Capsicum farming in Kenya has witnessed a remarkable rise in recent years, becoming a significant agricultural venture with the potential for economic growth and nutritional benefits. The cultivation of capsicum in Kenya, also known as pilipili hoho, bell peppers or sweet peppers, has gained popularity among farmers as a viable option for diversifying their crop portfolios. The favorable climatic conditions in various regions of Kenya, coupled with the growing demand for capsicum both locally and internationally, make this farming an attractive sector.

CAPSICUM FARMING IN KENYA
CAPSICUM FARMING IN KENYA

Capsicum was discovered in pottery from Puebla, the current Mexico and has been used over the decades around the world. They are native to central and South America and are also a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B6, E, folate and rich in antioxidants.

Something that most people don’t know is that the sweetness of capsicums is due to their natural sugars (green capsicums have less sugar than red capsicums). Nevertheless, they can be eaten raw or cooked depending on one’s taste and preference.

Common Capsicum Varieties In Kenya

Capsicum varieties are primarily identified by the mature colour which can be green, red or yellow. Others may include orange, black, cream, brown and lime coloured varieties. The guideline in choosing a variety should be that it is resistant to disease, produce higher yields of fruit, produce more uniform fruit or be more suited to the latest market requirements.

Here’s the table with common capsicum varieties in Kenya, their characteristics, color, estimated production and important notes for each variety:

VarietyCharacteristicsColorEstimated ProductionImportant Notes
California WonderDisease-resistant, high yield, uniform fruitGreen10,000 – 12,000Well-suited for various dishes, popular in both local and export markets
Yolo WonderVigorous growth, adaptable, consistent yieldGreen9,000 – 11,000Known for its versatility and reliability, suitable for different climates
Purple BeautyUnique color, good shelf life, rich flavorPurple8,000 – 10,000Appeals to specialty markets, should be allowed to ripen fully for optimal taste
Orange SunHigh in vitamins, sweet taste, disease-resistantOrange8,000 – 9,500Rich in nutrients, well-received by health-conscious consumers
Red KnightHigh yield, uniform shape, disease-resistantRed9,500 – 11,000Excellent choice for fresh consumption, suitable for salads and garnishes
Golden TreasureExceptionally sweet, matures early, good yieldYellow7,500 – 9,000Offers a unique sweet flavor profile, suitable for early-season planting

Important Notes:

  • California Wonder: This variety is a popular choice due to its adaptability and broad appeal. It’s an excellent option for farmers looking to cater to both local and export markets.
  • Yolo Wonder: Known for its adaptability, Yolo Wonder can thrive in various climates. It’s a reliable choice for consistent yields.
  • Purple Beauty: The striking purple color of this variety can be a market differentiator. Allowing the fruit to fully ripen is key to achieving its unique flavor.
  • Orange Sun: With its high vitamin content and sweet taste, Orange Sun appeals to health-conscious consumers. Disease resistance ensures a robust crop.
  • Red Knight: A high-yielding variety, Red Knight produces uniform fruit suitable for salads and garnishes. Its vibrant red color is visually appealing.
  • Golden Treasure: This variety stands out for its exceptional sweetness. Early maturation makes it a great option for early-season planting.

Capsicum Farming in Greenhouses and Open Fields in Kenya

The choice between capsicum farming in greenhouses and open fields comes with distinct advantages and considerations. Both methods have their advantages, influenced by factors such as climate, yield, investment capacity, and market demands.

Greenhouse Capsicum Farming in Kenya

Greenhouse capsicum farming in Kenya
Greenhouse capsicum farming in Kenya

The effect of climate change is affecting quite a number of crops and vegetables including capsicum for them to grow healthily in the open fields. Hence, a need for farmers to adapt greenhouse farming so that they can control its growing conditions.

Greenhouse capsicum farming offers a controlled environment that can be tailored to suit the specific needs of the crop. This method provides protection from adverse weather conditions, pests, and diseases, allowing for extended growing seasons and potentially higher yields. Temperature, humidity, and irrigation can be precisely managed, resulting in optimal growth and fruit development.

The controlled environment of a greenhouse reduces the risks associated with unpredictable weather patterns, making it particularly advantageous for regions with harsh climatic conditions. Moreover, greenhouse-grown capsicum often have enhanced uniformity, quality, and earlier maturity due to the controlled conditions.

However, the initial investment required for constructing and maintaining a greenhouse can be expensive. Regular monitoring and management of environmental parameters are necessary to ensure the success of the crop. Nevertheless, for farmers seeking consistent production and premium quality, greenhouse farming is the best option.

Open Field Capsicum Farming in Kenya

Capsicum farming in open fields harnesses the power of nature while embracing its challenges. This method takes advantage of Kenya’s diverse climate and sunlight exposure. While it lacks the controlled environment of greenhouses, open field cultivation offers cost savings in terms of infrastructure. It also allows for larger scale farming due to the reduced upfront investment.

