Apple Farming In Kenya; A Comprehensive Production Guide
Apple farming in Kenya has gained significant attention and interest in recent years due to its potential as a non-traditional crop in the region. While apples are not native to Kenya’s climate, innovative farming techniques and a growing demand for fresh and locally produced fruits have prompted some farmers to explore the cultivation of apple trees. Despite the challenges posed by the tropical climate and altitude variations, Kenyan apple farmers are gradually making strides in adapting this temperate fruit to their unique agricultural landscape.
Apple farming is a an old established and profitable enterprise. On an average you can harvest 20,000 to 30,000 apples from one acre of apple orchard. Therefore there is a huge chances of earning good amount of profit from cultivation of apple.
Commercially, apple is one of the most important temperate fruit. It is also the fourth among most widely produced fruits after banana, orange, and grapes in the world.
Although the exact origin of apple is not clear yet. But the researchers believe that apple originated in Middle East around 4000 years ago. Later on it spread to Europe and other parts of the world. China is the largest producer of apple in the world. It produces around 42,426,578 tonnes of apple every year. This is followed by United States of America that produces around 4,997,680 tonnes of apple every year.
But cultivating apple is not very easy like other crops. Just like Kiwi farming, it requires precise knowledge, investment and time. A newly planted apple orchard takes 5 years to give commercial yield. However once fruiting starts then it continues till 30 years.
Apple is one of the most widely cultivated of the fruit trees in the world. It is importance of dietary value being rich in vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and organic acids. Insufficient apple chilling to break dormancy has particularly been identified as a major constraint to apple growing in Kenya.
Lack of suitable apple varieties and knowledge on management techniques has also caused low production thus necessitating importation to meet the demand. The chilling requirements vary with cultivars. It is therefore possible to successfully grow apples in Kenya by selecting low chilling requiring cultivars or by dormancy breaking using chemicals.
The Best Varieties For Apples In Kenya
There are thousands of varieties of apples with new ones being developed all the time through selective breeding and genetic engineering. However, most of these varieties are not widely grown or available to consumers.
In terms of commercially available varieties, there are hundreds of different types of apples that can be found in grocery stores and farmers’ markets around the world. Some of the most common varieties include: Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious/Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Pink Lady.
Each variety of apple has its own flavor, texture, and color. Some are better suited for certain uses than others. For example, some apples are best for eating fresh, while others are better for baking or cooking.
The wide range of apple varieties available means that there is an apple out there for everyone, no matter what your taste preferences or culinary needs may be.
The following are the most common apple varieties grown in Kenya:
- Pink Lady: This variety is known for its sweet and tart flavor, with a hint of spice. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Pink Lady apples have a long shelf life and can be stored for up to 6 months. The average production per acre of Pink Lady apples is 20-25 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Anna: This variety is known for its sweet and juicy flavor. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Anna apples are a good choice for fresh eating or cooking. The average production per acre of Anna apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Winter Banana: This variety is known for its sweet and tangy flavor, with a hint of banana. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Winter Banana apples are a good choice for fresh eating or cooking. The average production per acre of Winter Banana apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Crimson Red: This variety is known for its sweet and tart flavor, with a red skin. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Crimson Red apples are a good choice for fresh eating or cooking. The average production per acre of Crimson Red apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Golden Dorset: This variety is known for its sweet and crisp flavor. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Golden Dorset apples are a good choice for fresh eating or cooking. The average production per acre of Golden Dorset apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Royal Gala: This variety is known for its sweet and juicy flavor, with a yellow skin. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Royal Gala apples are a good choice for fresh eating or cooking. The average production per acre of Royal Gala apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Braeburn: This variety is known for its sweet and tart flavor, with a red skin. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Braeburn apples are a good choice for fresh eating or cooking. The average production per acre of Braeburn apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
- Granny Smith: This variety is known for its tart flavor and green skin. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A. Granny Smith apples are a good choice for baking or cooking. The average production per acre of Granny Smith apples is 15-20 tons. The plant density is 150-200 trees per acre.
Criteria For Variety Selection on Apple Farming in Kenya
- The cultivar should be annual bearer.
