Beans Farming in Kenya
Beans farming in Kenya has received a boost after researchers at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) developed a new bean variety that is high yielding, thrives in areas with low rainfall and is resistant to pests and diseases.
The new bean variety produces about 20 pods a plant and an acre gives a yield of 25 bags compared to 20 bags from the other bean varieties. The bean takes 90 – 95 days to mature and is resistant to common bean plant disease. Farmers, however, will have to wait a little while as only a few farmers are planting the bean on trial basis but soon KARI will release the variety for mass production to seed companies for sale.
This is another milestone in ensuring food security in Kenya as a recent report by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicated that food prices will go up in the next ten years but increased productivity per acre will meet the demand. In addition, farmers who have consumed the bean say it is both very palatable and good quality produce. Beans grow with little care, produce an abundance of pods, and can add nitrogen to the soil, making them ideal plants for organic vegetable gardens.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Bean varieties
The main bean varieties grown in Kenya include; Rosecoco, Mwitemania, Red Haricot and many other smaller varieties.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Types of Beans
All beans belong to the legume family. Snap and Lima beans belong to the genus Phaseolus, while mung, adzuki, garbanzo, fava, and others belong to totally different genera. In general, there are two main bean types: shell beans, full-grown for their protein-rich seeds, that are consumed both fresh and dried; and snap beans, cultivated principally for their pods. The two groups are additional divided in line with growth habit. Bush types are generally self-supporting. Pole beans have twining vines that need support from stakes, strings, wires, or trellises. Runner beans are like pole beans, though runners want cooler growing conditions. Half-runners, common within the South, fall somewhere in between pole and bush beans.
Adzuki beans: which come from Japan, are extra rich in protein. The small plants produce long, thin pods that are eaten like snap beans. When mature at 90 days, they contain 7 to 10 small, nutty-tasting, maroon-colored beans that are tasty fresh or dried.
Black beans: also called black turtle beans, have jet-black seeds and need approximately 3 months of warm, frost-free days to mature. The dried beans are popular for soups and stews. Most are sprawling, half-runner-type plants, but some cultivars, like ‘Midnight Black Turtle’, have more upright growth habits.
Black-eyed peas: also called cowpeas or southern peas are cultivated like beans. They need long summers with temperatures averaging between 60° and 70°F. Use fresh pods like snap beans, shell and cook the pods and seeds together, or use them like other dried beans.
Fava beans: also known as the broad, horse, or cattle beans, are one of the world’s oldest cultivated foods. They are second only to soybeans as a source of vegetable protein, but they’re much more common as a garden crop in Europe than in the United States. You won’t find a wide range of varieties in most seed catalogs unless you choose a seed company that specializes in Italian vegetables. Unlike other beans, favas thrive in cold, damp weather. They take about 75 days to mature. Fava beans need to be cooked and shucked from their shells and the individual seed skins peeled off before eating.
Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, produce bushy plants that need 65 to 100 warm days. When dried, the nutty-tasting beans are well baked or cooked and chilled for use in salads.
Great Northern white beans are the most popular dried and eaten in baked dishes. In short-season areas, you can harvest and eat them as fresh shell beans in only 65 days. Bush-type Great Northern are extremely productive.
Yellow beans: Horticultural beans are also known as shell, wren’s egg, bird’s egg, speckled cranberry, or October beans. Both pole and bush types produce a big harvest in a small space and mature in 65 to 70 days. Use the very young, colorful, mottled pods like snap beans, or dry the mature, nutty, red-speckled seeds.
Kidney beans: require 100 days to mature but are very easy to grow. Use these red, hearty-tasting dried seeds in chili, soups, stews, and salads.
Lima beans: including types called butter beans or butter peas are highly sensitive to cool weather; plant them well after the first frost. Bush types take 60 to 75 days to mature. Pole types require 90 to 130 days, but the vines grow quickly and up to 12 feet long. Limas are usually green, but there are also some speckled types. Use either fresh or dried in soups, stews, and casseroles.
