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    Farmers intending to grow mushrooms for sale can use farm waste from their farms to grow the sweet food produce. The waste obtained from maize, sugarcane thrash, sawdust and banana leaves among other crops is ideal for mushroom growing because they thrive on a substratum.

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    “Because it is a fungus, mushroom is not grown on soil like the green plants; it’s grown on broken substrate whereby the crop obtains its nourishment,” said Patrick Muchiri, a Biotechnologist at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT).

    “Mushroom is not a rain fed crop and requires little space for growing. The crop is steadily gathering pace as one of the preferred sources of investment in agribusiness with a promise of quick returns.”



    According to official statistics from the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), Kenya, it reveals that there is a high demand of mushrooms. The country produces 500 tonnes of mushrooms per year against a demand of 1200 tonnes.

     Procedure of using agricultural waste to grow mushrooms

    The agricultural waste, which is easily available on farms, is soaked for three days and then heaped for fermentation for four to six days in a closed container.

    After the fermentation process, the agricultural waste is sterilized through boiling in closed pots for 12 hours in order to eliminate unwanted organisms and bacteria. After cooling, it is filled in small polyethylene plastic bags using common bowls, to serve as a substrate.

    The substrate should be composed by 65 to 75 per cent of moisture, and for the remaining part by agricultural waste. It can be used for three harvests, and then it can be recycled as organic mulch or fertilizer. Alternatively, cotton seed waste can be used as substrate for oyster mushroom production.

    Polyethylene plastic bags are filled with the substrate (about five kilograms per bag), which is then inoculated with the mushroom spawns (spawns are ‘mixed’ with the substrate). Each garden of about five kilograms of substrate is filled with about 250 grams of spawns.  At that time, plastic bags are closed manually.

    Following the inoculation process, the mushroom bags are hanged in locally built (brick or mud walls and thatched roof), darkened mushroom houses for incubation. Ideal humidity of the incubation room is 70 – 75 per cent. Each room can host up to 300 gardens.

    The mushrooms start sprouting after 28-35 days from inoculation. Each mushroom garden (i.e. plastic bag containing about five kilograms of substrate) yields a minimum of two kilograms of fresh oyster mushrooms.

    Harvested mushrooms can be sold fresh, or they can be dried in a solar dryer and packed into plastic bags for sale.

    Research done by JKUAT shows there is a huge shortage of mushroom supply locally. The main reason for this is that there was no institution that was producing certified mushroom seeds (spawn) before the university started production. At the same time, consumers were not aware of the health benefits derived from eating mushrooms. Mushrooms can substitute red meat because they have no cholesterol. They are rich in Proteins, and Minerals.

    Spawn (mushroom seeds) can be obtained at the University at the following costs

    • Button spawn, Agaricus bisphorus, agaricus bitorquise(Warm weather) @ Ksh. 600 liter.
    • Oyster - Sh600 per liter
    • Shiitake - Sh1000 per liter
    • Ganoderma - Sh1000 per liter
    • Casing soil -Sh6 per kg

     Ready substrate for sale:

    • Button Substrate at Sh55 per kg for 10kg bag = Sh550, inclusive of casing soil.
    • Oyster substrate Sh90 per kg
    • Shiitake and Ganoderma substrates at Sh100 per kg

     An eighth acre farm can produce as much as two tonnes of produce. Each kilogram goes for an average price of Sh600 and this can translate t


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    Smallholder farmers within Nyanza region can get high quality fast maturing grafted fruit seedlings at Aberdare Technogies Limited, the producer and distributor of diverse varieties of fruit seedlings within the region. Grafted hass avocadoes for instance mature six months earlier at one and half years that the normal seedlings which mature at two years. They also have a high oil content hence suitable for export.

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    With the grafted seedlings, farmers will be able to obtain quick fruiting in their plants. The flowers and fruits produced by a graft are of superior quality as compared to the original variety.

    Aberdare’s Kisii branch Head Manager Alphonse Obino told farmbiz Africa they sell over 100,000 grafted seedlings supplies monthly with the aim of boosting farmers’ income with affordable quality seedlings.

    “We sell grafted mangoes, avocadoes, oranges, pawpaw, tree tomatoes, sweet yellow passion, strawberries and pomegranates” said Obino.