- It should be able to bear fruit fairly early in life.
- It should be hardly and respectively annual bearer.
- It should be able to produce the fruit of good size.
- The fruit should be of good appearance.
- The fruit should have a good to very good desert quality, i.e. it should be crispy, sweet, not too
acidic, and have reasonable shelf life.
- The skin of the fruit should be hard enough to absorb minor hail damage.
The ideal temperature range for growing apples in Kenya typically falls between 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F). However, it’s important to note that apple trees require a period of winter chill (a certain number of hours below a specific temperature, usually around 7°C to 10°C or 45°F to 50°F) in order to break dormancy and set fruit properly. This chilling requirement can be a challenge in some parts of Kenya where the climate is predominantly tropical.
To overcome this challenge, apple farmers in Kenya often choose to plant apple varieties that have lower chilling requirements or experiment with techniques like using specialized chilling chambers to mimic the winter chill conditions. This allows them to cultivate apple trees successfully and achieve satisfactory fruit production in regions where the natural chilling hours may be inadequate.
Altitude plays a crucial role in apple farming in Kenya. The country’s diverse topography offers varying altitudes that can influence the success of apple cultivation. Generally, higher elevations with cooler temperatures are more favorable for apple trees.
In Kenya, apple farming is often concentrated in regions with higher altitudes, such as parts of the Rift Valley and various highland areas. These locations provide a more suitable climate for apple cultivation, with temperatures falling within the optimal range of around 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F) for most apple varieties. The cooler temperatures at these altitudes help meet the chilling requirements that apple trees need to break dormancy and set fruit.
The altitude also contributes to other important factors, such as sunlight exposure and soil conditions. Apple trees require a certain amount of sunlight to thrive and produce fruit, and higher elevations often offer better sunlight availability due to reduced cloud cover and less atmospheric interference.
Slope Of Land
An apple tree is very versatile and can grow on level grounds as well as on considerably steep gradients. However, land having very steep gradients has the disadvantages of operations of pruning, picking, spraying and cultivation which is more expensive and difficult. The form cannot be mechanized. There is loss of fertilizer by leaching. Cultivation may lead to erosion.
Because of poor root anchorage the dwarfing rootstocks cannot be planted. However, a gentle slope, which could perhaps be converted into terraces before planting a tree, is preferable to a steep slope.
Soil Requirement On Apple Farming In Kenya
The choice of soil for apple farming in Kenya is crucial for ensuring the health, growth, and productivity of apple trees. While the specific soil requirements may vary depending on the apple varieties being cultivated and the local climate, there are some general soil characteristics that are considered favorable for successful apple cultivation:
- Well-Drained Soil: Apple trees prefer well-drained soil that allows excess water to drain away and prevents waterlogging. Poorly drained soil can lead to root diseases and negatively impact tree growth. Proper drainage helps maintain healthy root systems and encourages optimal nutrient uptake.
- Loamy Soil Texture: Loamy soil, which is a balanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay particles, is often ideal for apple cultivation. Loam offers good water retention, aeration, and nutrient-holding capacity. It provides a stable environment for root development and allows for efficient nutrient absorption.
- pH Level: The pH level of the soil is important for nutrient availability. Apple trees generally thrive in slightly acidic to neutral soil, with a pH range of around 6.0 to 7.0. Soil pH influences nutrient solubility and uptake, affecting the overall health and vitality of the trees.
- Organic Matter Content: Soil enriched with organic matter contributes to improved soil structure, water-holding capacity, and nutrient availability. Incorporating compost or well-rotted manure into the soil can enhance its fertility and support apple tree growth.
- Mineral Nutrients: Appropriate levels of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are vital for apple trees. Conducting soil tests to determine nutrient deficiencies and implementing appropriate fertilization practices can help maintain balanced nutrient levels for optimal tree growth and fruit production.
- Soil Aeration: Proper soil aeration is crucial for root respiration and overall tree health. Compacted soil can limit root growth and reduce the supply of oxygen to the roots. Adequate soil aeration can be achieved through regular cultivation and avoiding practices that lead to soil compaction.
