Grafting is gradually getting the interest of many farmers in Kenya, with the increased productivity and high quality of fruits it promises.
According to Henry M’Tiiri, an orchard management expert selling seedlings of various fruits like apples, grafting allows for easy production of hybrid fruits, which have a higher demand in international markets.
“Export markets demand a certain standard of quality, which can productively be achieved through grafted seedlings,” M’Tiiri told Farmbiz Africa.
Kenya is ranked 88th of 93 apple exporters worldwide, with just over 779 tonnes of the fruit produced each year. China, the leading exporter, sells 35 million tonnes of apples annually.
M’Tiiri asserts that as long as proper management practices are followed, grafted apple trees start producing fruits in as little as one year, adding that it will take a little more interest and commitment from Kenyan farmers to change the country’s dismal position in the export market.
“Some of the seedlings start flowering while in the nursery and we have seen farmers start harvesting a few months after purchase. However, it generally takes one year to three years for harvests to be made from grafted seedlings, but the timeframe depends on the care provided,” he said.
M’Tiiri, whose nursery is in Meru, but delivers countrywide, sells one seedling at KSh300. One acre of land can accommodate 600 trees, each producing between 10 and 20 fruits in the first year and up to 200 fruits per year at the maturity age of six years.
Among the varieties he supplies include Winter Banana, Dorsett Golden, Top Red, Anna and Rome Beauty, all of which are set on the versatile root stocks of M7 and MM106.
M’Tiiri says that apple seedlings, for instance, require a good water supply, adding that with proper care, fruits can be harvested even in areas typically not favourable for the crop production like Machakos.
Apples grow best in a soil pH of 5.5 -6.5, and farmers can have their soils tested by contacting companies such as Soil Cares Africa, which charge between KSh2,000 and KSh5,000 for tests.
Temperatures of between 21°C and 24°C and altitudes of 1,500m to 2,700m above sea level favour the fruit.
For grafted apple, lemon, avocado, orange and mango seedling purchases and orchard management advice, farmers can call Henry M’Tiiri on phone number 0723992728