Sunflower Farming in Kenya
Sunflower Farming in Kenya does very well in arable semi arable conditions as it requires less rainfall and nutrients than maize. Sunflower will grow well where maize and beans are grown. A good crop requires 450 mm of rainfall.
Sunflower is a crop that, compared to other crops, performs well under drought conditions; this is probably the main reason for the crop’s popularity in the marginal areas of Kenya. Unfortunately, the crop is particularly sensitive to high soil temperatures during emergence and it is especially in the sandy soil where it results in poor or erratic plant density. The Sunflower plant is a major oil crop in south-west Kenya. It is a source of high-quality edible vegetable oil. South-west Kenya is in the Lake Victoria region and is suitable for sunflower farming. To address constraints such as low production, research has been undertaken by KARI targeting small-scale farmers who are vulnerable to food and nutritional insecurity.
In large parts of the sunflower-producing areas, the soil has acidified dramatically during the last decade. Consequently, molybdenum shortages often occur and are possibly one of the greatest yield-limiting factors. The crop is very susceptible to bird damage and for this reason, it cannot be cultivated at all in some areas. On the positive side, however, the drought tolerance and low input cost of the crop are major advantages. The short growing season of the crop, which has the consequence that it can be planted over a period of at least three months, renders it extremely suitable for producers who make use of adaptable crop rotation and/or fallow systems. In any case, the sunflower is a crop that only belongs in a crop rotation system.
Sunflower Farming in Kenya – The Sunflower Plant
The sunflower plant is extremely adaptable to tropical environmental conditions with temperatures as low as zero (0) degrees Celsius. It does not require high temperatures but moderately warm conditions. It can thrive in Kenya if grown from sea level of between 0m up to 2500m.
Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Sunflower Varieties
The sunflower crop is of various varieties but two main types exist. These are:-
The tall varieties are open pollinated and can grow to a height of 5-8 ft i.e 1.5m-2.4m. The most grown local varieties are:-
- Hungarian white
- Kenya fedha
- Kenya shaba
- Grey stripped
The dwarf varieties are normally hybrids and grow to a height of 4 ft (1.2m). They have smaller heads. The most common local dwarf varieties include:-
- Pan 7352
- Pan 7369
Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Planting
Time for sunflower planting properly so that harvesting coincide with dry weather since wet weather causes rotting of seed heads. Sow 3 seeds per hole at a spacing of 75cm by 30cm. carry out thinning to one plant per hole when the crop reaches 10-20cm height. During planting apply 150kg DAP or TSP per hectare.
Prepare land early in mid-February for early planting between mid-March and April long rains and in mid-July for planting between Mid August and September.
Single and double row methods of sunflower maize intercrop are planted at a spacing of 75 cm x 30 cm.
Apply farmyard manure FYM (two handfuls per hole) plus (DAP) two bottle tops at planting.
• Plant 3 sunflower seeds per hole and one maize seed per hole.
• Thin sunflower to one plant per hole at the 4true leaf stage.
• Plant 4 rows of sorghum at the edge as guard rows for the distraction of birds.
Weed 2 to 3 weeks after germination and repeat after 4 to 5 weeks. This is done to increase plant vigor and crop yield.
Thin out weak sunflower seedlings after first weeding when they are 15 cm tall.
Apply 2 bottle tops of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) fertilizer around the stems of maize and sunflower when they
Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Agronomy
Rainfall:- A rainfall amount of 500-750mm annually is sufficient for better yields. Good yields can also be obtained even with less than 250mm of rainfall.
In areas of short rain periods, the dwarf hybrid varieties are advisable as they have a shorter maturity period.
Soils:- It is grown in many soil types of moderate fertility. It does well on light-rich calcareous or alluvial soils with a PH of 6.0-7.5. The sunflower plant is a heavy feeder of soil nutrients and therefore enough nutrients should be available.
Light:- The daylight is not critical for sunflower production especially when all other conditions are favorable.
Crop Cycle:- Less than 100 to a maximum of 160 days
Temperature:- It is primarily a zero temperature crop and is more resistant to frost and drought than maiza or soybean. Tropical lowlands induce premature flowering and high temperatures inhibit seed set.
Weed Control:- Narrow rows are favored for the promotion of an early canopy closure, which depresses weed growth and assists as a soil conservation measure. Well managed tillage by cross harrowing or by inter-row cultivation should suffice for weed control.
Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Pests and Diseases
The most common diseases are:-
Stem and Head rot: White mycelium attacks roots, stem, and head. Infected parts shrink and rots.
Downy mildew: Loose white mycelia on the lower surface of the leaves.
White blister rust: White spores on the lower surface of the leaf. Raised pale yellow portions on upper leaf surface stem
Charcoal rot: Discoloured stems at the base internal stems appear shredded.
Brown (leaf) rust: Reddish-brown spores on both leaf surfaces.
Grey mold: Mase of grey mycelia penetrating into the heads causing rot.
The most common pests attacking the sunflower crop include:-
Cutworm: cuts seedlings at the ground level. Controlled by use of 35% EC at 1.56kg/Ha.
Semi loopers: Older larvae skeletonize leaves. Controlled by use of dip Terex cypermethrin
Birds: Eats maturing seeds. Controlled by the use of birds scaring devices.
African bollworm: Eats leaves and developing seeds. They can be controlled by using dip Terex 95% off 13kg/Ha or cypermethrin 1L/Ha.
Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Uses of Sunflowers
- It mainly crashed to yield an edible oil.
- For industrial use- soap making. It can also be used together with linseed oil in the manufacture of paints and varnish.
- The residual sunflower cakes/seeds heads are used as fodder for the livestock industry
- It produces wood fuel for cooking
Frequently asked questions about Sunflower Farming in Kenya
Where is sunflower grown in Kenya?
Where is sunflower grown in Kenya?
How long do sunflowers take to grow?
What month sunflowers die?
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Sunflower Farming in Kenya – Video
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