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Mung beans: need 90 frost-free days to produce long, thin, hairy, and edible pods on bushy 3-foot plants. Eat the small, yellow seeds fresh, dried, or as bean sprouts.
Pinto beans: need 90 to 100 days to mature. These large, strong plants take up a lot of space if not trained on poles or trellises. Use fresh like a snap bean, or dry the seeds.
Scarlet runner beans: produce beautiful climbing vines with scarlet flowers. The beans mature in about 70 days. Cook the green, rough-looking pods when they are very young; use the black-and red-speckled seeds fresh or dried.
Snap beans: are also known as green beans. While many growers still refer to snap beans as string beans, a stringless cultivar was developed in the 1890s, and few cultivars today have to be stripped of their strings before you eat them. Most cultivars mature in 45 to 60 days. This group also includes the flavorful haricots verts, also called filet beans, and the mild wax or yellow beans. For something unusual, try the yard-long asparagus bean. Its rampant vines can produce 3-foot-long pods, though they taste best when 12 to 15 inches long. Once the pods have passed their tender stage, you can sell them, too.
Soldier beans: whose vinelike plants need plenty of room to sprawl are best suited to cool, dry climates. The white, oval-shaped beans mature in around 85 days. Try the dried seeds in baked dishes.
Garden cultivars of soybeans: also called edamame, are ready to harvest when the pods are plump and green. Boil the pods, then shell and eat the seeds. Or, you can let the pods mature and harvest as dry beans. Try ‘Early Hakucho’, ‘Butterbean’, and other varieties. The bush-type plants need a 3-month growing season but are tolerant of cool weather.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Planting
In general, beans are very sensitive to frost. (The exception is favas, which require a long, cool growing season; sow them at the same time you plant peas.) Most beans grow best in air temperatures of 70° to 80°F, and soil temperature should be at least 60°F. Soggy, cold soil will cause the seeds to rot. Beans need a sunny, well-drained area rich in organic matter. Lighten heavy soils with extra compost to help seedlings emerge.
Plan on roughly 10 to 15 bush bean plants or 3 to 5 hills of pole beans per person. A 100-foot row produces about 50 quarts of beans. Beans are self-pollinating, so you can grow cultivars side by side with little danger of cross-pollination. If you plan to save seed from your plants, though, separate cultivars by at least 50 feet. Bean seeds usually show about 70 percent germination, and the seeds can remain viable for 3 years. Don’t soak or pre sprout seeds before sowing. If you plant in an area where beans haven’t grown before, help ensure that your bean crop will fix nitrogen in the soil by dusting the seeds with a bacterial inoculant powder for beans and peas (inoculants are available from garden centers and seed suppliers).
Plant your first crop of beans a week or two after the date of the last expected frost. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep in heavy soil and 1½ inches deep in light soil. Firm the earth over them to ensure soil contact. Plant most bush cultivars 3 to 6 inches apart in rows 2 to 2½ feet apart. They produce the bulk of their crop over a 2-week period. For a continuous harvest, stagger plantings at 2-week intervals until about 2 months before the first killing frost is expected. Bush beans usually don’t need any support unless planted in a windy area. In that case, prop them up with brushy twigs or a strong cord around stakes set at the row ends or in each corner of the bed.
Pole beans are even more sensitive to cold than bush beans. They also take longer to mature (10 to 11 weeks), but they produce about three times the yield of bush beans in the same garden space and keep on bearing until the first frost. In the North, plant pole beans at the beginning of the season—usually in May. If your area has longer seasons, you may be able to harvest two crops. To calculate if two crops are possible, note the number of days to maturity for a particular cultivar, and count back from fall frost date, adding a week or so to be on the safe side.
Plant pole beans in single rows 3 to 4 feet apart or double rows spaced 1 foot apart. Sow seeds 2 inches deep and 10 inches apart. Provide a trellis or other vertical support at planting or as soon as the first two leaves of the seedlings open. Planting pole beans around tepee support is a fun project to try if you’re gardening with children, but it will be more difficult to harvest the beans than from a simple vertical trellis.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Weeding
Beans should be kept free from weeds. Timely and thorough wedding is absolutely essential. This is achieved by a first weeding 2-3 weeks after emergence followed by a second wedding 3 weeks later (just before flowering) in mono-cropping. In intercropping, one weeding 3 weeks after planting may be sufficient except in high rainfall areas where a second selective weeding 3 weeks later may be necessary.
