Barley Farming in Kenya – Barley is a member of the grass family and is a major cereal grain. Important uses of Barley use in Kenya include use as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. The grains are commonly made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Cultivation
Barley is a widely adaptable crop. It is currently popular in temperate areas where it is grown as a summer crop and tropical areas where it is sown as a winter crop. Its germination time is one to three days and grows under cool conditions. It is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat, and has a short growing season and is also relatively drought tolerant.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Conditions Favouring Barley Farming
Availability of market : There already exists a market for the barley i.e. the many brewing industries.
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The conditions in regions where barley is grown favour barley growing. These conditions include:- good rains, required altitude and climate for this grain.
Credit facilities: Provision of seeds, machinery, pesticides and herbicides on credit by brewing industries in order to enable a farmer grow barley for them. The farmer sells the barley to them and deductions are made.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Weed Control
Broad leaf and narrow leaf are the main weeds in barley plantations. They should be controlled by the use of appropriate herbicides.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Pests and Diseases
The major barley diseases include:-
Powdery mildew is often present in susceptible varieties, but generally causes only relatively small yield loss. Control:- seed and fertilizer treatments can give good early season control of powdery mildew and also use of resistant barley varieties.
Leaf rust and stem rust
Leaf rust and stem rust are the major air-borne diseases of barley.They are more likely to occur in wetter seasons or in higher rainfall areas. Both can cause significant yield loss and quality downgrading. Control:- Planting resistant varieties and avoidance of very early or very late plantings are the best protection against rusts
Head blight in barley may be caused by several species of fungus. Damage can range from death of single florets to loss of the whole head. The fungi responsible are stubble borne and infection is favoured by extended wet conditions at and shortly after head emergence.
Covered smut is seed and soil borne.
Control:- Smuts can be easily controlled with seed dressings; a smuticide should be applied to barley seed retained for sowing.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Technology Boost
Farmers are hopeful that technology can help boost the livelihoods of poor farmers who are jumping on the sorghum bandwagon.
They say that yields could be as high as eight tonnes per hectare if the quality of sorghum seeds is improved.
In many parts of Africa, yields of staple crops hover around a low one to two tonnes per hectare.
The scheme aims to help reduce food insecurity and poverty by supporting the production of sorghum for a variety of uses in ten districts of Kenya’s Eastern Province as well as parts of Tanzania.
As part of the project, farmers will be instructed in sustainable sorghum production, given access to seeds of improved sorghum varieties, and helped in establishing links to markets.
Most of the farmers are selling his sorghum locally to East Africa Breweries, but he is ready for the prospect of markets opening up further afield. As barley crops dwindle and production of drought-tolerant sorghum increases – farmers hopes to take advantage of the East African Community’s five-year Food Security Action Plan, which allows the movement of food and trade from areas of surplus to areas of deficit in the region.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Maximising Returns
To maximise the yields of barley, the following should be done:-
- Select a suitable variety. Leaf rust, net blotches and powdery mildew are the more important diseases for which selection of resistant varieties can improve performance and reliability.
- Treat seed with appropriate fungicidal dressing as smuts and net blotch may be seed borne.
- Plant in good soil moisture and with the correct plant population.
- Use adequate nitrogen fertiliser but do not over fertilise as this will encourage excessive vegetative growth and could result in lodging.
- Carry out crop rotations and soil test to have adequate nutrition.
- Inspect crop regularly for insect infestations and foliar diseases and use appropriate control methods.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Uses of barley
Algicide : Barley straw placed in mesh bags and floated in fish ponds or water gardens can help reduce growth of algae without harming pond plants and animals. However, its effectiveness as an algicide in ponds has produced mixed results during university testing in the US and the UK.
Animal feed: Half of the US barley production is used as livestock feed. Barley is an important feed grain in many areas of the world not typically suited for maize production, especially in northern climates, for example, northern and eastern Europe. Barley is also the principal feed grain in Canada, Europe, and in the northern US.
Beverages: Alcoholic beverages.A large part (about 25 per cent) of the remainder is used for malting, for which barley is the best-suited grain. It is a key ingredient in beer and whisky production.
Non-alcoholic beverages.Non-alcoholic drinks such as barley water and barley tea have been made by boiling barley in water. In Italy, barley is also sometimes used as coffee substitute, which is obtained from ground, roasted barley and it is prepared as an espresso (it can be prepared using percolators, filter machines or cafetieres). Nowadays, it is experiencing a revival and it is considered by some as an alternative to coffee when, for health reasons, caffeine drinks are not recommended.
Barley Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Barley has matured when it’s golden in color and brittle. If the barley is for malting purpose (for beer, other alcohol and malted foods), or it involves mass production advanced tools are to be used. For human food, cut the barley plants manually.
Harvesting is generally done manually by using sickle. Harvesting time of barley is depending on the time of sowing, cropping period and maturity. Barley is more prone to shattering. So, in a order to reduce this type of loss, barley crop should be harvested before being fully matured and in the morning hours.