Cabbage Farming in Kenya
Cabbage Farming in Kenya – Requirements
Soils:- For optimal growth, cabbages require well drained soils with a pH of 5.6 to 6.4. Loamy, black cotton and alluvial soils are best suited for this crop.
Climate:- The crop does well in cooler climates with adequate and well distributed rains. It can also flourish under irrigation in the lower altitudes.
Weeding:- The crop should be kept free of weeds especially in its younger stages to avoid losses due competition from weeds; which can also be a source of pests and should be controlled at all times.
Spacing:- A 60cm by 60cm spacing is recommended. The further apart you plant the cabbage, the larger the head will develop.
Fertiliser applications should be split into two; at planting and top dressing or even into three after every six weeks. Application of homemade liquid fertiliser made from comfrey leaves at transplanting and when the heads begin to form will give the crop an extra boost.
To arrive at the exact amount of nutrients that should be applied to meet the crop’s requirements, the following factors should be considered:
- The nutrient level in the soil and rocks
- Nutrients that can be derived from previous crop residues.
- Timing of nutrient application, for crops to make best use of the fertilizers.
- Soil type: this affects fertilizer use efficiency. There’s 70 percent efficiency in light sand soils, 60 percent in medium, clay, silty, organic and peaty soils and 55 percent efficiency in shallow soils over chalk and limestone.
- Estimation of nutrients gained from use of organic manures
- Nutrients that must be replaced in order to maintain the soil index level
- The sources and cost involved in deciding the particular fertilizer one needs to produce required nutrients.
The following is a guide for fertilizer application:
- Nitrogen (NO3, NH4) – 250- 340 kg/ha,
- Phosphate (P2O5) – 100-200kg/ha and
- Potash (K2O) – 200-300 kg/ha. Magnesium (MgO) – 100-150kg/ha
Cabbage Farming in Kenya – Cabbage Varieties in Kenya
There are three varieties of cabbages in the country namely smooth-leafed green, smooth-leafed red, and crinkled-leafed green, also known as savoy cabbage. The most popular example are Gloria F1 hybrid, Copenhagen market and golden acre.
Cabbage Farming in Kenya – Practices
Nursery preparation:- The growing of these vegetables should be started by raising seedlings on nursery beds. Plant seeds in raised or sunken beds for wet and hot areas respectively.
The dimensions should be 1 meter wide and any desired length. Soil should be well prepared to a fine tilth before planting , then seeds drilled into the nursery bed as cabbage seeds are small.
Seed rate:- The seed rate is 300gm/ha. Healthy vigorous seedlings should be transplanted when they are 10-12cm high, about 4-6 weeks old.
Manure application:- Soils low in organic matter requires 20 tons/ha of manure or 1-2 handfuls of manure per planting hole should be applied. D.A.P fertilizer is recommended @ 200kg/ha at planting. In acidic soils dolomitic limestone should be applied @ 500-1000kg/ha.In acid soils D.A.P fertilizer should be avoided and instead triple superphosphate, double superphosphate or compound N.P.K fertilizer should be used.
Top dressing:- The plant should be topdressed with a nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of 100kg/ha when seedlings are established and a second topdressing at a rate of 200kg/ha when the leaves start folding. Have the soil tested for nutrient status where possible before planting.
Weeding:- The field should be kept free of weeds during the vegetable’s growing season and mulching conserves moisture. Harvesting starts 1.5-4months after transplanting and lasts 4-6 weeks. The vegetable is ready when heads are firm.3-4 wrapper leaves should be left to cover the head and keep it fresh. Avoid bruising the head as it encourages rotting.
Cabbage Farming in Kenya – Pests and Diseases
Typical cabbage diseases are black leg, black rot or leaf blight, club root, damping off and stem rot.To avoid soil-borne diseases, don’t plant cabbage-family plants (Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and broccoli) in the same area more than once every three years.
Cabbage pests include:- caterpillars, aphids, and flee beetle. To control these pests,check for caterpillars and aphids regularly and dust your cabbages with wood ash from the start to avoid the pests.Cold season planting minimises caterpillar infestation. Also, keep the soil moist or mulched to avoid flee beetle damage. Aphid infestation is a sign of heat or water stress and inadequate nutrient supply.
Cabbage Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Harvest during cool morning hours to avoid cracking of the heads. Grade and pack cabbage vegetable heads in crates, arrange with stem end facing the outer wall of the crates for transportation. This will avoid bruising the vegetables head. Cabbage heads can store for sometime at 0ºC and 95% relative humidity. Varieties with good storability grow hard compact heads e.g. Copenhagen market cabbage variety. Depending on variety, soil nutrient status, water availability and environmental conditions the vegetable yields range from 40-100tons/ha.