Care should be taken to avoid damaging the shallow roots, especially during the first weeding. Avoid cultivation during the flowering time to avoid flower shedding and when the field is wet to avoid the spread of diseases and soil compaction. Herbicides can be used to control weeds for example Dual Gold or Basagran.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Crop rotation
This practice is recommended to avoid pest and disease build-up. Rotation is mainly done with cassava, maize, sorghum or any other non leguminaceae crop.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Controlling Pests and Diseases
Diseases and pests may have been partially responsible for the unstable production that has been experienced in the past. Incidence and severity vary between seasons because of environmental and management practices. Integrated disease and pest management, using all suitable control measures, is recommended.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Ecological Requirements
The crop grows from an altitude of 600 to 2700m.a.s.l. In Kenya beans grow best in altitude above 600m.a.s.l because below this, high temperatures cause flower and pod dropping leading to poor fruit set and hence reduced yield. There are also high incidences of diseases like; bean rust, and bean anthracnose below this altitude. Altitude between 900-2100 is ideal. Beyond this altitude, there is the problem of frost damage.
The crop is mostly cultivated under rainfed conditions. It requires a minimum of 400 to 500 mm of rain during the growing season, but an annual total of 600 to 1500 mm is considered as ideal. Beans require well-distributed rainfall. Too much rain and long spells of drought lead to reduced yields. Beans are not drought tolerant hence they require moist soil throughout the growing period. Excessive rainfall during flowering causes flower drop and increased disease incidences. Medium rainfall is thus required during flowering and pod set.
Beans grow on a wide range of soil types but the best growth is obtained in well-drained soils with high organic matter. Beans grow well in soils with a depth of at least 90 cm that has no mineral and water deficiencies. With sandy soils, problems of low fertility or nematode damage can occur. Beans can grow in soil with a pH range of 5.0- 7.5. Below pH 4.5, plant growth is impaired through the limitation of the development of the Rhizobium bacteria that are responsible for the nitrogen fixation. The crop also performs poorly in compacted, too alkaline or poorly drained soils.
The bean crop thrives in a warm climate at optimal temperatures of 18 to 24 °C. The maximum temperature during flowering should not exceed 30 °C. High temperatures during the flowering stage lead to the dropping of flowers and a low pod set, resulting in yield loss. Day temperatures below 20 °C will delay maturity and seed formation causing pods to mature empty. The crop is very sensitive to frost, and minimum temperatures should not go below 13
Beans Farming in Kenya – Land preparation
Prepare the land to a fine tilth 2-4 weeks before the onset of rains to allow organic materials to fully decompose. Hoes, oxen plow and tractors can be used for plowing.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Seed Selection and Treatment
For successful production of beans, use certified seed. This production cost factor is slight when compared to probable yield losses due to disease or poor stand. Low-quality causes poor and uneven stand, resulting in uneven maturity, harvesting problems, and yield losses. Benefits of using certified seed are:
- High in germination percentage.
- Guaranteed true to type and ensures uniformity.
- Guaranteed free of weed seeds and foreign matter
Farmers may select from his stock of bean harvest. Beans should be well sorted and only the best should be used for planting. Good quality bean seed has the following properties:
- A high germination rate;
- Pure: all seeds are of the same variety and of the same size;
- Clean: not mixed with foreign matter such as stones or dirt, or other seeds;
- Not damaged: broken, shriveled,, or insect-damaged;
- Not rotten or moldy, discolored; may be diseased.
Selected seeds must be dressed with insecticides such as Thiram or Fenasan D at the rate of 3g per kg of seed or Aldrin 2.5 % at 5g/kg seed. This protects them against pests and fungal diseases. Treated seed is unfit for human consumption and should be planted immediately. Do not inhale or allow contact with the skin, wash hands with soap immediately after handling treated seeds.