Propagation Of Apple In Kenya
The propagation of apple trees in Kenya involves the process of creating new apple plants from existing ones. Due to the specific challenges posed by Kenya’s tropical climate, apple propagation often involves careful selection of suitable apple varieties, innovative techniques, and adaptations to local conditions. Here are some common methods of apple propagation in Kenya:
- Grafting: Grafting apples is one of the most common methods of propagating apple trees. It involves joining a scion (a young shoot or branch with desirable traits) from a chosen apple variety onto a rootstock (a compatible root system). In Kenya, apple farmers often use dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks to control tree size and enhance adaptation to local conditions. Grafting allows farmers to select apple varieties that are better suited to Kenya’s climate and altitude while maintaining desirable fruit characteristics.
- Budding: Budding is another form of grafting where a single bud or bud shield with desirable traits is inserted beneath the bark of a rootstock. This method is often used in warm climates like Kenya, as it requires less plant material and is more suited to the conditions.
- Air Layering: Air layering is a technique used to propagate apple trees without severing the parent plant. A portion of a branch is wounded and covered with a growing medium and a moisture-retaining material. Once roots form, the new plant is separated from the parent and planted separately. This method can be useful for propagating apple trees with specific traits.
- Seed Propagation: While not as commonly used for apple propagation due to the variation in fruit quality, seed propagation can be attempted using apple seeds. However, this method does not guarantee that the resulting trees will retain the exact characteristics of the parent tree, making it less predictable for apple production.
- Tissue Culture: Tissue culture is a more advanced propagation method that involves growing apple plants from individual cells in a laboratory setting. It allows for mass production of genetically identical plants with specific traits and disease resistance. Tissue culture can be useful for rapidly propagating selected apple varieties.
The recommended plant density for apple trees in Kenya is 150-200 trees per acre. This means that the trees should be spaced 15-20 feet apart. This spacing allows the trees to grow to their full potential and produces a good yield of apples.
The exact spacing may need to be adjusted depending on the variety of apple tree, the soil type, and the climate. For example, dwarf apple trees can be planted closer together than standard apple trees. And in areas with hot, dry summers, the trees may need to be spaced further apart to allow for better air circulation.
- Prepare a planting site in full sun that is sheltered from a prevailing breeze or wind.
- Work well-rotted compost or manure into the soil and add a cupful of all-purpose fertilizer to the bottom of the hole.
- Dig a hole half again as deep and twice as wide as the tree’s roots.
- Put a tree stake in place before planting. Drive the stake into the ground to the side of the hole to be at least 2 feet deep.
- Set the tree in the hole so that the soil mark on the stem is at the surface level of the surrounding soil. Remove all twine and burlap from balled-and-burlapped trees. Spread the roots out in all directions.
- Re-fill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix; firm in the soil so that there are no air pockets among the roots. Water in the soil and create a modest soil basin around the trunk to hold water at watering time.
- Secure the tree to the stake with tree ties.
- After planting, water each tree thoroughly and fertilize it with a high-phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer.
Watering and feeding apples
- Newly planted apple trees require moderate watering weekly. Set the water on low and allow it to seep into the soil; roots will follow deep watering and become well-established.
- An established apple tree requires only infrequent watering but be sure to water all trees during prolonged dry periods.
- Feed apples with a mulch of aged compost applied liberally around the base of the tree once or twice a year, in spring or in late fall after leaves have dropped.
- Feed an apple tree a half-pound of balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer for each year the tree has been alive to a maximum of 10 pounds per tree per year.
- Low levels of potassium, calcium, or boron can reduce growth and fruit quality. Test the soil for its nutrient content. Spread gypsum on the soil to raise the calcium level.
- Yields can be improved with a foliar feeding of seaweed extract when buds begin to show color, again after petals fall, and once again when fruits are less than 1 inch in diameter.
- A young apple tree will grow 12 to 24 inches in a year. A mature, fruit-bearing apple tree will grow 8 to 12 inches each year.
Care of young apple trees
- Allow the roots of a young apple tree to become well-established before allowing the tree to fruit.
