Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hydroponics, Aquaponics & Aeroponics farming technologies

Kenya’s forest cover has progressively reduced from 10% at independence in 1963 to less than 3% presently. This situation is a result of massive deforestation, particularly for farming without replacing the plants. This has had a huge negative effect on the water towers and subsequently food security. Africa and the entire world are just waking up to the reality of the impacts of climate change. This means there is urgent need to adapt our agriculture practices to climate change, by departing from traditional methods of farming. Hydroponics, Aquaponics and Aeroponics are innovations whose time has come, and they are invaluable for global poverty and hunger alleviation. 

These modern farming systems are advantageous in that they conserve water and minimize use of pesticides on plants. They are also environment friendly and inclined to organic farming and the resulting produce is low in agrochemicals residue, healthy to consume and fetches better prices in the market. These systems are vital for addressing most of the current global challenges of the agriculture industry

The word hydroponics is derived from two Greek words hydro and ponos which means labour. Rather than growing plants in the soil media, hydroponics involves growing plants in a nutrient-rich solution. In hydroponics the growing medium is a pH adjusted water solution. The plants nutrients dissolved in the water and are absorbed easily by the plants. According to proven research findings, plants roots absorb nutrients easier when dissolved in water than when in the soil. In some cases inert media are used to hold the roots e.g. sand, gravel, perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, coir, coconut husks, sawdust and peatmos .Hydroponics method of farming is economical in that it requires reduced water, reduced fertilizer and pesticides leading to consumer friendly produce with minimal chemical residue levels, which commands better market prices.

Furthermore hydroponics requires minimal space and can be easily practiced in urban areas. Hydroponics system therefore addresses food security by providing  affordable, locally-grown vegetables. For small holders with limited land, the modern system is ideal. Hydroponics system is not only low cost and easy to use, but can be optimized for high yields using minimal resources. Furthermore pests and diseases are easy to control without the use of pesticides, crops are easier to harvest, there’s no nutrients leaching, and the water can be reused.

quaponics is similar to hydroponics the difference being growing of plants is combined with fish farming. The fish’s waste provides rich organic manure to the plants which in turn provides oxygen for the fish, a typical symbiotic relationship. In ancient China and Thailand, the Aztecs are known to have practiced aquaponics farming system whereby rice farming was done alongside fish farming. 

Last but not least aeroponics is growing of plants in the air in which case the roots are suspended in a closed space and sprayed with a nutrient rich solution and then left to grow in no medium.  It saves a lot of water in addition to easy control of pests and diseases. This leads to healthy organic produce.For more information read the following links 



  1. http://yagrein.blogspot.com/2013/01/green-house-farming-technology.html
  2. Hydroponics and Plant Nutrients
  3. Shirley Cox

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Small scale potatoes growing business in Kenya

Potato Crisps:Snack

Potatoes growing business in Kenya requires capital amounting to Ksh 62,000 per acre in suitable areas which includes farm inputs and labor. 0ne acre will produce a minimum of 90 bags sold at on farm price of a  of 1800/= per bag giving returns of ksh162, 000 minus ksh 62,000 cost of production gives net returns of  about 100,000/= from every acre of potatoes in 3 months.Currently, the major buyers are brokers who buy at about the Ksh 1800/ bag and market traders.Potatoes are one of the most popular multipurpose vegetables grown by Kenyan farmers’. They are great for crisps,frying, roasting and mashing. To find out the seed tuber variety suitable for your area you can either consult agriculture experts, or conduct a research among the farmers’ in your area asking them what variety performs well in the local soils and what they like to grow. Growing potatoes is easy, profitable and gives returns within 3 months. Under good management, you can harvest 120 bags [100kg bags] per acre .The high yielding tuber varieties popular among Kenyan farmers’ include Sanghi,Tigoni, Asante, Kenya mpya, Kenya karibu  .

