A complete guide on Grapes farming in Kenya
Grape is a woody vine that produces clusters of edible berries. They can be eaten raw or can be used to process wine and other products such as jam and grape juice.
There are plenty of health benefits in consuming grapes for they are a rich source of Vitamins- A, C, K and minerals such as iron, copper, manganese.
Grapes are widely cultivated all over the world due to the fact that they are non-climatic and can thrive in different climatic conditions but they prefer warm to hot temperatures.
Grapes are suitable for home gardeners and for small scale or large scale commercial production.
In Kenya, grapes can be used to reduce economic and food insecurity because there is a good market within the country. There is ready market throughout the year and new wine companies that use grapes as their main raw material are setting shop in Kenya. Established companies such as East African breweries ltd are thinking of entering the wine market as they seek to diversify. The future of this crop is promising.
A good percentage of the grape consumed in Kenya is imported and mostly sold to the high end market that pays a good price for them- a kilo goes at around 400-500 Ksh. Wine producing companies such as Kenyan wine agencies do import the grapes they use because of the good quality of imported grapes and lack of local supply. Any company prefers getting their core raw materials from within and are only forced to import if they have no other choice. This greatly increases the cost of production and denies such companies a competitive advantage. Some of the companies are aware of this and have developed their own grapevine orchards but the grape produced is still insufficient.
This plant has the potential to create employment and wealth among Kenyan farmers’ especially young farmers who are ready to try something new. Grapes’ growing is still in its formative stage despite the fact that there are grapevine orchards in different parts of Kenya that are more than 20 years old. More farmers and home gardeners should be encouraged to embrace this crop. Farmers can go an extra mile and establish wine making cottage industries that will improve the economic outlook of their locality. There is a lot to be done to ensure farmers are well trained on grape cultivation and value addition to guarantee high quality produce that will rival imported grapes and wine.
Grape prefers deep and well drained soil and can grow in any soil type. They can be propagated through seeds or vegetatively by using cuttings.
There are different types of grapes each having its own characteristic, advantages and disadvantages.
Prospective large scale farmers should visit wineries and inquire on the types of grapes they might be interested to purchase before embracing certain cultivators because demand does differ by variety.
Home growers should sample the different varieties; they can be planted along the fence in the homestead and trained well to conceal the fruits when it matures.
GROWING GRAPES IN KENYA
Kenya has a great potential to be a leading producer of the crop, if its cultivation is taken seriously. We will save a lot of foreign exchange as over 90% of the fruit used in wine and juice making is imported from South Africa and other countries.
The existing varieties can be classified into two distinct groups according to their functions
- Table grapes – this group of grapes is used in making various meals for example as sweeteners in cakes.
- Wine grapes – used specifically in the production of wine.
The crop is a woody perennial vine having the ability, to live beyond 500 years.
There are a number of grape varieties; they include, French grapes also known as Vitis vinifera, American grapes- vitis labrusa and Mediterranean/ Muscatine grapes.
The most widespread grapes species is Vitis vinifera; a native of Europe grown on the world’s most land acreage.
Environmental conditions for grapes.
The crop prefers warm to hot temperatures; during fruiting, the weather must be sunny and dry.
Warm environmental temperatures during fruit ripening, is important in increasing the sugar content of berries while reducing their acidity.
This explains why grapes grown under irrigation in hot deserts or semi deserts are sweeter than those from cold humid areas.
The crop can grow in any soil, from sandy to heavy clays but the soil should be deep and well drained.
Where the rainfall is scant, supplement it with an irrigation of 500 mm of water during the cropping season. In Kenya, the cropping season is September to March.
Irrigation should be withheld after the long rains so as to force the crop to go dormant.
In August to September, fruit buds form thus it is important to keep the plant healthy and well manured.
Suitable scions for Kenya are as follows
Table grapes: Dodrilabi, Black rose, Italia, Muscat of Hamburg, Alphonse, Laralle, Muscat of Alexandria, Perletta, Cardinal, Dalbiki.
Wine grapes: French colombard, Sauzao, Saungnok blank, Carbaret, Alicarte, Grenard, Semillon
Most rootstocks are adapted to many soil conditions. The selection of a suitable rootstock is based on the following criteria;
- Resistance to Phytphora root rot
- Tolerance to drought and other soil conditions like low PH
- Adaptation to soil depth and texture
- Resistance to crown gall Agrobacterium tumefaciens. This bacterium weakens vines by encouraging the production of large amounts of cytokinins and auxins that induce excessive cell division and elongation.
- Adaptation to varied PH which affects availability or uptake of nutrients. The scion should be adapted to high PH soils to facilitate absorption of Fe2+ Mn2+ and Zn2+ should be adapted to low PH so as to take in Mg2+, Ca2+ and K+
- Phyloxera (grape louse) and nematode resistance. Nematodes are vectors of grape fan leaf virus.
- Vigour control- in cold regions vines exhibit indeterminate growth. Such growth results to the diversion of food reserves to vegetative growth at the expense of the fruit development.
Spacing generally varies with the varieties and soil fertility. For vigorous varieties it is 6 m x 3 m or 4 m x 3 m and 3 m x 3 m or 3 m x 2 m for less vigorous varieties.
CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF VINEYARDS
Training of Vines
May use telephone training system or Flat roof gable system.
Telephone System: T-trellis is used in this system of training. With three top wires and ‘T’ shaped supports, the trellis looks like a telephone pole and wires and hence the name.
Flat Roof Gable System: This is an inter-connected Y trellis forming a flat roof gable. The bunches are protected from direct sunlight and well exposed to sprays of pesticides. The clusters hang within the reach of the worker of an average height
Pruning of Vines
Application of Manure and Fertilizers
Pests and their Management: Thrips, mites, etc
Diseases and their Management
Increasing Berry Size:
Key to becoming successful grape farmer in Kenya
- Planning the layout of your vineyard (even if it is only 2 grape vines you grow!)
- Constructing the support for your grape vine (trellis, arbor, fence, pergola, etc.)
- Choosing the right location
- Choosing the right variety for you climate
- Preparing the soil
- Correct planting techniques
- Training your grape vine
- Constructing the frame work of the vine
- Fertilizing at the right time
- Disease control
- Weed control
- Canopy management
- Treatments (leave pulling, suckering, tying down shoots)
- Thinning out of bunches
- Correct pruning techniques (probably the biggest mistake)
CREDIT: Plant a Fruit and JKUAT Enterprises Ltd.
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Where can one access a professional to advise on grape farming??
Hello! I live in Ghana,West Africa. I am interested in growing grapes. Could you please suggest the type suitable and how I can get the seeds or bareroots. I will prefer the self pollinators. I will appreciate a reply from you. Thanks in advance.