Grafted Lemon Cultivation

Lemon is one of the important fruit among citrus fruits.  This is a popular and well known fruit among Kenyans hence can be useful to you as a valuable cash crop and as a source of important nutrients. Lemon cultivation can be profitable to home gardeners and small scale farmers who have minimal land. 2-10 lemon trees if well taken care of is sufficient for you to be able to sell fruit in small quantities direct to neighboring consumers or in wholesale quantities to fruit vendors.

Grafted Meyer Lemon

Location plays an important role when setting up your orchard. This entails climatic conditions of your area, exposure to sunlight, your soil type and also nearness to the market. Here are some of the factors you should consider when cultivating lemons:

  1. Climate

  Tropic and subtropical regions are suitable for lemon cultivation. They are grown in both dry and humid atmospheres. Lemons thrive in arid and semi-arid areas as long as they receive sufficient water. Locations that are exposed to very low temperatures should be avoided because lemons are sensitive to cold. Temperature of 25-35°C is satisfactory for lemon growth. Excess temperature above 40°C might hamper growth.

  • Soil

  Lemons as most citrus trees grow well in a variety of soils. Avoid planting lemons in wet soils that are susceptible to waterlogging. Deep fertile well drained soil is suitable for optimum production. Soil PH between 6-7 is sufficient for lemons to thrive

  • Propagation & planting

  The common propagation method is from seed. Lemons can grow to maturity from seed but they take more years to start fruiting and will produce fruits highly variable in quality. For proper production ensure you plant one year old grafted lemon seedlings. Plant your seedlings at the beginning of the rainy season. A spacing of3- 5 metres between plants is ideal. Size of the hole will depend on your soil type; dig deeper holes if your land has a hard pan beneath the soil.  

  • Varieties

Ensure you grow a variety that grows and fruits well locally. We have five main varieties that we grow and proven their viability for both subsistence and commercial use.

  • Genoa
  • Lisbon
  • Meyer
  • Eureka
  • Sour lemon
  • Rough lemon
  • Fertilization & tree care

After planting your grafted lemon seedlings, top dress using farm yard manure. It is important to test your soil that will inform you on the needed ratios of major nutrient elements. Note that fruit trees require different fertilizer application at different growth stages. Nutrient elements that cannot be obtained from the soil can be supplied by foliar sprays. Other practices like training and pruning are important to maintain trees shape and structure.

  • Pest & diseases

Ensure to observe high hygiene standards and keep your plants healthy to minimize pest and disease attack. Prevention is better than cure; your plants will not benefit from a good pest control program if other management practices like proper fertilization, irrigation & tree care are neglected. You will not achieve full productive capability if you neglect pest and disease control measures.

Major diseases include:

  • Scab
  • Melanose

Most injurious pests to note are:

  • Aphids
  • Fruit flies
  • Moths
  • Mites
  • Scales
  • Thrips
  • Mealy bugs
  • Harvesting

You will start harvesting your lemon fruits from the third year, grafted seedlings take 2-3 years to start fruiting. Once harvested lemons have a long shelf life and with proper storage can last up to a month increasing the percentage of juice content. Lemons varieties with green peel keep longer than those with yellow peel. Yield and quality vary widely depending on the management practices. Max out your farming! Bless

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Grafted Custard Apple Cultivation in Kenya

Custard apple is among fruits that do well in the tropics and can be grown successfully in most parts of the country.  Custards are delicious mainly consumed fresh when ripe or can be baked on fire when unripe.  This fruit is gaining commercial significance because it is rich in nutrients that boost your immune system. We have identified grafted varieties that produce well sized fruits of good quality that can be cultivated commercially. Our aim is for farmers to produce high quality marketable fruit.  We hope this post will expose you to the basic knowledge of what governs custard apple cultivation and will encourage you to plant a few custards.

  1. Climate and soil requirement

Custards prefer warm climate with high humidity. Dry climate is ideal during flowering and high humidity helps aid fruit set. They are relatively sensitive to very low temperatures. An annual rainfall of 600-800 mm is adequate for proper growth. With the changing weather patterns trees should be irrigated on a need basis when rainfall is not sufficient. Custard apple can be grown in a variety of soil types from clay to sandy but for optimum production, deep well drained fertile soil is desired. A soil PH of 6.0-6.5 is proper.

  1. Propagation

Most of the trees planted by farmers are propagated from seed that takes long to start fruiting, produces non-uniform inferior fruit quality and makes it hard to realize the desired true to type fruit. Therefore grafted custard apple seedlings are ideal for the production of high quality uniform fruit. Our custard apple plants are propagated by grafting using scions and seed for rootstocks selected from trees of proven performance. Grafted plants take 2-3 years to start fruiting.

Grafted Custard Apple

Grafted Custard Apple Seedlings

  1. Planting and fertilization

A spacing of 5 by 5 metres is recommended in commercial orchards. However with proper pruning and training, a spacing of 3 by 3 can be implanted in home orchards. Ensure your chosen location receives adequate sunlight.  A fertilization program should be informed by the soil and plant nutrient requirement. Avoid applying fertilizer throughout the season without knowing whether the plant or soil needs it or not. Conduct soil tests and leaf analysis to monitor nutrient levels and apply only required amount of fertilizer. This in turn reduces fertilizer cost and improves crop yield and fruit quality.

