Carrot farming in Kenya is a lucrative economic activity that has gained popularity among small-scale farmers. The crop was introduced by colonialists in the early 1900s, and today it remains an important part of the Kenyan diet. Recent technological advancements and inventions have made carrot farming possible throughout Kenya, making it a viable option for farmers in various regions of the country.
Carrots take around 3-4 months to mature and are ready for harvesting. The best time to harvest is when the soil is still moist. Carrots have a ready market and are sold for Kshs 100 per kg in most parts of the country. As a result, many small-scale farmers are opting for carrot farming due to the high yields from even a small piece of land.
In this article, we will take a closer look at carrot farming in Kenya, exploring the benefits of this crop, the challenges that farmers face, and the best practices for successful carrot farming. Whether you are a seasoned farmer or just starting, this guide will provide you with the information you need to start and maintain a successful carrot farm in Kenya.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Carrots are a cool-season crop that grows best in moderate temperatures. The ideal temperature range for carrot farming in Kenya is between 15°C and 22°C. Carrots can tolerate light frost, but they are sensitive to high temperatures. Therefore, it is essential to plant carrots in areas with moderate temperatures to achieve optimal yields.
Regarding soil requirements, carrots grow well in deep, loose, and well-drained soils. The ideal pH range for carrot farming is between 5.5 and 7.0. Carrots require soils that are rich in organic matter, and they do not do well in heavy clay soils or stony soils. It is essential to prepare the soil adequately before planting the carrot seeds to ensure optimal growth and yield.
Carrots require adequate moisture for optimal growth and yield. Therefore, it is essential to plant carrots in areas with adequate rainfall, preferably between 450-600mm during the growing period. However, carrots do not do well in waterlogged soils, and it is essential to ensure proper drainage to avoid diseases that can affect the crop.
Altitude is also a crucial factor to consider when planting carrots. Carrots require an altitude of at least 500m above sea level to produce economic yields. Therefore, it is essential to plant carrots in areas with the right altitude to achieve optimal yields.
Land Preparation and Planting
Before planting carrots, you need to prepare the land properly to ensure a good harvest. Here are the steps to follow:
- Deep ploughing: Plough the land deeply (at least 30cm) during the dry spell to loosen the soil and remove all perennial weeds.
- Harrowing: Harrow the seedbed to a fine tilth to create a smooth and level surface for planting.
- Direct seeding: Plant the carrot seeds directly into the soil at a depth of 1-2cm depending on the soil type and moisture content. Space the seeds 30cm apart in rows.
- Thinning: Thin the plants 4 weeks after germination leaving plants at 7.5-10cm apart to allow for proper growth and development.
- Fertilizer application: Apply fertilizer to the soil before planting to provide the necessary nutrients for growth. Use a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10:26:26 NPK.
It is important to note that carrots need plenty of humidity to start germinating. To ensure that the seeds germinate properly, wrap the seeds in damp paper two days before planting. When planting the carrot seeds, make a slight furrow in the soil 1cm deep and deposit 4-5 seeds every 2.5cm. This will ensure that the carrots grow straight and uniform.
Carrots require well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.0-6.8. Avoid planting carrots in heavy clay soils or soils that are too sandy as they will not grow well. Additionally, ensure that the farm beds are moist when you’re ready to put the carrot seeds in them. In order to ensure that the field is ready for planting, you need to water it for at least 24 hours. Carrot seeds should be sown in the evening or early in the morning for best results.
Carrots require specific nutrients to grow optimally. Therefore, it is essential to use the right fertilizer and apply it at the right time. Fertilizer application is a crucial step in carrot farming that can significantly impact the yield and quality of the crop.
Organic fertilizers are ideal for carrot farming because they provide a slow-release of nutrients, which is essential for the crop’s growth. Safi Sarvi organic fertilizer is an excellent option for carrot farming in Kenya. It is made from crop residues and is rich in essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Before planting, apply Safi Sarvi organic fertilizer at a rate of 2-3 bags per acre. Ensure that the fertilizer is well-mixed with the soil to ensure even distribution of nutrients. After planting, apply the fertilizer again at a rate of 1-2 bags per acre after every three weeks.
It is also essential to monitor the soil’s pH level to ensure that the nutrients are available to the crop. The ideal pH level for carrot farming is between 6.0 and 7.0. If the pH level is too low or too high, the nutrients in the soil become unavailable to the crop, leading to stunted growth and reduced yield.
In addition to organic fertilizers, commercial fertilizers such as NPK can also be used. However, it is essential to use them in moderation and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply 50 kgs of NPK fertilizer per acre before planting.
It is crucial to note that over-fertilization can lead to environmental pollution and soil degradation. Therefore, it is essential to use fertilizers in moderation and follow the recommended application rates.
Irrigation and Weed Control
Proper irrigation is crucial for carrot farming in Kenya. Carrots require consistent moisture to grow well, and lack of water can lead to stunted growth, misshapen roots, and poor yields. Drip irrigation is a popular method for carrot farmers in Kenya, as it provides water directly to the roots while minimizing water loss due to evaporation. Farmers can also use overhead sprinklers or furrow irrigation, but these methods can lead to water wastage and increased weed growth.
