Basil is a versatile herb that is commonly grown outdoors but can also be grown indoors in greenhouses. With its high demand in local and export markets, it has become a profitable crop for farmers in Kenya. Basil is easy to grow and requires at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. It thrives in well-drained soils that are rich in nutrients, with a pH range of 6-7.5. The crop prefers warm temperatures, making Kenya’s climate ideal for its growth.
Many farmers are turning to basil farming in Kenya due to its high profitability compared to other crops such as maize. Farmers like Moses Gitau have found fortune in basil farming, with yields of up to 250 kg per week from a single greenhouse. Basil farming is also relatively low-maintenance, with the crop being a natural pest and mosquito repellent. This makes it less susceptible to pests and diseases, reducing the need for costly pesticides and herbicides.
With the increasing demand for basil in local and export markets, farmers in Kenya have an opportunity to tap into this lucrative market. Basil farming is not only profitable but also provides a healthy and nutritious herb that has a wide range of uses in cooking and medicine. As such, it is a crop worth considering for farmers looking to diversify their crop portfolio and increase their income.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Basil is a warm-weather crop and requires a warm and sunny environment. It grows best in temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C. The crop can be grown in both open fields and greenhouses, but it needs at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Basil does well in well-drained soils that are rich in nutrients. The soil pH range for growing basil is between 6-7.5.
It is important to note that basil leaves can scorch in intense light, so partial shade during the mid-day is necessary when temperatures regularly rise above 30°C. Additionally, basil requires a moderate amount of water to grow, but it is important to avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot.
Kenya’s climate is generally favorable for growing basil, with most areas experiencing warm temperatures throughout the year. However, areas with high humidity and rainfall may be prone to fungal diseases that can affect the crop’s growth and yield. It is, therefore, important to monitor the crop regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and manage diseases.
Varieties of Basil to Grow in Kenya
Basil is a popular herb that is easy to grow in Kenya. It is commonly grown outdoors and can be harvested throughout the year. There are several varieties of basil that can be grown in Kenya, each with its unique flavor and characteristics. Here are some of the most common varieties of basil that can be grown in Kenya:
- Sweet Basil: This is the most common variety of basil and is widely used in Italian cuisine. It has a sweet and slightly peppery flavor and is perfect for making pesto and adding flavor to soups, salads, and pasta dishes.
- Thai Basil: This variety of basil has a sweet and spicy flavor with hints of anise and licorice. It is commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and is perfect for adding flavor to curries, stir-fries, and noodle dishes.
- Lemon Basil: As the name suggests, this variety of basil has a lemony flavor and is perfect for adding a citrusy twist to salads, marinades, and sauces.
- Cinnamon Basil: This variety of basil has a sweet and spicy flavor with hints of cinnamon. It is perfect for adding flavor to desserts, teas, and hot chocolate.
- Purple Basil: This variety of basil has a slightly spicy flavor and adds a nice pop of color to dishes. It is perfect for adding flavor and color to salads and pasta dishes.
Other varieties of basil that can be grown in Kenya include Camphor basil and African blue basil. These varieties have unique flavors and characteristics and are perfect for adding variety to your herb garden.
When choosing which varieties of basil to grow, consider your personal preferences and the types of dishes you like to cook. With its easy cultivation and versatility in the kitchen, basil is a great herb to grow in Kenya.
Propagation of Basil
Basil is an easy herb to propagate, and it can be done in a few simple steps. There are two main ways to propagate basil: from seed or from cuttings. Both methods can be successful, but cuttings are generally easier and faster.
To propagate basil from cuttings, select a healthy stem that is at least 4 inches long. Cut the stem just below a leaf node, and remove the leaves from the bottom 2 inches of the stem. Place the cutting in a glass of water, making sure that the bottom of the stem is submerged. Change the water every few days, and within a week or two, roots should start to form. Once the roots are about an inch long, the cutting can be transplanted into soil.