  1. Irrigation

Water stress during the development of the plant greatly affects fruit size, yield and quality. For good orchard performance a good irrigation and monitoring system is essential. Avoid under watering or overwatering. When irrigating, your goal is to provide the required amount of water when needed and avoiding any water wastage. It is important to have a schedule that informs you when and how much water your fruit trees need.

Custard Apple Tree

Custard Apple Tree

  1. Pruning and training

There are several benefits of pruning and training your fruit trees, these include:

  • Controlling tree size.
  • Making the fruit tree strong and well balanced.
  • For easy penetration of sunlight and sprays.
  • Pruned and well trained trees produce high quality fruits.
  • Allows easy access when harvesting.

You should do more research on the different pruning and training methods and embrace what suits you.

  1. Pests and disease management

When it comes to pest and disease attack we do believe prevention is better than cure so should you. The following should be considered;

  • Plant healthy disease free seedlings.
  • Use a variety resistant to major pests and diseases.
  • Avoid water stress, irrigate fruit trees as required.
  • Apply adequate manure and biofertilizers, excess or low application both make fruit trees. susceptible to pest and disease attack.
  • Observe high phytosanitary standards.

Important pests that are likely to attack custards in Kenya include;

  • Fruit fly
  • Mealy bugs
  • Scales

Diseases;

  • Leaf spot
  • Anthracnose
  • Black canker
  1. Harvesting

You can harvest between 100-150 fruits from a mature custard apple tree. Fruits are handpicked at the correct stage of maturity. It is advisable to pick the fruits before they are ripe to allow them ripen off the tree. Store the fruits in a cool place to slightly increase shelf life of the fruits.

We are always there with you in the journey of fruit cultivation to provide technical support and guidelines to ensure you are successful in your venture.

Grape Cultivation in Kenya

Grapes are mostly grown for wine production, raisin making or for table purpose to be consumed fresh. There are a few farmers and entities engaging in commercial grape cultivation for wine production. A good number of small scale farmers grow a few vines for personal consumption.  Kenya has not yet realized its full potential when it comes to commercial grape cultivation despite the fact that this crop can do well in different parts of the country. There are several counties in Rift valley, Nyanza, Eastern, Central and western province that stand a chance of becoming grape producers. With proper county government support and better grower education farmers can produce quality grapes that meet market standards and capacity.

Grape-Pineapple intercrop

Grape & pineapple intercrop

This post is for you who is interested to plant a few vines for own consumption. We will take you through the basics of grape cultivation and the right varieties to plant.

  1. Climate

Grape is successfully grown in areas that experience temperature that range from 15oC- 40oC. They generally require hot and dry climate for proper growth and fruiting. An annual rainfall of 900mm is ideal but should be supplemented with irrigation in case rainfall is not well distributed throughout the year. On the contrary, rainfall during flowering and fruit ripening might lead to the spread of downy mildew disease.

  1. Soil

Although grapes are well adapted to a variety of soil type they prefer deep fertile soil with good drainage, low salinity and PH range of 6.5-7.5.  Grapes like most fruit trees are prone to waterlogging; your soil should have good water holding capacity and devoid of any hard pan.

  1. Propagation, Planting & fertilization

You can get grape seedlings that we propagate by cuttings or grafting. We graft desired varieties on dogridge rootstock. Grafting increases vine life, fruit yield, plant vigor and takes 2-3 years for new vines to begin bearing grapes. Plant your grape seedlings in an area that receives adequate sunlight. Observe a spacing of 3 metres between plants and 2.5 metres between rows. We encourage the use of farmyard manure and biofertilizers to fertilize your vines. Foliar sprays can also be used to supply micro nutrients. Your fertilization program should be informed by soil and leaf analysis.

  1. Irrigation

Irrigate your vines on a need basis. It is important to note that grapes require more water during berry growth and less water during fruit bud formation and when the fruits are ripening.

  1. Varieties

You should probably grow table grapes for personal consumption. The table varieties that we grow under organic cultivation are;

  • Thompson seedless
  • Red glode
  • Autumn royal
  • Flame
  • Maroo
  • Alexandria muscat
  • Italia

grape Cluster

  1. Training and pruning

To increase productivity, your grapevines should be well trained and pruned. The mode of training and pruning is determined by the growth habits of your vine. You should exercise much care and precision when pruning. Poor pruning or lack of it leads to poor fruit set. Do more research to up your pruning skills; there are many videos online that will expose you to the different types of training and pruning grapevines.

  1. Pest and diseases

Ensure you implement plant protection measures to ensure your vines are free from pests and diseases.

The major diseases affecting grapes are;

  • Powdery mildew
  • Downy mildew
  • Anthracnose

Major pests include;

  • Thrips
  • Mealy bugs
  • Leaf hoppers

 

  1. Harvesting

Grapes hardly ripen off the tree, so it is proper to harvest them only after ripening.  Grape berries kept at room temperature can last a week without spoilage. Different varieties fruit at different time therefore with proper planning and timing you can consume your home grown grapes for the better part of the year. Keep planting!