- The first two years handpick off flowers and young fruit not allowing them to develop; this will give the tree increased energy to establish its roots.
- The third year allows the tree to bear a small crop. Do not allow a limb to become so burdened with fruit that it will bend or break.
Training apple trees
- Freestanding apple trees can be trained in three ways: (1) central leader, (2) modified central leader, and (3) open center. Apple trees tend to be naturally vase-shaped having no central leader or a weak central leader but several potential scaffold branches. Training an apple tree should begin soon after planting.
- Central leader: A mature central-leader tree has a somewhat conical shape. The main stem is the central leader; from the central leader even spaced lateral branches are selected to grow as the tree’s scaffold branches. At planting a one- or two-year-old whip is cut off at about 30 inches above the ground; four even-spaced lateral branches are selected to become the scaffold branches; all others are removed. In the second year, even spaced sub-lateral branches are selected to grow on; other sub-laterals are removed. Each year the central leader is shortened by one-third of the previous summer’s growth until the conical shape of the tree is established.
- Modified central leader: A modified central leader tree does not have a central main stem or trunk; the main stem is shortened in the second or third year and lateral-scaffold branches are encouraged to grow. Follow the training directions for a central leader form tree; once 4 or 5 strong scaffold branches have formed, cut back the central leader to just above the topmost scaffold branch. Sub-laterals will grow from the scaffold branches; prune these to keep the form of the tree and remove any vertical sub-laterals.
- Open center, also called multi-leader: A mature open-center tree has a vase-like shape. At planting time, the top of the whip is cut off at about 30 inches above the ground. In the first year select four even-spaced lateral branches; these should be spaced along the trunk about 4 to 8 inches apart and should be growing in different directions from the central stem/trunk (these will become the main scaffold branches); cut off all other small branches. At the end of the second season, cut off the main trunk or leader just above the top lateral branches—above the branches you have selected to become the scaffold branches; you have just created an open center. At the same time, shorten the laterals by one-third to one-half to encourage sub-lateral branching; cut all other small branches back to four or five buds. In the next two years, prune back the laterals and sub-laterals by one-quarter to encourage strong growth. Allow even-spaced smaller side branches (sub-sub-laterals or side shoots) to grow even-spaced; prune the sub-laterals and their side shoots to two or three buds. In the following years as the tree begins to fruit, pruning can be lighter.
Pruning mature apple trees
- An apple tree that has been trained (see above) will be near maturity in the fourth and fifth years. Then training pruning gives way to maintenance pruning.
- Mature apple trees, like most trees, will benefit from pruning. Pruning will allow the tree to produce quality fruit.
- Prune an apple tree so that plenty of sunlight and air can penetrate into the center of the tree. One guideline is to prune so that a bird can fly directly through the tree without touching its feathers on a branch. That means pruning out dense, crossed branches.
Maintenance pruning step-by-step
- Remove all diseased, dead, or broken branches.
- Remove all water sprouts. Water sprouts are fast-growing vertical branches that usually have no side branches.
- Remove all suckers. Suckers are fast-growing shoots that grow out of the soil from the roots below the soil surface.
- Remove a branch that creates a tight V-branch crotch, a crotchless than 45 degrees. These branches will not support the weight of a full crop of fruit.
- Remove crossing or rubbing branches. If two branches cross and rub against each other they can cause a wound that may allow insects or fungal disease to attack the tree. Remove the least desirable branch.
- Never prune away more than one-third of the total tree in a single growing season.
- Always prune to a growth bud or flush to a main branch or trunk. Remember that spur-bearing apple trees produce fruit on the same spurs several years in a row.
- Tip-bearing apples bear fruit on last year’s growth, so be careful not to remove too much recent growth that will bear fruit next season; lightly tip-prune the leaders of the main branches; cut back sub-laterals to a strong bud but not more than 12 inches; do not prune any sub-laterals shorter than 12 inches.
- Spur-bearing apples bear fruit on the same spurs for years and years. Be careful not to remove or damage fruiting spurs unless you mean to. Prune new side shoots to encourage the growth of new spurs; cut back shoots to buds facing the direction laterals and fruits should grow.
