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    Irish potato harvesting Patrick Njenga Kiambu By Laban Robert

    With reports showing that one in every five kilos of food produced in Africa goes to waste during and after harvest, Kiambu County farmer has resorted to sticks in harvesting Irish potatoes to reduce reducing injuries.

    Harvesting tuber and root crops with hoes and other sharp objects not only reduces their shelf-life but also slashes the marketability in half.

    “Cut Irish potatoes fetch half the price. Farmers do not want stay with them for long because by the fourth day after harvesting, they start depreciating in quality; and with a jembe or hoe, about one in three out of 10 potatoes may be scratched or cut. That is why I started using sticks in harvesting,” Patrick Njenga said.

    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture post-harvest Researcher Adebayo Abass recently said Tanzania that inappropriate technologies for harvesting, transportation, storage and processing lead to spoilage of food.

    When, for example a root tuber is cut, the flesh is exposed to pests and other germs, which initiate and accelerate the rate of spoilage.

    If a two-kilogramme tin costs Sh80 at Kimende, near Njenga’s home, spoilt pieces in the same container may fetch between Sh30 and Sh40 when sold to hotels and other immediate consumers.

    This is devaluation by more than half, yet the product has consumed factors of production for more than three months, the farmer said.

    Going by the overall research, at least eight 110kg bags will be spoilt out of the total 40 harvested, marking the start of losses from an acre. Currently, a 110kg bag sells at Sh3,000 in Nairobi. The loss translates to Sh12,000 for the eight sacks instead of Sh24,000.

    “Potatoes are grown on ridges. Demolishing them by hand is easy because the raised soil is still loose. A stick helps in case the tubers have got past the normal soil level, which happens less often,” he said.

    While Irish and sweet potatoes may be edible within the first five days after harvest even with the cuts, cassava is more vulnerable. It starts to spoil within 48 hours if harvested with cuts.

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    aquachek diagram

    While farmers are adopting irrigation for crop production on dry spells, a study has established that unmonitored water may lead to loss of more than half of the nutrients through leaching.

    A research by the Crop Nutrition Services Limited found that farmers lose up to 60 per cent of nutrients to the lower soil regions where crop roots my not reach. This leads to low productivity as the crops remain stunted as well as failure to meet the nutrients required for various functions like flowering.

    “In irrigation of 16m3 per acre in one day, there was evidence of strong nutrient leaching in all sites with nitrates and calcium being the most lost at 60cm and 90cm depth,” the study revealed.

    Crop Nutrition Agronomist Emmanuel Kibet said ‘blind irrigation’ does not give farmers value for their money.

    Aquacheck-soil moisture probe is an irrigation system that allows farmers to manage their irrigation efficiently, it measures moisture up to six depths and even beyond (has sensors at each 10cm depth).

    This allows the farmer to know the moisture levels all the way down the rooting depth thus allowing them to decide when it is right time to irrigate and what amounts of water to irrigate. Different soil types have different properties and holds different amount of water, he said.

     “Leaching lead to loses of nutrient before utilisation by the crop. A farmer will be tempted to increase the frequency of fertiliser application when they notice the health of the crop is diminishing. With accurate data on how much water is available in the soil for the crop, a farmer can regulate the irrigation frequency for optimum results,” he said.

    Reducing the irrigation –when not necessary from the available data- intervals decreases pumping, labour, and water bill costs.

    Mr Kibet is working with farmers in Kiambu County, soil moisture sensors are being used to determine the amount of water required for the crops to do well.

    The sensor, also known as Aquacheck, is installed in the soil where it keeps track of the amount of available water moisture against soil particles at a two hour interval.

    The data is sent to a computer or a smart phone, where it is presented in graphs. The trained farmer interprets the results for action, the agronomist said.

    If the water is sufficient, one can skip irrigation until there is need.

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    For one piece sufficiently monitors a maximum area of up to three acres. It can also be used in greenhouses.

    Although the initial cost may be high for most small-scale farmers, Mr Kibet said the accumulated saving from the irrigation and leaching are worth investment.

    With the statistics, it means that excess irrigation can drain 30kg out of 50kg applied on a given piece of land.

    Kibet can be reached on +254720646976

    Crop Nutrition office: +254 736 839933, + 254 720 639933

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    20220603 170758 1000x500

    By George Munene

    Fahari Aviation, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways PLC, will deploy high-capacity drones to cover over 3000 acres of tea plantation in less than two weeks for Kipkebe Ltd, a subsidiary of Sasini PLC. This will save an overall 50 per cent on cost and time efficiency in fertilizer and chemical spraying and spreading. 

    Kipkebe farm will be used to benchmark the effectiveness of drone use with a possibility to expand the service offering to other Sasini estates.    

    This follows Fahari Aviation signing a service agreement with Sasini PLC to offer precision agricultural services. 

    Related News: Former KQ pilot uses drones to help farmers increase yields & cut cost

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    Speaking on the signed agreement, Silas Njibwakale, Managing Director at Kipkebe Limited said, "The technology will definitely reduce the time span for fertilizer application on the tea fields ensuring that application coincides with good weather conditions, enhance crop yields while reducing attendant costs, as well as adverse impacts on humans and the environment.

    As a leading agricultural enterprise, Kipkebe is uniquely positioned to lead our industry towards the future of sustainable farming.”  

    Drone technology in agriculture also offers better accountability of product supply as well as improved accessibility of tough terrains.

    Related News: Eldoret company develops tea picking device halving production costs

    Hawkins Musili, General Manager at Fahari Aviation said,” Agriculture forms the backbone of our economy, and drones have revolutionized agriculture by offering farmers major cost savings, and enhanced efficiency within the region. We are proud to announce this agreement as Fahari Aviation seeks to reach new heights for more precise applications within the agricultural sector.”

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