organic matter, a key consideration in organic agriculture, is arguably the most important aspect of sustainable soil management. Tillage is a practice that can quickly degrade organic matter. Since tree fruit and vine systems are perennial and typically involve little tillage after planting, they can be very conducive to increasing soil organic matter. On the other hand, tree fruit and vine crops typically require a high level of pest management to produce marketable crops.

Organic growers are greatly restricted in the pest control products they can use. The allowed products are generally less effective and of shorter duration than products that growers following other production approaches can use.

Challenges of Organic farming in Fruit Production

Nutrient Management- Key challenges for organic fruit production include nutrient management, weed control, and control of replant diseases. Organic pear growers in Kenya report a decline in fruit yield and size over time, due to the inability to control perennial weeds and control their competition for slowly available nitrogen. Organic tree fruit growers in Kenya will commonly fumigate the soil prior to replanting an orchard (and restart their certification process) rather than risk the economic devastation from replant disease, for which there are no proven organic controls.

Resistance management- This is another challenge, given the fewer effective tools for pest control. When a new tool comes along, such as spinose, there is a tendency to overuse it and thus increase the likelihood of inducing pest resistance. In many regions, organic fruit producers must spray more frequently, and use more kilograms of pesticide product, often achieving a lower marketable yield. This conflict between the potential for improved environmental sustainability of organic systems and their challenge in maintaining economic sustainability has limited expansion of organic fruit production in certain regions.

The continuing expansion of organic fruit production in semi-arid regions in Kenya reiterates the importance of the biophysical conditions and how well they support sustainability.

For more information about organic farming, contact us or visit our offices. In addition, we have a variety of fruits that do well in your area. We normally deliver our seedlings on a first come service.

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