Letters to the editor: Easy way to kick out locusts from your farm

Monday June 6 2016

Locust on a tree branch.

Locust on a branch feeding on the crop's leaves. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

LOCUST INFESTATION
What is the solution to locust infestation on my farm that I am gradually developing in Kajiado West, Ntashart, on the leeward side of Ngong Hills.

I started with fencing the farm with euphorbia, but I have recently discovered that locusts are having a great feast, just when the fence was establishing.

James Kariuki

Locust infestation can be a serious problem especially under irrigation agriculture during the relatively dry periods in moisture stressed areas.

Spraying with most insecticides such as Actara, Karate or Thunder will help you in managing the locust infestation on your farm.

Sylvans Ochola,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

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GROWING MUSHROOMS
I am interested in growing mushrooms but I have very scant information. I would like to know the necessary things I need to put in place and how it’s done, where to get the raw materials and the market.

Simon Okumu

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I want to start button mushroom project in my backyard and would greatly appreciate your assistance in this. I am based in Nairobi.
Julia

Stage one
Mushroom growing requires little initial capital, production is possible throughout the year, makes use of agricultural wastes like wheat straws and ‘idle’ structures.

All you need is a house in which you will carry out production as it’s not done outdoors.

You will also need compost, which provides the mushrooms with a base to grow on and nutrients.

Compost can be made from wheat/rice bran 20kg, CAN 3kg, urea 3kg and 20kg gypsum. Compost piles are 1.5m by 1.5m.

The ingredients are mixed, sprayed with water and turned.

Turning is done by hand on fourth, eighth and on the twelfth day, add 10kg gypsum, and on the sixteenth day, again 10kg of gypsum and the final turning is done on the twentieth day.

Compost is ready when the straws become easy to bend, have a high water-holding capacity, colour changes and become darker, and have a strong smell of ammonia.

The compost is then packed into clear bags to enable the farmer to see the changes going on and to identify diseases and infections easily. The bags should then be taken to the mushroom house.

Stage two
Spawning is done here, which is the actual process of planting the mushrooms.

The spawn is spread on the surface of the compost by making a small hole using a finger and planting it.

The room temperature should be maintained at around 25 degrees Celsius.

A humidifier should be used to make the room humid or water can be manually sprayed on the walls and floor of the room.

Stage three
Casing is done here.

Once the spawn has attached to the wheat straws and looks like white substance, soil is added to the surface of the compost.

A layer of soil is needed, preferably from the forest.

The soil has to be treated to get rid of any insects. Formalin solution can be used to sterilise the soil before casing is done.

Stage four
This is where growth and harvesting takes place.

Mushrooms can be harvested several times. It takes approximately 15 weeks from composting to end of harvesting.

Potential markets include schools, vegetarian hotels, ordinary hotels, supermarkets and groceries.

Quality spawns can be obtained from Egerton University, Biological Sciences Department and other commercial mushroom growing farms.

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

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I WANT TO PLANT WATERMELONS
I live in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County. I would like to plant watermelons after the rains are over.

Kindly advise on the right month to plant the fruit since I am told it doesn’t do well during the rainy season.

Scholar

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I want to plant melons on my half-acre plot in Juja. I have plenty of water.

How do I go about it, from planting, fertilisers, watering and gap between the plants?

Esther Njogu

Hassan Rage and Mama Mogay Ali, display watermelons

Hassan Rage and Mama Mogay Ali, display watermelons harvested from their group's farm. PHOTO | MOHAMED KHADAR YUSSUF | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Watermelon is a warm season crop and it requires a long growing period of high temperatures.

Good vegetative growth requires 18-32oC, the optimal being 18-24oC.

Watermelons are produced from seeds, and germination is best at a soil temperature of about 22oC, which is not available during the rainy season.

Therefore, the right time to plant melons is during the dry months (August to October).

Melons do better with adequate water supply. Within a growing season, at least 400mm of moisture will be required.

Soils should be well drained and with good water holding capacity with a pH of 6.0-6.8.

Melons have been grown successfully in sandy soils, where water supply is adequate. However, the best soils are sandy loam or silt loam.

Watermelon is mostly directly seeded and the planting depth is about 2cm and between row spacing is 1.5-1.8m, while the intra-row spacing is 30-60cm.