Grape & Pine apple harvest-West Pokot County

Dragon Fruit cultivation in Kenya

Dragon fruit is a vine-like climbing cactus that serves both as a fruit crop and an ornamental plant.  Dragon fruit is mostly eaten raw as fresh fruit. It can also be processed into juice, wine and jam. Dragon fruit cultivation is picking up in the country. We have different categories of farmers cultivating this fruit crop;

  • Those who plant mainly for value addition especially wine.
  • Farmers who sell their produce to fruit vendors or directly to consumer
  • And there those who plant for own consumption

This post is mainly targeted for you who wish to cultivate a few plants for your nutrient requirement. There many reasons for you to have this plant in your garden;

  • Dragon fruits are highly nutritious
  • Low maintenance cost
  • Minimal after care
  • can be planted in area that has limited space
  • dragon fruit is a fast return perennial fruit crop with production expected from 18-24 months after planting
  • Once grown you can harvest for more than 20 years
1 year old Dragon Fruit

The major constraint is the use of trellises. Dragon fruit plants are vine-like and need support hence the need of posts either concrete or wooden.. This article will take you through the basics of dragon fruit cultivation that include; climate & soil requirement, propagation & varieties, planting & irrigation, plant care, harvesting.

  1. Climate & soil-Dragon fruit prefer tropic and sub tropic regions that have high temperature, 20-32°C is sufficient. You should plant dragons in well drained soils with high organic matter. Like most fruit crops it does not tolerate waterlogging.

 

  1. Propagation & varieties- Dragon fruit seedlings are mostly propagated by cuttings. There are five main dragon fruit types:
  • Pink fruit skin with white flesh
  • Red fruit skin with red flesh
  • Red fruit skin with white flesh
  • Yellow fruit skin with white flesh
  • Yellow fruit skin with red flesh
  1. Planting & irrigation-For proper upright growth the plants need strong support structures. Concrete or wooden posts are mostly used. The supporting posts are placed in the middle of the planting hole well in advance before planting. For best growth and fruit production plant dragon in an area that receives enough sunlight and less wind.  Dragon plants require less water compared to other fruit plants. They require frequent irrigation at the time of:
  • Planting
  • Flowering
  • Fruit development stage
  • And during hot dry climate
  1. Plant Care– These after care activities will ensure proper plant growth and fruit development.
  • Fertilization-Dragon fruit demand for nitrogen is comparatively less compared to other fruit crops. You can grow them organically using compost and farm yard manure
  • Pest & diseases management-there are fewer disease and pest attacks. As a good practice, prevention is better than cure. There may be cases of thrips, mealy bugs and slug attack. Be on the watch out for any early signs of attack and act to deter any attack. Anthracnose is the most significant disease.
  • Pruning & training- prune your plant to remove all damaged or diseased stems. Ensure any stem that touches the ground is removed. Train the main stem and tie it to the support structure as the plant grows. Once the stem reaches the top, cut the tip to induce branching

 

  1. Harvesting– The fruits are likely to be ready for harvest 45-50 days after fruit set. Fruit ripen at different times and should be selectively harvested. You should carefully remove the fruits from the plant for they are easily damaged. The average fruit weight is 300 grams but with proper tree care and fruit thinning you can attain weight of between 850-1000 grams per fruit.

 

If you are entrepreneurial then dragon fruit could be an asset. But before heavily investing take time to do test plants and familiarize yourself with the cultivation process. Learn to do more using less, your establishment cost should be minimal-we can assist in this area. Have a clear road map of who your customers are and how your product will reach them. Is there market for the fruit? We cannot tell. We believe it is your work as an entrepreneur to find market for the fruit.

Grafted Dwarf Peach Seedlings

Peach cultivation in Kenya is still not widespread despite the fact that it can do well in various part of the country. We have not come across any farmer doing large scale commercial peach farming. In case you are doing peach commercially please let us know. The main challenge seems to be lack of the right low chill varieties that have commercial appeal. The common variety is the wild peach that produces smaller fruits that cannot compete with the imported varieties.

Main aim of this post is to enlighten you who wish to plant a few peaches for home use. We have put in the work and planted different low chill varieties adapted to the tropics. The few trees we planted in different locations are fruiting well. You will be taken through the basics of peach cultivation; right variety to plant, climatic conditions, soil & site, planting & irrigation, fertilization, tree care and crop protection.

Peaches do well in humid climate. The location should experience cold weather to meet the required chill hours. A temp of 17-32°C is desirable. The low chill varieties we have can do well in a majority of counties in the country.  A soil ph of 5.5-6.5 is ok, adjust your soils to the required ph. Peach do well in almost all soil types other than heavy clay; they are highly susceptible to water logging. Therefore your soil should be deep, rich in organic matter and have perfect drainage.

You should plant peaches in an area that is exposed to full sunlight. Our custom-grafted seedlings are propagated through grafting using wild peach as rootstocks. When planting ensure the graft union is above the soil, 1-2 feet above. Dig a hole wide and deep enough to allow roots spread out. Irrigate your trees if there is no rainfall. To achieve well sized and quality peaches, irrigation is important. Irrigation should be cut back at the time of dormancy to harden the tree. This should also be done a few days before harvesting.

Grafted Peach
Grafted dwarf peach @ Trans Nzoia

We strongly recommend you top dress fertilizer a few weeks after planting.  Adding fertilizer in the planting hole deters the roots from completely spreading out in search of nutrients. Also manure added in the hole attracts termites which might injure the young tree. Ensure to keep your soil nutrient levels at the range required by the plant. Peach have a high demand for nitrogen and potassium. Rate of fertilizer application will be informed by soil test and leaf analysis.

