Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya
Pearl/Bulrush millet is one of the small cereal crops. Bulrush millet farming in Kenya is carried out in areas such as lower parts of Meru, Kirinyaga and Embu counties. It is also cultivated in the Kerio Valley and in some parts of Machakos. In these areas, bulrush millet farming is usually grown during the short rains.
Pearl Millet is also known as bulrush millet or spiked millet. It is a plant in the grass family that is cultivated for its grain.The leaves of the plant are long, narrow, and slightly hairy. The flowers form cylindrical heads up to 20cm long and up to 50cm in some varieties. The heads begin greenish white, then turn dirty yellow-brown, and last turn grey as the grain matures.
Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya- Ecological Requirements
Altitude:- Pearl Millet is a very drought tolerant crop that grows in low semi-arid regions below 1,500m above sea level.
Siol:- It does well on sandy soils but can also be grown in heavy clay soils and will even produce a crop on poor soils.
Rainfall:- Pearl millet requires 400mm to 800mm annual rainfall.
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Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya – Varieties
- Hybrid varieties such as Pvs-pm 1005 and Pvs-Pm 1006
- Local varieties such as Kimbeere
Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya – Land Preparation
Land should be prepared early to give the soil enough time to settle and form a ﬁrm seedbed. Seeds are tiny and require a ﬁne seedbed so as to give good contact with the soil.
Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya – Field Operations
Planting is commonly done by broadcasting followed by shallow cultivation, before the onset of the rains. Where row planting is followed the spacing should be 60 cm x 15 cm.
The seedbed should be maintained free of weeds until tillering occurs when the plant grows fast enough to suppress the weeds. Hand weeding is commonly done. Bulrush millet is resistant to weeds.
(c) Fertiliser Application
Sulphate of ammonia can be applied at the rate of 200 kg per hectare when the crop is 30 cm high.
Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya – Pest and Disease Control
The main pests in the ﬁeld are the quelea, weaver birds and bishop’s birds. These destroy the grains from when they are in the milky stage onwards. These pests can be controlled by ﬁxing bird scaring devices in the fields.
(i) Downy Mildew
This disease is caused by a fungus Sclerospora graminicola. It is characterised by long, whitish lines on the leaves. It can be controlled by crops rotation and destroying crop remains after harvesting.
It is caused by a fungus Puccinia Penniseti which is characterized by pustules which develop on the leaves. It can be controlled by planting resistant varieties.
This is a fungal disease caused by Clavicepts microcephala. The affected heads become sticky. The disease can be controlled by use of certified seeds, crop rotation or destruction of infected crop residues.
These diseases are not very serious on bulrush millet.
Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
This is done by cutting the heads with a knife or sickle when they have dried. Threshing is done by beating the dry heads on the ground. The yields can be more than 1000 kg per hectare under good husbandry.
Bulrush Millet Farming in Kenya – Storage and Marketing
After threshing, the grains are winnowed and dried to 14% moisture content and then stored in bags. Millet is mainly grown for subsitence and is sold locally.