Garden Pea (Pisum sativum) is one of the most important vegetable crops in Kenya. They are grown mainly by small-scale farmers. In addition, it is a major serves as a source of food and cash income in most parts of the country. Garden Pea plays a crucial role in terms of contribution to food security, poverty eradication, and economic development. According to KALRO, in 2016, the area under Garden Pea was 20,416 Ha which gave a yield of 82,154 MT with a value of KES. 2,191,492,833.

Garden Pea Farming In Kenya

With its favorable climate and increasing demand both locally and internationally, garden peas present a promising opportunity for smallholder farmers and large-scale agricultural enterprises alike. This article provides a comprehensive guide to garden pea farming in Kenya, covering everything from suitable climate conditions to cultivation techniques and market prospects.

Jackson Majau is one of the small farmers growing crops that he sells to an international firm for export.

The farmer practises mixed crop farming on four acres in Buuri sub county, specialising in snow, snap and garden peas that he rotates with carrots, cabbages and potatoes.

Majau joined the bandwagon more than 20 years ago when small-scale farmers started planting several varieties of peas after the crop was introduced in the area by large-scale farmers. At the time, he was just 22.

He started as a broker buying peas from farmers and selling it to exporters but with time, he realised he could also produce the crop and sell making more money.

He invested some Sh250,000 in a water reservoir with a capacity of 300,000 litres and started farming peas.

“To grow the peas, I prepare the farm by ploughing first and then harrowing to make the soil finer. The spacing from one row to another is 2.5 feet while from one hole to another is three inches. After planting, I cover the seed with little soil,” Majau says, adding that he uses DAP fertiliser applied at a ratio of 5kg per a kilo of seeds and properly mixes it with the soil.

While he buys seeds at between Sh450 and Sh630 a kilo depending on the type of peas, each acre needs 22 kilos which give a harvest of 6,000kg if well-taken care of. The cost of production per acre averages Sh70,000.

Irrigation is done carefully to prevent waterlogging while the seeds start germinating after two weeks, the stage at which the plant is sprayed with pesticides. Weeding starts a month later and he also applies CAN fertiliser to prepare it for flowering.

“Peas is a very delicate crop and has to be taken care of properly, therefore, spraying is a must to control pest attack. Snap peas are usually thicker and broader than snow peas, and they have to be staked after 45 days,” says the farmer, who is among those contracted by Vegpro Kenya Limited, which exports fresh produce and cut flowers. The company supplies farmers with certified seeds.

“If it is too cold, the peas develop black spots which can lead to rejection of the produce. One should also guard against fusarium wilt, which causes the plant to dry up,” Majau adds.

The plant flowers between 50 to 60 days, when he applies more fertiliser to prepare the crop for maturity at between 75 and 80 days. Harvesting continues for two months and with proper planning, a farmer can harvest three times in a year.

With prices of the peas ranging from Sh60 to Sh100 a kilo, a farmer can take home more than Sh600,000 from 6,000 kilos per acre. However, Majau says the highest he has ever earned from an acre was Sh530,000, some two years ago.

“At times prices rise to Sh150 a kilo, but this is a very sensitive crop because in the past I have harvested crop that is less than Sh30,000 from an acre yet I had spent over Sh70,000,” says the father of three, who has, however, built a good house and owns a lorry that he uses to transport produce, all proceeds from his farm.

According to him, with proper management and timing, peas are a lucrative crop as compared to carrots or potatoes. From an acre of carrots, he harvests crops worth Sh200,000 while for potatoes it drops to Sh160,000 with a production cost of about Sh50,000 for both crops.

Majau has also diversified to dairy farming, keeping three Friesian cows producing an average of 25 litres each, which he sells at Sh35 each.

Moses Kimathi, another farmer in the area, says he harvests an average of Sh400,000 per season from the eight tonnes of peas he gets.

Majau started out as a broker buying peas from farmers and selling to exporters but with time, he realised he could also grow the crop and sell it making more money
Majau started out as a broker buying peas from farmers and selling to exporters but with time, he realised he could also grow the crop and sell it making more money

“Despite the crop being good and earning good money with a kilo selling up to Sh150, sometimes prices fall to as low as Sh25 a kilo,” recounts Kimathi.

