Kales farming in Kenya is a popular agricultural activity in Kenya due to its high demand and nutritional value. Kales, also known as sukuma wiki, are a staple vegetable in many Kenyan households and are used to prepare various dishes.
Kenya’s favorable climate and fertile soils make it an ideal location for growing kales. The vegetable is easy to grow and maintain, making it a popular choice among small-scale farmers. Additionally, kales have a short maturity period, with some varieties ready for harvest in as little as 45 days.
Despite its popularity, growing kales in Kenya can be challenging due to pests and diseases that affect the crop. Farmers need to take measures to protect their crops from pests such as aphids and cutworms and diseases such as black rot and powdery mildew. However, with proper care and management practices, kales can be a profitable crop for farmers and a healthy addition to the Kenyan diet.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Kales are cool-season vegetables that grow best in areas with moderate temperatures, plenty of sunlight, and well-drained soils. In Kenya, kales are grown in both highland and lowland areas, with different varieties thriving in different climatic zones.
Generally, kales grow well in areas with temperatures ranging between 15°C and 25°C, with a rainfall of between 500mm to 1,000mm per year. They can, however, withstand temperatures as low as 5°C and as high as 30°C, provided there is enough moisture in the soil.
When it comes to soil requirements, kales prefer deep, fertile, and well-drained soils with a pH of between 6.0 and 6.5. They do not do well in waterlogged or saline soils, which can lead to stunted growth and poor yields.
It is important to note that soil fertility is crucial for the successful cultivation of kales. Farmers are advised to conduct soil tests before planting to determine the nutrient levels and pH of their soils. Based on the results, they can then add organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, compost, or green manure, to improve soil fertility and structure.
In addition, farmers should also practice crop rotation to prevent the build-up of pests and diseases in the soil. Kales should not be planted in the same field for more than two consecutive seasons.
Varieties of Kales to Plant
When it comes to planting kales in Kenya, there are several varieties to choose from. Each variety has its own unique characteristics, making it important to choose the right one for your needs. Here are some of the most popular varieties:
- Curly kale: This is the most common variety of kale and is known for its curly leaves. It has a slightly bitter taste and is ideal for salads or as a garnish.
- Tuscan kale: Also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale, this variety has long, narrow leaves that are dark green in color. It has a slightly sweeter taste than curly kale and is perfect for soups and stews.
- Red Russian kale: This variety has a purplish-red stem and deep green leaves. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is great for salads or sautéing.
- Siberian kale: This variety has large, flat leaves that are blue-green in color. It has a mild flavor and is perfect for juicing or smoothies.
When choosing a variety of kale to plant, it’s important to consider factors such as taste, texture, and intended use. Curly kale is great for salads and garnishes, while Tuscan kale is ideal for soups and stews. Red Russian kale is perfect for sautéing, and Siberian kale is great for juicing or smoothies. By choosing the right variety, you can ensure that you get the most out of your kale plants.
Preparing the Land for Planting
Before planting kales, it is essential to prepare the land to ensure optimal growth and yield. Here are some steps to follow when preparing the land:
- Clear the land: Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the area where you plan to plant the kales. This will help prevent competition for nutrients and water, and also reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
- Test the soil: Conduct a soil test to determine the pH level and nutrient content of the soil. Kales grow best in soil with a pH range of 6.0-7.5. If the soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH level. If it is too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH level.
- Add organic matter: Incorporate organic matter such as compost or manure into the soil to improve its structure and fertility. This will also help retain moisture and reduce erosion.
- Till the soil: Use a tiller or a hoe to loosen and aerate the soil. This will help create a favorable environment for root growth and penetration.
- Make furrows: Use a hoe or a plow to create furrows or rows where you will plant the kales. The furrows should be about 30-45 cm apart, depending on the variety of kales you are planting.
- Apply fertilizer: Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 to the soil before planting. This will provide the necessary nutrients for the kales to grow and thrive.
By following these steps, you will have prepared the land for planting kales in Kenya. Remember to water the kales regularly, especially during dry spells, and to weed the area around the plants to prevent competition for nutrients.
Kales are a popular vegetable in Kenya due to their high nutritional value and ability to grow in a variety of climates. Here are some tips for planting kales:
Choosing a Location
Choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and has well-draining soil. Avoid areas with standing water or heavy clay soil.
Preparing the Soil
Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds and adding compost or manure to improve soil fertility. Use a rake to create a smooth, level surface.
