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Feedback: Experts give answers on issues touching on farming

Monday June 22 2020
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Strawberries. Strawberry farming has a huge income potential because the demand is high compared to the supply. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SEEDS OF GOLD EXPERTS

Breakdown on strawberry production: Strawberry production costs explained.

My name is James Mureithi, a resident of Munyeki location, Ol Kalou constituency in Nyandarua County.

I refer to an article on strawberry farming in the Seeds of Gold on May 16, which was very inspiring for beginners.

I am interested in strawberry farming after reading the article and I have four acres of arable land with rich soil in the highlands of Munyeki scheme, Ol Kalou.

I am ready to invest in borehole drilling and install greenhouses to facilitate farming. Kindly advise me on the following:

Is it possible to venture into strawberry commercial farming on the four acres? If so, where do I get seedlings?

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Strawberry farming has a huge income potential because the demand is high compared to the supply.

For a start, you can try an eighth acre or half acre but this will depend on the availability of capital.

After successful farming and getting constant market, you can then increase the acreage.

For an acre, you will need 25,000 seedlings while for an eighth, you need about 3,000.

Each seedling goes for Sh10 or Sh20, depending on where you will get them. Strawberry seedlings are available from many producers, such as The Strawberry Farm.

You can also try the nearest Kalro branch. Chandler is the best variety.

How are the returns on investment on strawberry farming?

An eighth of an acre needs 3,000 seedlings and assuming each goes for Sh10, then the cost will be Sh30,000.

Remember the cost may vary between Sh10 and Sh20. Then transportation costs and inputs will gobble up some Sh15,000.

Therefore, the total cost of production will be Sh45,000. If you harvest 50kg per week and sell each kilogramme at Sh200, then you will make Sh10,000 per week and Sh40,000 per month and with good management, you can even get Sh100,000 per month.

Remember when you buy the seedlings, you can start getting runners (seedlings) from them.

Are there major markets for strawberries apart from local supermarkets, if so where?

Strawberries can be sold in open-air markets, urban markets and companies like Brookside, KCC, Zesta, Trufoods and others. You can also sell them on online marketplaces. 

Are there firms that contract strawberry farmers, if so which companies?
Yes, there is contract farming for strawberries.

You can try Jaick Agricultural Produce Ltd and their contact is [email protected]

Are strawberries grown only in plastic bags or they can be farmed on the ground?

Strawberries can be grown in plastic bags, outdoor (open field) and indoor (greenhouse).

The soil should be well-drained and the field should be kept weed-free.

Are there strawberry commercial farmers, if so send me contacts for lessons?

The Strawberry Farm on Waiyaki Way, Nairobi, offers training for farmers but due to Covid-19, they have stopped. You can contact them after the pandemic and plan to attend.

Are there strawberry commercial farming experts, if so send me contacts for advice.

Please contact The Strawberry Farm as they might have contacts of commercial strawberry farmers or the Ministry of Agriculture offices in your area for information on strawberry farmers in your area.

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

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I want to keep rabbits

I am a farmer in Vihiga County who wants to venture into rabbit farming. I have read about its advantages and the idea is worth trying.

My big challenge is where to sell rabbits and their products and what breeds to rear?

Reinhard Musumba

There are several breeds that are available in Kenya including Californian white, Flemish giant, New Zealand White, Chinchilla, the Dutch, French lop and Angora.

New Zealand White and Californian White breeds are the most popular in Kenya.

Rabbit meat has a high percentage of easily digestible protein and it contains the least amount of fats among all the other available meats, has less cholesterol, the sodium content of rabbit meat is comparatively less than for other meats and the calcium and phosphorus content is higher.

Market will be dictated by your capacity. If you have a few rabbits you can sell to your neighbours and friends or the nearby markets.

If you have a big capacity, you can talk to hospitals and supermarkets.

-Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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I want to grow mushrooms

I am willing to venture into mushroom farming. Kindly link me to successful farmers in the region. 

Farmer

In mushrooms, we plant spawns (seedlings) and you can buy them from Kalro or any other institution.

The biggest challenge in mushroom production is getting quality spawn. You will also need a room where you will plant the seedlings because they are not grown in the field.

You will also need wheat straws, bean straw, millet straw or rice straw for preparation of compost on which the mushrooms will grow (substrate).

Compost is made by mixing the straw with molasses, cotton seed cake and urea.

The straw should first be soaked in water and then mixed with other ingredients.

The substrate is then sterilised to avoid pests and diseases. After compost preparation, planting of the spawns follows and this is done by mixing the compost with the spawns in sacks, which are then taken to the growing room.

The temperature around the bag should be maintained at 32°C. After about 10-14 days, the spawns start to emerge.

When they are visible as small white grains, add some soil preferably from a forest in the sacks.

At this stage, humidity should be introduced by use of a humidifier or a knapsack sprayer.

Make sure you use clean water and spray the air and the floors of the growing room.

Humidity is needed for growth of the mushrooms. Depending on the days the spawns took to emerge, mushrooms are ready for harvesting after 10-14 days, which continues for one and a half months.

Make sure that you observe high standards of hygiene. 

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

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Tell us the crop

How do you propagate it or it has seeds? And how is it used for medicine, what parts are good for what ailment?

David Ngumi 

You have not told us which crop you are talking about and therefore it’s very difficult to give you a response.

Kindly resend your question and indicate the crop you intend to know its medicinal uses and how it is propagated.

