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Bud-grafting cuts tamarind (mkwaju) maturity period by eight years

mkwaju tamarind tree
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Farmers interested to grow Tamarindus indica commonly known as tamarind or mkwaju in Swahili can reduce by eight years the time the trees take to start bearing fruits through bud-grafting.

According to a 2016 field guide by Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) on Valuable Trees and Shrubs of Kaya Mudzi Muvya Forest in Kilifi County, the time for a tamarind tree to reach its first harvest varies depending on the method of propagation.

A tree propagated by bud-grafting will come into bearing in 3-4 years, whereas trees propagated by seed may take up to 12 years. Practical management and local conditions will also affect the time for trees to bear. A well-tended tree, grown from seed, in an open area will come into bearing in about seven years.

However, regardless of the method of propagation, pod yield should stabilise after 15 years.

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Grafted seedlings can be planted on spacing of 7m X 7m distance. In this pattern, a farmer can accommodate 204 plants per hectare and around 80 plants in an acre.

Jonathan Kituku, a tamarind farmer in Kibwezi Machakos County sells such seedlings under his Mramarui Tree Nursery Project at Sh50 each. He started planting and propagation of tamarinds in 2005 after support from KEFRI under the institute’s Desert Margin Programme.

On the other hand, he sells a kilo of the seeds between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000.

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Tamarind is a hardy tree well adapted to the semi-arid tropics. The economically important tree is ideal for farm-forestry in the drought-prone regions. It is popularly referred to as Indian dates.

It has a pod bearing capacity of 50-60 years but may yield fruit for over 200 years. Mature fruits should have a brown shell, while immature pods have green skin.

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A young tree may yield 20-30kg of fruit per tree in a year and a full-grown adult tree can yield about 150-200kg of fruit per tree in a year. An average tamarind tree may yield 100kg of fruit per tree in a year.

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