Open field cultivation involves relying on natural weather patterns and seasonal cycles. This can lead to longer maturation times and potentially slightly lower yields compared to greenhouse cultivation. However, for farmers who can adapt to changing conditions, open fields offer a more organic approach to capsicum farming.

It’s important to note that open field cultivation may require additional attention to pest and disease management, as the absence of controlled conditions can make plants more vulnerable.

Ecological Requirements On Capsicum Farming In Kenya

Capsicum farming in Kenya requires careful consideration of various ecological factors to ensure optimal growth, yield, and fruit quality. From climate and soil type to altitude, rainfall, and temperature, each element plays a crucial role in determining the success of capsicum farming.

Climatic requirement on capsicum farming in Kenya

Capsicum thrives in warm and temperate climates. In Kenya, the majority of regions provide suitable conditions for capsicum farming. A tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons is generally favorable. However, capsicum can also be grown in subtropical highland areas with milder temperatures.

Soil requirement on capsicum farming in Kenya

Well-draining, loamy soil is ideal for capsicum farming. Soil should have good water-holding capacity to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. Soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8 is considered optimal for capsicum growth. Amending soil with organic matter can improve soil structure, moisture retention, and nutrient availability.

Suitable Altitude on Capsicum Farming in Kenya

Capsicum can be grown at varying altitudes in Kenya. Lowland areas with altitudes up to 1,500 meters above sea level offer suitable conditions, while highland areas between 1,500 to 2,100 meters above sea level are also suitable for capsicum farming. Altitude influences temperature and humidity, both of which impact plant growth and development.

Rainfall requirement on capsicum farming in Kenya

Capsicum requires consistent moisture throughout its growth cycle. An annual rainfall of around 800 to 1,200 millimeters is considered adequate for capsicum farming. However, proper irrigation is crucial, especially during dry spells or drought periods. Drip irrigation is often recommended to deliver water directly to the root zone and minimize moisture-related diseases.

Temperature requirement on capsicum farming in Kenya

Temperature is a critical factor in capsicum farming. The optimal temperature range for capsicum growth is between 18°C and 30°C. Temperatures below 15°C can slow down growth and lead to poor fruit development, while temperatures above 35°C can adversely affect flower formation and fruit set. Greenhouses can help maintain ideal temperatures and protect plants from temperature extremes.

Nursery Establishment On Capsicum Farming In Kenya

Planting starts from the nursery. You can make sunken or raised nurseries although most farmers in Kenya prefer sunken nurseries because they retain water more than raised nurseries. Add small amounts of animal/compost manure this will ensure strong and healthy seedlings.
Capsicum Seedlings In A Tray
Capsicum Seedlings In A Tray

Capsicums are normally grown in the nursery before transplanting the healthy seedlings after 30 to 45 days.

To ensure that you get the best seedlings in the nursery, use this procedure by using seed trays:

Nursery Preparation on capsicum farming 

  • Place your seedling trays on a raised flat surface in a greenhouse.
  • Fill all the seedling trays with cocopit or any other planting media.
  • Irrigate the tray gently with a knapsack sprayer gently until the cocopit is moist.
  • Press gently the cocopit using another tray to compact it. After pressing, the tray holes should be ¾ full.
  • Place a single seed at the centre of each hole.
  • Cover the tray with a thin layer of the cocopit media or any other media.
  • Irrigate gently with a knapsack sprayer.
  • Irrigate until there is plenty of water draining at the bottom of the hole.
  • 5-6 days after sowing your seeds, spray your tray with a chemical to prevent cutworms.

Nursery Irrigation on capsicum farming

  • Once germination has taken place, start applying a starter fertilizer (26:12:12) for root
    Capsicum Seedling
    Capsicum Seedling

    development and vegetative growth.

  • Alternate the irrigation with 2 days of water irrigation and 1 day of starter fertilizer irrigation.
  • When irrigating, ensure that the water irrigation or the starter fertilizer irrigation does not get in contact with the leaves.

Note:  Stress your plants a week before transplanting to force it to develop a root system.

Transplanting capsicum seedlings

  • Before transplanting, soak the soil using the drip irrigation system. Use 2 tanks if possible.
  • During transplanting, use NPK/DAP (depending on the soil test)  at  30 grams per hole and mix well with the soil.
  • Plant hole spacing: Make the plant holes in a depth of 4-5 cm ( covering the roots only) with a spacing of 60cm*45cm  between the plants in a zigzag manner.
  • Transplant the tomato seedlings in the plant holes. Cover the seedlings with soil and press it gently. Don’t let the stem be in contact with the soil. Do not press the soil so hard.
  • Ensure the plants are planted in a zigzag pattern in the greenhouse.
  • After transplanting spray with an insecticide to control insects like cutworms and caterpillars.

