Feedback: A starter’s 10-point crop farm plan

Wednesday March 18 2020
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A farmer admires his healthy maize crop in a farm in Bunyala. Before getting into crop farming, do proper planning first putting into consideration several factors. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SEEDS OF GOLD EXPERTS

ALL ABOUT PLANNING TO FARM CROPS

I have a piece of land in Kilifi and I wish to venture into farming, but I don’t know how to proceed. Please advise.
Prospective farmer

First of all, you need to select a suitable site on your farm where you will establish your crops. Therefore, do careful planning of the layout and then do the actual production. In planning a farm, consider the following:

(a) Crops: Decide which vegetable crops to grow. This will depend on the demands of the available market and climate. Study the market carefully and adjust production accordingly.

(b) System: Decide on which system you are going to use, for instance, open vs. protected.

(c) Layout: After deciding on the range of crops to be grown and the systems, the layout of the land must be planned.

Care is needed because if a bad layout is carried out initially, it will be costly to change. Remember roads, irrigation pipelines or buildings are involved, thus if sited wrongly, such items will be difficult and expensive to resite

(d) Cropping plan: Work out the rotation plan to be followed and details of the cropping plan. This should be done early enough.

(e) Land preparation: The cost of clearing and preparing land must be considered.

(f) Labour needs: It is important to plan for the required labour, especially if manual labour would be used.

(g) Fencing and windbreaks: If fencing or wind break is needed, decide on the type and material to be used as well as the placement

(h) Compost area: Decide on the location of the compost area and whether you will need a compost heap or pit. A compost heap/pit is necessary to provide a place for the disposal of organic debris and also it serves as a source of organic matter for use on the farm. It is generally located close to the nursery, in an area which is unsuitable for crop production.

(i) Nursery siting: Lightly shaded areas are preferred or you may construct a lath house. Preferably, nursery area should be utmost 2 per cent of total area. You will also need to decide on the type of nursery to use: seedbed or containerised. If seedbed, raise, flat or sunken.

(j) Irrigation and distribution method: Decide whether irrigation will be needed.

If yes, choose the system to be used and water source.

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

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BEST OPEN-FIELD TOMATO VARIETIES

Which open field tomato variety is the best for Busia County, and which chemicals can be used depending on the stage of growth?

Oyuga Joseph
Busia

Open field tomato varieties include Rio Grande, Rambo, Shanty F1, Napoli, Kilele and Galilea. Spraying against pests and diseases is done when necessary.

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

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FARM CLINICS

Do you still have clinics and seminars that can help people venturing into farming?

Erick Kemmey

Egerton University and its partners, including Seeds of Gold, regularly organises farm clinics. The clinics are in different parts of the country, thus, watch out for one coming to your area soon.

For seminars, there are farmers’ training forums on a topic of interest like feed formulation that are organised by the university on need basis.

There are also short courses like on artificial insemination, which are offered to people with animal health background.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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MY COWS DON’T SHOW HEAT SIGNS

I am a young farmer from Embu County. I do provide my cows with heat supplements but they don’t come on heat. What can I do to eliminate the problem?

Stanoh Ras

Dairy management knowledge is key for successful running of a farm. Proper calf management results in good heifers that show signs of heat on time, from 15 to 18 months.

To ensure calves grow and develop well, let them have enough colostrum after birth for the first two to three days and calf pellets, thereafter, and roughages as from second week.

Proper calf feeding before and after weaning, disease control, proper housing, provision of clean water all the time and continuous health check by an animal health expert will ensure that your heifers come on heat on time.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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I NEED TURKEYS AND GUINEA FOWLS

I am planning to venture into turkey/guinea fowls rearing. Where can I get the best breeds?
Bhinghi Kelvin, Kahawa, Nairobi

Venturing into turkey and guinea fowl farming is a good idea since they fetch more money than chickens. Feeding and management is like that for chickens.

You start with chick mash, then go to growers and finisher. To get the best breed, kindly visit the department of livestock office at your sub county.

The staff there should have details of farmers’ groups and will guide you on where you can get the birds.

Dennis Kigiri, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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FEEDING A HEIFER

I am a new farmer and my heifer is about a year old. Please explain how I should feed it until it calves.
Emma

Gestation length varies by age of dam, breed and sex of the calf. It ranges from 279 to 287 days. For most breeds, 283 days is common.