In Kenya the farmers’ have a huge business opportunity in growing of certified seed tubers which they can exploit. The demand and sale price of clean seed tubers is far higher than tubers for food. Certified seed sell at KES 3,000 per 100kg bag, which is tripple the prize of food potatoes.  In the year 2010 it was established that Kenya produces only about 1% of the tuber seeds needed by the Farmers’ countrywide. Clean seed is the best start for a good crop yield as has been discovered by most farmers of potatoes. So if farmers’ have an extra piece of land free of bacterial wilt and other diseases of potatoes , they can consult KEPHIS (Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services) to find out how farmers’  join seed tubers growing business. The production of certified seeds can easily be carried out in the farmer’s fields, but will need inspection and certification by KEPHIS in order to attract the high price tag that currently is offered for clean seed.

Potatoes can grow best in cool high altitudes of between 1,500-2,300 metres above sea level. A regular water supply of about 25mm per week is required. Free draining fertile medium loams are preferred for growing the crop since heavy clays restrict tuber growth. Potatoes are planted in furrows at a spacing of 75cm from one furrow to another and 30cm from one tuber to another and 10cm deep. D.A.P fertilizer is mixed in the soil at planting time at a rate of 200kg per acre [about 1kg DAP per 35m of furrow]. Weed and earth up the crops as they grow with the final earthing up done at 25cm high. The two most important diseases of potatoes in Kenya are late blight and bacterial wilt. Late blight can be controlled by planting resistant varieties. Spraying can also be done using recommended fungicides. There is no chemical control for bacterial wilt which is controlled through the use of clean seed, resistant varieties, crop rotation with cereals and field hygiene. Potatoes tuber moth is a major pest common in the farmers’ fields, and can be controlled by spraying recommended insecticides. For  value addition read

Monday, 28 May 2012

Bananas for food and nutrition security in Kenya

Bananas are widely grown and consumed in Kenya and all over Africa, by people of all walks of life. Bananas benefits are several as they are delicious, nutritious and medicinal. They are among the most important staple foods in Kenya and entire East Africa. The crop is grown both for local and export market. When unripe this nutritious medicinal fruit , primarily contains starch which makes up 21% of the fruit .However, during the ripening process the starch is converted into sugars such as glucose, sucrose and fructose and  therefore a ripe fruit has 1% starch only. This food is rich in potassium making it ideal for prevention of stroke, arterial hypertension, and colon cancer. Nutritional components of cooking Bananas for every 100g edible portion include:-
NUTRIENT AMOUNT NUTRIENT AMOUNT
Potassium 396mg Vitamin B6 0.58mg
Phosphorous 20mg Vitamin C 9mg
Magnesium 29mg Vitamin B2 0.1mg
Calcium 6mg Vitamin B1 0.045mg
Iron 0.31mg Vitamin B3 0.74mg
Energy 92kcal Vitamin E 0.27mg
Zinc 0.16mg Vitamin A 8ug RE
Carbohydrates 21g Foliate 19.1ug
Fiber 2.4g

High amounts of Vitamin B6 also known as pyridoxine helps in metabolism and absorption of fats and proteins, as well as making the red blood cells. Vitamin B6 deficiency is characterized by lesions on the lips, lesions on the corners of the mouth, inflammation of the tongue, and peripheral neuropathy. Generous amounts of Vitamin C which is an antioxidant are present helping the body in calcium metabolism, bone formation and blood vessel walls formation. Vitamin B1 which is in significant amounts is crucial for energy metabolism, supporting appetite and proper functioning of central nervous system.

 Likewise Vitamin B2 helps in energy metabolism, supports normal vision and skin health. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, protecting white and red blood cells membranes. Vitamin E is useful particularly in DNA synthesis and stimulation of the body's immune system. Bananas are very useful for management of diarrhea, stomach ulcers, digestive disorders, protein allergies, colitis and coronary heart disease. Bananas alkalize the blood and eliminate excess uric acid preventing arthritis and gout. Due to its content of soluble and insoluble fiber it’s a cholesterol and lipid lowering food. The sugars contained in bananas are absorbed by the body gradually, therefore preventing sharp rise in blood sugar level making it good for diabetes management. Bananas are also invaluable for strengthening the stomach lining.

