Here’s how to ensure bumper melon, potato harvest

Please send your questions to: satnation@ke.nationmedia.com.

Mrs Teresa Nataruk at her sorghum farm in Nakururum, Turkana West. Farmers in the region expect a bumper harvest this season following the good rains experienced. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

IN SUMMARY

  • Do you have any question or enquiry on agribusiness, marketing, logistics, processing, innovation, and technology?
  • Our pool of experts from Egerton University will respond to your questions with proper advice.

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CORRECT WAY TO PLANT POTATOES

I planted an acre of potatoes in Kinangop last season using locally available seeds, manure and four bags of DAP.

First I put in the seeds, then covered them with a small layer of soil and after three weeks I applied manure and DAP.

I only harvested 33 bags. Please advise on what went wrong and what the recommended planting procedure is.

Julius

The DAP fertilizer and manure should be applied before planting. The DAP will supply phosphorous, which is essential for early root development of the crop.

Potassium nutrient is also crucial for potato production for the development of the tubers. So in addition to the DAP and manure, you can add Muriate of Potash (MOP) fertiliser prior to flowering to supply the potassium.

Alternatively you can use NPK fertilisers that can supply all the three major plant nutrients.

Hezekiah Korir,

Crops, horticulture and soils department, Kinangop

HOW TO START SORGHUM FARMING

There are several types of sorghum varieties that can be used for different purposes and also for different classes of markets.

These include sorghum for food (ugali, uji etc) which include varieties like Seredo, Serena, IS8193, KARI Matama1, Kabuyu, KenSorg2, Sila, and Kensorg5 from different seed companies like Kenya seed, KALRO seed unit, Leldet seeds and Agriseed co.

There are also those that are used for making beer and have high malting qualities and East Africa Breweries (EABL) have been contracting farmers in many areas like Eastern Kenya (Machakos, Makueni, Tharaka etc) and Rift Valley (Nakuru, Narok, Baringo) to produce like Gadam, including those that were recently released by Egerton University in collaboration with EABL.

There also sweet sorghum varieties suitable for making Ethanol with large seed, sweet stems and large quantities of Brix which increases after harvesting heads like Hybrid Mtama-1 (KSBH-01).

There also are varieties that can be used in the baking industry to make bread, cakes etc and can replace wheat in the baking industry.

Lastly, for dual purpose sorghum varieties for farmers interested in both livestock fodder/grain and some grain for food, there are available varieties like BJ28, E1291, Sila and Ikinyaluka which produce both large biomass. These are mainly grown in highlands to medium altitudes 1500-2300m asl.

The best agro-ecozones for growing sorghum are medium to low altitude areas since most sorghum varieties require warm weather (temperatures 25-30c) like Western (Kakamega, Bungoma), Nyanza (Homabay, Siaya), Rift Valley (Kerio valley, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana), Eastern (Embu, Makueni, Machakos) and most areas of the Coastal region.

Farmers should select varieties suitable for their regions but they need to ensure that they have good milling qualities, tolerance to bird damage and diseases like anthracnose and Ergot since they can cause huge losses to the planted crop.

Prof Paul Kimurto is Crops expert, Egerton University

Kimitei Ronald Kipkogei, Department of Animal Sciences

Egerton University.

HOW TO BECOME A CONTRACT FARMER

I own a 1/4 acre plot, and hire a half acre, too.

Please let me know more about contract farming, especially of pigs, chicken and rabbits.

I intend to raise about 100 pigs for 10 months which can fetch me Sh1 million, but the cost of feeds and start-up capital is a challenge please advise.

Ben

Contract farming, though a fairly new concept in Kenya, ensures that farmers have a ready market for their products irrespective of market fluctuations and therefore cushions them against potential losses. Several companies in the country enter into various contractual agreements with farmers.

For instance, Farmers Choice has an arrangement with farmers where they can offer free field extension and pig transportation services as well as sell superior genetics and subsidised feed to farmers who supply slaughter pigs to the company.

Kenchic also offers contracts for poultry farmers who meet certain requirements through its farm-to-fork policy for enhanced traceability.

Alcare Kenya limited is one of the firms in Kenya engaging rabbit farmers in contracts.