Joseph Muruatetu, the agricultural officer in-charge of Timau ward, advises farmers to ensure that the contract they sign does not favour the company.

He says they ask farmers to visit their offices with a copy of the contract, after which they also invite an official of the contracting company and involve the Horticultural Crops Development Authority so that the contract is binding and to ensure the grower is protected.

“There are some hidden clauses that farmers should be aware of especially in regard to quality. Sometimes when there is a glut in the market, the buyers introduce stringent quality checks with the intention of rejecting some of the produce,” says Mr Muruatetu.

“We, however, have a challenge because some farmers don’t consult us, and end up signing lopsided contracts that favour the companies and later complain to us that they have been swindled of their produce,” he adds.

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He notes that for peas, they advise the farmers not to sell their produce at less than Sh50 per kilo since they would go at a loss because the cost of production is high.

Stephen Murage, an agronomist with Vegpro Kenya Limited, which has contracted farmers in the area, says peas need tender care until maturity.

“I tell farmers that this crop is just like a baby. Farmers should plant certified seeds of proper variety that are disease resistant.”

Murage says since peas are susceptible to erratic prices due to the unpredictable nature of the market, they advise farmers on when to plant huge quantities and seasons they should slow down on production.

“Each year we come up with a planting programme that we share with farmers based on expected production in major markets. This protects them from price shocks in case of a glut,” he says.

Climate and Soil Requirements on Garden Pea Farming In Kenya

Climate and Soil Requirements on Garden Pea Farming In Kenya

Garden peas thrive in temperate climates with cool temperatures, making regions such as Central and Western Kenya ideal for cultivation. The optimum temperature range for pea cultivation is between 10°C to 25°C. Additionally, well-drained sandy loam or loamy soils with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0 are best suited for pea cultivation. Soil preparation should involve thorough plowing and incorporation of organic matter to improve soil structure and fertility.

Several regions are particularly well-suited for agriculture due to their favorable climate, soil conditions, and access to water resources. When it comes to garden pea farming, the best growing regions in Kenya include:

  1. Central Kenya:
    • Counties like Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, and Kirinyaga in Central Kenya offer excellent conditions for garden pea cultivation.
    • The region has a temperate climate with cool temperatures, which are ideal for pea growth.
    • Well-drained soils, typically sandy loam or loamy soils, are prevalent in this area, providing suitable conditions for pea cultivation.
    • Central Kenya also benefits from reliable rainfall patterns, especially during the long rains season from March to May and the short rains season from October to December.
  2. Rift Valley:
    • The Rift Valley region, including counties like Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, and Bomet, is known as the breadbasket of Kenya due to its fertile soils and diverse agricultural activities.
    • The area has a moderate climate with temperatures conducive to pea cultivation, particularly in higher altitude areas.
    • Rich volcanic soils in parts of the Rift Valley provide excellent fertility for growing peas, resulting in high yields.
    • Irrigation schemes along the Rift Valley, such as those around Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo, offer opportunities for year-round pea production.
  3. Western Kenya:
    • Counties like Kakamega, Bungoma, and Busia in Western Kenya have favorable agroecological conditions for pea farming.
    • The region receives abundant rainfall throughout the year, providing natural irrigation for crop growth.
    • Soils in Western Kenya are generally fertile, although some areas may require soil amendment to improve drainage and structure for pea cultivation.
    • The slightly warmer temperatures in Western Kenya compared to Central and Rift Valley regions can accelerate pea growth and development.
  4. Eastern Kenya:
    • Parts of Eastern Kenya, including counties like Meru, Embu, and Tharaka-Nithi, offer suitable conditions for garden pea farming.
    • The region experiences a bimodal rainfall pattern, with reliable rains during the long and short rainy seasons.
    • Well-drained soils and relatively cooler temperatures in higher altitude areas support pea cultivation.
    • Eastern Kenya’s proximity to major markets in Nairobi and other urban centers provides favorable marketing opportunities for pea farmers.
  5. High-Altitude Areas:
    • High-altitude areas across various regions of Kenya, including parts of Mount Kenya, the Aberdare Range, and the Cherangani Hills, are well-suited for pea farming.
    • These areas have cooler temperatures and fertile soils, making them ideal for growing high-quality peas.
    • Farmers in high-altitude regions may benefit from extended growing seasons due to the favorable climate conditions.