Friday, 25 May 2012

5 Time management tips for achievement of your goals and objectives


Many people around the world struggle daily with meeting deadlines. Poor time management skills and postponement often leads to last minute rush which produces substandard work. The good news is that even professional procrastinators can learn effective time management. Below are 5 time management tips to help you meet your goals and realize your dreams.

1. Divide the work into smaller units: The lesson that we all need to learn is that, a large task can always be more easily accomplished when broken down into small units over a long period of time. If you are given assignment to complete in the next fortnight, the right time to get started is immediately. When you first receive a project, you should make a calendar and break it into four or more evenly spaced parts. Don’t wait until the final deadline date. Give yourself mini-deadline dates per piece and meet them, whatever the cost. Failing to meet one of your own mini-deadlines should not be taken lightly.

2. Plan work days ahead: Focus on events several days ahead of time to improve capacity to handle any potential crises that may come up. It also allows you to set aside a day or two before the final date to polish your project and add finishing touches. Don’t just focus on today but focus on the whole week, the whole month or even the whole year.

3. Work should be organized: Many people fail to meet deadlines because they are people are simply not organized. In the era of technology of smart phones and cloud computing, there’s simply no excuse to be disorganized. Technology is your Friend in getting organized. Simply enter your events in your calendar to help you keep aware of all current deadlines. Calendars and documents can also be shared and edited by collaborators, which makes working with a team easier. File documents neatly in your computer or other storage. People often waste time searching pieces of their work when they are not organized. Searching poorly organized documents is time wasting .Good self-discipline is a reflection of good organizational skills.

4. Reward yourself for every achievement you attain: Procrastinating work leads to panic and last minute rush and stress as the deadline approaches. A simple way to strengthen meeting your own mini-deadlines is to reward yourself for every achievement. If you completed the first phase of the project ahead of time, reward yourself with a nice dinner, a night out or any good gifts are examples of rewards. If necessary, note this down under each deadline. If you lack the necessary self-discipline you will need a partner who oversees your day-to-day activities to ensure you never depart from your course.
 
5. Ensure you prepare to meet short notice deadlines: Short-notice deadlines are a common occurrence and you should be ready to meet them. These occur at every workplace, displeasing employees and managers alike. Effective time management strategies discussed in this article will be of great help.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

French beans growing

French beans are a major export crop in Kenya whose local consumption is gradually being adopted. The crop is popularly grown by both large and smallholder farmers. French beans are immature green pods which are referred to as snap or green beans. It is recommended to be grown on small scale with staggered planting due to its intensive labour requirements. It is cultivated both for fresh consumption and processing mainly canning and freezing. The optimum temperature range for growing French beans is 20-25ÂșC and an altitude range of 1,000-2,1000M.Rainfed cultivation is possible in areas with well distributed medium to high rainfall of 900-1,200 per year, but supplementary irrigation is required to maintain continuous production during off season. French beans performs best on well drained silty loams to heavy clay soil high in organic matter contents with slightly acidic to slightly alkaline PH of 6.5-7.5.


Varieties grown in Kenya are determined by market preference and includes monel, Gloria, Claudia, Morgan, Amy coby, espada maasai, Samantha, paulista and nerina. Monel is a high yielding variety with a long picking duration which has been growing Kenya for long. The pods are grayish green, straight, long, round and fleshy. String and seed development is slow making even pods harvested late to qualify for market. Monel French beans Flowers are purple with black seeds. Certified seeds are recommended for French beans growing at a seed rate of 50-60 kg per hectare. With irrigation, all year round production is possible but the main export season is October to May. The land should be ploughed and harrowed properly before direct sowing of the French beans seeds. Planting is carried out in single rows at 30×15cm or double rows at 60×30×10cm single seed per hole. The crop takes 45-50 days from planting to first picking. Farm yard manure is recommended in poor soils at a rate of 10tons/ha applied in planting furrows. 200kg per ha of DAP fertilizer is applied in the furrows and mixed well before planting. At three leaf stage topdressing is carried out with 100kg of CAN and a second application follows at the onset of flowering. Foliar feed should be applied fortnightly from the fourth week to mid podding stage to promote high yields.

