Mulberry is one of the fruits that is greatly overlooked and has not gained much attention in Kenya. Mulberry has the potential of lifting small scale farmers if it is exploited for various commercial valuable products. Mulberry is a deciduous woody perennial that grows fast and has a deep root system.

Mulberry Varieties

There are about 68 species of genus morus in the world majority of which occur in Asia. In Kenya, the dominant species is Morus alba. Some varieties do fairly well under rain fed conditions while others require irrigation. Below are some of the varieties in Kenya. Although these species may have originated from foreign countries during the colonial times, the naming of the varieties depended on where the mulberry tree was first sited in Kenya.

Morus Alba – Ex-mbu variety is characterized by short internodes; purplish coloured bark prominent at the shoot tips.The variety has many small leaves and is drought resistant.This variety is more susceptible to leaf spot than other varieities but can be controlled by timely harvesting of leaf.

Morus Alba – Ex-Thika is characteriyed by large light green slightly drooping leaves, has long internodes and whitish bark. It is fairly drought tolerant. The young shoot is weak and may need support to avoid falling or bending.

Alba – Ex Limuru is characterized by small finger shaped deeply serrated leaves, very thin shoots with short internodes. It is a high berry producer and is thus not recommended for silkworm rearing due to low leaf harvest but recommended for berry production.

Morus alba Ex-Ithanga is characterized by medium heart shaped and smooth light green leaves. It may sometimes produce a few lobed leaves. It roots easily and is fairly drought tolerant. It is suitable for both silkworm rearing and berry production.

Morcus indica – var kanva – ex-India is characterized by medium lobed glittering leaves. The stem has short internodes with a lot of leaves. It is a heavy berry producer and is recommended for both silkworm rearing and berry production. It roots easily and grows fast.

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Noi Ex-Thailand It has medium heart shaped dark green glittering with golden top leaves. It has short internodes with a plenty of leaves. It roots easily and is a very promising variety still under observation. It does well under irrigation.

Growing Mulberry In Kenya

There is no statistical data on the total area of coverage occupied by mulberry or on any predominant areas that grow mulberry in Kenya. So far we have not come across any farmers who have grown mulberry commercially on large tracts of land; most farmers have grown mulberry as forage in less than an acre piece of land.

Mulberry can be grown under different climatic conditions but prefers tropical zones with temperatures ranging from 24-28 degree Celsius. They need adequate water supply, especially when used for sericulture purposes. Rainfall ranging from 800-2000mm is ideal; irrigation is encouraged areas with less rainfall.

Mulberry should be in well ventilated areas with enough sunlight for better growth and leaf quality. Mulberry does well in a wide range of soils but prefers fertile well drained soils with a soil PH of between 6.2-6.8. Farmyard manure evenly spread and properly mixed with the soil can be used when planting.

A quarter an acre can accommodate 3556 plants with a spacing of 5 X 2ft. A mulberry plant takes 6-12 months to be well established and pruning is required as the plant grows.

Inter-cropping

Legumes can be planted between the mulberry rows, using the standard cultivation. However climbers or any other legume that requires spraying of chemicals that are harmful to the silkworms should not be intercropped. Inter-cropping with legumes can be done within the first year while the crop is young which leads to additional nitrogen to the garden and income in the first year.

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Training of Mulberry Tree for Maximum Leaf Production

Three months after the mulberry has been established in the main field, prune the shoots at the base level. This will allow more shoots to grow from the base.
After about 6 months, when these shoots attain a height of 3ft select 3 strong shoots. Prune at 1ft above the ground to establish the pruning/harvesting table.

Benefits

There are many products with medicinal value that can be derived from mulberry leaves and fruits. The leaves are used by some farmers as animal feed especially for cattle and rabbits. The fruits are used for making jam, jelly, fruit sauce, cake, food color, yoghurt, wine and juice.

Both the fruit and leaves are dried and packaged for sale. Dried leaves are used to make mulberry green tea and dried fruits are crushed into powder. The fresh fruit has medicinal value and has for a long time been used to prepare syrup and treat sore throat, high fever and depression.

The mulberry fruit tree has tremendous potential due to its many uses; everything from the leaves to the roots can be added value if industrially exploited. The tree can be inter-cropped with other plants and serve as a good companion to grapes or passion fruit, its hard stalks supports climbers.

It is also used widely for landscaping, they provide a good view if properly pruned. This single plant, if exploited can give rise to different income generating micro enterprises that will lift living standards and create jobs for the many youths who are unemployed.

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