    “The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization which has for a long time been the supplier of these seedlings have dwindling stocks and are now refer farmers to us”


    Grafted avocado seedlings

    Grafting is most commonly referred to as an artificial, vegetative method of plant propagation. A grafted plant, therefore, is a composite of parts derived from two or more plants.

    The upper part of the combined plant is called the scion while the lower part is called the root stock. The success of this joining requires that the vascular tissue grow together and such joining is called inosculation. The technique is most commonly used in a sexual propagation of commercially grown plants for horticultural and agricultural trades.

    One seedling of grafted apple is sold for Sh300, Sh100 for mango, Sh50 for sweet yellow passion, Sh100 for Hass/Fuerte avocado and Sh100 for oranges.

    “The current political stalemate in the country has really affected our business as farmers especially from Kisumu come in low number when compared to last year”

    Obino said that farmers in Kisii are now earning between Sh9 tp Sh10 for a single fruit from grafted hass avocado variety up from Sh6 they used to get earlier before embracing grafting.

    Growing fruits offers tremendous opportunities for enhancing the incomes of small-scale farming families in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa, and for improving the nutrition of the poor who currently suffer from deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients as a consequence of low consumption of these foods.

    Many fruits are, for example, important sources of vitamins A and C that are lacking in the diets of many Africans. There is low intake of vitamin A in Africa with around 50m children are at risk of the deficiency, considered to be Africa’s third greatest public health problem after HIV/AIDS and malaria.

    If farmers receive good incomes from cultivating high quality fruit that consumers can afford and are informed about the benefits of eating them, a strong domestic production sector can develop in Kenya. The cultivation of fruits by smallholders to feed local markets and support of export markets thus presents a tremendous opportunity for investment.

    Obino can be reached on +254 709 333 105.





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    Boma Rhodes.

    Peter Mutisya, a fodder crop farmer in Kivaa village, Machakos County earns over Sh85, 000 per season from sales of Rhodes and Brachiaria grass compared to maize and beans that used to give him Sh10, 000 per season five years ago.

    The irregular and insufficient rainfall affected his yields, harvesting only five bags of maize and 10kg of beans at most per season. “I was always relying on relief food from the government and well-wishers because after selling maize and beans and settled school fees I was left with nothing,” he said.

    RELATED STORY: Mwingi farmers preserve future with fodder technology

    In the Southeastern region of Kenya where Mutisya comes from the drought has affected harvests and livestock. According to Kenya Meteorological Department August 2017 report the area received depressed rainfall of less than 40 per cent of the March-April-May seasonal rainfall.

    This has prompted Mutisya and other farmers in the region to look for alternative sources of income in growing fodder crops.

    In 2015 Mutisya visited Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s (Kalro) Arid and Range Lands Research Institute at Katumanu branch in Machakos County and bought seeds of Boma Rhodes hay and Brachiaria grass at Sh800 and Sh1, 000 per kilo respectively to plant on his six acres farm.

    RELATED STORY:Arid tagasaste shrub offers livestock fodder for 30 years

    He followed the agronomic instructions given by the Kalro officers and within a short time he was harvesting his first crops for market. “I was surprised that after three to four months both Rhodes and Brachiaria were mature for harvest,” said the father of three.

    Mutisya’s customers are animal keepers who visit his farm to buy feeds for their animals. He sells Boma Rhodes at Sh300 per bale and Sh20 per kilo of Brachiaria grass. He harvests both in three phases a season getting 150 bales and about 20,000Kg of Boma Rhodes and Brachiaria grass respectively. This gives him a sum of Sh85, 000 in a given season.

    Mutisya no longer relys on their village chief’s charity food to feed his family. “With the money I get from selling the grass, I am able to settle my bills and buy enough food to sustain my family.”

    A growing number of Kenyans living in arid areas are swapping staple crops for livestock fodder like Rhodes or Brachiaria grass, which require less water to grow, according to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.

    RELATED STORY: Fodder offers alternatives to rising cost of commercial feeds

     “Rain-fed staple farming is becoming increasingly difficult in Kenya due to poor rainfall, whereas growing fodder can help farmers withstand prolonged drought." Said Joseph Mureithi, Kalro director.

    Brachiaria .jpeg

     A goat feeding on Brachiaria grass.

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