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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Farmers advised on orchard farming

By Bob Aston
The Ministry of Agriculture has advised farmers in Sipili to follow proper spacing requirements when planting fruits to ensure maximum production. Fruit production has been on the increase in Sipili and its environs but the ministry says that most farmers have not followed proper spacing hence they do not enjoy maximum return.
“Establishment of an orchard is a long term investment and deserves a very critical planning. A careful plan of the orchard is necessary for the most efficient and economic management. Optimum spacing to accommodate maximum number of trees per unit area is essential,” said James Kamau, the Divisional Agriculture Officer. Sipili division.
Agriculture officials spacing a farm
The Ministry has encouraged farmers to use Negarim microcatchments when deciding on proper spacing for orchards.
Negarim microcatchments are diamond-shaped basins surrounded by small earth bunds with an infiltration pit in the lowest corner of each. Runoff is collected from within the basin and stored in the infiltration pit.
This technique is appropriate for small-scale tree planting in any area which has a moisture deficit. It works in very low rainfall (300mm).The Ministry says that Negarim microcatchments are neat and precise, and relatively easy to construct.
The technique provides a lot of benefits like: Improved fruit tree establishment, Increased yields, Improved farm income, conserves soil by improving moisture storage and most importantly it harvests water for the trees.
“There should be adequate space for proper development of the trees .The trees will require a lot of care during the first few months of planting,” said Samwel Kige, Field Officer Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division.
Kige has urged Sipili farmers to ensure that spacing between trees should be eight (8) by 8 metres for big trees like mangoes and avocados, while tree tomato should have a spacing of two (2) by (2) metres.
Pegs placed in a farm indicating where trees are to be planted
“The farm measurement will depend on the area. Different areas have different specification. Some areas will require larger spacing. The amount of rainfall normally determines the spacing. The drier the place the bigger the spacing,” said Kige.
If the trees are too close together, the trees grow tall rendering pruning, spraying and harvesting difficult. There is root competition and inadequate nutrition and the trees as such give fewer yields and produce smaller fruits of poor colour.
Tree root will spread over a much larger area than top and there should be proper room for the roots to feed without competition.
Kamau said that fruit farms must have proper drainage to avoid water logging during rainy seasons. Well drained soil will allow water to percolate through it reasonably quickly and not pool. Standing water or saturated soil deprives roots of oxygen.
Farmers have also been urged to ensure that they dig an appropriate hole for the tree. The most appropriate size is three (3) ft by 3 ft. This will absorb a lot of water and fertilizer and will ensure that a farmer gets good returns. Another option is for farmers to dig a hole measuring two (2) ft by 2 ft.
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