Strawberry farming has picked up steadily in the country as farmers seek higher returns from the fruit of love.
However, many end up harvesting losses because of the mistakes they make while undertaking the venture.
Robert Gitau, a licensed government seedlings propagator and a certified strawberry breeder who runs Rogita Plants Care, notes that most farmers get it wrong from the outset by buying fake, cheaper strawberry seedlings.
“Seedlings are a big issue because everyone is now propagating and selling them. It, therefore, becomes a big challenge identifying genuine from fake ones,” says Gitau, who adds there are 37 strawberry varieties grown locally.
According to him, a genuine strawberry seedling goes for at least Sh30 but several propagators are selling for as low as Sh3.
“Strawberries are propagated through splits and runners. For quality seedlings, go to licensed propagators. Most unlicensed propagators lure farmers with their low prices but in the end it becomes expensive when the crop fails or one ends up with poor yields,” he offers.
According him, Kenya has a conducive environment for strawberry farming as it does well in both cold and hot weathers prevalent in most regions.
“Since the initial capital is the biggest obstacle which hinders most people from venturing into this trade, investing the right way with proper information from agricultural officers is paramount,” he says.
For an eighth of an acre, one needs initial capital of up to Sh90,000 that can be recouped in months and one ends up getting suckers for replanting, says the agronomist who has been conducting agricultural training for 25 years.
He demystifies a common misconception that strawberries require a lot of water for best yields.
“Strawberries don’t need a lot of water. They require a constant supply whereby you should water them daily in the evenings during the first month and twice daily in the second month,” he says.
In comparison to other plants, strawberries have minimal pests and diseases, which are easily preventable, according to him.
“Strawberry fruits should not touch the ground or else they will rot. To protect against fruit rot, you should cover the ground with grass or wheat straw. You should not spray strawberries anyhow, only when you spot a problem such as blight,” he advises.
Another thing you should be keen about, according to Gitau, is the type of net you use to protect your crop from birds’ infestation.
“You need to use a special type of net which not only allows light to pass through, but also has adequate spaces since strawberries are cross-pollinated,” he says.