Watermelon requires nitrogenous fertiliser at a rate of 80kg N/ha for soils with high organic matter while light soils require 140kg N/ha.

The nitrogenous fertiliser is applied and incorporated into the soil at planting time.

Phosphorous and potassium applications are based on soil tests and should be applied at planting time.

Depending on the environmental conditions, 450-600mm of water is required within a growing season.

Water can be applied through drip or furrow irrigation. Use of sprinkler irrigation increases humidity creating a conducive environment for foliar diseases.

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

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MY CHICKENS HAVE REFUSED TO LAY
Sometime last year, I developed interest in reading Seeds of Gold. This graduated me into agribusiness and today I own four lactating Friesian cows, 400 Kenbro and 500 Kenchic layers in Nyamira North.

While milk production is satisfactory, I have had challenges with poultry. The Kenbros and layers, now seven and six months old respectively, have refused to lay.

Weekly, I spend about Sh16,000 on feeds and other additives but I am yet to see results.

I have always tried to follow the recommended feeding schedule from the Kenchic field officers, but when they visit, they also express shock.

For the last two months, I have been feeding them with layers mash hoping that laying will be triggered.

What magic button will I have to press to be an egg supplier? Kindly help.

Dr Moriasi Josiah, Phd

A worker at Maiyana Farm in Loitoktok collects

A worker at Maiyana Farm in Loitoktok collects poultry eggs. PHOTO | LEOPOLD OBI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Besides good feeding, consider lighting management of the birds during the pullet stage (age 8 to 20 weeks).

Chickens are sensitive to changes in the period of lighting as this influences the age of sexual maturity and the point at which they lay.

Consider the following lighting programme, “step up, step down, step up” which involves providing 24 hour lighting for the day-old chicks during the first month of their life to adapt to the new environment and encourage water and feed consumption, thereafter, gradually reduce the lighting period to 8 hours per day while ensuring the birds are in darkness for 16 hours, during the growers stage.

At 18 weeks, the lighting period should be gradually stepped up by increasing weekly such that by the time they are at 5 per cent lay, about 20–22 weeks, the lighting period should be at 16 hours and darkness at 8 hours.

For light intensity, fluorescent lights are not recommended, since the light spread is not even throughout the house.

It is better to have many incandescent bulbs of low power which can be dimmed.

Sophie Miyumo,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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CHANGING GAS TO LIQUID
I am Nathaniel Mwangi from Mpeketoni.

My question is, can hydrocarbon gas change from vapour to liquid?

The conversion of gas to liquid is a refinery process.

Methane-rich gases are converted into liquid synthetic fuels either via direct conversion using non-catalytic processes that convert methane to methanol in one step or via (synthesis gas) syngas as an intermediate, such as in the Fischer Tropsch, Mobil and syngas to diesel plus processes.

The Fischer–Tropsch process starts with partial oxidation of methane (natural gas) to carbondioxide, carbonmonoxide, hydrogen gas and water.

The ratio of carbon monoxide to hydrogen is adjusted using the water gas shift reaction, while the excess carbondioxide is removed with aqueous solutions of alkanolamines (or physical solvents).

Removing the water yields syngas, which is chemically reacted over an iron or cobalt catalyst to produce liquid hydrocarbons and other by-products.

For the details of the process, get in touch with me.

Prof Daudi Nyaanga,

Faculty of Engineering, Egerton University.

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I WANT TO RAISE CHICKEN
I am a university student pursuing engineering and I have interest in chicken rearing to help my parents raise my fees.

I would be glad if I am able to obtain information on how to start and the structures to host my chicken, especially on large-scale basis.

Godfrey

You have to put several factors into consideration.

First, you need to define your production objective, either egg or meat production or both.

Carry out market research and evaluation to determine which venture has demand.

Then identify if and where you can successfully sell your products and how much to charge.

The type of bird to keep will be dependent on what the market requires, so markets prefer indigenous chicken meat and eggs while others prefer products from the exotic birds.

Consider the start-up capital investment which will depend on your intended scale of production, number of birds to keep 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.

Once you have made your decisions based on the guide I have provided, then it will be easier to furnish you with required information.

Kindly, contact me through [email protected] for further communication regarding the requested information and costs, if any.

Sophie Miyumo,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University