Carrot cultivating has developed as one of the exceptionally esteemed and lucrative financial exercises in Kenya as the nation, under the Ministry of Agriculture, keeps on pushing for agribusiness. Thus, most little scale agriculturists are settling on carrot cultivating in Kenya because of the significant returns from even a little real estate parcel. With a shorter development period contrasted with different yields like maize and espresso, carrots additionally require negligible consideration and are anything but difficult to oversee. Carrots in Kenya are for the most part developed for the neighborhood advertise where they are devoured when new or prepared while others are stuffed and traded to outside business sectors. This carrot plating guide gives all of you the subtle elements you have to know for effective and productive carrot cultivating in Kenya.
What you need to start carrot farming in Kenya
The leading determinants of carrot planting in Kenya are soil type and climate. Fortunately, carrots do well in most soils and weather, except clay or stony soils and areas that are too hot. Notably, carrots grow well in places where the temperatures range from 15 to 200 degrees Celsius and where the soils are fertile and well-drained.
For excellent results, therefore, ensure that your land is free of large stones and receives good light quality. This is because light supports the growth of the shoot whereas the well-drained soils offer the appropriate conditions for your carrots to expand in breadth and length. You will also need 2.5 kilograms of carrot seeds for an acre of land.
Additionally, soil analysts in Kenya have established that carrots require soils with pH between 6 and 6.5 with sufficient potassium and the right amounts of nitrogen. Potassium, in this case, is a vital mineral for the growth of carrots as it ensures their robust nature and sweetness. Too much nitrogen, on the other hand, leads to hairy, branched, and fibrous carrots and you should avoid it.
As a farmer, you have to prepare the land where you want to plant the carrots by digging it and removing the weeds using a rake. You also have to raise the carrot beds and make furrows that are half-inch deep to hold the seeds. This depends on the topography of your land and soil depth. Moreover, you can broadcast the seeds, water them, and leave them to germinate minus covering with soil. Nevertheless, the option of making furrows stands out since it allows you to weed and thin your crops conveniently.
You can intercrop the carrots with various crops including tomatoes, leek, lettuce, and capsicums. The model ideal for intercropping the carrots is the use of leeks because of the symbiotic relationship. Here, the carrots fend off caterpillars from the leeks as the leeks keep away flies from the carrots.
How can you farm for great carrot production?
For the carrots to mature to the maximum with excellent foliage, make the furrows 15 cm apart and two centimetres deep. While the seeds’ tiny nature makes them not easy to space, you can combine them with light soils to ease the sowing and spacing process. You also have to thin them within the first two weeks of germination as you aim at leaving between two and four centimetres between the seedlings.
This spacing encourages the growth of strong and healthy roots. Irrigate the carrots before thinning to make the pulling seamless and harmless to the remaining carrots. You can repeat this process of thinning your carrots after three weeks when there is need while still maximizing your small scale carrot farming business.
Carrots take about four months or 110 days to mature and be ready for carrot farming market in Kenya. You can check this by removing some soil and seeing if the carrot root has grown to the expected diameter of about one inch. You can also pull out some carrots to determine whether they are mature based on market demands. The two major varieties of carrots recommended for commercial carrot farming are Super Kuroda and Nantes with a potential yield of over 20 tons per acre depending on how you manage them.
Profitability of carrot farming in Kenya
Carrot farming is lucrative once the farmer has followed all the details included in this carrot planting guide. In this case, the profitability of carrot farming in Kenya will largely depend on how best you manage your crop including ensuring the soil is conducive and fertile, there is sufficient water, and that the temperatures and pH are within the required limits. With a total cost of approximately Kshs. 45,000 per acre, you can get the best carrot harvest of about 20 tons.
The average selling price of carrots in Kenya per 138-kilogram bag was about Kshs.3,000 as of January 2018. This price fluctuates from season to season, but in an ascending curve.
Potential carrot markets and how to get better market
Some county governments in Kenya like Nakuru are promoting carrot farming by seeking potential markets who can help promote the crop. Thus, they invite the stakeholders who include the farmers to cooperate and enlighten each other in high-quality carrot production. This goes a long way to ensure that the yields meet the demands of the East Africa Community and other markets.
As a carrot farmer wishing to advance to the foreign markets outside the carrot farming market in Kenya, you need a valid license showing that you are a registered exporter to avoid problems at the border. You can get favorable market prices from young carrots that have a fresh top. Leaving the top longer quickens the drying of root and limits the crop’s market period.
