Kenya is a country that has seen a surge in avocado farming in recent years, with farmers taking advantage of the high demand for the fruit in both local and international markets. However, planting and growing avocados successfully can be a challenge, especially for those who are new to the business.
To ensure a successful crop, it is essential to follow a planting guide that takes into account the specific conditions and requirements of avocado trees in Kenya. This guide should cover everything from preparing the soil to choosing the right variety of avocado for your farm.
In this article, we will provide a comprehensive planting guide for avocado farming in Kenya. We will cover all the essential steps required to grow healthy and productive avocado trees, including soil preparation, planting techniques, irrigation, pest and disease management, and harvesting. Whether you are a seasoned farmer or just starting, this guide will help you to maximize your avocado yield and profitability.
Climate and Soil Requirements
When it comes to planting avocados in Kenya, the climate and soil requirements are crucial factors to consider. Avocado trees thrive in tropical and subtropical climates with moderate temperatures and rainfall. In Kenya, the ideal temperature range for avocado farming is between 20°C to 30°C, with an annual rainfall of 1000mm to 1500mm.
Avocado trees can grow well in a wide range of soils, but the ideal soil for most varieties is loose, loamy, or sandy with a slightly acidic to neutral pH, between 5 and 7. However, farmers should generally avoid establishing an avocado orchard in fields with poor drainage and high salinity. Avocado trees do not tolerate salt, so if you are in an area with high salt content in the soil, you will need to take measures to mitigate this.
Before planting, it is important to perform a full irrigation water and pre-plant complete soil analysis of the topsoil and subsoil at least six months before planting. This will help you determine the nutrient status of the soil and identify any necessary amendments. Additionally, an annual soil analysis is required to ensure the soil remains healthy and nutrient-rich. This should be accompanied by a leaf analysis and irrigation water analysis to ensure that the trees are receiving the necessary nutrients and water.
Also Read: Kakuzi Kenya’s Top Avocado Exporter
Varieties of Avocado for Planting in Kenya
Kenya is a great place for growing avocados, and there are several varieties that are suitable for planting in the country. Here are some of the most popular varieties:
- Hass Avocado: This is the most popular variety for the export market. The trees for this particular breed are semi-spreading, and the yield from one tree can go up to 60 fruits on average. The fruit is medium-sized, round in shape, rough, and black in color.
- Fuerte Avocado: This is a large, pear-shaped avocado with a smooth, thin, green skin. It is a popular variety for the domestic market, and it is also exported. The tree is upright, and the fruit is harvested from August to January.
- Puebla Avocado: This variety is also known as the “Mexican Avocado.” It is a large, round fruit with a thin, shiny, green skin. The tree is upright, and the fruit is harvested from September to December.
- Nabal Avocado: This variety has a green fruit with a good flavor. The tree is upright, and the fruit is harvested from August to November.
When selecting a variety of avocado to plant, it is important to consider the climate and soil conditions in your area. You should also consider the market demand for the fruit in your region.
Overall, Hass avocado is the most popular variety for planting in Kenya due to its high demand in the export market. However, other varieties such as Fuerte, Puebla, and Nabal are also great options for planting, depending on your specific needs and circumstances.
Avocado trees are propagated through grafting. The seedlings are grafted onto rootstocks, which are grown from avocado seeds. Grafting is done to ensure that the trees are disease-resistant and produce high-quality fruits. There are two types of grafting commonly used in avocado farming:
- Budding: This is the most common method of grafting. A bud from a selected variety is inserted under the bark of a seedling rootstock. The bud is then wrapped with a tape or a plastic material to protect it from moisture and pests. This method is preferred because it is easy to perform and has a high success rate.
- Whip grafting: This method involves cutting a scion from a selected variety and inserting it into a slit made in the rootstock. The scion is then wrapped with a tape or a plastic material to protect it from moisture and pests. This method is more difficult to perform than budding and has a lower success rate.
The best time to graft avocado trees is during the rainy season when the trees are actively growing. The grafting process should be done carefully to avoid damaging the seedling rootstock or the scion. After grafting, the trees should be watered regularly to ensure that they establish well.