Weed control is another important aspect of carrot farming. Weeds can compete with carrots for nutrients and water, leading to reduced yields and stunted growth. Hand weeding is a common method used by farmers in Kenya, but it can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Herbicides can be used to control weeds, but farmers should be careful to follow proper application techniques to avoid damaging the crop.
Integrated weed management strategies can be effective in controlling weeds while minimizing environmental impact. This approach involves combining multiple weed control methods, such as crop rotation, cover cropping, and mechanical weed control, to reduce reliance on a single method. Farmers can also use organic mulches, such as straw or leaves, to suppress weed growth and retain soil moisture.
It is important for carrot farmers in Kenya to develop a weed management plan that is tailored to their specific growing conditions and needs. This plan should take into account factors such as soil type, climate, and the types of weeds that are prevalent in the area. By implementing effective irrigation and weed control strategies, farmers can improve their yields and produce high-quality carrots for the market.
Pest and Disease Management
Carrot farming in Kenya is susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. However, with proper management practices, farmers can minimize losses and maximize yields.
Common pests that attack carrots include root knot nematodes, cutworms, African armyworm, carrot fly, and carrot beetle. These pests can cause significant damage to crops, leading to reduced yields and lower quality produce.
To manage these pests, farmers can use insecticides such as confidor. It is also recommended to carry out timely weeding and intercrop with onions or garlic. This helps to reduce pest populations and prevent infestations.
Carrot farming in Kenya is also plagued by a variety of diseases, including leaf blight, cottony soft rot disease, powdery mildew, pythium, and bacterial soft rot. These diseases can cause significant damage to crops, leading to reduced yields and lower quality produce.
To manage these diseases, farmers can practice crop rotation and spray with appropriate fungicides such as ridomil and melody duo. It is also recommended to mulch (rice straw or dried grass) after sowing to encourage germination and to keep seedlings cool and prevent green tops.
Table 1 below provides a summary of common pests and diseases that affect carrot farming in Kenya:
|Root knot nematodes||Leaf blight|
|Cutworms||Cottony soft rot disease|
|African armyworm||Powdery mildew|
|Carrot beetle||Bacterial soft rot|
By following proper pest and disease management practices, carrot farmers in Kenya can minimize losses and maximize yields, leading to a more profitable and sustainable farming operation.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling
Carrots are ready for harvesting within 3-4 months or 110 days, depending on the variety grown. The best time to harvest is when the soil is moist and soft. For fresh markets, harvest when the shoulder diameter is 2-3cm, while for processing varieties, harvesting is done when the shoulder width is 3.8cm and above. Mature carrots should have an orange color with a blunt tip. To harvest, lift the roots and leaves and cut at the base.
The yield for carrots is approximately 20 tons per hectare. After harvesting, the carrots should be washed and sorted to remove those that are damaged or infected with diseases. Sorting ensures that only high-quality carrots are taken to the market, which helps to increase profits. Carrots should be stored in a cool and dry place to avoid spoilage. The ideal temperature for storing carrots is between 0°C to 5°C, with a relative humidity of 90-95%.
Many interventions in post-harvest storage and management in Kenya have focused on on-farm storage. A number of technologies that improve grain storage at the household level are available. However, there are still challenges facing farmers, such as inadequate storage facilities, lack of access to markets, and poor infrastructure. These challenges contribute to post-harvest losses, which can be reduced through proper handling and storage practices.
Marketing and Economics of Carrot Farming in Kenya
Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in Kenya, and there is a growing demand for the crop both domestically and internationally. The market for carrots in Kenya is readily available, and they are sold for Kshs 100 per kg in most parts of the country. Carrots can be sold in open-air markets, groceries, food stores, and supermarkets or supplied to institutions such as hotels, schools, hospitals and many more.
The profitability of carrot farming in Kenya depends on various factors such as the size of the farm, the yield per acre, and the market demand. On average, a farmer can harvest about 20-30 tons of carrots per acre, depending on the variety and farming practices. With a market price of Kshs 100 per kg, a farmer can earn up to Kshs 2 million per acre per year.
However, the cost of production can vary depending on the farming practices and inputs used. For instance, using organic fertilizers such as Safi Sarvi can reduce the cost of production and increase the yield. On the other hand, using commercial fertilizers such as NPK can increase the cost of production and affect the quality of the crop.
It is essential for farmers to have a marketing plan before starting carrot farming. This includes identifying potential buyers, understanding the market demand, and setting a competitive price. Farmers can also form marketing groups or cooperatives to sell their produce collectively, which can increase their bargaining power and reduce transaction costs.
In conclusion, carrot farming in Kenya can be a profitable venture if done correctly. With a ready market and high demand, farmers can earn a substantial income from their produce. However, it is crucial to consider the cost of production, market demand, and farming practices before starting carrot farming.
Also Read: Carrot Production Per Acre In Kenya
Sources: Jeptoo, Agnes, Joseph N. Aguyoh, and Mwanarusi Saidi. “Improving carrot yield and quality through the use of bio-slurry manure.” Sustainable Agriculture Research 2.1 (2013): 164. Link: https://search.proquest.com/openview/80118508e5cd08f3db08220c1d546661/1.pdf?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1406336
Mwangi, Edwin, et al. “Managing phosphate rock to improve nutrient uptake, phosphorus use efficiency, and carrot yields.” Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition 20 (2020): 1350-1365. Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42729-020-00217-x