- Prune every year. Once a tree has been well pruned, it will need less annual pruning; only the removal of crossing branches and twiggy growth.
- Prune in late winter when the tree is dormant and before buds appear. A light maintenance pruning can be done in summer working around the fruit set.
Pruning a mature apple tree
Apple trees are best pruned in winter when they are dormant.
Young apple trees can grow narrow and erect or open and spreading. At maturity, the apple tree will be spreading.
Prune young narrow and erect apple trees by cutting branches just above buds which are pointed away from the center of the tree.
Prune open and spread apple trees by cutting above buds pointed toward the center of the tree.
Apple trees produce fruit on “spurs.” Spurs are formed on branches one-year-old or more. Spurs usually appear on the lower or inner portion of branches.
Spurs are short lateral growths that can vary in length from one to three inches. Spurs have a stubby, thick appearance. They produce blossoms and fruit year after year. For bountiful harvests, preserve spurs as much as possible.
Apple tree pruning step-by-step
1. To begin pruning a maturing apple tree, first cut out any dead or diseased branches. Make your cuts as close to the main branch as possible. Avoid leaving stubs that can be susceptible to disease and rot.
2. Next, cut away crossing branches that rub against one another. Also, cut away branches that swoop down close to the ground that may get in the way of cultivation and harvest.
Evenly remove past years’ growth working to allow sunlight access into the center of the tree from the top. In essence, you are shaping the tree to an open vase form. Be careful not to remove established fruit spurs or small laterals developing into fruiting spurs.
3. Cut new branch growth just on the outside of fruit spur buds. Young trees that add considerable new growth each year may require new growth to be pruned two-thirds of the way back.
Water sprouts–new green whips which grow vertically to branches–should be cut away regularly. Water sprouts are unlikely to develop into fruiting wood.
Suckers are rapid new growth from below the ground. Remove suckers as they appear. Dig down and cut suckers at their base close to the root or trunk.
If an older tree has lost branching, water sprouts can be allowed to fill in vacant spots. But it is best to head sprouts back to slow excessive growth.
4. Thin fruit from apple trees after the “June drop.” The “June drop” is a natural thinning process of all fruit trees. It is nature’s way of adjusting the crop to what the tree can bear. June drop commonly occurs sometime in the months of May, June, or July. It is best to hand thin fruit remaining after the June drop if you suspect the tree will be unable to support it.
As apple trees grow older, less pruning will be necessary if the tree has been well-trained in its first years of growth.
- Thinning fruit will ensure the quality and size of the crop. Thinning will also reduce the tendency of some apple varieties to alternate-bear that is bear fruit every other year. When a tree bears a heavy crop one year, it will produce a much, much smaller crop the next year; this is called an alternate bearing.
- A few weeks after the fruit sets, some fruit on the tree will naturally drop off. This is called “June drop”; it is nature’s way of thinning the crop. Apple trees produce more blossoms and fruit than is necessary for a full crop.
- Additional thinning will benefit the tree. The rule of thinning fruit is to allow plenty of room for fruit to develop. Look for clusters of fruit and remove smaller apples in each cluster before the fruit reaches one inch in diameter. On larger trees, you can leave two fruits on each spur, and on dwarf trees leave one fruit on each spur. One thinning method is to remove all the fruit on every other spur. It is probably best to reduce fruit clusters leaving just a single fruit. Fruit that touches another fruit can be susceptible to disease or pest attack.
Thin the fruit to a distance of twice the diameter of the fruit at maturity. If you expect the mature apples to be 3 inches across, leave 6 inches between each apple after thinning. If you’re not sure how big the apples on your tree will be at their peak, thin to a distance of 6 to 8 inches apart on the branch.
Some apple thinners remove the fruit on every other spur; others leave a fruit on every third spur as they thin from the trunk outward on a branch. Always leave the largest fruit on the spur. Whichever method you choose, the goal is to leave plenty of room for each apple to mature.
Be careful as you thin to avoid damaging the spurs. A spur thinned this year will likely bear another apple next year. If you pull to hard when thinning, you could accidentally damage or detach the spur.