If you prefer to propagate basil from seed, start by filling a small pot with potting soil. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep, and water gently. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged, and place the pot in a warm, sunny location. Within a week or two, the seeds should start to sprout. Once the seedlings have a few sets of leaves, they can be transplanted into larger pots or into the garden.
Regardless of the method you choose, it is important to keep the soil moist and to provide plenty of light. Basil prefers warm temperatures and well-draining soil. It can be grown in containers or in the ground, and it is a great herb to have on hand for cooking or for making pesto.
Planting and Care of Basil
Planting basil in Kenya is relatively easy, and with proper care, you can harvest a bountiful crop. Here are some tips to ensure your basil thrives:
- Plant basil in a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day.
- Ensure the soil is well-draining and rich in nutrients. You can amend the soil with compost or other nutrient-rich mulch.
- Plant basil seeds no more than 1/4-inch deep. Once seedlings emerge and have 2-3 pairs of true leaves, thin seedlings to one plant every 10 to 12 inches. Basil should grow to about 12 to 24 inches in height. For larger varieties, plant farther apart (about 16 to 24 inches).
- Mulching helps both to retain soil moisture and control weeds. This can be done using grass clippings, chopped leaves, plastic mulch or barley straw.
Once your basil is planted, it’s important to care for it properly:
- Water basil deeply on a regular basis, but be sure its soil is well-drained. Use mulch to help keep moisture in.
- Keeping the tops of the basil stems plucked will encourage the plant to grow new leaves and will limit the number of flowers produced. Continue to regularly prune the leaves regardless of whether you use them.
- Prevent the basil from seeding by pinching off any visible flowers on the plant.
- Thinning plants to about 6-12 inches apart is encouraged for better results. The plants should not be overcrowded.
By following these planting and care tips, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh, fragrant basil in Kenya.
Common Pests and Diseases of Basil in Kenya
Basil is a popular herb in Kenya, but it is susceptible to several pests and diseases that can cause significant damage to the plant. Here are some of the most common pests and diseases that basil growers in Kenya should be aware of:
Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects are one of the most common pests of basil. They stick to the underside of the leaves and stems, sucking out the sap and causing the plant to wilt. Aphids also leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew that attracts ants and can lead to the growth of sooty mold.
Cutworms: These pests are the larvae of moths and can cause significant damage to the basil plant. Cutworms chew through the stem of the plant, causing it to wilt and die.
Whiteflies: These tiny, white insects are common pests of basil in Kenya. They feed on the sap of the plant, causing it to weaken and wilt. Whiteflies also excrete a sticky substance that can attract ants and lead to the growth of sooty mold.
Downy mildew: This fungal disease can cause yellow or light green spots on the leaves of the basil plant. Over time, the spots can spread and cause the plant to turn brown and die. Downy mildew thrives in humid conditions, so it is important to ensure that the basil plant is not overwatered.
Fusarium wilt: This disease is caused by a fungus that attacks the roots of the basil plant. It can cause the leaves to wilt and turn yellow, and the stem to develop brown spots or streaks. Fusarium wilt can be spread through contaminated soil, so it is important to ensure that the soil is well-draining and free of pathogens.
Verticillium wilt: This fungal disease can cause the leaves of the basil plant to yellow and wilt. It can also cause the stem to develop brown streaks. Verticillium wilt can be spread through contaminated soil, so it is important to ensure that the soil is well-draining and free of pathogens.
By being aware of these common pests and diseases, basil growers in Kenya can take steps to prevent or treat them, ensuring a healthy and thriving basil plant.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling of Basil
Harvesting basil at the right time is crucial to ensure that the leaves are flavorful and aromatic. Basil can be harvested as soon as the plant has at least six sets of leaves. It’s best to pick basil in the morning when the essential oils are at their peak freshness. Early morning harvests can be cooler in temperature, but these conditions often produce dew that wets the leaf surfaces. It’s important to harvest basil leaves when they are cool and dry to prevent wilting and discoloration.
When harvesting a small amount of basil, just remove a few leaves for use. However, for larger harvests, cut back the whole stem. Whole stems can be harvested with multiple leaves and bagged or bunches. Another option is to dig or grow to sell the whole basil plant, including washed roots.
