Kenya has a high potential for potato growing, over 35,000 hectares of potatoes are grown annually in Kenya. Potato production has increased in recent years mainly due to growth in population and diversification of crops.
The most favourable climatic conditions are in areas with annual rainfall of between 850 mm and 1,200 mm, and altitudes of between 1,500m and 2 800m above sea level — Central, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces. Most of the potato crop is grow on subsistence basis.
Sweet potatoes are a secondary food crop for many Kenyans. They are mainly grown in western Kenya — Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Rachuonyo and Kisii and Coast and Central provinces. They do well in sandy loam soil and where rainfall is abundant and well-distributed throughout the year.
Irish potatoes is a cool weather crop which belongs to the Solanaceae family, whose other members include tomatoes, capsicums and egg plants, among others. In Kenya, it is one of the most consumed produce, acting as a staple food as well as a cash crop, and its production has been growing rapidly due to increased urbanization and fast food industries. Irish potatoes can be mashed, made into French fries or baked and serve as good complements to a wide range of meals.
The major irish potato growing regions in Kenya include Nyandarua, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Meru, Nyeri, Kiambu, Taita Taveta, Narok, Bomet, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Kisii, Nyamira, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Baringo, Nandi, Laikipia and Kericho.
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Ecological Growth Requirement
Irish potatoes grows well in loose loamy and sandy loam soils that are well drained and aerated, rich in organic matter and with a pH range of 5-6.5. Impermeable soil layers limits the rooting depth thus affecting production.
Optimum yields are realized where average daily temperatures range between 16 to 20oC. Tuber development is highly inhibited when temperatures get below 10oC and above 30oC. late tuber initiation occurs if planting is done when temperatures are high.
The crop does well in regions that receive a regular rainfall of 850-1400mm per annum.
Irish potato does well at attitude range of 1500-2800 M above sea level.
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Potatoes Seed Selection
There difrent varieties, which differ in shape, size, colour, flavour and starch content. They include;
Tigoni, Shangi, Kenya karibu, Kenya Mpya, Sherekea, Ambition, Laura, Lady Amarilla, Derby, Markies, Sagitta, Saviola, Musica, Royal, Jelly, Faluka, Purple gold, Challenger, Evora, Panamera, Rodeo, Sifra, Konjo, Carolus, Zafira, Milva and Mayan Gold, among others.
Factors should be considered during seed selection;
- Yield potential
- Maturity period
- Pest and disease tolerance
- Tuber characteristics
- Intended purpose of the produce
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Land Preparation
At least two ploughings are done with frequent harrowing and rolling in order to make the soil suitable for optimal productivity. To get rid of both broadleaf and grass weeds, spray them with CATAPULT® 480SL 200ml/20L which is a systemic non-selective weedkiller.
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Planting
Irish potatoes are commonly grown from seed potatoes (tubers or pieces of tubers). For optimal production, these tubers should be disease free and well-sprouted.
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♦ Make hilled rows (ridges) on the prepared land.
♦ Mix soil with manure and DAP. For efficient and improved nutrient uptake and stimulation of root development, among other benefits, mix 1kg HUMIPOWER® with 50kg DAP and /or 1 ton of manure.
♦ Place the seeds 12 inches apart and cover with about 3 inches of soil.
♦ Seeds can be soaked in OPTIMIZER® 20ml/1L for 1-2 hours in order to break seed dormancy if any, and promote faster and uniform germination.
♦ The soil should be moist but not waterlogged.
♦ Germination usually takes place after 21-27 days after planting.
Furrows are dug at a spacing of 75cm from one furrow to another and about 30cm from one seed to the other.
Irish potatoes are very sensitive to water stress especially during the middle and late stages of growth, and this can cause production of misshapen tubers and low yields. Soil moisture content should therefore be maintained at a relatively higher level in order to promote optimal production.
Weeds cause significant losses as they compete for growth factors like nutrients and water and harbour pathogens which could attack the crop. Proper weed control should therefore be done in order to give the crop a competitive advantage.
Proper weed control with CATAPULT 480SL 200ml/20L during land preparation and application of HOTLINE 450SC 50ml/20L prior to transplanting significantly reduces weed development throughout the season. Shallow cultivation should be done in order to avoid root injury.
This helps in pests and disease management by breaking their development cycles. Rotation should be done with non-solanaceous crops like cereals and brassicas
This involves mounding soil from between the rows around the main stem of the crop. It maintains the crop in an upright posture, prevents pests like the potato tuber moth from accessing the tubers and helps in preventing development of weeds.
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Pests And Diseases
These are white-flying insect pests whose larvae enter directly into tuber making slender tunnels along or deep into the tubers. These tunnels don’t heal thus provide avenues for entry of other pathogens, e.g. diseases like soft and dry rot.
