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    Clever farmers are doing an evaluation of the year 2015, noting the mistakes they made, while celebrating their major successes.

    And as you plan your farming calendar in 2016, our in-house agronomist Elijah Lemomo, advises that you should make it the year of short-season crops.

    Over the next one month, starting December 17, agronomist Lemomo will be telling you the kinds of crops you should be focusing on in each month of next.

    This is the fifth installment of the 12-part series, dubbed Crops of 2016, the only planting and harvesting calendar you should have.

    May

    Kenyans are fast embracing health foods and arrow-roots are becoming a preferred breakfast accompaniment in most urban households.

    The tuber crop requires moisturized soils throughout its growth and can take an average of six months to mature, although it is recommended that farmers wait until the 8th month to start harvesting.

    This means that a farmer who plants his/her crop in May will start harvesting, around January 2017, an opportune time to have money in the bank.

    One acre of arrowroot can yield up to six tons of tubers. With the retail price for a kilogram of arrow root being an average of KSh150 in Nairobi, and its demand being at an all-time peak, farmers can easily make revenues of up between Sh500,000 and Sh900,000 from one acre of land.

    Cultivation

    Arrow roots consume a lot of water in their growth cycle and that is why they are commonly found along riverbeds and swampy areas.

    Still, they can be grown anywhere by planting them in trenches lined with plastic, a technique commonly referred to us upland technology. A heavy duty plastic paper is used to line up the bottom of the trenches, which are then filled with a mixture of soil and manure at a ratio of 2:1.

    The Eddoe variety of arrow-roots is recommended for cultivation in trenches and the suckers cost between Sh5 and 15 a piece. A soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is favourable.  Suckers should be planted at a spacing of 30cm by 30 cm and a depth of 20 cm. The spacing between beds should be 0.5m.

    After planting, the beds should be mulched and watered once a week to maintain the moisture.

    Management

    Arrowroots, once planted do not require a lot of care, apart from the regular removal of old and dry leaves.

    Weeding should also be done regularly, but farmers should take care not to step on the beds to avoid compacting.

    Harvesting

    Arrow roots are ready for harvesting when the leaves start changing color and withering.

    One of East Africa’s most enterprising orchard managers, Henry M’Tiiri, is working to introduce new grape varieties in Kenya.  

    M’Tiiri, who is based in Meru, has one of the most elaborate fruit seedling collections in the country, and among the clients he prides of as having served is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who in December 2015, bought hundreds of grape seedlings for his vineyard.

    Not one to wait for opportunity to pass him, Mr. M’Tiiri has imported into the country one of the best varieties of grapes developed by the BD Grape and Spices Research Culture Institute in Bangladesh.

    Researchers

    BD a leading firm leads the world in the production of sweet grapes, having developed over 40 high-yielding and top-quality varieties.

    Among the improved varieties that M’Tiiri brought in are Russian Ruby and Crimson (red and green) Seedeless.

    His plan is to propagate the stems he brought in for sale to farmers in Kenya and East Africa.

    “This variety only takes six months from planting to maturity and I am looking forward to multiplying it for farmers across the region,” he told Farmbizafrica.com.  

    By the time he has enough stocks to propagate, M’Tiiri estimates he will retail each stem at Sh500.

     

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