To maintain your tree size and shape, it is important you prune and train peach tree as it grows. The best time to prune is when the trees are dormant. Your intention is to develop a tree with a well-balanced frame. This helps the tree have a strong branch structure that will manage to carry a good number of fruits. When the tree starts fruiting ensure to thin them by removing excess fruit. This improves fruit size and quality.

Integrated pest management approach is more sustainable because it stresses more on prevention. It is more eco-friendly approach for managing pest and diseases. As we, you should prefer to go the organic way and use bio pesticides as a last resort. Monitor for any signs of pest and diseases, and take proper steps to manage any pest/disease problem. Your trees will be more resistant if you keep them healthy and well fed by providing the necessary nutrients.

 Your tree may start fruiting from the 2nd year but will reach peak production in year 5. A fully grown tree yields more than 50 kgs. For excellent eating quality, peaches should be harvested when they attain ripeness and are well coloured.

Challenge yourself and plant a few trees, ensuring a fruit tree is in the mix. This is a small action that leads to big outcomes. If you are blessed with rains and have access to water kindly plant trees in your plot/farm. Count your blessings and plant trees, there is a drought ravaging the country. There are people who wish to plant trees and grow crops but they have no water because the rains forgot to visit for two planting seasons. Fruitful season!!!!

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Ecosystem Investing Through Sustainable Seed Finance

For the last 20 months we have dedicated our efforts on forming a fruit cultivation cluster of small-scale farmers in Trans-nzoia County. We are on the ground observing and listening to clients’ pain points with the intention of crafting solutions to enable them embrace profitable horticulture. As we were interacting with small scale farmers, one thing that came out clearly was that lack of capital, skills and technical know-how made it impossible for farmers to practice profitable horticulture. We are in the process of designing a product to help such farmers get certified fruit seedlings and technical support needed to practice fruit farming profitably.  Land, labour and time to attend training sessions is all a farmer needs to provide.   Our target main target crop is Avocado, both for local and export market.

Fruit cultivation, with proper management & marketing can be very profitable. From the onset one should be aware of the fact that; there are good years when you earn good money, there are mediocre years when you earn some money and there are years when you are likely to get nothing. A shrewd farmer should have strategies in place to absorb any shocks. Hence the need to develop a demo farm and form clusters of fellow farmers with an aim of sharpening each other’s skills through the exchange of knowledge & ideas. These will make fellow farmers well prepared to deal with any eventualities and craft local solutions without any great assistance from any quarters.

This pilot project targets 500-1000 farmers in Kitale and its surrounding environs to plant a total of 10,000 grafted avocado trees. Avocado cultivation has great challenges unknown to a new farmer. Our duty is to ensure such farmers learn from our mistakes instead of their own. We are envisioning starting a whole entity that provides sustainable and regenerative seed finance as we try to apply permaculture design principles to finance.  The burning question is; How can a small farmer access loan/finance products that create and regenerate value rather than extract value? The idea here is to offer farmers a loan product that empowers them to be regenerative investors. We provide seedlings and will continue to provide support and training, and monitor the growth of the fruit trees to ensure that maximum benefit is achieved. The farmer in turn pays using part of the harvest, a given number of fruits per tree. Payment of our services will be tied on achievement of desired outcomes and not outputs. Planting the trees only will not guarantee payment, we must ensure there is real market where farmers will earn new income.

Hass Avocado Seedlings

We are transitioning to full time extension service provider where the payment of our products & services will be determined by the achievement of outcomes. Capacity building and training of the farmers alone will not guarantee success, we must assure farmers of real market that will generate income. Despite the many challenges faced by small scale farmers, agriculture still remains the fundamental task essential for the survival of wo/mankind.  Africa is largely tropical and subtropical, with proper strategies put in place fruit production can be a leading source of income.

A good number of African countries are encouraging their farmers to turn to fruit farming as a better source of income. Kenya is ahead of the pack when it comes to producing quality avocadoes, ranked closely with South Africa. We have received several hass avocado inquiries from Nigeria, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, sierra-Leone & Rwanda. This indicates more countries are embracing horticulture to realize the ultimate goal of development which is a high standard of living for their citizens. In the coming years there will be great competition among African countries for the world market.

For Kenya, more acres of land are being converted into hass avocado orchards. In areas such as Uasin Gishu & Trans-nzoia, local governments are supporting farmers to transition to Avocado, coffee & macadamia cultivation. Such efforts are good for the growth of the industry but much need to be done to ensure we maintain our leading position. One strategic advantage will be in establishing processing firms in the various production regions. These will offer small-scale farmers ready market and avoid dependence on the export market.

Hass Avocado

Technical know-how and skills development will give us an edge. There is a lack of skilled wo/manpower in this sector hence the need for training & capacity building. Higher institutions of learning should come up with certified courses on horticulture targeting fruit production. Avocado is among the top export earners and deserves a customized course on avocado cultivation & management, processing & marketing.  Leading avocado cultivation counties should ensure their local higher institutions’ of learning offer practical courses on avocado cultivation & management best practices. The many acres of avocado need competent local managers to deliver quality fruits that compete in the world market.

