Q: I have diversified into capsicum farming targeting high yields as well as bigger fruits with a longer shelf-life. Kindly advise on the fertiliser to use.
A: In capsicum production, the yields are dependent on several factors, mainly the variety and the nutrition programme used.
To attain high yields, a farmer has to not only look at ensuring the fruits are bigger but also the harvesting period is prolonged.
This longer production period of uniform high quality fruits (right shape, size, colour and longer shelf-life) is essential for profitable farming.
The type of fertiliser applied and the stage (time) of application is key in ensuring that the nutrients are available ‘just in time’ for plant uptake.
Capsicums will generally do well at a pH range of 5.5-6.8 hence it is important to ameliorate your soils accordingly or at least avoid the commonly highly acidifying fertiliser products for sustainable use of the soil.
Like all other crops, a balanced nutrient supply is needed for optimum productivity and profitability. Alongside proper nutrition, all other agronomic practices have to be adhered to, including timely weeding, pest and disease management.
Capsicums are particularly susceptible to pests such as thrips among others, and diseases like powdery mildews, that have to be properly managed, to ensure a longer productive period.
At crop establishment stage, it is essential to ensure early vigorous growth to build enough food reserves for the reproductive phase.
Establish the crop with a balanced NPK fertiliser, supplying the phosphorous and initial nitrogen and potassium requirement for early crop development.
This should be applied within seven days after transplanting. Just like tomatoes, soluble calcium and boron are important in preventing disorders such as blossom end rot, and give longer lasting fruits.
Yara’s Nitrabor fertiliser is, therefore, an important ingredient to apply as a first topdress, three to four weeks after transplanting.
At the onset of flowering and fruiting stage, application of an NPK fertiliser with a high K (such as Winner) as well as trace elements is critical to ensure high productivity and quality of capsicums.
To ensure the harvesting period is prolonged, continued application of the YaraMila Winner fertiliser in splits after every four harvests (four weeks) is essential in ensuring the crop continues to flower and produce more and good quality fruits, translating to better farmer profitability.
For crop specific fertiliser recommendations, please consult the following agronomists in your area:
Western and Nyanza, Daniel Mui, 0702466343.
Rift Valley, Dennis Nyandaya, 0702466372.
Central, Robert Ngatia, 0702466318.
Vitalis Wafula, Yara East Africa Regional, Agronomist