Strawberry farming in Kenya has become more popular in recent years as it has proven to be a profitable venture. With the right ecological conditions and proper care, strawberries can be grown successfully in Kenya. The country’s geographical location, which is east of the Rift Valley, provides a suitable climate for growing strawberries.
Ecological requirements for growing strawberries in Kenya include a well-distributed rainfall of 1200mm, and altitudes of between 1250 and 2200 metres above sea level. If the rainfall is less than 1200mm, irrigation is required at the rate of 25mm per week. The strawberry plant is not drought tolerant, so it needs to be watered regularly.
Strawberry farming in Kenya is a profitable venture that can generate significant income. The crop can be grown in polythene bags, which makes it easier to control diseases, and refined and superior soil can be used. With proper care, a farmer can earn up to Ksh100,000 per month on just 1/8th of an acre.
Climate and Soil Requirements
When it comes to growing strawberries in Kenya, it is important to consider the climate and soil requirements. These factors can greatly affect the quality and yield of the strawberries.
Strawberries grow well at altitudes of between 1250 and 2200 metres above sea level, east of the rift valley. They require a well-distributed rainfall of 1200mm. Less than this will need irrigation at the rate of 25mm per week. The crop thrives in hot climates and does not tolerate frost or extremely low temperatures. They do well in levelled or slightly higher grounds and require 6-10 hours of direct sunlight each day.
The soil requirements for strawberries are specific. The crop thrives in well-drained, loamy soil with a pH range of 5.5-6.5. The soil should be weed-free and rich in organic matter. It is important to note that strawberries have shallow roots, so the soil should be well-prepared to ensure proper drainage and aeration.
It is also recommended to conduct soil tests to determine the nutrient levels and pH of the soil. This will help in identifying any deficiencies or imbalances in the soil and allow for proper adjustments to be made.
When planting strawberries, it is recommended to use raised beds or mounds to ensure proper drainage and prevent waterlogging. Mulching can also be used to retain moisture and prevent weed growth.
Varieties of Strawberry
Strawberries are a popular fruit in Kenya, and there are several varieties to choose from when it comes to growing them. Below are some of the most common varieties of strawberries that are grown in Kenya:
- Chandler: This is a popular variety of strawberry that is known for its large size and sweet taste. It is a high-yielding variety that is suitable for both commercial and small-scale farming.
- Tribute: This variety produces medium-sized fruits that are sweet and juicy. It is a good choice for farmers who want to grow strawberries for the fresh market.
- Tristar: This is a day-neutral variety that produces fruits throughout the growing season. It is known for its sweet taste and firm texture.
- Tioga: This variety produces large, firm fruits that are suitable for processing. It is a good choice for farmers who want to grow strawberries for jam, jelly, or other value-added products.
- Selva: This is a high-yielding variety that is known for its large, sweet fruits. It is a good choice for farmers who want to grow strawberries for the fresh market.
- Pajaro: This variety produces large, firm fruits that are suitable for processing. It is resistant to several diseases and pests, making it a good choice for farmers who want to minimize their use of pesticides.
- Douglas: This is a day-neutral variety that produces fruits throughout the growing season. It is known for its sweet taste and firm texture.
When choosing a variety of strawberry to grow, it is important to consider factors such as climate, soil type, and market demand. Farmers should also consider the disease resistance of different varieties, as this can impact the success of their crop.
Propagation of Strawberry
Strawberries are propagated through two methods: seed propagation and vegetative propagation. Seed propagation is rarely used because it takes a long time before reaching the recommended height for transplanting. Vegetative propagation, on the other hand, is the most common method used to propagate strawberries.
Seed propagation involves planting seeds in a seedbed and then transplanting the seedlings. However, this method is not commonly used because most strawberry seeds are not viable, and the few that are viable take a long time to reach transplanting height.
Vegetative propagation involves using splits and runners to propagate strawberries. Splitting is the most common method used to propagate strawberries. This method involves separating the runners from the mother plant and planting them in a new location.