If your apples are small this year, be sure to thin more heavily next year. If the fruit set is light this year, thin less or not at all next year.
There is something about fruit thinning that you might resist. Those clusters of apples seem to say you’ve done something right; why thin a good thing?
But a large apple crop or set has more to do with the work of nature than anything you’ve done. Nature wants a lot of apples. An apple tree will produce many more blossoms and fruit than is necessary; a lot of apple seeds is how nature perpetuates the species.
But for the kitchen gardener, too many apples on a tree can mean smaller fruit, limbs loaded to the point of cracking or breaking, and sometimes a small crop next year.
So thinning is a good thing, especially in years when there’s a heavy fruit set. (An apple tree can summon only so much energy and nutrients to make it through the fruiting season.)
Apple Tree Size
Apple trees grow to a range of sizes, so it’s important to choose the right size for your space. Like many fruit trees, apples are grafted onto a ‘rootstock’, which controls the vigour and ultimate size of the tree. There are various different rootstocks – dwarfing rootstocks (such as M9 or M26) are best for small gardens, containers and for trained forms such as cordons and smaller espaliers, while semi-dwarfing rootstocks (such as MM106) produce larger trees, eventually up to 4m (13ft) tall, and consequently larger harvests.
Yield Of Apple Per Acre
The yield of apples per acre can vary widely based on several factors, including apple variety, orchard management practices, climate, soil conditions, altitude, and the level of expertise of the apple farmer. In Kenya, where apple cultivation is still relatively new and is often challenged by the tropical climate and altitude variations, achieving consistent and high apple yields per acre may require careful planning and innovative techniques.
On average, in well-established apple-growing regions with favorable conditions, such as temperate climates, mature apple orchards can yield around 10 to 40 tons of apples per acre. However, in areas like Kenya, where apple farming faces unique challenges, including the need to mimic winter chill conditions and adapt to higher altitudes, the yields may be lower.
In Kenya, apple farmers may initially experience lower yields as they experiment with suitable apple varieties, propagation methods, and orchard management techniques. Some apple varieties may not produce as abundantly due to the challenges of meeting winter chill requirements, and this can impact overall yield.
As Kenyan apple farmers gain more experience, refine their practices, and adapt their cultivation methods to the local conditions, it’s possible that yields could improve over time. This might involve selecting apple varieties with lower chilling requirements, using innovative chilling chamber techniques, optimizing spacing and pruning practices, and improving soil and irrigation management.
Cost Of Production, Profitability and Maths Behind Apple Farming In Kenya
Calculating the cost of production and profitability behind apple farming in Kenya involves considering various expenses and potential revenue streams. Keep in mind that the following calculations are simplified estimates and may vary based on individual circumstances and local conditions.
- Area of Apple Orchard: 1 acre
- Apple Variety: Selected variety suitable for Kenyan conditions
- Average Yield: 10 tons per acre
- Price per kg of Apples: 100 KES
- Other Operating Costs: Orchard establishment, pruning, fertilizers, irrigation, labor, pest control, etc.
Cost of Production:
- Orchard Establishment (including tree purchase and planting): 210,000 KES
- Operating Costs (annual):
- Pruning, fertilizers, irrigation, pest control, etc.: 100,000 KES
- Labor (seasonal): 50,000 KES
- Total Annual Operating Costs: 150,000 KES
Total Cost of Production = Orchard Establishment + Total Annual Operating Costs Total Cost of Production = 210,000 KES + 150,000 KES Total Cost of Production = 360,000 KES
Revenue: Total Yield = Average Yield × Price per kg of Apples Total Yield = 10 tons × 1,000 kg/ton × 100 KES/kg Total Yield = 1,000,000 KES
Profit: Profit = Total Revenue – Total Cost of Production Profit = 1,000,000 KES – 360,000 KES Profit = 640,000 KES
Return on Investment (ROI): ROI = (Profit / Total Cost of Production) × 100 ROI = (640,000 KES / 360,000 KES) × 100 ROI = 177.78%
Remember that these calculations provide simplified estimates and do not account for all potential factors that can influence the profitability of apple farming in Kenya. Accurate data, expert consultation, and careful consideration of all costs and revenue streams are essential when making decisions related to apple farming in Kenya.