Varieties of Peas in Kenya

Kenyan farmers have access to various pea varieties suitable for different growing conditions and market preferences. Some popular varieties include Sugar Snap, Kenya Mwezi, and Sugar Ann. When selecting pea varieties, farmers should consider factors such as disease resistance, yield potential, and market demand.

VarietyProduction per AcreCharacteristicsNotes
Sugar Snap800-1000 kg– High yielding– Pods are sweet and crunchy, can be eaten whole
– Early maturing– Preferred for fresh consumption
– Resistant to powdery mildew and pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV)
Kenya Mwezi600-800 kg– Suitable for both fresh market and processing– Pods are tender and flavorful
– Intermediate maturing– Adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions
– Tolerant to heat and drought
Sugar Ann700-900 kg– Compact, bushy plants– Pods are plump and sweet
– Early maturing– Ideal for small gardens or container gardening
– Well-suited for succession planting
Ambassador800-1000 kg– High yielding– Large, dark green pods
– Intermediate maturing– Excellent resistance to powdery mildew and downy mildew
– Suitable for mechanical harvesting
Laxton’s Progress600-800 kg– Reliable performer under varying conditions– Pods are medium-sized and tender
– Intermediate maturing– Well-adapted to cool climates
– Good disease resistance
Meteor700-900 kg– High yielding– Pods are uniform in size and color
– Early maturing– Suitable for both fresh market and processing
– Tolerant to heat and cold
Green Arrow800-1000 kg– Reliable yielder– Pods are long, straight, and uniform
– Intermediate maturing– Well-adapted to temperate climates
– Resistant to powdery mildew
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Note: Production per acre may vary depending on factors such as soil fertility, climate conditions, crop management practices, and pest/disease control measures.

Garden Pea Farming In Kenya

Land Preparation and Planting on Garden Pea Farming

Prior to planting, the land should be thoroughly prepared by plowing and leveling to create a suitable seedbed. Peas can be directly seeded into the soil or transplanted from nursery beds, depending on the farmer’s preference and local conditions. Direct seeding is common in large-scale farming operations, while transplanting may be preferred for smallholder farmers seeking to maximize seedling survival rates.

Here’s a detailed guide:

  1. Site Selection:
    • Choose a site with well-drained soil and adequate sunlight exposure.
    • Avoid areas prone to waterlogging, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other diseases.
    • Select land with a pH level between 6.0 to 7.0, which is ideal for pea cultivation.
  2. Soil Preparation:
    • Begin soil preparation several weeks before planting.
    • Clear the land of weeds, rocks, and debris.
    • Use a plow or tractor to turn the soil, breaking up clumps and improving soil structure.
    • Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to enhance soil fertility and moisture retention.
    • Level the soil surface to create a uniform seedbed, which aids in even germination and facilitates crop management.
  3. Fertilization:
    • Conduct a soil test to determine nutrient levels and pH.
    • Based on soil test results, apply fertilizers to address any nutrient deficiencies.
    • Peas are nitrogen-fixing legumes, but phosphorus and potassium are still essential for optimal growth.
    • Apply phosphorus and potassium fertilizers before planting, following recommended rates based on soil test recommendations.
  4. Seed Selection:
    • Choose high-quality seeds from reputable suppliers.
    • Select pea varieties suitable for your growing conditions, considering factors such as climate, disease resistance, and market demand.
    • Ensure seeds are free from damage or disease and have high germination rates.
  5. Planting:
    • Peas can be directly seeded into the soil or transplanted from nursery beds.
    • For direct seeding, create furrows or rows spaced about 45-60 cm apart, depending on the variety and available equipment.
    • Sow seeds at a depth of 2-3 cm and space them evenly within the rows, typically 5-8 cm apart.
    • If transplanting seedlings, prepare nursery beds and sow seeds about 4-6 weeks before transplanting.
    • Transplant seedlings when they have developed 2-3 true leaves, spacing them 10-15 cm apart in rows.
  6. Planting Depth and Spacing:
    • Plant seeds at a depth of 2-3 cm to ensure adequate soil contact for germination.
    • Maintain spacing between plants to allow for proper airflow and light penetration, reducing the risk of disease and promoting healthy growth.
  7. Watering:
    • Provide sufficient water immediately after planting to ensure good seed-soil contact and promote germination.
    • Monitor soil moisture levels throughout the growing season and irrigate as needed, especially during dry periods.
    • Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to fungal diseases and root rot.
  8. Mulching:
    • Apply mulch around pea plants to conserve soil moisture, suppress weed growth, and maintain soil temperature.
    • Use organic mulches such as straw, grass clippings, or shredded leaves, applying them in a 5-10 cm layer around plants.