The legume crops have a unique capacity of utilizing atmospheric nitrogen through nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the root nodules. However, the naturally occurring (local) strains of Rhizobium may not be efficient. It is, therefore, recommended to artificially inoculate the seeds with an appropriate strain of Rhizobium. The artificial inoculation is cheap and it increases the efficiency of the plant to fix nitrogen. About 60 g of molasses is dissolved thoroughly in half-liter of water. To this solution, the culture packet is mixed so as to form a slurry.
A 10 kg seed (free from dust) is mixed thoroughly with the slurry of the culture with clean hands taking care that all the seeds are equally coated with the product. The treated seed is spread on a polythene sheet or a clean cloth and placed in the shade to dry. The coated seeds are sown the same day and immediately covered with soil so as to avoid direct exposure of the coated seeds to sunlight. Inoculum contains bacteria that must be kept alive. All packages of inoculum have an expiration date.
After this date, the bacteria may not be alive and the inoculum should not be bought or used. Heat and direct sunlight kill bacteria in the stored inoculum, even while packaged. Since a short period of heat can reduce the number of live Rhizobia, the package should be kept in a cool place and out of direct sunlight – even when taking it home from the store (keep it off the dashboard). The preferred storage place for inoculum is the refrigerator (do not freeze). Inoculant should not be mixed with either pesticide or fertilizer.
Testing for germination
While the germination (%) of seeds is supposed to be on every packet, farmers often get nongerminating seeds and this results in disappointment after planting. It is therefore advisable to conduct a simple germination test. This is done by taking a few bean seeds and soaking in water overnight. The soaked seeds are then wrapped in a polythene bag and on the third day, the seeds are examined to assess the number of sprouted seeds.
Based on the number of seeds that sprout, the farmer will make a decision on whether to use the seeds or not. This test also informs the farmers on whether to overseed in the planting holes. If the seed has 60% germination rate compared to one with a 90% germination rate, you will need to plant more seed of the former than the latter.
To ensure high bean yields, select highly productive land suitable for bean production. For example, you should avoid steeply sloping land, land that is near a swamp, very sandy soil and areas with shallow surface soil and a lot of couch grass. Look for signs that indicate high or very low soil fertility.
Land preparation should be done early enough so that the field is free of weeds and ready for planting at the onset of rains. The seedbed should have fine tilth. The seedbed must be deep, level and firm because this ensures better surface contact between the seed and the soil, increasing
The use of 15-20 tons/ha of farmyard manure is highly recommended especially in areas where soils are low in organic matter content. Well-decomposed animal manure or compost should be applied under dry conditions, and then mixed with the topsoil. This should be done about one week prior to planting.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Pick green beans when they are pencil size, tender, and before the seeds inside form bumps on the pod. Harvest almost daily to encourage production; if you allow pods to ripen fully, the plants will stop producing and die. Pulling directly on the pods may uproot the plants. Instead, pinch off bush beans using your thumbnail and fingers; use scissors on pole and runner beans. Also cut off and discard any overly mature beans you missed in previous pickings. Serve, freeze, can, or pickle the beans the day you harvest them to preserve the fresh, delicious, homegrown flavor.
Pick shell beans for fresh eating when the pods are plump but still tender. The more you pick, the more the vines will produce. Consume or preserve them as soon as possible. Unshelled, both they and green beans will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. To dry beans, leave the pods on the plants until they are brown and the seeds rattle inside them. Seeds should be so hard you can barely dent them with your teeth. If the pods have yellowed and a rainy spell is a forecast, cut the plants off near the ground and hang them upside down indoors to dry.
