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    Arid and semi arid region farmers can grow a well performing new cassava variety required for starch extraction by Machakos county factory.

    Katune 990005, which has been developed by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organisation, performs well in dry regions and produces more a good quality and quantity of starch which Kiara Agro Limited factory is looking for.

    The cassava factory Director Pinal Patel says the variety is more marketable to starch-sourcing companies to meet the demand for the product.

    “Katune 990005 variety is more marketable. Because it produces white starch after processing, more consumers prefer this colour, which they associate with purity,” he said.

    Productivity

    Kenya imports about 25 tones of various forms of starch to meet the demand in the shelf, baking, breweries, binding glue, among other sectors.

    Increasing the production locally would save the country millions of shillings while given local farmers an alternative source of revenue.

    KALRO has not officially given the quantity yield per acre for Katuni variety. Going per similar breeds released recently, productivity is between 23 tonnes per acre to 28 tonnes per acre production.

    READ ALSO: Machakos factory looking for cassava

    The company buys starch at an average of Sh5 per kilo. Six kilogrammes of unprocessed starch release one kilogramme of starch.

    A farmer produces 25 tonnes of Katuni from one acre, they would earn up to Sh25,000.

    “My experience and research have shown that cassava have more starch if harvested during dry seasons. Planting should coincide with rains, while harvesting should be done when it is dry. A lot of water in the soil leads to loss of starch o even up to 40 per cent,” the director said.

    READ ALSO: Cassava cakes rake in cash for Vihiga youth group

    Thika 5 breed has more starch than katune, but the earlier cassava is brown, therefore, less searched for by white-loving consumers.

    Challenge

    To ease collection of raw cassavas from the few farmers already producing the crop, Patel has allowed them to group themselves. Collection is done from one point after and payment made. the buying from the groups also cuts middlemen channels, who he says reduce earnings for the farmers.

    He says the big challenge he is facing is the random production of the crop, since farms just want cassava without paying much attention to planting variety.

    For more details, please contact Oluoch on +254720251441.

    Sorghum is one of the least commercialized crop in the country despite the great production potential and the market demand in the alcohol processing industry.

    This crop, which performs well in relatively poor soils, is also tolerant to drought. But those who are supplying processing companies like Kenya Breweries Limited have been contracted-still they cannot meet the demand, leading to importation.

    The company reports that it requires about 22 metric tonnes of sorghum annually, a demand it says is a 944 per cent increase last year.

    It is used in production of low-cow, but quality Senator Keg.

    READ ALSO Farmers scale-up sorghum production as breweries come calling

    Dual crop

    But it is easy to grow for both commercial and domestic consumption.

    Sorghum is a warm climate loving crop, with best results being recorded at temperatures of 25?C and 32?C.

    The grain does well in dry regions receiving about 400mm of rainfall per year.

    It does well in well drained loam sandy soils, with a PH of between 6 and 7.5. This means it requires slightly acidic to neutral soils in PH. Two tillage rounds are sufficient for planting; well drained soil would mean there is no water logging.

    At a seed rate of about 15 kilogrammes per acre a 25 cm row to row distance is most appropriate, with holes being between 2 cm and 3 cm deep.

    Advisable

    Locally, most farmers broadcast the sorghum together with finger millet.  It is not advisable. It would lead to less yields given that the two are short-term crops competing for similar nutrients and millet would suffer more because it is shorter than sorghum.

    Ten to 15 metric tonnes of farm yard manure are sufficient in supplying the soil with macronutrients. Sowing with nitrogen phosphorus and potassium containing fertiliser would give rise to energetic crop.

    Top dressing after one month of about 14 kilogrammes per acre would accelerate flowering.Sorghum is ripe for harvesting after 65-75 days, with an acre estimated to yield about 400 kilogrammes under good management practices.

    A Nairobi-based international agribusiness firm has released another new high performing, but cheap watermelon variety targeting low earning small-scale farmers.

    One fruit of Maridadi F1 watermelon, which is green with white stripes, on average yields 10 kilogrammes.

    Amiran Kenya’s Johnson Makau says the company’s aim in bringing the high-yielding variety to the market is to offer small-scale farmers an affordable watermelon that would give them better returns.

    In early March, the company unveiled Lahat F1 variety, which basically has similar performance to Maridadi F1, but is green. Its cost per 100 grammes is Sh8,120.

    READ ALSO: Hybrid watermelon variety can earn Sh2 million for small-scale farmers in two months

    “Maridadi F1 is pocket friendly, yet high yielding. One hundred grammes of seeds cost Sh1,856. This means that those farmers who cannot afford other expensive varieties are not denied a chance of trying their hand in this hot-selling juicy fruit,” he said.

    A farmer would require 500 seeds per acre. The seed are bigger, almost twice those of Lahat F1. The seed rate is lower for this later varity per acre when compared to the March one.

    “Zebra is a fast selling variety favoured by many. Having been derived from Sukari F1 type, its brix content is very high,” he said.

    Its maturity period ranges from 75 to 90 days.

    Maku can be reached on 0729991871

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