Write up a detailed farm business plan for about five years and consider taking a low interest farm start-up loan. The secret to farm success is always prudent management.

Kimitei Ronald Kipkogei, department of Animal Sciences

Egerton University.

STEPS IN PRODUCTION OF THORN MELON

Please advise me on the A to Z of thorn melon and where I can buy their seeds to plant in Embu County.

Wahome

Thorn melon is cultivated on farms and it also grows naturally in the fields and in the bush.

It adapts well in the semi-arid areas, in warm to hot regions. It grows well at an altitude between 210 to as high as 1800 metres above sea level.

The plants are also grown in green houses due to their high market value. The local variety is the main species grown.

Site selection

Select a planting site with rich, well-drained soil and full sunlight exposure. The plant requires warm to hot conditions and does not do well in cold areas.  

The soils should be well drained with high organic matter. Clay or loamy soils with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.5 are best for production.

Thorn melon is a climber hence requires an area near a trellis or fence to promote climbing. In green house production, plants are trained on posts.

However ,pollinators such as bees should be introduced at the time of flowering.

Planting

Thorn melon is propagated by seed. Choose a well-developed ripe healthy fruit from the vine to extract seed. Scoop-out the contents consisting of seed and pulp.  

Seed germination may be improved by softening the seed coat. The seed together with the pulp is fermented for one to three days in a plastic container.

The fruit seed is then thoroughly washed after which it is dried in a shade and sown as soon as possible. Germination of seed can also be improved by priming.

This involves soaking the seed in warm water for one hour before planting. Germination occurs within two to three weeks.

Seed may be sown directly or seedlings are raised in the nursery or trays and are transplanted when they have two true leaves.

Direct planting: Three to four seeds per hole are planted to a depth about 2cm and covered with a layer of soil. Rouging is done after five to seven days to remove excess seedlings and to maintain one plant per hill if planted directly in the field.

Spacing: In the greenhouse, a spacing of 60cm x 60cm can be used while up to 1m apart may be used.

Fertiliser and Manure: Compost, manure or inorganic fertiliser can be incorporated depending on soil conditions.

In poor soils, a general fertiliser like NPK 17:17:17 can be applied as a basal fertiliser at planting. Top dressing is recommended three weeks after germination with nitrogenous fertiliser and potassium fertiliser like Murate of potash, which can also be added to improve the fruit quality.

Training/trellising: The plants within the greenhouse can be trained upwards and supported by sisal strings which are tied to a wire two metres above the ground. Pruning is done to leave three stems per plant

1. Irrigation: The frequency of irrigation depends on prevailing weather, soil type, and stage of crop development. At flowering and fruiting stage, a more frequent irrigation will be necessary.

2. Weeding: Timely weeding is important to prevent diseases such as the cucumber mosaic virus and tobacco ring spot virus.

Maturity and Yield: The fruit matures in three to four months under field conditions. Stems of horned melon die back at the end of the growing season while the fruits remain attached and continue ripening to a bright orange colour. They may be harvested over successive months.

Immature fruits may be harvested at any time during the growing period. One plant in the greenhouse environment produces an average of 10 fruits. Shelf life is up to six months.

Packaging: The fruit has spines/thorns which can result in fruits piercing each other, thus shortening their storage life.

Fruits should packed in single layers in crates and layers separated for example by dry banana leaves. The banana leaves serve as protective pads to ensure that the fruits did not brush against each other, hence reducing the chances of fruit injury.

Diseases and pests: Thorn melons are susceptible to cucumber mosaic virus, tobacco ring spot virus, tomato ring spot virus, watermelon mosaic virus, and fusarium wilt.

The viral diseases can be prevented by vectors such as aphids and melon flies, white flies and planting the crop away from the host plants in the cucurbit family such as cucumber, courgettes, and pumpkins.

The plants are tolerant to root-knot nematodes and powdery mildew.

Crop rotation is also important for diseases control.

Challenges in production: The thorn melon fruit has to be grown on its own portion of land, due to its spreading nature unlike other fruits and plants which can be intercropped. Seed production is not yet commercialised hence this can be a limiting factor in production.