It is important to select high-quality rootstocks and scions for grafting to ensure that the trees produce high-quality fruits. The most commonly used rootstock in Kenya is the Duke 7, which is known for its disease resistance and high yield. The most commonly used scion is the Hass, which is known for its high-quality fruits and good market value.
Before planting avocado trees in Kenya, it is essential to prepare the land properly. The following are some of the steps to follow when preparing the land:
- Clearing – The first step is to clear the land of any debris, stumps, and rocks. This will ensure that the land is ready for planting.
- Soil Testing – It is crucial to test the soil before planting. This will help determine the soil’s pH levels, nutrient content, and other factors that can affect the growth of the avocado trees.
- Soil Preparation – Once the soil test results are available, the next step is to prepare the soil. This can involve adding organic matter, such as compost or manure, to improve soil structure and fertility. It may also involve adding lime to adjust the pH levels of the soil.
- Drainage – Avocado trees require well-draining soil to thrive. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the land has proper drainage. This can be achieved by creating drainage channels or installing drainage tiles.
- Planting Holes – The planting holes should be dug to a depth of at least 60cm and a width of 60cm. This will provide enough space for the root system to develop. The holes should be spaced at least 6 meters apart to allow for adequate sunlight and airflow between the trees.
By following these steps, you can ensure that the land is ready for planting avocado trees. Proper land preparation can significantly improve the growth and yield of the trees.
Before planting avocado trees, it is important to prepare the soil properly. Here are the steps to follow:
- Dig soil profile pits throughout the farm, at least 1.5m deep and a minimum of one pit per hectare.
- Examine the soil color, texture, hard pans, sitting water, structure, patches, concretions, gravel, and stones.
- Let the hole settle for two to three weeks for best results.
- Prepare holes of 60 x 60 x 60cm (length x width x height) one month prior to the actual planting date.
- Separate sub-soil and top-soil.
- Mix a debe (20kg) of Farm Yard Manure (FYM) and 120 g of Double Superphosphate fertilizer (46% P 2 O 5) with the topsoil.
- Fill the hole with the mixture.
- Carefully remove the plant from the container with the soil intact and place it at the center of the hole.
- Firm the soil around the plant.
- Water the plant immediately after planting.
It is important to note that the avocado tree is a slow-growing tree that can take up to 10 years to produce fruit. Therefore, patience is key when it comes to avocado farming.
Fertilization and Irrigation
Avocado trees require regular fertilization and irrigation to produce a healthy crop. Fertilization is important to provide the necessary nutrients for the tree to grow and produce fruit. Irrigation is necessary to ensure that the tree receives enough water to thrive.
There are several factors to consider when fertilizing avocado trees. The type of soil, the age of the tree, and the time of year are all important factors to consider. It is recommended to use a balanced fertilizer with a 6-6-6 or 8-3-9 nutrient ratio. Fertilizer should be applied every three months during the growing season. Too much fertilizer can be harmful to the tree, so it is important to follow the recommended application rates.
Irrigation is also critical for the growth and development of avocado trees. The amount of water needed depends on the age of the tree, the soil type, and the climate. Young trees require more frequent watering than mature trees. It is important to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot and other problems. A good rule of thumb is to water deeply once a week during the growing season.
One way to ensure that avocado trees receive the right amount of water is to use an irrigation system. Drip irrigation is a popular choice for avocado farmers because it delivers water directly to the roots of the tree. This helps to conserve water and reduce the risk of disease. It is important to monitor the soil moisture levels regularly to ensure that the tree is receiving enough water.
Overall, fertilization and irrigation are critical components of avocado farming in Kenya. By providing the right nutrients and water, farmers can ensure that their trees produce a healthy crop of delicious avocados.
Pest and Disease Control
Avocado trees are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can cause significant damage if not controlled. Here are some common pests and diseases that avocado farmers in Kenya should be aware of and how to control them.
Pests Crystal Spider Mite: This mite is one of the most critical pests in avocado farming in Kenya. It feeds on the leaves, causing them to curl and turn brown. To control this pest, use acaricides like abamectin or fenpyroximate. Thrips: These tiny insects feed on the leaves and can cause significant damage to young avocado trees. To control thrips, use insecticides like spinosad or imidacloprid. Fruit Fly: This pest lays eggs on the fruit, and the larvae feed on the flesh, causing it to rot. To control fruit flies, use bait traps or insecticides like malathion or spinosad.