This project cannot be effective without local presence hence the need to acquire land or partner with farmers who are willing to set up demo farms that will be used as centres that will go a long way to implement our various project. Our Kitale demo farm is still under development and will be opened to farmers once we get the necessary certifications. It’s an acre and we have planted mostly avocado and other fruits such as apples, grafted lemon, persimmon, grafted pears, Litchi, grafted peach etc. We are also doing trials to see if grafted apricot, kiwi, grafted nectarine, dragon fruit and grafted grapes  can do well in Trans-Nzoia.  For prompt response reach us on +254715963005.

kitale Horticulture Project

Since the start of the year, we have been implementing our first demo project in kitale geared towards sustainable fruit farming. The project objective is to empower local communities through sustainable seed finance, mentorship and technical support in natural food farming technology and sustainable agribusiness. We seek to enable local wo/men and youth build resilience for their livelihoods against the effects of climate change, pandemics, natural disasters and calamities. We intend to document and disseminate successful strategies for replication and scale up in other parts of the country.

Smallholder farmers have great potential that need to be harnessed and converted into income generating models. We do believe horticulture can play a crucial role in uplifting the living standards of small scale farmers in areas such as Kitale and its environs. Climatic condition in this area is ideal for cultivation of fruit trees and vegetables, what is lacking is a change of mindset and technical skills. This project will demonstrate to small scale farmers how cultivation of fruits, vegetables and running small ventures can be profitable. Giving us impetus is the latest data from the directorate of horticulture that shows an increase in earnings from fruits and vegetables. There is a dietary need to boost body immunity making fruits and vegetables be in demand world over. The importance of fruits, nuts and vegetables in healthy lifestyles has benefitted horticulture making it lucrative.

Fruiting 3 yr old Hass Avocado in Kitale

The main fruit we focusing on is avocado; hass and fuerte varieties targeting export market. The economic and social importance of avocado cannot be gainsaid. The fruit has a large market as a fresh fruit, processed foods derived from it and as an ingredient in oil, cosmetic, soap, and shampoo. Kenya as a country still has a lot of ground to cover for it to be the leading exporter of quality avocadoes. His Excellency, the Deputy President Dr. William Ruto is on record encouraging farmers to diversify mentioning avocado as an alternative crop that can help farmers in this area increase income. A good number of farmers have heeded the message and have started embracing avocado cultivation making Kenya one of the fastest growing avocado exporters. Governors such as Hon. Jackson Mandago, Wycliffe Oparanya, and Lee Kinyanjui among others have also encouraged and supported farmers by providing grafted avocado seedlings. Some counties are in the process of establishing avocado factories to serve local farmers with ready market for their produce.

Total production does not equal the total amount of fruit exported because only a small percentage meets export quality. As much as we are increasing the acreage under avocado, it is prudent to narrow the gap between what is produced and what is exported by ensuring top quality is produced. Our main aim is to ensure small scale farmers can produce the desired quality of fruit that can compete in international market. Farmers within project area will be advised to plant a minimum of 10 grafted avocados per homestead. We encourage farmers to form clusters that will in turn form strong grower associations which are vital to ensure farmers are up to date with the trends in the avocado industry. Part of the strategy is to encourage farmers to plant veges and medium term fruits for the first 2 years before the avocado trees mature. There is a wide range of veges that farmers can do for their own consumption and for both local and export market. They include: kales, spinach, cabbage, managu, french beans, peas, capsicum, onions and any other that the market requires. There is also a component of poultry production where farmers will be encouraged to keep poultry and given necessary training and seed finance.

Hass avocado plantation @ kaptien

This demonstration project will offer practical education and knowledge transfer to farmers and also seek to expand and document local knowledge. We intend to partner with farmers as we learn how to manage the farm as a business. Together we will develop a curricular that addresses local needs covering different topics. This will include; being consumer driven, people and environment friendly, planting what is adapted to your farm, orchard maintenance, record keeping, cutting costs and improving outputs, improving quality, sales enablement, how to differentiate your product for a premium price, managing change. The main objective of this curricular is to ensure farmers run profitable environment friendly ventures. We intend to link the farmers with various buyers and create a platform where farmers can trade amongst themselves. Small scale farmers from project area who wish to be part of this initiative can reach us on +254715963005 or admin@plantafruit.org

kitale Horticulture Project

Since the start of the year, we have been implementing our first demo project in kitale geared towards sustainable fruit farming. The project objective is to empower local communities through sustainable seed finance, mentorship and technical support in natural food farming technology and sustainable agribusiness. We seek to enable local wo/men and youth build resilience for their livelihoods against the effects of climate change, pandemics, natural disasters and calamities. We intend to document and disseminate successful strategies for replication and scale up in other parts of the country.

Smallholder farmers have great potential that need to be harnessed and converted into income generating models. We do believe horticulture can play a crucial role in uplifting the living standards of small scale farmers in areas such as Kitale and its environs. Climatic condition in this area is ideal for cultivation of fruit trees and vegetables, what is lacking is a change of mindset and technical skills. This project will demonstrate to small scale farmers how cultivation of fruits, vegetables and running small ventures can be profitable. Giving us impetus is the latest data from the directorate of horticulture that shows an increase in earnings from fruits and vegetables. There is a dietary need to boost body immunity making fruits and vegetables be in demand world over. The importance of fruits, nuts and vegetables in healthy lifestyles has benefitted horticulture making it lucrative.

