In Summary
  • The questions were varied. From agro-inputs to pests and diseases to farm management, soil testing, crop husbandry, livestock and agriculture financing.
  • Fredrick Otieno, a field assistant at Karlo, had a busy day explaining the new varieties of sweet potatoes and their nutritional values.
  • Growing certified seeds is not enough, ensure you test soil before planting to check acidity levels and diseases.
  • Watch out for the next Seeds of Gold farming clinic that would be held early next year at a location near you.

They came from far and wide. Some from Makueni and Trans Nzoia, others from Machakos, Baringo, Nyeri and Nakuru.

And as they trooped to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) demonstration farm in Njoro, Nakuru County where the second edition of the Seeds of Gold farming clinic was held last Saturday, they had one goal in mind – to pick as many lessons as possible to better their agribusinesess.

Armed with notebooks and recorders, the farmers navigated their way through the lush green farms eager for latest innovative farming methods.

Waiting patiently to serve them were experts from Kalro, Egerton University, University of Eldoret and Elgon Kenya, among others, all dressed in white overcoats and black gumboots.

The questions were varied. From agro-inputs to pests and diseases to farm management, soil testing, crop husbandry, livestock and agriculture financing.

On the wheat farm, Prof Miriam Gaceri Kinyua from the University of Eldoret, who is also a plant breeder, informed farmers of newly released varieties that are resistant to deadly stem rust.

Eldo Mavuno and Eldo Baraka, which were introduced last season, are not only resistant to the disease but offer higher yields.

PERIODIC SOIL TESTING

“They yield between 30 and 35 90kg bags per acre,” said Prof Kinyua. The control of stem rust in the new varieties is inbuilt, thus, farmers don’t have to worry any more of how to stop the disease.

“Curbing stem rust has been a costly affair to farmers since time immemorial since it involves heavy use of expensive chemicals. It costs more than Sh10,000 for every acre sprayed but this will now be a thing of the past,” added Prof Kinyua at the event sponsored by Elgon Kenya, Nation Media Group and Kalro.

Most farmers, according to her, spray their crops more than three times with fungicides to deal with stem rust.

Prof Kinyua, however, advised farmers that planting certified seeds would not guarantee them high yield as they must also weed in good time.

She further asked farmers to periodically do soil testing as it is a key component to higher yields.

“Planting certified seeds is not enough. Farmers must make sure they test their soils before planting to check acidity levels and diseases.”

Fredrick Otieno, a field assistant at Karlo, had a busy day explaining the new varieties of sweet potatoes and their nutritional values.

At least five varieties have been developed at Njoro and are unique as they are orange-fleshed, have Vitamin A and boost eye sight, and in particular, are good for diabetic and HIV patients.

ABOUT NEW VARIETIES, DISEASES CHALLENGES

The new varieties are named Kenspot 1-5. “These varieties are resistant to viruses, drought and are early maturing and can be grown where there is minimal rain.”

A farmer planting the crop as fodder must plough the land and dig ridges, which must be 30cm apart and apply fertiliser when they start growing.

However, for a farmer planting the crop for commercial purposes, the ridges should be a metre apart and the seedlings should be 30cm long.

“These vines should be planted in a slanting way and two-thirds should be buried in the soil and a third should remain on top of the soil. The reason for planting this way is to enable farmers to get more root tubers,” explained Otieno, adding one of the reasons farmers fail to get maximum yield is because they don’t follow planting instructions.

Wheat growing lessons were also offered for those practicing the crop's cultivation.

Wheat growing lessons were also offered for those practicing the crop's cultivation. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He advised those planting for seed multiplication to make a 1m by 50m bed and apply DAP fertiliser. And they should plant the vines without the leaves by making sure two nodes are beneath the soil while one node should be above the soil.

“The vines should be cut in three pieces that have three nodes each and make farrows and insert them in the soil in a slanting way. The spacing should be at least 10cm.”

An acre, he said, requires about 14,000 vines of the new varieties, which are high-yielding in comparison to the old traditional vines.

One of the major challenge that farmers were eager to learn on sweet potato was about diseases caused by aphids and white flies.

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