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Feedback: Using bio-stimulants on crops

Wednesday January 9 2019

Crop production experts inspect carrots in a farm in Isinya.

Crop production experts inspect carrots in a farm in Isinya. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that are found in plant roots and they promote plant growth and vigour. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG 

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Which bio-stimulants can I use on my crops to reduce heat stress? Also, educate me on the use of mycorrhizae in farming.
Kipruto, Olenguruone

You can use FitoMaat from Kenya Biologics Ltd. For more information, please contact the farm based in Naivasha on 0710724629. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that are found in plant roots and they promote plant growth and vigour.

The fungi form threadlike structures called hyphae around plant roots increasing the surface area for absorption and translocation of essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, sulphur, calcium, zinc and copper.

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



I have a pair of adult geese and turkeys in Siaya County and I would like to know if it's possible to find ready market.
Raphael Otieno

Having a pair of adult geese and turkeys means that you only sell them in Siaya since transporting them would involve additional costs reducing your profit margins.

Visit hotels and butcheries in Siaya and place an order. The main challenge is that the number you are supplying is too low. I will encourage you to keep more and do market survey before production.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



I am a young hay farmer in Narok County and I am writing to enquire about how I can get market especially between January and March.

I suppose you are referring to Boma Rhodes hay, which many farmers consider a robust feed resource for resilient dairy farming. To have a good market for this produce, put much emphasis on quality aspects at both pre and post-harvesting stage.

When ready for harvesting, you can advertise in Seeds of Gold or place your produce on the various farming websites.

Felix Akatch Opinya,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



I'd like to start rearing geese and turkeys. I am based in Homa Bay County.
Okatch wa Okatch

Food security is one of the government’s priority. To achieve protein nutrition safety, production of meat and eggs from geese and turkeys is encouraged. Large numbers are most suited because of economies of scale.

Another way is to produce them in groups to strengthen the bargaining power in terms of buying feed ingredients and equipment while selling your products. Contact Otieno 0716116062 in Siaya who keeps them.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



I want to venture into commercial pumpkin farming on a quarter-acre in North Ugenya, Siaya County. Kindly advise on the suitable variety, cultivation and market.

Kevin Omondi

In pumpkin production, it is important to establish your niche in the market. You can do this by establishing what variety is demanded before you start production procedures.

Without this, you may produce a food crop which people don’t need. For production, below are the general insights:

Site selection: Pumpkins are heavy feeders and prefer fertile, well-drained soils with a pH of 5.8—6.8. Add fertiliser as recommended by soil test results and your local agricultural extension officers.

Culture: Sowing will depend on the rainy season in case of rain-fed.

Transplanting: Sow 2—3 seeds per 2-inch container or plug flat about three weeks before transplanting. Germinate at 24—35°C. Handle seedlings carefully when transplanting, as they dislike root disturbance. Seedlings are very sensitive to cold temperatures, thus, use cloches or row cover if necessary to protect newly transplanted seedlings from cool nights.

Direct seeding: Sow in late spring when the soil is at least 21°C and frost danger has passed. Sow two seeds at the appropriate spacing interval, 1/2 an inch deep.

Thin to a plant per spacing interval after seedlings are established. Space plants according to their type indicated in the label. Mulch with a thick layer of straw or with plastic mulch.

Mulch helps to conserve water, suppress weeds, and reduce fruit rot by keeping developing fruit off the soil. Plastic mulch can also help with soil warming.

Where pest pressure is high, cucumber beetles can destroy young plants. Apply row cover immediately after planting and remove as soon as plants begin to flower; otherwise, pollinators will not be able to access the flowers. Keep the plants well-watered.

The most critical period for irrigation is while fruits are sizing. Stress related to lack of water can lead to blossom-end rot and/or poor fruit size and yield.

Once plants begin to vine and until the first bloom, increase the amount of water to ¾ litres every five days (or more frequently if plants wilt in the daytime heat).

After the first bloom, ensure the plants receive a litre of water every four days (or more frequently in extremely hot weather). Sandy soils and/or drip irrigation systems may necessitate more frequent, lighter irrigation than heavier soils or overhead irrigation. Do not overwater to the point where the soil is consistently saturated.

Flowering, pollination and fruit production: Pumpkins produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. Male flowers appear first, followed by female flowers.

Only female flowers produce fruit, so the first flowers, which are male, will not produce fruit. If female flowers are not producing fruit, lack of pollination is a likely culprit.

Large-scale growers are encouraged to maintain at least one hive of honeybees per acre of pumpkins to help with pollination. Yield increases have been achieved with up to three hives per acre. Native bees are usually adequate for home gardens.

Harvest and curing: Mature fruits can tolerate 1—2 light frosts. Harvest when the fruit colour is fully developed. For long “handles”, clip fruit stems close to the vine.

Avoid picking up fruits by the handles and take care not to damage the skin/rind. Curing is recommended. Curing heals wounds to the fruit, enhances colour, and ensures a longer shelf-life. Sun cure the fruits in the field for 5—7 days or cure indoors by keeping fruits at 80—27—29°C and 75—85 per cent relative humidity with good air ventilation.

Storage: It is not advisable to grow crops like pumpkins before establishing the market. However, storage at 50—10—15°C, 50—75 per cent relative humidity and good ventilation is essential.

Repeated exposure to temperatures below 10°C may cause chilling damage. Sort fruits on a regular basis to remove any rotten fruits. Fruits store up to 2—3 months.

Peter Caleb Otieno,

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