The main fruit we focusing on is avocado; hass and fuerte varieties targeting export market. The economic and social importance of avocado cannot be gainsaid. The fruit has a large market as a fresh fruit, processed foods derived from it and as an ingredient in oil, cosmetic, soap, and shampoo. Kenya as a country still has a lot of ground to cover for it to be the leading exporter of quality avocadoes. His Excellency, the Deputy President Dr. William Ruto is on record encouraging farmers to diversify mentioning avocado as an alternative crop that can help farmers in this area increase income. A good number of farmers have heeded the message and have started embracing avocado cultivation making Kenya one of the fastest growing avocado exporters. Governors such as Hon. Jackson Mandago, Wycliffe Oparanya, and Lee Kinyanjui among others have also encouraged and supported farmers by providing grafted avocado seedlings. Some counties are in the process of establishing avocado factories to serve local farmers with ready market for their produce.

 

Total production does not equal the total amount of fruit exported because only a small percentage meets export quality. As much as we are increasing the acreage under avocado, it is prudent to narrow the gap between what is produced and what is exported by ensuring top quality is produced. Our main aim is to ensure small scale farmers can produce the desired quality of fruit that can compete in international market. Farmers within project area will be advised to plant a minimum of 10 grafted avocados per homestead. We encourage farmers to form clusters that will in turn form strong grower associations which are vital to ensure farmers are up to date with the trends in the avocado industry. Part of the strategy is to encourage farmers to plant veges and medium term fruits for the first 2 years before the avocado trees mature. There is a wide range of veges that farmers can do for their own consumption and for both local and export market. They include: kales, spinach, cabbage, managu, french beans, peas, capsicum, onions and any other that the market requires. There is also a component of poultry production where farmers will be encouraged to keep poultry and given necessary training and seed finance.

 

 

This demonstration project will offer practical education and knowledge transfer to farmers and also seek to expand and document local knowledge. We intend to partner with farmers as we learn how to manage the farm as a business. Together we will develop a curricular that addresses local needs covering different topics. This will include; being consumer driven, people and environment friendly, planting what is adapted to your farm, orchard maintenance, record keeping, cutting costs and improving outputs, improving quality, sales enablement, how to differentiate your product for a premium price, managing change. The main objective of this curricular is to ensure farmers run profitable environment friendly ventures. We intend to link the farmers with various buyers and create a platform where farmers can trade amongst themselves. Small scale farmers from project area who wish to be part of this initiative can reach us on +254715963005 or admin@plantafruit.org

 

 

Sustainable Fruit Cultivation Enterprise

The agricultural pursuit of fruit growing comprises the science and art of raising and handling fruits and fruit plants for personal consumption or/and for commercial purposes. Fruits can be classified as; tree-fruits, nut-fruits, herb-like fruits, vine-fruits and small fruits. There are two main categories of fruit growers; those producing for own consumption and those producing for the market. There is a third hybrid category of growers who produce for own and sell surplus. Agriculture especially fruit tree cultivation, when at its best has great potential. A fruit tree will naturally produce fruit as long as it is grown in favorable conditions. There are certain hindrances that must be overcome such as pest & disease infestation, poor soils among others. There is no venture that is risk free therefore our main role as farmers is to mitigate/minimize those risks so as to realize profit. This post is addressed to those who want to successfully develop a fruit enterprise for commercial purposes. A later post will be dedicated to those who grow for own consumption and personal satisfaction.

When we mention the term ‘’commercial fruit cultivation’’ thoughts of millions runs in many a mind which is not the case. This is understandable due to the many blogs or prints on how to make millions of cash from certain fruit farm ventures. Don’t have too much fun in the fantasy to face reality; as a fruit grower you should not set before yourself the single standard of money-getting. As much as there is money to be made in agriculture one should also be aware of the non-commercial rewards in fruit growing. The blessing of agriculture to an individual and the nation at large is that it can make its workers happy and comfortable without making them wealthy. Satisfaction can secured just as well on a moderate income as on a large one. It is worrying when the Kenyan farmer is no longer happy or comfortable due to low prices or lack of market, but on a brighter perspective, this helps in getting us farmers’ out of our comfort zones giving us reason to try something else. From a farmer’s perspective, true wealth is health. Going by what is happening on the ground, we can foresee Rift valley and Western Kenya become the biggest producers of hass avocado in the near future. We are also longing for the day when one can purchase locally grown apples from your favorite supermarket/outlet. What of figs, grapes, dragon fruit and pomegranate from North Eastern. Fruit farming has the potential of raising the living standards of farmers but it is not a walk in the park.

avocado-trees

Hass Avocado Orchard

Fruit growing thrives best in certain geographical areas, the business is not capable of equal development in all parts of the country. Different fruit trees do well in different parts of the country. There are various determinants in fruit growing that a farmer must keep in mind before investing in a venture of her/his choice. They include; soil determinant, moisture determinant, temperature determinant, parasite determinant, market determinant among others. The location and site where the orchard is to be established should be determined. The choice of location should be with reference to weather and market. It is also beneficial for the farmer to locate her/himself among fruit growers so as to interact with fellow farmers as they share ideas and develop the fruit mind. Such a location has a potential of attracting buyers and sellers, and also encourages many forms of cooperation among farmers. When it comes to sourcing of market, volume matters hence the need to position oneself in an area that is regarded as a fruit region. For instance we are starting a 2 acre hass avocado project in Kitale. It will make no economic sense for a buyer to come all over from Nairobi to buy our produce due to volume. So it is up to us to create a “hass fruit region” in Kitale by encouraging our neighbors and other local farmers to plant hass avocado. We will go to the extent of giving interested farmers hass avocado seedlings on debt to be paid using part of their harvest.