Put the shelled beans in airtight, lidded containers. Add a packet of dried milk to absorb moisture, and store the beans in a cool, dry place. They will keep for 10 to 12 months. Beans Dried or fresh, shelled or whole, beans are a favorite crop for home vegetable gardens. They are easy to grow, and the range of plant sizes means there is room for beans in just about any garden. Among the hundreds of varieties available, there are types that thrive in every section of the country.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Seed drying
After the seed has been threshed, it must be dried again to about 10% moisture content. Protect the seed from rain, insects, animals, and dirt. Threshed seed should be dried on mats, plastic sheets or wire mesh trays raised on a platform. Spread the seed thinly on the drying surface to allow air to pass through it. Turn the seed regularly to avoid overheating.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Storage
Store the seeds in clean or disinfected bags. Do not mix the newly harvested grain with stocks from previous harvests. Store the bags at least 1 meter away from the walls and on a raised platform. Store the bags in a non-leaking storehouse to avoid contact with moisture. The grains can also be kept in airtight drums or in hermetic bags. However, if seeds are to be used for planting, they should not be stored in airtight containers to maintain viability, gunny bags
are recommended. The store should be clean and well ventilated.
Beans Farming in Kenya – Problems
Soybeans, adzuki, and mung beans are fairly resistant to pests. Insect pests that attack other beans include aphids, cabbage loopers, corn earworms, European corn borers, Japanese beetles, and—the most destructive of all—Mexican bean beetles. Leaf miners are tiny yellowish fly larvae that tunnel inside leaves and damage stems below the soil. To reduce leaf miner problems, pick off and destroy affected leaves.
Striped cucumber beetles are ¼-inch-long yellowish-orange bugs with blackheads and three black stripes down their backs. These pests can spread bacterial blight and cucumber mosaic. Apply a thick layer of mulch to discourage them from laying their orange eggs in the soil near the plants. Cover plants with row cover to prevent beetles from feeding; handpick adults from plants that aren’t covered. Plant later in the season to help avoid infestations of this pest.
Spider mites are tiny red or yellow creatures that generally live on the undersides of leaves; their feeding causes yellow stippling on leaf surfaces. Discourage spider mites with garlic or soap sprays. Using a strong blast of water from the hose will wash mites off plants, but avoid this method at blossom time or you may knock the blossoms off. To minimize disease problems, buy disease-free seeds and disease-resistant cultivars, rotate bean crops every one or two years, and space plants far enough apart to provide airflow. Don’t harvest or cultivate beans when the foliage is wet, or you may spread disease spores. Here are some common diseases to watch for:
Anthracnose causes black, egg-shaped, sunken cankers on pods, stems, and seeds and black marks on leaf veins. Bacterial blight starts with large, brown blotches on the leaves; the foliage may fall off and the plant will die. Mosaic symptoms include yellow leaves and stunted growth. Control aphids and cucumber beetles, which spread the virus. Rust causes reddish-brown spots on leaves, stems, and pods. Downy mildew causes fuzzy white patches on pods, especially of lima beans. If disease strikes, destroy infected plants immediately, don’t touch other plants with unwashed hands or clippers, and don’t sow beans in that area again for 3 to 5 years.
Frequently Asked Questions About Beans Farming in Kenya
How many bags of beans do you get per acre?
Bean yields in many farms are, however, very low averaging 1 to 2 bags per acre. But if grown well farmers can get up to 11 bags.
How do beans grow in Kenya?
Plant your first crop of beans a week or two after the date of the last expected frost. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep in heavy soil and 1½ inches deep in light soil. Firm the earth over them to ensure soil contact. Plant most bush cultivars 3 to 6 inches apart in rows 2 to 2½ feet apart
How long does sugar beans take to mature?
Beans mature in 50 to 55 days, while pole beans will take 50 to 60 days. On average, it takes bean plants a little less than two months to produce beans and fully mature, but different cultivars have different maturities.
Where are beans grown in Kenya?
The bean crop is grown in almost all regions in Kenya. However, Eastern, Nyanza, Central, Western and Rift valley are the major bean growing provinces. Bean crops grow with very minimum care and add Nitrogen to the soil. A wide range of bean varieties is grown in Kenya.
What is the spacing of beans?
Locate bean rows 18 to 36 inches apart. Bush beans grow to a height of 1 to 3 feet and a width of 1 to 2 feet