Monday, 26 November 2012

Growing cabbages in Kenya for wealth and employment creation (Brassica oleraceae)

Cabbage is one of the most popular vegetables grown for cooking and use in salads in Kenya. The plant’s scientific name is Brassica oleraceae and it’s propagated from seed. The seed is widely available in seed stores across Kenya. This vegetable is grown under rain fed or  irrigated conditions. Cabbage is mainly used for cooking, in vegetable salad and as plant matter for livestock feed.The major market outlet is the local fresh market in rural and urban areas. 

Optimum temperature for cabbage growing are 16-20ºC. At temperatures above 25ºC head formation is reduced. The vegetable has high water requirement during growth period with 500mm rainfall considered optimal. Cabbage can grow in altitude ranging from 800 to over 2,000 metres. Soils should be well drained, high in organic matter, with high water holding capacity with optimum ph of 6-6.5.Cabbage varieties grown depend on market requirements and taste. Sugar loaf, Gloria F1 hybrid and Copenhagen market are considered as sweet tasting varieties. Classification according to the market:-

  1. Processing: Large heads, firm white varieties like drumheads
  2. Urban centres: medium to small heads e.g.  Copenhagen market, golden acre, Sugar loaf and Gloria F1 hybrid.
  3. Rural areas: Normally plant medium to large heads e.g. drumheads, Copenhagen market, sugarloaf, golden acre, Gloria F1 hybrid. 
  4. Kitchen gardens: Grow varieties with long harvest period e.g. sugar loaf and Copenhagen market. 
There are many cabbage varieties in Kenya but the most popular are Gloria F1 hybrid, Copenhagen market and golden acre. The growing of these vegetables should be started by raising seedlings on nursery beds. Plant seeds in raised or sunken beds for wet and hot areas respectively. The dimensions should be 1 meter wide and any desired length. Soil should be well prepared to a fine tilth before planting , then seeds drilled into the nursery bed as cabbage seeds are small.The seed rate is 300gm/ha. Healthy vigorous seedlings should be transplanted when they are 10-12cm high, about 4-6 weeks old. Soils low in organic matter requires 20 tons/ha of manure or 1-2 handfuls of manure per planting hole should be applied. D.A.P fertilizer is recommended @ 200kg/ha at planting. In acidic soils dolomitic limestone should be applied @ 500-1000kg/ha.In acid soils D.A.P fertilizer should be avoided and instead triple superphosphate, double superphosphate or compound N.P.K fertilizer should be used.

The plant should be topdressed with a nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of 100kg/ha when seedlings are established and a second topdressing at a rate of 200kg/ha when the leaves start folding. Have the soil tested for nutrient status where possible before planting. The field should be kept free of weeds during the vegetable’s growing season and mulching conserves moisture. Harvesting starts 1.5-4months after transplanting and lasts 4-6 weeks. The vegetable is ready when heads are firm.3-4 wrapper leaves should be left to cover the head and keep it fresh. Avoid bruising the head as it encourages rotting. 

Depending on variety, soil nutrient status, water availability and environmental conditions the vegetable yields range from 40-100tons/ha.Grade and pack cabbage vegetable heads in crates, arrange with stem end facing the outer wall of the crates for transportation. This will avoid bruising the vegetables head. Cabbage heads can store for sometime at 0ºC and 95% relative humidity. Varieties with good storability grow hard compact heads e.g. Copenhagen market cabbage variety. 

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