Bulb onion varieties suited for dry areas

Monday May 09 2016
Feedback 1

Margaret Muli supervises the tilling of her farm in Mwingi where she grows a variety of crops, using water she harvests in a water pan. The ongoing rains are currently a blessing to farmers in the region as they are harvesting water and storing in the pans for use during the dry season. PHOTO | ISAIAH ESIPISU | NATION MEDIA

I am interested in farming onions on one acre and I want to know: Which is the best variety for Makueni and how should I ensure maximum returns?
Vincent Kiamba

Bulb onions are the best to be grown in the drylands. The varieties are Red creole, Bombay red, Texas grano, Tropicana F1 hybrid, Orient F1, Sivan F1 hybrid, BGS 130, Flare F1 and Pinoy F1.

Onions should be planted in well-drained fertile soils with pH 6.0-7.0 and should have good water-holding capacity. Onions are propagated from seed or sets (tinny immature bulbs) or transplants.

When planted from seed, the rate is 3kg per hectare (1.2kg per acre). Land preparation should be done to a fine tilth. When using transplants, the seedlings should be transplanted when they reach pencil thickness (about 6-8 weeks) at a spacing of 30cm by 8cm.

You should apply 200kg/ha (2kg/100m2) of TSP fertiliser and top dress with 300kg/ha of CAN after 3 to 4 weeks. Light weeding should be done on a timely basis. You should watch out for pests such as onion thrips, onion flies, leaf miners and diseases like downy mildew, purple blotch, white bulb rot, onion rust and fusarium basal.

Harvesting should be done 3-5 months depending on the variety.
Muriuki Ruth Wangari, Department of Crops, Horticulture and soils, Egerton University.

Onions 2

A farmer displays her onion produce at Kiawara market in Kieni. Onions should be planted in well-drained fertile soils with pH 6.0-7.0 and should have good water-holding capacity. FILE PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Please advise on the alternative to wheat pollard as there is a shortage in Kitale currently. Secondly, each time I have changed my poultry bedding, they seem to struggle with the dust. I was advised to use Livergen, which is also scarce in Kitale, any alternative please.

Wheat by-products mainly supply energy. Alternatives to wheat pollard include other cereal products such as barley, maize germ, maize bran, whole maize seed, wheat bran and rice pollard. Dust in litter can be reduced by airing it before use.

Wood shavings rather than saw dust are recommended for use in poultry deep litter systems. The shavings are less dusty and young chicks will not consume them.

Furthermore, avoiding dampness in the poultry house and regular turning of the litter may effectively eliminate the need to change litter before the flock exits the house at the end of production or during point of sale.
Kimitei Ronald, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


Kindly assist me with the contacts of an agronomist, who can advise me on which venture in agriculture to undertake with my capital and market and somebody whom I can deal with all through.
Ekesa Derrick

Please contact Agriculture, Horticulture and Livestock consultancy on 0712540807. They will be able to connect you with an agronomist.
Muriuki Ruth Wangari, Department of Crops, Horticulture and soils, Egerton University.


I need your guidance on how to start a poultry farm, financing and managing. I am a diploma holder in accountancy working but I want to venture into poultry business.

Poultry farming is wide and as such, you need to narrow to a production objective of interest by finding out which of its aspects are more profitable in your area in terms of demand and income.

Once that has been done, you have to decide which type of birds you want to keep either exotic, indigenous or improved indigenous. Consider the start-up capital investment, which will depend on your intended scale of production and the type of production system.

The type of production system will also influence the housing structure, poultry equipment, feeding system and health management. Record-keeping and accounting aspects of your business should be considered so that you are able to know how your business is doing and whether you are growing or not.

In addition, marketing of your products may be achieved by finding a way to reach your customers by employing the right strategies which you would use to break into the market.

As for the handouts/reading materials, kindly contact the Smallholder Indigenous Chicken Improvement Programme on email: [email protected] or Tel: +254 51 221 7684/5 for further assistance.
Sophie Miyumo, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


I would like to start with poultry and dairy farming considering that I already have two Friesians cows and ample space for a poultry house. I am 26 years from Tongaren in Bungoma. I will be grateful if you send me any handouts that will upgrade my farming methods.

Kindly send your contacts to The Smallholder Indigenous Chicken Improvement Programme on email: [email protected] or Tel: +254 51 221 7684/5 to be assisted on your requests and also to be informed on the charges for the materials.
Sophie Miyumo, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


I am a dairy farmer and I have noted that no special attention is given to the growing of Kikuyu grass. This grass is native to many African countries, including Kenya hence its name. Outside Africa, it is highly revered. In some countries farmers get certificate for planting it and in others it is nicknamed Eureka Kikuyu grass. This suggests its importance in those countries especially Australia and New Zealand. Kindly give us more information about this grass and what efforts are we taking to promote it?
Fredrick Karanja Mirara

Kikuyu grass is as natural as any other plant. If a plant is over-used without replacement, this may lead to extinction. Therefore, it is necessary that we use our plant biodiversity sustainably.

The grass is meant for lawning yet many use it as fodder (food for cattle). This is the problem we need to solve for this grass. If people will stop misusing it as fodder or utilise it sustainably, then there would be no alarm for its extinction.
Peter Caleb, horticulture scientist,
Crops, Horticulture and Soils Department, Egerton University.


Where will I sell my pepper? I’m in Nyamira County, Borabu sub-county.

Pepper is a very popular product in major towns such as Kisii, Nakuru, Nairobi, Eldoret, Kericho and Kisumu among others. Kindly talk to traders there.
Muriuki Ruth Wangari,
Department of Crop, Horticulture and soils, Egerton University.