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Pomegranate cultivation in Kenya

Pomegranate cultivation dates back in time, it is among ancient fruits mentioned in holy books. The plants are long lived, same as grapes, and can bear fruit for many years. Pomegranate is also referred to as the “seeded apple” or “apple of grain” in reference to the many seeds in the fruit. Scientifically classified as belonging to the family punicaceae and referred to as punica granatum. There are different varieties of pomegranate cultivated world over especially in the tropics and sub-tropics. It is a drought enduring plant that can sustain with small amounts of water but during tree establishment supplemental irrigation is necessary. The plant flowers almost throughout the year and the fruit has good keeping quality due to its thick rind. It can be grown into a shrub or single stemmed tree, the latter is mostly embraced. It grows to a height of 10-12 feet and bears fruit containing multiple juicy seeds.

There is no serious commercial production of pomegranate in Kenya due to the fact that there is a wide range of preferred alternative fruits. The other challenge is the objective difficulty of eating pomegranate; edible grains have to be separated from the hard cover and from the bitter yellow diaphragms. It is majorly grown as a backyard crop but there are a few farmers who have started to cultivate pomegranate for the local market. There is rising demand internationally, locally the demand does not guarantee a business case unless one is cultivating the fruit for a special and personal market. But as Kenyans get informed of the fruit’s medicinal value, demand will rise gradually as Kenyans embrace this wonderful fruit.  The Asian community has played a major role in popularizing this fruit by planting a few pomegranate trees in their homesteads and they are the first target market for fruit sellers. Most of the pomegranate found in supermarkets is imported. We encourage farmers to plant for own consumption and sell or donate surplus.

Pomegranate

Dwarf Pomegranate @ Maungu, Voi

Pomegranate can tolerate a wide range of soil types and is a salt-hardy fruit tree that thrives well on comparatively poor soils. They prefer well drained soil; deep black soil with its high moisture holding capacity and poor drainage is not recommended for it encourages only vegetative growth rather than fruiting. The plant has a versatile adaptability to a wide range of climatic conditions too but grows well in hot areas. Pomegranate trees require hot and a dry climate during the period of fruit development in order for good ripening and developing of fruit to its optimal size. It can thrive under desert conditions but bears well under irrigation. Site selection should take into consideration sun exposure and air circulation. For optimal growth and production, pomegranate requires six hours of direct sunlight in a day. The trees should be pruned and  trained to grow as an open vase, in such a way that light penetrates the trees from between the rows as well as from the inside of the trees.

As with all other fruit trees, crop protection is important if one is to realize quality yields. Most important diseases of pomegranate include; crown rot, bacterial blight among others. Common pests include aphids, mealy bugs, false codling moth, scales, thrips, root-knot nematode and whiteflies among others. In areas of high temperatures the fruits should be bagged as a protection measure against sun burn. Some of the physiological disorders are; fruit cracking, sun scald, sun burn and internal breakdown. Our advice as usual is to implement an integrated pest management programme and only use chemical as a last resort. Prevention is better than cure; spray your trees at least 3 times a year as a preventative measure.

Pomegranate-syokimau

Pomegranate is propagated from cuttings; plants should not be established from seeds if a true to type variety is desired. Plant produced from a cutting will be identical with the parent plant. Get your seedlings from certified nurseries or from farmers who are knowledgeable in pomegranate cultivation. The government, through Karlo, Thika imported several plants which are still on trial at the institute. This crop needs early adopters and skeptical followers especially in arid and semi-arid areas where the right variety of pomegranate can be grown for export.  This is a drought hardy crop that is capable of providing income security along with nutritional and food security. County governments from these areas can try out this crop and support the locals to adopt it as they come up with strategies of how to add value and market their produce internationally.

Pomegranates are self-fruitful and will start to fruit in 3-5 yrs time. The fruit can ripen on or off the tree. Harvest maturity is mostly determined by the colour development of the fruit.  Thinning is important if one to get a good sized fruit. The general rule is to leave one fruit per cluster; fruits that touch each other create an ideal environment for pests and diseases to thrive. Remove fruits which are deformed, damaged or borne on weak spurs. Fruit size and appearance matters when it comes to marketing the fruit. Early thinning of fruits, probably 4 weeks after flowering is useful. Perfectly ripe fruits are picked in installments, since all are not ready at once. Farmers and home gardeners should try out this fruit for both its beauty and fruit. Feel free to drop us a call or mail in case of any inquiries admin@plantafruit.org |0715963005..

 

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