The weather is cold and it is drizzling as the Seeds of Gold team ventures into George Ndirangu’s farm in Nyeri. Despite the chill, Ndirangu is in high spirits sitting hunched over a pile of soil tending to macadamia seedlings.
The rains spell good fortune as the next cycle of planting is set to start and farmers from Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Meru, Embu and Murang’a and beyond will troop to his farm seeking the seedlings. Macadamia has gained popularity among farmers in central Kenya that some are ditching coffee and tea.
“I have been involved in grafting of various edible plants and I was interested in developing fast-growing and high-yielding macadamia trees,” says Ndirangu of the business that he started in December last year after investing Sh430,000 he had saved from his previous ventures that include tree tomato farming.
The money went to buying seeds and putting up three greenhouses measuring 20 by 40ft each.
Ndirangu grafts a variety of macadamia seedlings that include those from Embu, Kiambu and Murang’a, which have been classified by experts as high-yielding and produce bigger nuts. They are known as Ex-Thika, Ex-Kiambu, Ex-Murang’a, Ex-Embu, Murang’a 20 and Murang’a 23.
“I get seeds certified by the Ministry of Agriculture from farmers and remove the outer cover. I then dry them in the sun for three days. Thereafter, I soak in water for three more days before removing and drying again for a day for the seed to crack into two.”
He then places the cracked seeds on a polythene sheet spread in the nursery, covers them with soil and, thereafter, adds dry grass on top.
“I then sprinkle water until they are fully soaked. The nursery is kept open for 15 to 21 days after which the seedlings starts germinating.”
He later transfers them into nine by six-inch pots after two weeks and places them in a greenhouse, where they stay for a month before he starts grafting.
John Wambugu, an agronomist from the Wambugu Farm Agricultural Centre, notes that when grafting macadamia, farmers should use wood glue to ensure that the scion sticks to the rootstock.
PLANT OTHER CROPS ALONGSIDE MACADAMIA
The seedlings stay in the greenhouse for 45 days before they are transferred to an open place where they stay for a month.
They are then planted into a two-foot square hole that has soil mixed with manure. Some 17:17:17 inorganic fertiliser is also added to the soil.
Wambugu advises farmers to space the plants at between 7 and 10 metres as they grow into bigger trees.
For excellent utilisation of the farm, Ndirangu advises farmers to plant other crops alongside macadamia as they wait for the trees to mature.
Grafted macadamia trees, according to him, start bearing fruits after two years. They also produce 50kg to 200kg per season of nuts by the time they reach five years.
Non-grafted macadamia trees start bearing nuts after seven years producing between 7 to 10kg in the first year. By the time the tree is five years, it can only produce up to 50kg per season.
The trees flower from August to September and further development of the fruit lasts 31 weeks. They are disease and pest-resistant and can be produced successfully in areas where avocados, papaws, mangoes and bananas do well.
Currently, Ndirangu has over 12,000 seedlings, some of which he is still grafting while others are ready for sale.
He has further planted 26 macadamia trees on his one-acre and he has partnered with Jungle Nut, a company which has been buying his nuts at Sh120 per kilo.
“Each trees is able to produce 180kg per year totalling to 4,680kg enabling me to get over Sh500,000 a year,” says Ndirangu, who has been certified by the Horticultural Crop Development Authority and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service.
He makes over Sh100,000 each month from the seedlings business, with each going for Sh250.
Macadamia nuts are used to make butter, cooking oil and cosmetic products such as soaps and shampoos.