How to harvest apples
- Dwarf cultivars begin to bear fruit in one to two years.
- Standard cultivars begin to fruit in three to four years.
- The best way to know if apples are ready for harvest is to taste them; select one and try it. Also, consider skin color and fruit drop. Apples are usually ready for harvest when they reach full color; full color may vary according to the variety.
- A mature apple will come away from the tree easily; lift the apple up and twist it in a rotating motion. It should not be necessary to cut an apple from the stem.
- Late-ripening apples usually come to harvest more quickly than long-maturing early and mid-season varieties.
Pests and Diseases that affect apple farming in Kenya
Apple farming in Kenya can be susceptible to a range of pests and diseases that can affect tree health and fruit production. Proper pest and disease management practices are crucial to ensure a successful apple harvest. Some common pests and diseases that can impact apple farming in Kenya include:
Pests that affect apple farming in Kenya:
- Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella): The larvae of this moth tunnel into the apples, causing internal damage and making the fruit unmarketable.
- Aphids: These small insects feed on the sap of apple trees, causing leaf distortion, reduced growth, and transmitting plant viruses.
- Fruit Flies: Fruit flies lay eggs in developing apples, leading to fruit damage and spoilage.
- Leaf Miners: The larvae of leaf mining insects tunnel between the layers of leaves, causing visible damage and affecting photosynthesis.
- Red Spider Mites: These mites feed on plant sap, causing stippling and discoloration of leaves.
- Scale Insects: Scale insects attach themselves to the plant and feed on sap, potentially weakening the tree.
Diseases that affect apple farming in Kenya:
- Apple Scab (Venturia inaequalis): A fungal disease that causes dark scabs on leaves and fruit, reducing their quality.
- Powdery Mildew: Another fungal disease that appears as a white powdery substance on leaves, affecting photosynthesis.
- Fire Blight (Erwinia amylovora): A bacterial disease that causes wilting and blackening of blossoms, shoots, and branches.
- Canker Diseases: These fungal diseases cause sunken lesions on branches and stems, potentially girdling the tree.
- Apple Rusts: Fungal diseases that lead to orange or rust-colored spots on leaves and fruit.
- Root Rots: Various soil-borne pathogens can cause root rots, leading to poor tree health and reduced growth.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and disease management strategies are crucial to mitigate these issues. These may include practices like selecting disease-resistant apple varieties, maintaining proper tree spacing, practicing good orchard sanitation, using biological control methods (e.g., natural predators), and applying appropriate fungicides and insecticides when necessary.
Regular monitoring of orchards for pest and disease presence, early detection, and timely intervention are key components of successful apple farming in Kenya.
@farmerstrendkeA Serious Apple Farmer
**1. Q: Can apples be grown in Kenya’s climate? A: Yes, with careful selection of apple varieties and innovative techniques, apple farming is possible in Kenya’s diverse climate.
- Q: What are the best apple varieties for Kenyan conditions? A: Varieties with lower chilling requirements, such as Anna, Dorsett Golden, and Tropical Beauty, are better suited for Kenyan apple farming.
- Q: How can I provide the required winter chill for apple trees in Kenya? A: Some farmers use chilling chambers to mimic winter conditions or select varieties with lower chilling needs.
- Q: What is the ideal altitude for apple farming in Kenya? A: Higher altitudes, such as parts of the Rift Valley and highland regions, are generally more suitable for apple cultivation.
- Q: How do I prepare the soil for apple planting? A: Well-drained loamy soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal. Incorporating organic matter can improve soil fertility.
- Q: What spacing should I use for planting apple trees? A: Tree-to-tree spacing of 5 to 7 meters (standard) or 3 to 5 meters (dwarf/semi-dwarf) is common, depending on the variety.
- Q: What diseases commonly affect apple trees in Kenya? A: Apple scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight are common diseases. Proper orchard management and fungicides can help control them.
- Q: How do I manage pests in my apple orchard? A: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, including biological control and targeted pesticide use, can help manage pests.