However excessive nitrogen promotes growth of leaves instead of pods. Regular watering is essential for promotion of high yields, uniformity and high quality. The crop is sensitive to water stress at flowering .Water logging should also be avoided. Application of 35mm of water per week at planting to 10 days after germination and 50mm thereafter to flowering stage is recommended for good growth of French beans. Timely weed control is absolutely essential. The following pre-emergence herbicides can be used.
  1. Lasso 4 EC( Alachlor)-3 litres in 400litres of water per hectare
  2. Stomp (Pendimethalin)-2.5 Litres in 400 litres of water per hectare
  3. Basagran (Bentazon)-Can be applied post emergence at 2.5-3 litres per hectare for control of broad leaved weeds.
Major pest and diseases in growing of French beans includes fungal diseases, insect attacks and nematodes. Control is mainly by application of recommended pesticides, crop rotation, and use of certified seeds, field hygiene and crop rotation.
http://www.journalofkenyanhorticulture.blogspot.com/2011/04/kenyan-french-bean-production-
http://www.hortibiz.com/detail/article/kenya-starts-export-of-french-beans-to-us/

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Make Ksh 500,000 per acre in 3 months from Water melon Fruit growing in Kenya

Water melons are delicious red fleshed refreshing fruits commonly eaten as desserts. The rain fed crop is normally  harvested in August/September. Best months for planting  commercial crop is July/August to harvest in October for best price.Market is likely to be good from October @ 25 - 30sh per kg farm gate price. One acre can yield 20 tonnes x ksk25 = Ksh500,000ksh in about 3 months time. Cost of production is about 20 percent of the gross income.Nutritionally the fruit contains vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, nicotinamide and ascorbic acid. 

Water melon grows well in hot dry areas planted under irrigation, although they can grow under rain fed conditions in marginal areas. Production in high rainfall areas is also possible but requires aggressive disease control efforts. Water melon is grown as a main crop in a rotation program. Varieties common in Kenya include:-
Charleston gray: large fruits 9kg, long cylindrical in shape; skin is light grey with fine dark veins and tough hard skin which allows safe transportation. It has bright red, crisp and sweet flesh.

Sukar F1: Very popular  due to size and sweetness, average weight 7kg  
       
Sunday Special:seedless  water melon variety which has dark green rind colour with black stripes, flesh red colour, oval in shape, weighing about  6-10 kg.
Sugar baby: These are mainly round fruits about 4kg in weight and an ideal marketing type. It has a hard skin, dark in colour and medium red flesh which is very sweet.


Crimson Sweet: bluish green, with average weight of 4kg
Congo: Rough rind, firm fine grained flesh,  resistant to anthracnose disease. Fruits are oblong, blocky, dark green with faint  green stripes.

Land preparation should be carried out early enough to allow thorough soil settling before
planting the crop.The seed rate is about 500g/acre. Water melon fruits are normally planted in hills with a spacing of 1.5 metres between rows and 1.5 metres within rows.3 seeds are sown in each hill and latter thinned to 2 plants per hill. Manure is recommended at a rate of one medium size bucket per planting hole. DAP may be applied at a rate of  125g per planting hole at the time of sowing for vigorous growth of water melon fruits. This is an equivalent of 200kg of fertilizer per hectare. Nitrogen fertilizers are applied just before the plants start to run at the rate 0f 110kg of CAN fertilizerper hectare or 65gms per planting hill.

A second application is done just before flowering of the growing crop, at the rate of 130g per hill or 220kg per hectare. Maturity period is 4 months and planting should be timed such that harvesting takes place during the dry period for rain fed water melon growing. Maturity is reached when the tendrils opposite the fruits dies, a hollow sound is produced when slapped by hand, and the vegetative parts die. Yields of 15-30 tons per hectare are realized. Fungal diseases and melon fly are of economic importance in water melon fruits growing. Control is by using suitable pesticides.