After harvesting, it’s important to handle basil carefully to avoid bruising and damage. Basil leaves are delicate and can easily wilt, discolor or bruise. It’s best to handle the leaves as little as possible to minimize bruising. One way to do this is to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut the stems. Avoid touching the leaves as much as possible.
Post-harvest handling of basil is important to maintain its quality and freshness. Basil leaves should be washed and dried immediately after harvesting. The leaves should be washed gently in cool water to remove any dirt or debris. After washing, the leaves should be dried thoroughly to prevent wilting and discoloration. It’s best to use a salad spinner or paper towels to dry the leaves.
Once the basil leaves are dry, they can be stored in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator. Basil leaves can also be frozen for later use. To freeze basil, chop the leaves and place them in an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water and freeze. The frozen basil cubes can be stored in a freezer bag and used as needed.
Marketing of Basil in Kenya
Marketing is a crucial aspect of basil farming in Kenya. Basil has a high demand in the international market, especially in Europe and the United Arab Emirates, due to its use in the food and cosmetic industries. The herb is also gaining popularity in the local market, with more consumers becoming health-conscious.
Export-oriented basil farming is a profitable venture for farmers in Kenya. According to FarmBizAfrica, Nakuru farmers are earning up to Ksh 200,000 per month from basil exports. Premier Seeds, a Kenyan seed company, is working with farmers to produce 1.6 tonnes of basil per month, against a demand of 6 tonnes from their importer. This indicates a huge potential for growth in the sector.
One of the challenges facing basil farmers in Kenya is the lack of market information and access to markets. The government and non-governmental organizations are working to address this issue by providing farmers with information on market trends and linking them with buyers. For example, the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPROBA) is working to promote Kenyan herbs and spices in the international market.
Another strategy that farmers are using to market their basil is through value addition. Farmers are processing basil into products such as essential oils, dried leaves, and fresh-cut herbs. This allows them to earn more from their produce and tap into different markets. For instance, ADA Fresh, an Israeli herb company, is expanding its production of basil in Kenya to cater to the growing demand for essential oils in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
In conclusion, the marketing of basil in Kenya is a promising sector with huge potential for growth. Farmers can tap into the international and local markets by producing high-quality basil and value-adding their produce. The government and other stakeholders can support farmers by providing market information and linking them with buyers.
Growing basil in Kenya can be a profitable venture for farmers who are willing to take the time to learn the best practices. With the right growing conditions, the right variety of basil, and proper care, farmers can produce a high-quality crop that can be sold locally or exported to other countries.
One of the keys to successful basil farming is to ensure that the plants are not overcrowded. Thinning the plants to about 6-12 inches apart can help to ensure proper air circulation and plant health. Additionally, farmers should ensure that the plants receive sufficient irrigation and are watered more often if grown outdoors.
Another important factor to consider is the variety of basil being grown. Farmers should select a variety that is suited to their growing conditions and the market demand. For example, the sweet Aroma 2 basil variety is preferred by many customers because of its aroma and is a popular choice among farmers.
Finally, farmers should also consider the market demand for basil. While most of the basil grown locally is consumed in Kenya, there is also a significant demand for the herb in Europe. Farmers who are able to produce a high-quality crop can take advantage of this demand and achieve success in the industry.
Also Read: Celery Farming In Kenya
Source: Rabgyal, Jimba, and Rupmeena Biswa. “How to Grow Herbs?.” Link: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jimba-Rabgyal/publication/349881944_How_to_Grow_Herbs/links/6045c7e74585154e8c83cee4/How-to-Grow-Herbs.pdf
Phelos, Heather. Herbalism 101: How to Grow Herbs, Learn About Holistic Health, and Become a Herbalist From A to Z. HowExpert, 2019. Link: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=5sHXDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT4&dq=+how+grow+basil+herb&ots=AAJdDN47Qq&sig=kTSm4JZosFJwwKPKm4hHoRVsLX4