After all fruit growing determinants have been considered and a farmer has settled on the fruit type/s she/he wants to cultivate, SEEDLING PROCUREMENT is the next step. There are different fruit seedlings vendors where one can purchase seedlings from; an online search can give you a few clues. There are also different government agencies that stock fruit seedlings, they include: JKUAT, KARLO and some prisons too raise fruit seedlings for sale. When purchasing from any chosen vendor ensure you get a good deal in terms of; the right variety,certified. disease free, right price and replacement in case of initial failure.Our major role is to ensure aspiring fruit farmers get technical support and have a strong foundation when starting out their perspective ventures. We do have 4 different strategies depending on the farmer’s budget, where one can get quality and true to type seedling varieties.

 

  1. 18 months old seedlings – These are seedlings that are more than a year old and are meant for farmers whose aim is to get the first harvest within 2 years. Such farmers also don’t have much time to tend to small seedlings or replacing the ones which failed. As for the farmers we have dealt with, the success rate is 99%. A seedling goes from kshs 300-500 depending on fruit type.
  2.  6-9 months old seedling – Most farmers with a moderate budget have gone this  route. These are seedlings that have fully healed, grafting paper removed and ready for planting. A seedling goes at Kshs 120-300 depending on fruit type.
  3. On-site grafting – we supply rootstocks to farmers to plant, and then we will come to graft them later once they are well established. Our grafters are certified and experienced attaining a success rate of 90%. This approach suits farmers who have a limited budget because they end up saving up to 40% on seedling cost.
  4. On-site raising of seedlings – There are certain advantages of raising seedlings in the same area where they are going to be planted. Farmers who have large tracts of land and want to implement a large scale project but don’t have enough cash can consider this option. We assist farmers in setting up fruit tree nurseries on-site to produce seedlings to be planted once they are ready.

 

N/B – When it comes to seedling production, we produce quality over quantity because we try as much as possible to have a wide variety of fruit trees. Therefore we do offer discounted rates to those who pre-order large quantities for commercial purposes.

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Mango Orchard

It is best if LAND PREPARATION is done prior to purchasing your seedlings. This entails clearing the land, ploughing if necessary and digging holes. Keep in mind is the spacing of your trees; different fruit crops have different spacing requirements. Fruit trees are wide feeders therefore advisable to give them sufficient space when planting. There are cases where farmers go for high density plantations but this requires experience and high maintenance. In general, it’s safer to plant trees widely to have open spaces for sunlight penetration and for easier management. The hole should be broad, as a general rule, the harder the soil the larger the hole. In loose and deep soils, just dig a hole that fits the seedling well. Plant your trees when the soil is dry; don’t plant in wet and sticky soil. We encourage top dressing using manure rather than planting with a mixture of manure and soil. Roots should spread out looking for food, when you top dress using manure and the tree is watered, nutrients will sink in the soil and the roots will do the searching making them stronger. Any subsequent fertilization that is to be done should be informed by a soil and/or leaf analysis. If possible mulch your trees after planting. It is also advisable to plant annual cover crops that improve soil fertility when your fruit trees are still young. Avoid planting grain and hay in your orchard. There are cases where one wants to maximize land use and also desires quicker returns. This can be achieved by planting 2-3 different fruit crops in the same piece of land. Here the differentiating factor is the duration for maturity. One can plant avocados with a spacing of 8m (long term), then plant tree tomato or pawpaw in between (medium-term), and finish by planting strawberries or gooseberries beneath (short-term). This is done in the initial years once the avocados gain room these other crops should be removed.

A SYSTEM must be put in place to ensure maximum production, without systems you have a limited chance of keeping track of your fruit plantation. It is important to keep track of each individual tree/variety and make a record of the performance of each tree. This ensures each tree is given the necessary conditions for optimum production. Keep simple cost-accounting records and daily work reports. Tree care practices such as irrigation, fertilization, spraying, pruning and fruit thinning should be taken into account and done at the appropriate time. Your records should reflect all these activities. Irrigation and fertilization is done on a need basis. We recommend being proactive and spray your trees as a preventative measure rather than waiting for a disease and/or pest attack. Pruning determines tree shape and should be done from the onset as the tree grows. With the current fruit grading system, especially for those targeting the export market, fruit thinning is an important practice that should not be overlooked. This is done by removing redundant fruits resulting in an end product that is superior in size, colour and general quality. Fruit bagging is necessary if one desires extra-fine fruits. When it comes to harvesting it is important to do it at the right time depending on the fruit variety; there those that ripen on the tree and those that ripen off the tree.

apple orchard

Apple Orchard in Voi

              MARKETING of your fruit produce begins early even before planting the fruit trees, for instance someone planting hass avocado or macadamia already knows there is export market. Know your market, we normally tell our customers’ that you are your own market and thanks to technology one can brand and market her/his  venture at much lower cost. As personal as it is, Success will be determined by the ability of the grower and market conditions. Truth be told, 2 persons placed in the same geographical and environmental conditions and given an equal chance will attain different business results. It all boils down to high quality production and careful marketing. If you grow what people want or present it in a manner that makes them think they want it, success will follow suit. When it comes to market target, there are two kinds of commercial fruit farmers; those who grow fruit for a special or personal market and those who grow for the general or open market. It is prudent for one to know where she/he falls so as to produce the desired quality. Generally in the case of special market, the operation is small scale and high quality fruit is produced to be sold at much higher prices. Here farmer looks for his own customers and is independent of general trade. Those targeting the general market have no personal customers; they grow what the market demands and are subjected to prevailing market prices.