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

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Effective way to deal with ants: How do I eradicate ants from my farm?

My name is Onditi Emmanuel from Nyamira County. Recently, I tried venturing into cabbage farming.

They were doing well until last week when I noted some were beginning to wilt, only to find small ants beneath the stems causing great damage to the seedlings.

What is the best remedy for this?

Chemicals can be sprayed to kill the ants. For example, Promax 20EC and Termidor 96SC.

You can also sprinkle ground cinnamon on their path or in their nest if you know where it is and they will disappear.

Mix Boric acid (Borax) and sugar to make a paste and apply it on their path and because they like sweet things, they will be attracted to the mixture, eat it and die.

Remember boric acid is poisonous so take great care of farm animals.

Pouring boiling water on their nest will kill them but you have to know where their nest is for this to be successful.

Mix one teaspoonful of liquid dish washing soap with one-and-a-half teaspoonful of cooking oil and one litre of water and spray on the ants. The oil will suffocate them and they will die.

Pour one litre of white vinegar on the ants’ nest and they will die.

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

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How can I eradicate ants from my farm?

Mutiso Duncan

There are many methods you can use to kill ants. (See above)

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

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NOTE: 

At a glance:-

Chemicals can be sprayed to kill the ants. For example, Promax 20EC and Termidor 96SC.

You can also sprinkle ground cinnamon on their path or in their nest if you know where it is and they will disappear.

Mix Boric acid (Borax) and sugar to make a paste and apply it on their path and because they like sweet things, they will be attracted to the mixture, eat it and die.

Remember boric acid is poisonous so take great care of the other farm animals.

Pouring boiling water on their nest will kill them but you have to know where their nest is for this to be successful.

Mix one teaspoonful of liquid dish washing soap with one and a half teaspoonful of cooking oil and one litre of water and spray on the ants. The oil will suffocate them and they will die.

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Where to get golden shower vine seedlings

Could you kindly direct me to where I can get golden shower vine seedlings?

Mercy Murithi

You can get golden shower vine seedlings from Asepsis Ltd. Kindly reach them on 0792 764 947 or [email protected]

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

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Buying baby corn seeds

Thank you for enlightening us on the difference between baby corn and sweet corn. Please tell us where to buy baby corn seeds, that is Thailand and G-5414.

I have been to various agro vets in Nairobi and they don’t have the seeds.

Karanja

It is Thai Gold and not Thailand. Thai Gold baby corn seeds are available at Starke Ayres Company and you can reach them on 0700 456 248. You can get G-5414 baby corn seeds from Sygenta Kenya and their contact is 0703 018 000.

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

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Medicinal uses of red stinkwood 

How do you propagate Muiri tree (prunus Africana)? Does it have seeds? And how is it used as medicine? What parts are good for what ailment?

David Ngumi

Prunus Africana is known as Red stinkwood and belongs to the family rosaceae.

It is propagated from seeds, which are available at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri). 

The bark and the leaves have medicinal properties. The bark is used to treat prostate cancer in men, erectile dysfunction, urinary tract infections, kidney diseases, male baldness, stomach ache, chest pains and for wound dressing.

An infusion of the leaves is used to improve appetite, treat genital infections and hirsutism in women.

Prunus Africana has anticancer, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Apart from the medicinal uses, the tree is also a source of charcoal and timber.

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

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Where can I get improved kienyeji chicken?

Where can I buy improved Kienyeji chicks and their price in Machakos County?

Mutiso Duncan

You can purchase improved Kienyeji chicks from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Naivasha.

Check their website and place an order.

-Dennis Kigiri, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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Advice on mixed farming

I'm Denis Munga from Homa Bay County. I want to do mixed farming on my 14-acre land; from fruit trees, dairy farming to trees for commercial purposes.

Where can I get advice on how to partition the piece of land and what is best for the type of soil in my location?

There are several ways of approaching your business plan, which will be guided by your interest and money available for the project.

For fruit trees, you can get assistance from the department of crops, horticulture and soils; for dairy you will be assisted by the department of animal sciences; and for commercial trees, the department of natural resources will be helpful, all at Egerton University.

-Dennis Kigiri, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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 I want to venture into beekeeping

What is needed to invest in 1,000 hives beekeeping project? 

Fred, Kilifi

Beekeeping is profitable mainly because investment is one off and payback period is very short.

Several things need to happen including, but not limited to, a feasibility report to ascertain floral mapping, security, water supply and so on.

A beekeeping business plan that covers many aspects – financial, assets, production, marketing and human resource requirements – is also needed.

For more information, contact Joel Masobo, master beekeeper, Egerton University.

-Dennis Kigiri, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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How do I make poultry feed for my birds?

I thank you for your advice to farmers. I would like to make poultry feed for my birds.

Internet search has shown that I need growth hormones, amino acids, calcium carbonate and soya bean oil, among other components.

Please advise about where to source these products.

Kareithi Kamau

Poultry include and is not limited to chicken, turkeys, ducks and geese. Poultry feed should include energy sources like maize, maize germ, wheat, barley, protein sources like fishmeal, soy meal, insects meal, minerals and vitamins.

Clean water all the time is also essential. Feed additives are sometimes added to achieve specific objectives.

You can buy feed ingredients in the big towns like Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kiambu and Nairobi. There are business people selling them.

-Dennis Kigiri, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

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