STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA
Many individuals are starting strawberry farming in Kenya. The traditional maize and wheat type of farming is being replaced by more profitable and efficient ways that are aimed at providing both sustainability and profitability.
Strawberries have emerged as some of the sought after fruits in the Kenyan market prompting many farmers to venture into the business and establish strawberry farms in Kenya with the hopes of earning from it.
STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA – SITE SELECTION
When selecting a site for strawberry farming in Kenya, a farmer should consider factors such as air and adequate water. Sites that are lower than the land around them are vulnerable to frost as cold air being dense/heavier than hot air will settle on the plants. Level or slightly higher grounds are advised.
Like any other crop, water is important for farmers to succeed in strawberry farming. Some strawberry farms in Kenya have adopted drip irrigation and this increases strawberry production in Kenya as a country since there is assured supply of water all year round.
Soil testing is also a very important factor and all farmers are advised to conduct soil tests before planting any disease vulnerable crops. This goes a long way in preventing pathogen infections.
STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA – PROPAGATION
Strawberries are planted as splits. Strawberries have runners which grow away from the parent plant and in turn attach to the ground forming roots. This can be split from the parent plant to act as seeds for another plant.
During the first weeks of the plant, water is very important and this may determine just how many slits reach maturity. Farmer are advised to gets splits which are transplants from the parent plant so as to get fruits of equal quality as the parent plant. There is a possibility that hybrid plants produce fruits of lesser quality as they are not fully made up of one parent plant.
Pollination in strawberry plants is important just as it is in other fruits. The better the pollination the better the fruits. Fertilizers and manure boost production and therefore farmers with dairy farms can make use of manure from their cows as organic fertilizer.
In most cases, Strawberry farming in Kenya is be done in open air comfortably but for better produce, greenhouses are recommended. Spraying with pesticides is also important as the plants are easily affected by weeds.
STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA -STRAWBERRY VARIETIES
The strawberry varieties grown in Kenya include:- Tribute, Tristar, Tioga selva, Domail, Rabunda, Pajaro and Douglas.
STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA – FIELD OPERATIONS
Soil preparation: Strawberry farming in Kenya does the best in areas where the soil is in 6 to 6.2 PH. The soil needs to be well drained and weed-free. Strawberries should not be planted in a place where plants of the tomatoes family like raspberries and eggplants have been grown previously.
Planting: The strawberries should be planted at the end of the rainy season.
Spacing: The strawberries should be planted on raised beds with a spacing of between 18-24 inches. The rows should be 3-4 feet apart.
Watering: Use of drip irrigation is recommended as it waters at the root. Watering should be carried out once per week.
Fertilizer/manure application: Compost should be applied every so often. Strawberries are runners and it is therefore necessary to ensure that at least 12 inches between plants remains.
Pruning: To increase fruit production, prune off the flowers the first time they appear.
Harvesting: Harvesting seasons come 2-3 times per year. During the harvesting season, pick every 2-3 days.
STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA – PESTS AND DISEASES
The major diseases of strawberries include:-
The fungus penetrates into the plant at the moment when there are wounds. The root neck of the affected plants shows a reddish brown discolouration. The plants wilts and dies. Control:- Use healthy planting material and/or use resistant varieties.
Red root rot
An affected plant will form no or only few flowers. The small fruits will dry out. Control:- Use certified planting material.
Blossom-end rot and stem rot
This fungus occurs especially in long-range crops. In an early stage small brown spots can arise on the buds. After flowering the calyx tails turn brown, the fruits discolour brown and dry.
The major strawberries pests:-
Wire worms are the larvae of the click beetle. They are also known as click beetle because of their yellowish brown colour. They eat themselves into the rhizome of the strawberry plant, as a result of which the strawberry plant will start to become slack. Others include:- Eelworms, caterpillars, plant lice, red spiders, bugs, thripses and beetles.
STRAWBERRY FARMING IN KENYA – MARKET
Normally, the safest way to farm is to concentrate on crops where the first market would be the farmer and his/her community. This way, a farmer is always assured of a place to sell his produce. The direct community would be a good place to start marketing your strawberries. Local fruit stores, restaurants and other small users such as cake makers are also good buyers of strawberries in Kenya. Industries which produce food flavors, natural flavored yoghurt, jam etc also buy strawberries.
In recent years, Kenya farmers have been reluctant to participate in strawberry farming stating that the Kenyan strawberry farming industry is not very developed. However, farmers looking to venture into the practice are greatly encouraged as there exists an even bigger market for export as long as quality standards are attained.
SOURCE: Soft Kenya