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Feedback: Queries on watermelon, chia

Thursday October 24 2019

A farmer displays watermelons she grows in a farm in Embu.

A farmer displays watermelons she grows in a farm in Embu in this past photo. Watermelons do well in hot and even dry areas. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

SEEDS OF GOLD EXPERTS
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ADVISE ON VARIETY OF WATERMELON TO GROW

I am from Garissa County and I need the best variety of watermelon. Please advise.
Abdizahim Hajir

Watermelons do well in hot and even dry areas. Watermelon is a warm season crop but requires water in the first few weeks of growth.

Irrigation should stop when it starts producing fruits. The less the water the crop gets as it develops, the better, as this increases the sugar content and concentration in the fruit, making it sweeter.

There are many varieties of watermelon in Kenya.

Sukari F1: It is the most widely grown watermelon variety in Kenya. It matures between 80 to 90 days. The fruit is oblong with an average weight of seven to eight kilogrammes. The rind is light green with dark green stripes while the flesh is red, crispy and firm.

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The total soluble salt is approximately 12 per cent.

The thick rind is good for long-distance transport and has a yield potential of 25 tonnes per acre.

Asali F1: The fruit is green with rinds that are characterised by strips of green and dark green running down its sides.

The crop takes a minimum of 85 days or three months to mature. The fruit is large — weighing eight to 10 kilogrammes. It is succulent with a sweet red flesh.

This type of watermelon has a very high yield potential of up to 40 tonnes per acre.

It is resistant to anthracnose and fusarium wilt.
Andaman 631 F1: The rinds are green with no patterns on the elliptically shaped fruits. This variety of watermelon will do well in areas with relatively low rainfall.

It can be grown in greenhouses and is not affected by the limited sunlight either. The fruit has an average weight of eight kilogrammes.

If well-managed, the harvest per acre is 30 tonnes.

The fruit has flesh that is a deeper shade of red than other watermelons and is also sweet.

It takes a minimum of 80 days to mature. The vines for this variety are very strong. Farms on a slope will not have a problem when the fruits become larger over time.

Sweet Melon Galia F1: It has a unique green flesh inside and is sweet-tasting as well.

The rinds are brown and yellow with no definite pattern.

The yield per acre for this variety is about 25 tonnes. This is the smallest variety of watermelon available, with a fruit averaging two kilogrammes, though some are as low as a kilo.

It also takes a relatively shorter time to mature. In just 65 days, your crop may be ready. This, however, may extend up to 90 days.

The number of fruits per acre is relatively higher, meaning harvesting will be more labour-intensive.

All these varieties are available at seed companies like Amiran Kenya and Kenya Seed.

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

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GRADUATE IN EXTENSION WORK SEEKS INTERNSHIP

Hi. I am from Malindi, Kilifi County. I have a diploma in general agriculture and extension services. How can I be an intern in a company?

Thank you.

Felix Mghanga Mwakera

You must be aggressive when it comes to searching for a job. You should be making applications and sending your resumé to agricultural farms, companies and county governments.

There are many opportunities in agriculture. You can get an internship but you have to apply for it. You have not given us your contact.

How does one contact you if there is an opening?

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

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HELP ME FIND MATURE DATES FOR POLLINATION

Hello. I have a mature date tree that needs pollination. Please help me get in touch with any date farmer.

Robert Otim, Ra'anana, Israel

Date trees produce male and female palms. This therefore means that pollination has to be done manually by hand.

Male palms produce bigger flowers than females. That is how the two can be distinguished.

Pollination is done by cutting the male flowers and dusting the pollen onto plastic containers.

The pollen is then sprinkled on the flowers of the female date palms.

Kutch-Kibwezi is a commercial date farm in Makueni County.

You can plan to visit it and learn more on date pollination.

Kindly contact the farm through [email protected]

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

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NO SEEDBED FOR CHIA, ITS MARKET IS GROWING

Hi, I would wish to start growing chia but I am not sure if a seedbed is necessary. Must I plant the seeds on virgin land? Is there a ready market for chia seeds? How long does the crop take to mature?

Derrick Kisia, Trans Nzoia

Thank you for your interest in chia farming. Chia seeds are directly planted on the farm and you don’t have to grow them on virgin land.

Many farmers grow chia without using pesticides or inorganic fertiliser, since the crop is resistant to pests and diseases.

Chia takes three months to mature. The demand for chia seeds is increasing as people are now aware of its immense health and nutritional value. The seeds are in demand locally and abroad.

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

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BEST PUMPKIN VARIETY TO GROW

Which variety of pumpkin yields much and where can I get seeds and the best market?

Fred Mawi

There are many varieties of pumpkins and they come in different shapes, sizes and colours. The varieties can do well in most parts of Kenya.

Jack-Be-Little: This variety is small.

Baby Boo: It is small and white.

Jarrahdale: The fruit is blue and weighs up to 10kg. It is unique and can be used in baking, mashing and general cooking.

Wee-Be-Little. It produces remarkably small fruits about the size of a baseball. The fruit is smooth enough for painting and is bright orange and thin. The stems are dark and well attached. This variety is tasty.

Sweet Sugar Pie: It is good for baking because it is sweet and has a fine textured pulp. The fruit averages five to seven pounds.

Casper: It is white. It is a unique and popular French “cheese” pumpkin. It has a rich deep tan colour and its shape is deeply lobed. The flesh is fine-grained. This pumpkin is delicious. It weighs 15-18 pounds.

Blue Doll : The Blue Doll fruit is blue and almost square. It weighs 10-15 kilogrammes.

Cinderella: This is a French heirloom variety, and is very popular. The fruit is reddish-orange, flattened and ribbed. A cinderella fruit is 13-15kg.

Harvest Jack: This high-yielding variety is easy to grow. A fruit averages 10-15kg. The fruit is dark orange with long handles.

Howden: Fruits are big and bright orange. One fruit can weigh as much as 20kg.

Peanut: It has bumps on the surface, resembling peanuts.

Red Warty Thing: This lumpy red-orange pumpkin weighs up to 10kg, is sweet and its flesh is stringless.

Improved varieties are Israel Giant, whose fruit can be 20kg, and Giant Ugandan varieties, which can weigh up to 30kg.

Giant Egyptian type seeds can be obtained from Micro Herb Industries, through 0725292900/0719193111 or get their sales representative, Jenifer on 0720756797.

All the other varieties are available at seed companies and agrovets.

You can sell your pumpkins to supermarkets, markets, hotels or to traders. You can also get in touch with companies that mill pumpkin flour. You can advertise on social and in print media.

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