A farmer in West Pokot County has tripled his income from Sh120, 000 to Sh350, 000 per acre after growing a new onion variety, the red Tropicana F1. The variety matures in three months with a potential yield of 10 tonnes per acre.
Initially, David Roron and his family survived on relief food as the maize produced in his farm was not enough to sustain them. His bulb onion farm produced only 4 tonnes per acre which fetched little income due to low market prices as a result of uncoordinated marketing leading to exploitation by middlemen.
On average, David sold his onions at Sh20 per kilogram which was very low when compared to the selling price of Sh50 per kilogram when the season is good.
In 2015, he purchased 500g of onion seeds from a certified seeds agent in Kapenguria town at a cost of Sh2000.
“Onions thrive well in a place with direct sunlight and well drained soils rich in nitrogen” said David.
“So for my farm I had to choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight where the plants would not be shaded by other crops”
He tilled his land with the help of a tractor at a cost of Sh1500 till the soil was loose and crumbly to allow enough aeration.
He grew the onions on a raised bed of between four to six inches wide and one inch deep. The farmer watered the plants regularly since onions have shallow roots and need water to develop bulbs.
In every two weeks, David supplemented the plants with fish emulsion which is a high nitrogen fertilizer. A half ounce of the emulsion was added to one gallon of water and mixed thoroughly then added to the base of the plants where bulbs develop.
“Onion farmers should however take caution not to apply excess fertilizers as this may hamper the growth of the plants” said David.
When plants receive too much nitrogen and are "burned," they may shrivel up or have a generally dry, crispy look. Onion plants with nitrogen deficiency on the other hand look pale yellow and stunted with poor growth.
To control weeds, David applied grass mulch which prevented unwanted plants from gaining cover. Weed control helps in avoiding competition for nutrients. The mulch however, need to be removed when the onions bulb so as to allow good air circulation.
The most common diseases affecting onions include blight and purple blotch which David controlled by using pyrethrin.
The bulbing process in onions begins when the ground starts to crack as the onions push away the soil. At this point, no more fertilizers should be added. When they mature, onion tops will fall over and watering should be stopped to allow dry harvesting of the plant.
“At the harvesting stage, it is important to remove them on a sunny day, shake off excess soil and dry them in the sun for two days” said David.
The farmer marketed his onions through the Ortum farmers’ cooperative society where onions from members are sorted, graded and aggregated. In this organized marketing, the farmer was able to sell a kilogram of the onions at Sh40 as compared to Sh20 which he earned earlier when he had joined the society.
“From my first earnings, I constructed a good house, I paid school fees for my
“From my first earnings, I constructed a good house and paid school fees for my children. From the subsequent ones I re-invested back in the farm, purchasing inputs on time” said David.