Planting the Seeds
Plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2-3 inches apart. Cover the seeds with soil and gently press down to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Water thoroughly after planting.
Watering and Fertilizing
Water the plants regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth.
Harvest the leaves when they are young and tender, usually around 30-45 days after planting. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaves from the plant. Leave at least 3-4 leaves on the plant to continue growing.
By following these simple steps, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of kales in your garden.
Applying the right amount of fertilizer is crucial for the success of your kale farming. There are different types of fertilizers available in the market, but it is recommended to use organic fertilizers for better results.
Before planting, it is advisable to apply a basal dressing of well-decomposed manure at a rate of 20-30 tons per hectare. This helps to improve soil fertility and provides the necessary nutrients for the young plants to grow.
After planting, you can apply top dressing fertilizers to maintain soil fertility and promote healthy growth. The recommended top dressing fertilizer for kale farming is CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate) or NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) fertilizers.
The amount of fertilizer to apply depends on the soil fertility and the stage of growth of the plants. Generally, you can apply 100-150kg of CAN or 200-300kg of NPK per hectare during the growing period.
It is important to note that over-application of fertilizers can lead to soil degradation, nutrient leaching, and environmental pollution. Therefore, it is advisable to follow the recommended rates and timing of application for optimal results.
Pest and Disease Control
One of the biggest challenges facing kale farmers in Kenya is pest and disease control. Below are some common pests and diseases that affect kale plants and how to control them:
- Cutworms: These pests cut the seedlings at the base, causing them to die. To control cutworms, apply a biological control agent like Bacillus thuringiensis or use a chemical pesticide.
- Aphids: These are small insects that suck sap from the leaves, causing them to curl and turn yellow. To control aphids, spray the plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
- Cabbage loopers: These are caterpillars that feed on the leaves, causing holes and damage. To control cabbage loopers, use a biological control agent like Bacillus thuringiensis or use a chemical pesticide.
- Black rot: This is a bacterial disease that causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves. To control black rot, remove and destroy infected plants and practice crop rotation.
- Downy mildew: This is a fungal disease that causes yellow spots on the leaves. To control downy mildew, plant resistant varieties and practice good sanitation.
- Clubroot: This is a soil-borne disease that causes stunted growth and yellowing of the leaves. To control clubroot, practice crop rotation and amend the soil with lime or sulfur.
By practicing good pest and disease control, kale farmers in Kenya can ensure a healthy and productive crop. Regular scouting and monitoring of plants is also important to catch any issues early and prevent them from spreading.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Management
Harvesting kales should be done when the leaves are firm and have reached their full size. The best time to harvest is in the morning when the leaves are still cool and crisp. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaves just above the stem. Avoid pulling the leaves as this can damage the plant and reduce future yields.
After harvesting, it is important to properly handle and store the kales to prevent spoilage and maintain their quality. The following are some post-harvest management practices:
- Remove any damaged or diseased leaves before storage
- Wash the leaves thoroughly with clean water to remove any dirt or debris
- Drain excess water and dry the leaves using a clean cloth or paper towel
- Store the kales in a cool, dry place to prevent wilting and decay
Proper post-harvest management can help extend the shelf life of kales and ensure they remain fresh and nutritious for longer.
Sources: Nyagwansa, Rose, et al. “Effectiveness of selected advisory channels on safe use of pesticides among the small holder Kale Farmers. A case of Kisii County, Kenya.” East African Journal of Agriculture and Life Sciences 4.6 (2021): 151-156. Link: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Job-Omweno/publication/354374338_East_African_Scholars_Journal_of_Agriculture_and_Life_Sciences_Abbreviated_Key_Title_East_African_Scholars_J_Agri_Life_Sci_Effectiveness_of_Selected_Advisory_Channels_on_Safe_Use_of_Pesticides_among_t/links/6134cb072b40ec7d8be6dd03/East-African-Scholars-Journal-of-Agriculture-and-Life-Sciences-Abbreviated-Key-Title-East-African-Scholars-J-Agri-Life-Sci-Effectiveness-of-Selected-Advisory-Channels-on-Safe-Use-of-Pesticides-among-t.pdf
Ngigi, M. W., et al. “Urban consumers’ willingness to pay for quality of leafy vegetables along the value chain: The case of Nairobi Kale consumers, Kenya.” (2011). Link: http://ir.mksu.ac.ke/handle/123456780/4180