Letters to the editor: What is hydroponic fodder and how can I produce it?

Monday July 18 2016

A hydroponics expert displays hydroponic fodder grown in a tray, during a past agribusiness accelerator exhibition and venture forum at Strathmore University. FILE PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Seeds of gold magazine. It has given me a lot of useful information about farming. I would like more information on the following topics:

1. How to grow hydroponic fodder using maize and sorghum without mould, which can be a source of aflatoxins.

2. Best practices on pig farming.

Joseph Nguyo

Mouldy sprouts is mostly caused by the warm and moist environment created within the hydroponic unit which is conducive for fungi to flourish, poor hygiene conditions of the unit and sprouting trays and quality of the seeds.


Pigs feeding on hydroponic fodder in Mwiki. PHOTO | DENISH OCHIENG | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Consider the following to prevent mould; proper hydroponic unit hygiene by cleaning the unit and the trays following each harvest of sprouts.

Select seeds without overgrowths and free of chemicals. Disinfect seeds by soaking in diluted chlorine solution (similar to what is used to disinfect drinking water) for 2 hours to prevent mould/fungus growth.

Ensure proper ventilation to allow free flow of air to reduce moisture in air.

Sophie Miyumo, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University


WHY MANGO YIELDS DROP (Continued from last week)

During the early development of the mango tree (in the first four years), a regular supply of compost and green manure can be provided to improve the foliar development.

During flowering, application of organic fertilisers (compost made of farmyard manure or other organic material) should be applied so that enough nutrients are available for fruit formation and fruit development.

Some 10kg of farmyard manure per tree, per year is beneficial.

In mature orchards (established fruiting trees), water is normally withheld from the end of the wet season until flowering. This period of low soil moisture is believed to encourage earlier and more synchronous flowering.

Watering mature trees
Irrigation is highly recommended from flowering until late fruit maturity. Some growers prefer to start irrigating after 50 per cent of the tree is in flower and at least 50 per cent of the flowers are open.

Other growers will start irrigating from the commencement of visible flower panicle development in an attempt to speed up the flowering and fruit setting process.

The amount of water will depend on tree size (canopy cover), evaporation rates and evaporation replacement rate. Irrigation frequency will depend on soil type (water holding capacity) and effective root depth.

You should cease irrigating a few weeks prior to harvest and it is not recommenced until flowering in the following season.


A mango farmer in his mango farm in Kerio Valley. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Use of chemicals

Although mangoes are spread throughout all feasible agro-climatic zones, they have relatively few major problems with pests and diseases.

The chemicals, for example, insecticides and fungicides used to spray mango trees will depend on the problem. Chemicals should be used as little as possible but as much as necessary.

Base your spray decisions on pest and disease monitoring and choose products depending on the pests/diseases present, state of the crop and resistance management strategies.

• Horticultural spray oils (petroleum or paraffinic oils) are also effective against whiteflies, aphids, scales, mealybugs and mites.

• Potassium soaps are soft options for small pests such as thrips, mealybugs, scales and whiteflies.

• Dimethoate, fenthion, malathion and labaycid are for fruit flies.

• Carbaryl, fenthion and thiamethoxam for mango seed weevil.

• Dicafol for mites.

• Anthracol and Kocide DF before and after flowering for anthracnose.

Spray Benlate before flowering and again three weeks later mango powdery mildew.

Prof Joseph Wolukau,

horticulture expert, Egerton University.

I am a student at St Paul’s university taking a diploma in logistics and supply chain and my interest is agricultural logistics. What I wanted to ask is that is there is any professional body in logistics which I can join after completing my course on August and how l can join.

Also how can l get attachment after?

Martin Muasya

Other than just the professional bodies in logistics in agribusiness supply chain, there is a lot more that can be done in your area of study given that all forms of value addiction follow some form of supply chain; hence another important field of agribusiness called value chain analysis.

Perhaps your question serves as an insight to many professionals in agribusiness to come together under a strong umbrella body. Currently we have active discussions based on agribusiness value chain; we can get in touch through [email protected] for further directives.

Dickson Otieno, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Development, Egerton University.


Kindly advise on how one can get an investor to fund an agribusiness project. I already have a business plan with me, with available 25 acres of land that is idle having already leased 5 acres for a start but unable to proceed on because of finances.

I have also already bought water pump and pipes for irrigation since the farm is near a never drying river.

It is interesting to note that you have always taken initiative to have things work for you. Your question up there is among the services we offer at AgriFresh Supplies; we have done the same for many clients and it has worked.

I suggest action points as follows:
1. Now that you have a business plan, you are in the right direction as it is often the beginning step to acquire credit. Most people often ignore it is vital.

2. Give your enterprise a name. Brand this business to make it appealing to potential investors. This will also give you a basis upon which you will consider marketing this business after start-off.