Challenges facing carrot farming in Kenya
Like other agricultural activities in Kenya, carrot farming experiences challenges; most of which can be controlled and contained. The following are predominant carrot farming challenges in Kenya that you need to know in advance as you plan to start commercial carrot farming.
Pest and diseases
The leading enemies of carrot farming are pests and diseases. With the right information at hand, therefore, you can curb this menace before it wrecks havoc on your precious and most-priced crops. Here are the seven major diseases and pests affecting carrots and how to control each of them:
Cutworms like black cutworm and turnip attack the roots by causing holes as they feed on them. You can control this by encouraging and conserving natural cutworm enemies, digging the land to expose the caterpillars to sun and predators, destroying vegetation and weeds before planting, spreading thick ash on the seedbeds, and flooding the land for some days before planting.
Cottony soft rot
A fungus called Sclerotinia sclerotiorum causes cottony soft rot, and the disease is characterized by the development of watery leaf rot and soft roots and crowns. The affected areas are covered with white fungal growth where irregular, black fungal resting bodies appear. It is a serious storage and field crisis where the affected roots cause extensive breakdown during storage and transportation if the carrots are packed.
Fortunately, you can prevent and control this carrot disease by practicing 3-year crop rotation using forage grasses and cereals and flooding the soils. You should also avoid packing and storing diseased or damaged roots. Using clean storage containers and maintaining temperatures close to 0 degrees Celsius and humidity not higher than 95 percent during storage will also help.
Root-knot nematodes cause swelling and galls on the fleshy tap-root. This problem commonly affects carrots planted on sandy soils and may discourage a farmer wishing to start commercial carrot farming in Kenya. You can contain it by planting resistant varieties and practicing crop rotation to interrupt nematodes’ life-cycle. Where possible, carry out a minimum of one-year fallow cultivation.
A complex crop pathogen causes damping-off disease by causing seed rotting before germination or seedling death after germination. This can be avoided by using recommended seeds free from diseases and avoiding over-irrigation of the seed-beds or fields.
This disease is characterized by dark-grey angular spots on the leaves and yellowing of surrounding tissues that eventually leads to the death of the affected leaves. This can be so severe that the carrots will appear scorched.
The good news is that leaf blight can be controlled by using certified and resistant seeds. If you are using your seeds, use hot water seed treatment method. Practice proper field hygiene and avoid parsley when practicing crop rotation. Additionally, use non-nitrogen or little nitrogen fertilizer and monitor the land regularly to ensure proper reaction. Copper treatments can also reduce leaf blight infection.
African armyworms are a major threat to carrot farming as they cause serious crop losses. The worms may indirectly injure the taproot by chopping off the stems and destroying foliage above the ground. You can control it by regularly monitoring field margins beneath crop debris, low areas, below the plant leaves, and signs of worm presence on the ground. Spray the plants when the caterpillars are small since mature ones can cause serious irredeemable damages. Moreover, encourage and conserve natural enemies as you practice soil sanitation.
Bacterial soft rot
Bacteria live in decaying matter and get into the root mainly through harvest bruises, insect openings, cultivation wounds, and freezing injury. The diseases they cause advance in high humidity after infection and causes watery, soft, and slimy rot where the rotten tissues turn grey to brown and may develop a bad odour. You can control or avoid bacterial soft rot by following a crop rotation of fodder grasses and cereals, destroying by burning infected plants, and carefully handling the crops during harvest to reduce bruises. You can also throw away the affected carrots before storage and transportation and ensure that the store is well-ventilated.
Although there is a well-developed system of agricultural research in Kenya, the use of modern technology and scientific approaches to increase the profitability of carrot farming in Kenya is still below average. Inadequate research-farmer connection to ensure that the research benefits the farmers limits the efforts to increase the production of the crop as farmers continue to use ineffective and outdated technologies. Thus, there is need to develop and implement the services that can connect the research and the farmers.
Inadequate information on the right farm inputs to use
Most carrot farmers do not have enough information on the necessary farm inputs to use and the right time of their use. The cost of crucial inputs like fertilizer, pesticides, and seeds are also too high for a farmer starting carrot farming in Kenya to afford.
Growing carrots in Kenya is a straightforward and easy-to-do activity once you have mastered the carrot planting guide and basics of how to plant carrots. This is because carrots are easy to grow. Carrot farming comes with many benefits besides financial profitability. Carrots are rich in vitamin A necessary for clear sight and beautiful skin.
It is also vital for cancer prevention and anti-aging as well as prevention of stroke and heart diseases. The crop requires reliable and stable rainfall and where this condition is not available naturally, it is important to irrigate them based on the soil type. Due to these and many other benefits, carrot farming market in Kenya is growing at a high rate.