Spray ESCORT 19EC 10ml/20L or BACIGUARD 16WDG 15g/20L or OCCASION STAR 200SC 3ml/20L or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20L
Root knot nematodes
These are microscopic parasites living in the soil which feed on the roots. The infested tubers develop swellings, making them unattractive.
Drench the planting holes with ALONZE 50EC 10ml/20L or mix basal fertilizer, 50kg with 2kg of ADVENTURE 0.5GR.
They feed between the upper and lower epidermal leaf surfaces creating whitish serpentine or blister mines. This reduces the surface area for photosynthesis leading to stunting and reduced yields.
Spray ALONZE 50EC 5ml/20L or ESCORT 19EC 10ml/20L or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20L or OCCASION STAR 200SC 3ml/20L.
These are tiny black and green soft –bodied insects which suck sap from leaves and stems of plants causing leaf curling and distortion and as they feed, they also secrete honeydew which facilitates the development of sooty mold. Aphids are also vectors of diseases like Potato Leaf Roll disease.
Spray KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20L or PENTAGON 50EC 10ml/20L or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20L
They are tiny white winged insects which suck sap from the plants causing damages and reducing plant vigour. As they feed, they produce honeydew which induces growth of sooty molds. They are also vectors for plant diseases.
Spray TAURUS 500SP 10g/20L or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20L or KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20L. Spray the crop with JAMBO CLEAN 100ml/20L to clean the sooty mold.
pest and disease management
- Use recommended pesticides
- Use tolerant and resistant varieties
- Practise crop protection
- Plant healthy and certified tubers
- Ensure field sanitation
- Ensure timely and proper weed control
- Ensure adequate spacing
- Plant early
- Ensure proper crop nutrition
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Harvesting period differs from one variety to another and can be indicated by yellowing of the crop’s leaves and easy separation of tubers from their stolons. Harvesting is done using a fork, plough or commercial potato harvester, depending on the scale of production.
To facilitate harvesting, the vines should be removed 1-2 weeks before digging up the tubers. It is very important to avoid any injuries to the tubers because the bruises/damaged parts serve as entry points for storage pathogens. The tubers should be dug on a dry day. However, if the soil is too wet, the potatoes should be air-dried before packaging.
Tubers meant to be stored (not to be consumed immediately) should be left in the soil in order to allow their skins to thicken, which prevents shrinkage due to water loss and storage pathogens. However, they should not be left for too long as that may expose them to a fungal incrustation known as black scurf.
Sorting before storage is very important. Spoiled potatoes should be removed in order to prevent the healthy ones from spoiling.
Potatoes Farming in Kenya – Health And Nutritional Benefits of Irish Potatoes
Irish potatoes are a rich source of nutrition and energy as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential organic compounds. Some of the benefits include the following;
- They Rich in iron, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc which are essential in building and maintaining bone structure and strength.
- They contain significant quantities of fibre which helps in lowering the total amount of cholesterol in the blood thus reducing the risk of heart diseases.
- They have high Rich in choline which helps with memory, brain development and muscle movement besides other benefits.
- Have folate which is important in DNA synthesis and repair.
- Contains vitamin B6 which plays a key role in energy metabolism by breaking down carbohydrates and protein into glucose and amino acids respectively, which are easily absorbed into the body.
- Serves as source of vitamin C and compounds like carotenoids and flavonoids which act as antioxidants.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Potatoes Farming in Kenya
Is potato farming profitable in Kenya?
It is estimated that the Potatoe is grown by 600,000 to 800,000 farmers with a total production of 1 to 1.4 million tonnes worth Sh30 to Sh40 billion per year.
How long does Potatoes take to grow in Kenya?
Potatoes in kenya are harvested after a duration of six months and the other half in the second six months.
What is the average yield per acre for potatoes?
In the first year of cultivating potatoes, a good yield would be 25 tons per hectare or 10 tons per acre (22.000 lbs. per acre). Experienced farmers after years of practice can achieve yields from 40 to 70 tons per hectare, or from 16 to 28 tons per acre
How much money do potato farmers make?
Kenyas potatoes farmers are harvesting between 24,500 and 61,000 pounds of potato per acre (State average). Some farmers may have much higher yields, and some much lower.
How much does it cost to plant an acre of potatoes in kenya?
For a kenyan farmer to plant potatoes on an acre land, it will ost him/her Ksh80,000.
How can we increase potato production in Kenya?
For the continuous production of potatoes in the same piece of land, soil degradation has been inevitable. Fertilizer application should be done as per recommended rates with the most common one being Di-Ammonium Phosphate.
What weather do potatoes grow in kenya?
Potatoes survives well in a cool weather and well-drained, loose soil that is about 45 to 55°F (7 to 13°C). In warmer climates, potatoes can be grown as a winter crop.