Diseases Anthracnose: This fungal disease affects the leaves, twigs, and fruit of the avocado tree. The symptoms include dark, sunken spots on the leaves and fruit. To control this disease, use fungicides like copper oxychloride or mancozeb. Root Rot: This disease is caused by a fungus that attacks the roots of the avocado tree. The symptoms include wilting leaves and stunted growth. To control root rot, ensure good drainage, avoid overwatering, and use fungicides like metalaxyl or thiophanate-methyl. Black Spot: This disease causes black spots on the leaves and fruit of the avocado tree. It is caused by the fungus Alternaria alternata. To control black spot, use fungicides like copper oxychloride or mancozeb. In conclusion, preventing and controlling pests and diseases in avocado farming is essential to ensure healthy trees and a good harvest. Use certified seeds, good cultivation practices, and appropriate pest and disease control measures to keep your avocado trees healthy and productive.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling
Harvesting is a crucial step in avocado farming as it determines the fruit’s quality and shelf life. Avocado trees take five to ten months to produce fruits after flowering. The best time to harvest avocados is when they are mature but not yet ripe. Ripe avocados are soft to the touch and have a dark green or black color.
When harvesting, it is essential to handle the fruits with care to avoid damaging them. A damaged fruit is susceptible to infections and may not last long. Use sharp tools such as pruning shears to cut the fruit from the tree. Avoid pulling or twisting the fruit as this may damage the stem.
After harvesting, sort the fruits according to size and quality. Discard any damaged or diseased fruits as they may contaminate the others. Store the fruits in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. The ideal temperature for storing avocados is between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius.
Post-harvest handling is also critical in avocado farming. The fruits are susceptible to diseases such as anthracnose, dothiorella fruit rot, and avocado stem end rot. These diseases can cause significant losses if not managed properly. Here are some post-harvest handling practices to consider:
- Wash the fruits with clean water to remove any dirt or debris.
- Dry the fruits thoroughly to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to fungal infections.
- Wrap the fruits in paper or plastic to prevent bruising during transportation.
- Store the fruits in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
- Monitor the fruits regularly for any signs of spoilage, and discard any affected fruits immediately.
Following these practices can help extend the shelf life of avocados and ensure that they reach the market in good condition.
Avocado farming in Kenya can be a profitable venture if done correctly. It requires careful planning, investment, and patience as it takes several years for the trees to mature and produce fruits. The rectangular pattern of planting is preferred for Hass avocados in Kenya, with a standard spacing of 5 by 5 meters. However, tree spacing within the line can range from 3m to 5m while the space between the lines should be at least 5m and at most 7m.
It is essential to conduct a full risk assessment before planting and maintain a healthy plantation that gives top yields for many years. Farmers can intercrop with other crops during the first three to five years before the trees start producing fruits to maximize their land use. Harvesting and post-harvest handling are also crucial to ensure the fruits reach the market in good condition.
There are various resources available to farmers, such as the Avocado Farming Guide by Cropnuts, the Growing Hass Avocados in Kenya guide by Selina Wamucii, and the Avocado Farming in Kenya PDF by Rich Farm Kenya. These guides provide comprehensive step-by-step instructions, from planting to marketing, to help farmers improve their avocado production.
Overall, avocado farming in Kenya requires dedication, hard work, and attention to detail, but the rewards can be significant. With a good understanding of the planting process, proper care and maintenance, and effective marketing, farmers can reap the benefits of this lucrative crop.
Sources: Moznette, George Franklin. The avocado: Its insect enemies and how to combat them. No. 1261. US Department of Agriculture, 1922. Link: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=boIoAAAAYAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA4&dq=+how+grow++Avocado&ots=UjZ06a-And&sig=zLbLE2kGt6ycsAJ3jj2DYDHchl8
Jenuwein, Heinz. Avocado, banana, coffee. How to grow useful exotic plants for fun. British Museum (Natural History), 1988. Link: https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19890357613