Proper land preparation and planting are essential for establishing a healthy Garden Pea crop and maximizing yield potential. By following these guidelines and adapting them to local growing conditions, farmers can ensure successful garden pea cultivation.

Crop Management Practices on Ground Pea Farming

Successful pea farming requires proper crop management practices throughout the growing season. This includes timely weeding to minimize competition for nutrients and water, as well as irrigation to ensure consistent soil moisture levels, especially during dry periods. Peas are also nitrogen-fixing legumes, reducing the need for excessive fertilization. However, balanced fertilization with phosphorus and potassium is essential for optimizing yield and quality.

Crop Management Practices on Ground Pea Farming

  1. Weed Control:
    • Regularly monitor the pea field for weed emergence and take timely action to control weeds.
    • Use mechanical methods such as hoeing or hand-weeding to remove weeds between rows and within the crop.
    • Mulching with organic materials can also help suppress weed growth while conserving soil moisture.
  2. Irrigation:
    • Maintain consistent soil moisture levels throughout the growing season, especially during flowering and pod development.
    • Irrigate as needed based on soil moisture monitoring and weather conditions.
    • Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to waterlogging and root rot, particularly in poorly drained soils.
  3. Nutrient Management:
    • Conduct soil tests before planting to assess nutrient levels and pH, and adjust fertilization practices accordingly.
    • Peas benefit from phosphorus and potassium fertilization, especially in soils with deficiencies.
    • Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, as peas are nitrogen-fixing legumes and can produce their nitrogen through symbiotic relationships with soil bacteria.
  4. Support Systems:
    • Provide support for pea plants, especially tall or vining varieties, to prevent lodging and improve air circulation.
    • Install trellises, stakes, or other support structures to keep plants upright and facilitate easier harvesting.
  5. Pest Management:
    • Monitor the crop regularly for signs of pest infestation, including aphids, thrips, pea moths, and caterpillars.
    • Employ integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, including cultural, biological, and chemical control methods.
    • Encourage natural predators and beneficial insects to help control pest populations.
    • Use insecticides judiciously and follow recommended application rates and timing to minimize environmental impact.
  6. Disease Management:
    • Monitor pea plants for signs of diseases such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, and root rot.
    • Plant disease-resistant varieties whenever possible.
    • Practice crop rotation to reduce the buildup of soil-borne pathogens.
    • Apply fungicides preventatively or as soon as symptoms appear, following label instructions carefully.
  7. Pruning and Thinning:
    • Thin pea seedlings if they are overcrowded, leaving adequate spacing between plants to promote airflow and reduce disease pressure.
    • Remove diseased or damaged plant parts promptly to prevent the spread of pathogens.
    • Pinch off terminal growth to encourage bushier growth and higher pod production, especially in vining varieties.
  8. Harvesting:
    • Monitor pea pods for optimal maturity, typically when they are plump and well-filled but still tender.
    • Harvest peas regularly to promote continued pod production.
    • Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to avoid damaging plants during harvest.
    • Handle harvested peas gently to minimize bruising and maintain quality.
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Pest and Disease Management

Garden peas are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can impact yield and quality if not effectively managed. Common pests include aphids, thrips, and pea moths, while diseases such as powdery mildew and root rot can also pose significant challenges. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, including cultural, biological, and chemical control methods, are essential for minimizing pest and disease damage while reducing reliance on synthetic pesticides.