Before planting, work the soils so that there is a deep and reasonably loose planting bed. The planting bed should be well-drained to prevent waterlogging, which can cause root rot. Strawberry plants prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH range of 5.5-6.5.
It is important to note that not all strawberry varieties are suitable for vegetative propagation. Some varieties, such as the Alpine strawberry, are propagated through seed.
Planting and Care
Strawberries require well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. The site should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Avoid planting strawberries in areas that are prone to flooding or waterlogging. The site should also be protected from strong winds.
Plant strawberries between April and June. The plants should be spaced 30-40cm apart in rows that are 60-90cm apart. Dig a hole that is deep enough to accommodate the roots of the plant. The crown of the plant should be at soil level. Water the plants immediately after planting.
Strawberries require consistent moisture throughout the growing season. Irrigate the plants regularly, especially during dry spells. Avoid overhead watering as this can lead to the development of fungal diseases. Drip irrigation is recommended.
Apply 15kg of well-composted manure per square meter before planting. Fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer (NPK 17:17:17) at a rate of 100g per plant after the first harvest. Apply the fertilizer around the base of the plant and water thoroughly.
Weeds compete with strawberries for nutrients and water. Keep the area around the plants weed-free by hand weeding or using a hoe. Mulching with straw or grass clippings can also help to suppress weed growth.
Pest and Disease Management
Common pests that attack strawberries in Kenya include thrips, spider mites, and aphids. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control these pests. Diseases such as powdery mildew and gray mold can also affect strawberries. Use fungicides to control these diseases. Remove and destroy any infected plant material to prevent the spread of disease.
Harvesting and Marketing
Strawberries take about 70 days to mature. They will be ready for harvest 4-6 weeks after blossoming. The berries should be harvested when they are fully ripe. Once harvested, they will not continue to ripen. It is important to be very careful while harvesting strawberries as they are very fragile and can easily be damaged.
Harvesting strawberries is a delicate process that should be done by hand to avoid damaging the berries. The ideal time to harvest is in the morning when the temperatures are cooler. The berries should be picked with their caps on to extend their shelf life. They can be stored in a cool place for up to 2-3 days.
After harvesting, the strawberries should be pre-cooled to remove the field heat in order to minimize deterioration. Small-scale farmers can use charcoal coolers, while forced air pre-cooling is needed for markets that are far. Strawberries should be graded according to sizes and shapes, depending on the targeted market.
Marketing of strawberries in Kenya is mainly done through direct sales to consumers or to supermarkets and other retail outlets. The demand for strawberries is high, especially during festive seasons. Strawberry farming is profitable, and farmers can make good returns if they produce high-quality berries. It is important to identify the target market and package the berries attractively to increase sales.
Growing strawberries in Kenya can be a profitable venture for farmers who follow best practices and take advantage of suitable growing conditions. Adequate sunlight, well-drained soils with a pH range of 5.5-6.5, and access to irrigation are some of the key factors that contribute to successful strawberry farming in Kenya.
Using polythene bags or raised beds can help to prevent soil-borne diseases and pests, while mulching can help to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed growth. Farmers can also consider using organic fertilizers or compost to improve soil fertility and boost yields.
It is important for farmers to conduct regular soil tests and monitor their crops for signs of disease or nutrient deficiencies. Harvesting strawberries at the right time and handling them carefully can help to maintain their quality and extend their shelf life.
Overall, with the right knowledge, resources, and commitment, farmers in Kenya can successfully grow strawberries and tap into a potentially lucrative market. By adopting sustainable and innovative practices, they can contribute to the growth of the agricultural sector and improve their livelihoods.
Also Read: Profitability Of Strawberry Farming In Kenya
Sources: Waithaka, Kimani. “Growth and runner production of Everbearing strawberries in Kenya.” X African Symposium on Horticultural Crops 158. 1984. Link: https://www.actahort.org/books/158/158_19.htm
Waithaka, K., and C. W. Ngugi. “Growth performances of everbearing strawberries in Kenya.” IX African Symposium on Horticultural Crops 153. 1983. Link: https://www.actahort.org/books/153/153_10.htm