Message to the world market is that Kenyan fruit produce meets high environmental threshold.  Kenya has plenty of land lying idle and there are no forests that need to be cleared for commercial fruit cultivation. Most of forests that are cleared are as a result of human settlement. Young people have started embracing agriculture and are taking over what their parents and ancestors established. The profile of a Kenyan farmer is changing, farmers are now seeking knowledge and embracing technologies that will help them produce high quality, disease free fruits, herbs & nuts destined for the world market. As much as more farmers are targeting export market, dependence on the export market for our fresh fruits is not healthy in the long-term; this should be complemented by value addition. Availability of fresh fruits should lead to the development of fruit processing industries in different counties. Both county and local governments should play a major role to attract investors in such areas.

Anyone going into fruit farming should know that there is stiff competition in this business and it is survival for the skilled. Seek knowledge and train for your work. Ten people can grow quality fruit but only one out of the ten can sell it to advantage. The effort at excellence must be continuous, let no achievement slow you down. As Ray kroc says “When you green you grow, but when you ripe you rot”. Master your local problem, from fellow farmers, books, blogs & forums learn principles and truths but at the end of the day you must solve your problems by yourself. Kindly let us know if we can be of any assistance in your fruit ventures, we can be reached via mail admin@plantafruit.org or +254714118794. To a fruitful 2020!!!!

Loquat cultivation

Loquat is an evergreen tree that mostly grows in tropical & sub-tropical areas. It is moderate in size that may reach 20-30 ft tall and produces yellow plum-like fruits when ripe; in fact it is referred to as the Japanese plum. The tree has a rounded crown, short trunk and new wooly twigs. Generally loquat fruit trees are east to grow and low maintenance.  In Kenya loquat growing is carried out in isolated home gardens for local consumption and mostly consumed as fresh fruit. There are countries that grow loquats commercially, china and japan being the major producers.  The fruit is a good source for minerals and vitamins. The fruit has health benefits and is highly considered in traditional medicine. Even though they are largely consumed as fresh fruit, some are processed into syrup, jam and jellies.

The tree can tolerate temp of up to 35 degrees and requires approximately 1000-1200mm of rainfall annually. In instances of extreme cold or warm climate the trees normally fail to fruit or fruit poorly. They prefer deep and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They thrive in soils with a PH of 6, but can tolerate soils with a PH of 5-8.Young loquat trees should be well watered until they are fully established. Once established the trees are drought resistance but with regular watering, they will produce high quality fruits. Loquats can easily be grown from seed, grafting is necessary for consistent fruit quality. Most plants grown locally are from seed however we have spotted several hybrid varieties. We are in the process of propagating a few improved varieties that will later on be planted in different parts of the country. We hope to find a variety that is desirable to the market; hence the potential to be grown commercially. World over, there are more than 800 varieties that have been recorded.

Dwarf loquat

Dwarf Loquat

Loquats and a matter of fact all fruit trees should be pruned to the desired shape. The objective is to open up the tree to allow sunlight to penetrate the plant canopy and to lower the bearing surface for easy harvesting and maintenance. It is advisable top rune fruit trees after harvest, remove overgrown branches and sprouts.one must fertilize fruit trees to attain quality fruits, high yields and healthy tree development. Leaf and soil analysis should inform the farmer on the fertilization regime to implement. Generally well composed farmyard manure does well accompanied by foliar sprays. Over fertilization increases sensitivity to fire blight disease therefore ensure the right dose is applied.

There are two major diseases that affect loquat; fire blight and loquat scab. As usual, prevention is better than cure, spray copper fungicides as a preventative measure. Aphids are the most common pests and can be controlled using bio-pesticides. General farm hygiene is key to achieving pest and disease free orchards. Prune off any dead or diseased branches and burn them. A well maintained tree will be more disease resistant than one which is not well taken care of. Ensure trees are well fertilized, irrigated and monitored regularly for any early signs of pest and diseases. In case of any attacks, seek help from your local agriculture officer or agronomist.

loquat seedling

Loquat seedlins

Harvesting takes place when the fruits are fully ripe. It takes 3 months from flowering for fruits to reach maturity. The fruits are round or oval shaped borne in clusters and usually yellow or orange when ripe. With proper fruit thinning one can achieve big fruit size; this is done on fruit set by reducing the number of fruits per cluster. Loquat fruits should ripen on the tree for better taste and quality. Fruits that are harvested before they are ripe tend to be bitter and acidic. They are tastier when they are eaten straight off the tree or within a day or two of picking. Seeds are toxic and should not be eaten.

Loquat trees play an important role in the environment; they provide shade, act as windbreakers, its large leaves are a good source of nutrients used as mulch and the tree has a well-developed root system that holds soil countering erosion. It is mostly planted in parks and gardens because of its ornamental appearance. It is also grown on borders of homesteads used as a barrier or boundary. we do have both grafted and non-grafted loquat seedlings for those who are interested to plant a few.

 

 

 

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