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Feedback: Four methods to help you dry pumpkins, cassava and bananas

Saturday November 26 2016

Grace Wanjiru and a colleague dry the ingredients for flour making in the solar powered dryer in their Haraka Afya Farm, where they add value to traditional crops making porridge flour.

Grace Wanjiru and her colleague dry the ingredients for flour making in their solar powered dryer. There are numerous other controlled methods of drying one's produce. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

METHODS OF DRYING FARM PRODUCE

I am a young entrepreneur with interest in food processing. I have been drying bananas, pumpkins, and cassava to make flour.

I am now looking for a more efficient dryer because the one I am currently using takes three to four days and can’t meet the demand of my customers, which is rapidly growing.

Is there modern technology that can dry bananas sliced into very small slices together with their peels?

Farmer

There are more controlled methods of drying your produce. You can use an oven, or even a microwave. They will cost you slightly higher than sun drying but the outcome will be tremendous.

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First of all you will be able to dry your produce under hygienic conditions away from any contamination compared to open sun drying. They will also ensure a longer shelf-life for your product due to reduction in spoilage micro-organisms.

You will also be able to reduce the time of drying. Remember that not all days receive the same sunlight and, therefore, there is uncertainty in the number of days required to dry each of your produce.

Dehydration generally requires low humidity, a source of low heat (49-68oC) and air circulation. Other methods of drying apart from using the sun are the use of dehydrators, oven drying, microwave and air drying.

Air drying happens indoors and will not be suitable for your case. Dehydrators are the best in food drying because they have an in-built element for heat, a fan and vents for air circulation.

Efficient dehydrators dry food uniformly and retain the quality. Oven driers will need to be set at 60oC with door opened at 2-4 inches with a fan near the opening for air circulation.

However, oven drying takes twice more the time used by dehydrators. Microwave drying is efficient and fast for small quantities of food. When using a microwave, the food need to be placed between two paper towels to retain the humidity.

The drying produce is then monitored after every 3-5 minutes until they are brittle. However, food dried using the oven usually tastes cooked rather than dried.

The above mentioned methods are better because time is saved. Besides, sun-dried foods are likely to grow moulds before they are not completely dry.

Joy Deborah Orwa, Department of Dairy Food Science and Technology, Egerton University.

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I WANT TO DO SOIL TEST

I have a farm in Kiamunyeki, Nakuru and would like to have the soil pH tested to help determine what crop would do well. Where can I have this done and at what cost?

Rose Mumbi

The cost of soil tests vary depending on the size of the land (as soil samples are randomly collected from the field). Kindly visit the nearest KARLO station, preferably Njoro for more information.

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

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CHOOSING CHICKEN BREED

My name is Simon and I graduated from college but getting a job has become difficult. I, therefore, want to take up farming and I am genuinely interested since I can access some land in Kitengela.

The question is, just how does one start? One of the readers asked the same question last week but the answers provided to her weren’t satisfactory to me.

Kindly note I have a farm in Kitui and  I am interested in poultry farming where I wish to have improved Kienyeji and Kuroiler breeds.

Which is better than the other?

Choosing a breed to rear ultimately depends on your production needs, management (free-range or intensive), resources and target market.

Kuroiler and indigenous chicken both serve as dual-purpose birds, however, Kuroilers are hybrids with the ability to respond well to intensive or semi-intensive systems by attaining market weights of about 2 to 4kg in four months and reach maturity at five months with egg production levels of 180–200 eggs per year.

A poultry farmer attends to his flock of Kienyeji chicken.

A poultry farmer attends to his flock of Kienyeji chicken. Choosing a breed to rear ultimately depends on your production needs, management, resources and target market. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Indigenous chickens, on the other hand, respond well to free-range system given their high tolerance level to scavenging.

However, the disadvantage with Kuroiler is that they rarely go broody and hence do not sit on eggs.

The type of market you intend to target will influence your choice of breed as certain markets prefer products on the basis of taste attributes.

Indigenous chicken is preferred due to lean meat and taste attributes of the products while the Kuroilers tend to deposit a lot of fat on their carcass especially under intensive feeding.

For a manual, kindly get in touch with me on [email protected]

Sophie Miyumo, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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MAKING BUSINESS PLAN

Please teach us how to make a business plan.

God Mwebia, Kisima Buuri

Business plans are vital documents for agri-enterprises. Egerton University offers short courses on how to write business plans and how to develop business models for farmers. Keep reading to know the dates, as we will publish here.

Dickson Otieno, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Management, Egerton University.

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GROWING ARROWROOTS

I am a small arrowroots farmer but now I want to expand as the demand for the crop is insatiable where I live. Kindly assist me with the best practices to increase my yields.

Wainaina Kamindo,

Maragua, Murang’a County.

Arrowroots requires loamy soils, avoid planting in clay since it does not allow expansion of the roots. Ensure that the suckers or rootstocks/rhizomes that you use to plant have two or more nodes.

An arrowroots farmer displays arrowroots that he has just harvested.

An arrowroots farmer displays arrowroots that he has just harvested. Ensure that the suckers or rootstocks/rhizomes that you use to plant your arrowroots have two or more nodes. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A distance of 1.0 by 0.75 metres is recommended. No irrigation is needed provided there is enough moisture in the soil especially at the early stages of growth. Fertiliser application is important.

You can use the organic or chemical fertilisers. The rate of application is determined by the nutritional state of the soil. Therefore, it is recommended that you first take a sample for nutritional and pH testing.

Other agronomic practices include timely weeding so as to reduce competition, pest and disease management.

Muriuki Ruth Wangari, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

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I NEED IRRIGATION EXPERT

I need an irrigation expert to help me install a system on my farm in Ntirimiti, Meru County.

Jediel Muthuri

Irrigation is a wonderful plan that ensures production throughout the year especially during the dry season.

There are things that you will need to consider before you can contact an expert, the source of water (distance, quantity and quality), source of energy to pump if need be and the acreage that you would want to irrigate and storage facility.

You can contact Eng. Nasirembe on 0733812953 who is an agricultural engineer with a specialisation in irrigation.

Muriuki Ruth Wangari, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.