- Hundreds of farmers throng Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic at Kalro station in Kandara, Murang’a County, for useful lessons on boosting agribusiness.
- Egerton University agronomist John Ng’ang’a explained that salinity often occurs in areas that experience rapid evaporation.
- Mr Ephraim Wachira, Mt Kenya regional officer at Kephis, said in future one should purchase seedlings only from certified dealers to avoid ending up with nematode-infested plants.
- Elgon Kenya’s Nelson Maina acknowledged the success of the farm clinic noting farmers are eager to learn.
The morning chill did not deter enthusiastic farmers from flocking the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s (Kalro) station in Kandara, Murang’a County last Saturday for the Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic.
Armed with a copy of the Saturday Nation, the farmers came from as far as Kisumu, Meru, Isinya and Narok and a majority from the neighbouring counties like Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga and Meru.
Ready to quench their thirst for knowledge were experts from Kalro, Egerton University, Elgon Kenya Ltd, Camco Equipment (K) Ltd, Toyota Kenya and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis).
Soon, youthful farmer Caleb Karuga, who was the emcee, set the ball rolling as farmers shot a myriad of questions, ranging from pests and diseases, farm management, transport, farm machinery and fertiliser use.
Mr John Kanyingi, a farmer from Isinya, wondered how he could successfully cultivate crops on his farm using salty water from a borehole.
Egerton University agronomist John Ng’ang’a explained that salinity often occurs in areas that experience rapid evaporation.
“Before using water from a borehole for irrigation, test for its suitability in crop cultivation. Some water contains chemicals that interfere with intake of nutrients,” he said.
He recommended that farmers in such areas should use mulching to reduce evaporation, which affects soil moisture.
Mr John Kimuyu from Ithanga in Gatanga wanted to know how to deal with mealybugs, which have attacked his mango and pawpaw plants.
“The mealybugs have colonised a farm with shrubs near mine, making it harder to eradicate them,” said Mr Kimuyu.
Carol Mutua, a horticulturalist from Egerton University, advised the farmer to first clear the infested shrubs near his farm as they act as habitats for the pest.
“You can then spray soapy water on the crops, use neem oil, parasitic wasps, pheromone traps as well as biological pesticides to control the pests,” said Mutua.
She added that crop rotation helps in controlling mealybugs but applies only to crops that are fast-maturing.
Mr Michael Kimani, who grows tree tomatoes, said nematodes had invaded his crops and he did not know how to eradicate them.
Mr Ephraim Wachira, Mt Kenya regional officer at Kephis, informed Mr Kimani that he should in future purchase seedlings only from certified dealers to avoid ending up with nematode-infested plants.
“There are beneficial and harmful nematodes. The latter can be controlled by crop rotation,” he said.
Mr Oscar Muiruri from Maragua wondered why his chickens had scales and blisters on their feet. Dr Salome Karanja, a veterinarian from Elgon Kenya Ltd, explained that the chickens were mite-infested.
Mites, she said, reside in unclean chicken houses and the birds pick them through their feet.
The scales that ensue on the birds’ feet are a sort of defence mechanism as the chickens’ immune system tries to stop the invasion.
“You can use petroleum jelly, applied on the affected parts of the birds and ensure the chicken house is clean to keep the pests away,” she said.
She added that the farmer can then use recommended medication to kill the pests, including drugs used to treat tick infestation.
The chicken house, she observed, should also be sprayed after every seven days, twice to eradicate the mites and acaricides applied in the process. “Ensure you use the correct disinfectant in the footbaths at the chicken house door.