Market: There is need to produce based on demand since in some areas demand is low due to lack of awareness about the fruit value. However, there is potential for market as a result of promotional campaigns for the consumption of the fruit targeting both local and export market.

Carol Mutua

RIGHT FERTILISER FOR GARLIC FARM

What’s the right fertiliser to use and quantity and intervals? I have a garlic farm in Kabarak area.

First time farmer, Boit

Fertiliser requirements for growing the crop vary with soil fertility.

The standard fertiliser rate of application is NPK is 150:55:40kg/ha applied as 1/3N:1P:1/5K. N and K topdressing should be applied six to eight weeks after sowing and final N application at the beginning of bulb formation.

The crop also responds well to organic manure and 20tons/ha can be ploughed into the soil before planting. 

Carol Mutua

VARIETIES OF STRAWBERRY

I am interested in strawberry planting but I have not yet settled on which variety to plant and would highly appreciate your advice on the most favourable variety.

Vincent Njuguna, Thika

The most common strawberry varieties in Kenya are Chandler, Douglas, Aiko, fern and Cambridge.

Carol Mutua

ANY FRUIT FARMING TRAINING AROUND?

Thank you Seeds of Gold for keeping us informed about agri-events. I have a two acre farm near Nairobi and I want to have an exclusive fruit farm.

My interest is tree tomato, apples,  straw berry, oranges and avocado. I would be interested in the right seeds, soil quality,  diseases, and home grown value addition to the fruits.

Do you know of a place  I can learn about farming of these various fruits?

Moses Mbenete, Ruiru

Editor: There are various farms that can train you. At the moment, fruit farming training will be conducted at Berry Farm in Limuru on June 13. Caroline of Techfarm Tours & Travel can assist you. Contact her on 0722427402

CHILLI FARMING

I read with interest the article regarding chilli farming in Mwala. Kindly assist me with the contact of Hillary Odhiambo of Kandia Fresh Produce Suppliers.

Jasper Omondi, farmer, Siaya.

I enjoyed the article on chilli pepper farming in Mwala. How can the group be contacted?

Rachel Nduta

I am a farmer interested in the chilli farming because it does very well in my region. Please connect me with that exporting group in Mwala. 

Kilonzi Mkei

Kindly assist me with Kandia Fresh Produce Suppliers’ contacts. I am interested in the chilli farming.

Eliud Ngure

EDITOR: Please get in touch with Joseph on 0706182721

POULTRY CAGES

I am in the process of starting my poultry farm and would like to get more information on cages. Please give me the contact of Reuben Chirchir whom you featured on May 30, 2015.

Caroline Kiburi

EDITOR: You can reach Chirchir on 0722222195

FUNDING FARMERS

Please furnish me with the contact of Mr Joseph Mungai of Mkulima Empowerment Foundation.

I really need to contact Mr Joseph Mungai of Mkulima Empowerment Foundation but the e-mail address he gave (info@mefkenya.com) is not working.

Peter Kamau, Kiserian

EDITOR: Sorry for the wrong e-mail address. You can reach them on : info@mefkenya.org and 0720405055

CONTACT

Thank you for the great work you are doing for us. Kindly give me Nerbert Juma’s contacts from a story you featured on May 16, 2015.

Boniface Rimui.

EDITOR: Thanks for your compliment. Please reach Nerbert on 0723460105

SOYA BEANS

I am a farmer from western Kenya. I have two hectares on which I want to plant soya beans. Please provide me with contacts of Mr Odhiambo who grows soya beans in Migori.

Abdul Okumu

EDITOR: You can reach Mr Odhiambo on 0720958602

Thanks for the story of Caroline Gichuki who is in the agritour business. Kindly send me her contacts.

John Maingi

EDITOR: Get in touch with Caroline Gichuki-Mugo on 0722427402

ASK THE EXPERTS

Do you have any question or enquiry on agribusiness, marketing, logistics, processing, innovation, and technology?

Our pool of experts from Egerton University will respond to your questions with proper advice.

Please send your questions to: satnation@ke.nationmedia.com. Read us online at www.nation.co.ke/seeds of gold

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