- Q: When should I prune my apple trees? A: Prune during the dormant season (winter) to remove dead or diseased wood and promote healthy growth.
- Q: How often should I irrigate my apple trees? A: Regular, deep irrigation is crucial during dry periods, with more frequent watering during flowering and fruit development.
- Q: How long does it take for apple trees to bear fruit? A: Depending on the variety and growing conditions, apple trees typically start bearing fruit 2 to 5 years after planting.
- Q: Can I grow apples from seeds? A: While possible, growing apples from seeds doesn’t guarantee the same characteristics as the parent tree. Grafting is preferred.
- Q: How do I protect my apple trees from frost? A: Frost protection measures include using windbreaks, covering trees during frost events, and proper site selection.
- Q: What pollination requirements do apple trees have? A: Most apple varieties require cross-pollination, meaning you need two compatible varieties for effective pollination.
- Q: How do I thin apple fruits for better yield? A: Thinning excess fruits by hand when they are small helps improve fruit quality and prevents overcrowding.
- Q: Can I grow apples organically in Kenya? A: Yes, it’s possible to grow apples organically by using organic fertilizers, natural pest control methods, and good cultural practices.
- Q: How do I harvest apples and know when they’re ripe? A: Apples are usually harvested by hand when they easily detach from the tree. Ripe apples have a firm texture and good color.
- Q: What post-harvest practices are important for apple storage? A: Cool, humid storage conditions are vital to prevent shriveling. Proper packaging and storage techniques help extend shelf life.
- Q: Is apple farming profitable in Kenya? A: Apple farming can be profitable with proper management, suitable varieties, and efficient marketing strategies.
- Q: Where can I get guidance on starting an apple orchard in Kenya? A: Consult agricultural extension services, local horticultural experts, and experienced apple farmers for guidance and support.
- How long does apples take to grow in Kenya? A: Depending on the apple variety and growing conditions, apple trees can take 2 to 5 years to bear fruit.
- What are the requirements for apple farming in Kenya? A: Key requirements include selecting suitable apple varieties, providing proper winter chill, well-drained soil, adequate irrigation, pest and disease management, and appropriate orchard management practices.
- How profitable is apple farming in Kenya? A: Apple farming can be profitable with careful planning, effective management, and market demand. Profitability varies based on factors like yield, apple prices, and production costs.
- Where do apples grow best in Kenya? A: Apples grow best in higher altitudes, such as parts of the Rift Valley and highland regions, due to their cooler climate.
- How many apple trees are planted in one acre? A: Depending on spacing, you can plant around 70 to 100 apple trees per acre, considering standard spacing of 5 to 7 meters.
- What is the best month to grow apples? A: Apple trees are typically planted during the rainy season in Kenya, which is usually around March to May or September to October.
- How do you prepare land for apple farming? A: Prepare the land by clearing debris, tilling the soil, adding organic matter, testing soil pH, and addressing drainage issues.
- Where do apples grow best? A: Apples thrive in temperate climates with distinct seasons, well-drained soil, and sufficient winter chill.
- What is the spacing for apples in Kenya? A: Tree-to-tree spacing of 5 to 7 meters (standard) or 3 to 5 meters (dwarf/semi-dwarf) is common.
- How many kg of apples per tree? A: Depending on variety and management, a mature apple tree can yield anywhere from 50 to 200 kg of apples or more.
- What is the spacing for apples? A: Apple trees are commonly spaced at 5 to 7 meters apart for standard varieties and 3 to 5 meters apart for dwarf/semi-dwarf varieties.
- What is the best distance to plant apple trees? A: The best distance varies based on variety and management practices, but generally, 5 to 7 meters is recommended for standard apple trees.
- How long does apple tree take to mature? A: Apple trees typically take about 2 to 5 years to mature and start producing fruit.
- What is the easiest apple tree to grow? A: Some easy-to-grow apple varieties for beginners include Anna, Dorsett Golden, and Ein Shemer.
- What is the best climate for apples? A: Apples thrive in temperate climates with cold winters (for dormancy) and warm summers. Altitude also plays a role in providing suitable growing conditions.