3. Develop a business model. An agribusiness enterprise is not all about conventional crop and livestock production. It goes beyond this. A well elaborate business model that shows clearly and practically how you intend to recover this loan will give you an upper hand.

4. I personally believe in partnerships. There are people who have the capital buy are yet to find reliable, serious and enterprising partners. At AgriFresh Supplies, a number of potential investors reach us once in a while in search for potential partners like you.

5. Finally, make a summary of your business concept gain confidence then hit the road.

At AgriFresh Supplies, we offer such Agri-Consultancy services, starting from business planning, modelling and linking different players in agribusiness value chain.

Dickson Otieno, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness management, Egerton University


I would like to know basic information about garlic farming in Kenya.

The main garlic growing areas in kenya? Climatic and soil requirements for garlic production? Recommended fertilizer rates, type and type of application? Thanks in advance.


Garlic does well in altitude of 500-2000m above sea level, average temperature of 24-30 degrees Celsius for bulb formation. The optimum temperature for garlic production is 12-24 degrees Celsius.

The soil should be well drained with a pH of 5.5-6.8. Clay soil should be avoided as it leads to formation of malformed bulbs.

Garlic requires water during the early stages of growth, however excess rainfall or irrigation during bulb formation is detrimental and leads to low yields.


Germinating garlic seeds at Kiawara in Nyeri. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Apply organic manure at a rate of 20kg/ha before planting, 200 kg/ha DSP at planting. And 150 kg/ha CAN when plants start growing after transplanting to encourage early vegetative growth and 150 kg/ha CAN at the onset of bulbing.

Cloves are separated and mainly used as the propagation material because garlic does not produce seeds. Cloves are sown in drills 30-40 cm apart and 10-15 cm within the rows.

The main garlic producing counties in Kenya are Bungoma, Narok, Meru, Bomet and Nyeri.

Carol Mutua, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University


I am interested in learning how to make the fruit jam at a professional level. I am requesting:

1. If there’s a good school that does the training you refer me.

2. Alternatively, if you can send me soft copy notes on the course l study and implement.

Alexander Mburu

Egerton University offers trainings or seminars on making the fruit jams and other products from fruits like Juices and Tomato sauces, Visit the Egerton website, The department of Dairy food science & Technology to get contacts of the trainers.

Caroline Makau, Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology, Egerton University



I am looking for either Sahiwal or any improved indigenous cattle for beef farming. I need to buy them young (calves).

I intend to stock in Kithimani, Yatta area. Where can I buy these?

Hudson Mukunza

Majority of beef cattle in Kenya are owned by subsistence farmers and pastoralists. This leaves you with the option of sourcing beef cattle from the commercial beef ranches in the neighbouring Kitui and Embu counties.

Government stations like KALRO Lanet have the Boran, one of the perfect beef cattle, but may sound distant. Sahiwal, mainly dual purpose, are found in KALRO Naivasha.

After sourcing your foundation stock, consider crossbreeding to improve on overall farm production realized from increased rate of growth, feed conversion and muscle build up.

Felix Akatch Opinya, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University


I am rearing two young turkeys and two young guinea fowls. Please help me on how can I feed them to be healthy and productivity. Is rearing goose the same as rearing guinea fowl?

Guide me please.

Both turkey and guinea fowl are considered game birds and may be fed similar feed as chicken if being kept under intensive system.

However, they require higher protein content especially during the chick stage as they tend to grow much faster during this period compared to chicken.


Geese at Chesumot Farm in Kericho. PHOTO | JACOB OWITI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

From day one to week 8 provide starter diet; young poults (turkey) require up to 28 per cent of protein content in their starter diets while keets (guinea fowls) require 24 per cent to 26 per cent of protein content in the starter diets.

Thereafter, the birds are given growers feed with protein content of 20 per cent until the age of 14 weeks. From the age of 14 weeks, both the turkey and guinea fowls may be left to forage for themselves as they are able to meet most of their nutrition requirements on their own or still maintained under commercial feeds.

By allowing your turkeys to forage they will eat as much as 25 per cent less of the commercial feed than if you didn’t allow them to forage and given the rising costs of feeds, this helps to save on costs while ensuring birds are raised organically resulting in tasty products.

If your feed mill does not sell feeds in the proper protein levels, you can mix a higher protein feed with a laying-hen mash to get the proper protein level.

The feeds should either be in mash or crumble form, pellets is not recommended. Under intensive system, ensure to provide supplemental greens, such as leafy alfalfa or clover, however for turkeys excess alfalfa may cause the meat to taste bitter.

The best forages are full of legumes and have a good mix. Ensure to provide grit right from the second week to enable proper functioning of the gizzard in terms of digestion.

Sophie Miyumo, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University