Mango Farming in Kenya: Mango is one of the most important fruit crops in the tropical and subtropical lowlands. It is native to India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Malaysia, but can be found growing in more than 60 other countries throughout the world.

The mango industry in Kenya has expanded considerably over recent years, not only in size but also in the geographical location of commercial and homestead plantings. No longer is commercial mango cultivation restricted to the Coast region, as significant plantings of improved cultivars now also exist in the Makueni county, Meru County,Murang’a County, Nairobi County, Nakuru County, Siaya County, Taita Taveta County, Tana River County, Tharaka-Nithi County, Bungoma County, Kitui County, Embu County, Machakos County, Kiambu County among other regions.Basically,In Kenya 7 out of 8 provinces produce mangoes. But the generally arid eastern region produces 61 per cent of all mangoes, followed by Rift Valley at 30 per cent and Coast, which produces 28 per cent.

As a result of this expansion, the mango fruit is becoming more popular with the local population. Despite this increasing popularity, only a few consumers and potential growers are familiar with the characteristics of the many different cultivars of mango that are now grown and available in the country.These include Apple, Ngowe, Kent, Keitt, Tommy Artkins, Van Dyke, Haden, Sensation, Boribo, Sabine among others.

Main characteristics that differentiate varieties are the fruit shape, size, aroma, sweetness, colour, fibre content, taste, seed size and resistance to diseases. Proper selection of a mango cultivar for production has to take into account the following criteria:

  • good adaptation to the local conditions (e.g. rainfall and dry periods)
  • alternation of flowering and fruiting
  • tolerance to pest and disease infections
  • designated use and market requirements

The mango is best adapted to a warm tropical monsoon climate with a pronounced dry season (>3 months) followed by rains. However, information from other countries indicates that crops cultivated for a long time over an extended area show a high degree of diversity due to varied environmental influences.

Economic Importance of Mangoes

  • Consumed as fresh fruits
  • Source of income
  • Source of foreign exchange
  • Source of employment
  • Combats nutritional disorders
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Botany

The mango is a deep-rooted, evergreen plant which can develop into huge trees,especially on deep soils. The height and shape varies considerably among seedling sand cultivars. Under optimum climatic conditions, the trees are erect and fast growing and the canopy can either be broad and rounded or more upright. Seedling trees can reach more than 20 m in height while grafted ones are usually half that size.

The tree is long-lived with some specimens known to be over 150 years old and still producing fruit! The mature leaves are simple, entire, leathery, dark green and glossy; they are usually pale green or red while young. They are short-pointed, oblong and lanceolate in shape and relatively long and narrow, often measuring more than 30 cm in length and up to 13 cm in width. New leaves are formed in periodic flushes about two to three times a year

The greenish-white or pinkish flowers are borne in inflorescences—usually placed terminally on current or previous year’s growth—in large panicles of up to 2000 or more minute flowers. Male flowers usually outnumber the bisexual or perfect flowers.

Generally, flowering in Kenya lasts from about late July to early November, depending mostly on weather conditions. At the coast it is not uncommon to find individual trees flowering as early as February and March. Pollinators are usually flies, rarely bees or nectivorous bats. Pollen cannot be shed in high humidity or rain as this might prevent pollination and fruit setting. Mangos are self-fertile, thus a single tree will produce fruits without cross-pollination.

The fruit quality is based on the scarcity of fibre, sweetness and minimal turpentine taste. The flesh of the improved cultivars is peach-like and juicy, of a melting texture and more or less free from fibre. The single, compressed ovoid seed is encased in the white fibrous inner layer of the fruit.

Common challenges to mango production in Africa

Many farmers in Africa invest in mango orchards. However, there are a number of production-related hindrances at farm level, including:

  • Limited access to good quality planting materials – There is a general shortage of grafted planting materials of improved and higher yielding varieties in many areas. Farmers often use inferior seedlings obtained by germinating mango seeds from indigenous varieties. Such ungrafted trees take much longer to bear fruit.Whereas grafted trees begin to bear fruit within 3 to 4years, ungrafted trees will take at least 5 years to bear fruit, depending on the growing conditions.
  • Pest and disease problems – Mangoes have many devastating pests and diseases,which can result in total yield loss. Major pests include the fruit fly(Bactrocera invadens), seed weevil (Sternochetus mangiferae) and mealybugs (Rastrococcus invadens). Diseases like anthracnose and powdery mildeware common in almost all mango growing areas.
  • Poor orchard management – In many areas, mango trees are left to grow sobig that pest and disease management, harvesting and other field operations are difficult to implement. Except in big or commercial farms, mango trees are normally scattered around the gardens, ranging from 2 to 100 trees per household. This scattered nature makes mango a commonly neglected crop in terms of management, but becomes important only during the harvesting season.
  • Post harvest losses – Fruit damage is a common problem as a result of poorpest and disease management and the poor harvesting practices. Also, a lotof fruit is lost after harvest, especially during the peak seasons due to the limited capacity to store and process fruit. This is further worsened by the poor roads and transport infrastructure to markets.
  • Limited returns from mango production – Mango is highly seasonal and harvest is only expected at certain times of the year depending on the local conditions.During this time, most areas are harvesting and so the local markets are saturated and, therefore, offer very low prices, which may not even cover transportation cost
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