Pests

The most destructive of pea pests is the American bollworm, which feeds on the pods. A full cover insecticide should be sprayed as soon as the larvae are noticed, and repeated after a fortnight. A number of chemicals are registered for use, including pyrethroids, which are also registered for control of the lesser armyworm; a characteristic of the latter pest is the spinning together of leaves of the growing tips of plants. Aphids and leaf miners should also be controlled by chemicals when they threaten to become a problem. Root knot nematodes may cause root damage in warmer soils ; fenamiphos (Nemacur) may be used in early plantings of peas if the soil is known to be infested.

Diseases

The most commonly encountered pea disease is powdery mildew, which manifests itself as white powdery areas on the upper surfaces of leaves, and on stems and pods. Severe mildew is very harmful to pod appearance and pea yield. Warm, dry areas, and cool nights with dew, favour disease progress. Powdery mildew is hardly seen if cool wet conditions prevail, including frequent overhead irrigation. However, abundant moisture in the crop favours downy mildew development. Ascochyta blight is caused by one or more of several closely related fungi, which can infect all surfaces of the pea plant. Symptoms range from irregular flecks to light brown lesions with darker edges, often showing concentric lesions. Blight can develop quickly in the crop during cool wet conditions, when the crop can be decimated.

Fusarium root rot could be a problem, although use of resistant cultivars is a possible control measure. White mould (or Sclerotinia rot) will occur if the fungus is present in the soil and foliage has dense, leafy growth.Bacterial diseases are usually of little concern because pea seed is produced in dry areas where conditions do not favour infection, and inspections identify problems. Virus diseases of peas are generally not production-limiting factors. Most are transmitted by aphid vectors, which can be controlled by aphicides. Use of virus-free seed and cultivars which have resistance to the main pea viruses have reduced the incidence of these problems to the point where the grower is unaware of the danger from such diseases.

Disease threats for the grower are diminished with the production of seed in dry areas, and with fungicide treatment of seed before its purchase. A good crop rotation programme may be necessary. Ascochyta blight can be controlled by a preventitive spray programme commencing at the flowering stage; in wet weather the young crop should be protected from downy mildew. A number of contact and systemic fungicides are registered for powdery mildew control, but many are only sold in packings that could be used by commercial growers. For home garden use, several registered fungicides can be purchased in the garden section of stores, including sulphur, which is one of the oldest fungicides known to man.

Peas Yield Per Acre

Factory crop yields range from a conservative 0.6 to 2 tons of shelled peas per acre, with exceptional yields exceeding 2.2 tons per acre. On average, yields range from 1 to 1.4 tons per acre. For the fresh market, podded peas yield between 1.2 to 4.9 tons per acre, with an average of 2.5 to 3 tons of pods per acre. Edible podded peas typically yield 1.2 to 2 tons of pods per acre.

Garden Pea

Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling:

Peas are typically ready for harvest 60 to 90 days after planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Harvesting should be done when the pods are well-filled but still tender, as overmature peas tend to be starchy and less flavorful. Hand harvesting is common, especially for small-scale producers, while larger operations may utilize mechanized harvesting equipment for increased efficiency. Proper post-harvest handling, including prompt cooling and packaging, is crucial for preserving pea quality and extending shelf life.

Market Opportunities

The demand for garden peas in Kenya remains strong, driven by both domestic consumption and export markets. Peas are a staple ingredient in many traditional Kenyan dishes and are also popular in international markets, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. Farmers can explore various marketing channels, including local markets, supermarkets, and export markets, to maximize returns on their pea produce. Additionally, value-added processing, such as freezing or canning, can offer opportunities for extending market reach and increasing profitability.

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