This translates to about nine months and a few days. My understanding of your question is that you have a heifer that is 11.5 months old and you would wish to understand how to feed it when it is served all the way to calving down.

Ensure you have high-quality grass or fodder like maize, have clean adequate water all the time, and supplement with concentrates to bridge the energy and protein deficit from grass.

Flushing is a management term for providing high quality feeds, usually grains before the start of the breeding to increase reproductive performance. Steaming up or extra supplementary feeding is also encouraged.

This feeding allows a cow to store some reserves that will be used for milk production from the beginning of the lactation.

This is because the appetite of the heifer will be reducing towards calving time and the energy demand will be increasing at the same time since the calf development is high in the last two months.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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I WANT TO GROW ALFAFA/LUCERNE

I am looking for alfalfa seeds. I would like to plant the fodder this season.

Victor Mbombo,
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Alfalfa is a protein supplement for animals. Planting it on your farm will ensure that your cows get enough proteins for their maintenance, growth, reproduction and production.

There are several seed companies and agricultural research institute in Tanzania. Kindly check their contacts online and reach them.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of animal sciences, Egerton University.

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BUTTERNUT SEEDS

I am looking for butternuts seeds.

Richard Obwaya

Butternut seeds are available from firms such as East Africa Seed Company Limited, Simlaw Seeds and Royal Seed Company.

You can contact EASEED Company on 0206652101. You can also look for the seeds in the agrovet shops in your region.

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

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I NEED THIS VARIETY OF BULB ONIONS

Where can I get certified onion seeds in Kenya (Red Santa F1)?
Mtoto wa Nyanya, Meru

It is called Red Sanga F1 and it is available in agrovet shops. The variety was developed by EASEED Company and it matures in 90 days, is resistant to purple blotch, tuber rust and blight.

According to EASEED, the yield from Red Sanga F1 variety is 20-24 metric tonnes per acre and it can be stored for six months after harvesting. You can contact Easeed on 0206652101.

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

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VEGETABLE FARMING

I would like to start vegetable farming on four acres under irrigation. How can I know the capital I require for this project?

Joan Amallah Okoth

You will need to write an agribusiness proposal that will outline what you need to start the business and project the income that may come out of the venture.

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

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STRAWBERRY SEEDLINGS

Where can I buy strawberry seedlings?
Nina Kamau, Kiambu

Please try The Strawberry Farm on 0723701237.

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

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ASH GOURD SEEDS

I'm looking for ash gourd seeds. Any assistance will be highly appreciated.

Johnson Wambua, Kibwezi

Ash gourd is also known as winter melon or wax gourd and it is a popular vegetable in India. The seeds can only be imported from India. Please contact Rasi Seeds Private Limited through +91 98999 95115

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

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COCOA BEANS

Where can I get cocoa beans for farming in Kenya?

Loice Munga

Cocoa is a tropical plant, which is commercially grown in West Africa. Some trials have been done at Kalro Mtwapa.

Please contact them for more information on the suitability of growing cocoa in Kenya on 0202024751 or through [email protected]

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

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PASSION FRUIT FARMER

Please link me with any farmer who grows passion fruits?

Winnie Nzioka

You did not say where you are based but there is a purple passion fruit farmer in Tana River called Emmanuel Ndubi.

You can talk to him on 0724171753 for more information.

Sillus Oduor
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

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I NEED SILAGE INOCULANT

I am from Jericho. Where can I get Ecosyl silage inoculant in this region?
David Bor

Use of feed additives in silage making aims at achieving specific goals, including better and faster fermentation. Visit any agrovet in Nairobi and you will get information about the product or get direction on where to get it.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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GIANT PUMPKIN SEEDS

I’m looking for giant pumpkin seeds variety. Where can I get them please?
Simon Njue

Pumpkin is a vegetable with yellow flowers, which matures in 90 to 120 days after planting.

For quality and quantity yields from pumpkin, it should be planted in the fields which receive at least six hours of direct sun per day, with soils that are fertile, moist and well-aerated to supply enough oxygen to encourage germination of the seeds.

The Giant Egyptian type of pumpkin seeds can be obtained from Micro Herb Industries, on 0725292900/0719193111.

Sillus Oduor,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton university.