Irrigation

  • Immediately after transplanting, open the drip irrigation system to the new seedlings to encourage seedlings to establish well.
  • Water twice a day every day for a period of at least 1 hour. Watering should be consistent. i.e 8 in the morning and 4 PM to avoid stressing the plant.
  • Do not over irrigate your crop to prevent damping off.

Field Management Practices on capsicum farming

  • Prune your capsicums every week to let the plant use less water and nutrients to make big fruits and of the same size. This is done by taking off:
    – Small fruits and those with bad shape
    – Suckers (side shoots) to leave only 2 shoots on each plant
    – Old leaves and leaves with diseases
    – The first fruit so that the plant can grow better and give big ones
  • Water regularly so that the plants get enough water. Each plant needs ½ litre every day. It is recommended to water 2-3 times a week.

Weeding

Capsicum does not compete well with weeds and therefore the field should be kept weed-free. These weeds cause significant losses because they compete for growth factors like nutrients and water and harbour pathogens which could attack the crop.

Staking And Training Capsicums

Staking is where you provide support for your capsicum plants as they grow well training is where you guide the plants on the stakes.

Staking is done using sturdy materials that can bear the weight of the capsicum plant. Staking materials include wood and bamboo. Training is done using materials that are not firm. These materials used in training capsicum include strings and plastic strips.

While staking is not a major requirement for capsicums, it is highly recommended.  The advantages of staking and training capsicums are:-

  • Keeps the capsicum fruits and leaves away from the soil – staking capsicums will keep the leaves and capsicum fruits from the soil, keeping them clean and preventing diseases that might be caused by contact with the soil. It also keeps the leaves and fruits away from pests that might be habouring in the soil.
  • Staking prevents the capsicum plant from splitting under the weight of the capsicum fruits.
  • Staking helps reduce scalding of the fruit from the sun since the leaf canopy shields the capsicum fruits
  • Staking capsicum s also prevents lodging, a scenario where the capsicum plants bend at the stem or branches. Lodging will reduce the yield from your capsicum plants.

Capsicum Yield Per Acre In Kenya

With good agronomic practices, capsicum farming takes 60 days in nursery and another 75 days in the field where the seedlings are transplanted to. This means the crop takes almost 5 months before reaching maturity from seeds, and you should continue harvesting for the next 4-6 months.

Under proper maintenance of capsicum is ensured, a yield of 20,000 to 30,000 Kgs per acre can be realized. However, this depends on the variety grown. The average capsicum yield per plant is 15 to 25 fruits.

Cost of Production and Profitability Of Capsicum Farming in Kenya

Cost of capsicum production in Kenya

  • Land preparation: 25,000 Kenyan shillings per acre
  • Seedlings: 120,000 Kenyan shillings per acre
  • Fertilizer: 12,000 Kenyan shillings per acre
  • Irrigation: 85,000 Kenyan shillings per acre
  • Labor: 20,000 Kenyan shillings per acre
  • Other expenses: 25,000 Kenyan shillings per acre

Total cost of production:

  • Yield of 20,000 kilograms per acre: 267,000 Kenyan shillings
  • Yield of 30,000 kilograms per acre: 352,000 Kenyan shillings

Revenue

  • Selling price of 50 Kenyan shillings per kilogram: 1,000,000 Kenyan shillings (20,000 kilograms) or 1,500,000 Kenyan shillings (30,000 kilograms)
  • Selling price of 250 Kenyan shillings per kilogram: 5,000,000 Kenyan shillings (20,000 kilograms) or 7,500,000 Kenyan shillings (30,000 kilograms)

Expected Profits On Capsicum Farming In Kenya

  • Selling price of 50 Kenyan shillings per kilogram: 733,000 Kenyan shillings (20,000 kilograms) or 1,248,000 Kenyan shillings (30,000 kilograms)
  • Selling price of 250 Kenyan shillings per kilogram: 4,733,000 Kenyan shillings (20,000 kilograms) or 6,148,000 Kenyan shillings (30,000 kilograms)

As you can see, the profitability of capsicum farming in Kenya can be significant, especially if the selling price is high. The higher the selling price, the higher the profit.

NOTE: Colored red/yellow capsicum fetches high prices as compared to green capsicum in the market today

It is important to note that these are just estimates and the actual costs and revenue may vary depending on a number of factors, such as the variety of capsicum grown, the climate, and the market conditions.

Pesticides and fertilizer spraying  program on capsicum farming in Kenya

Fertilizer Application

  • Apply a soluble starter fertilizer which is designed to feed the crop immediately after transplanting which promotes root formation and early crop development.
  • Mix the soluble fertilizer in the bucket till its fully dissolved, add the solution to the water tank, and mix well, then irrigate one full water tank.
  • Start feeding your crop with the starter fertilizer twice a week during the first 3  weeks from the planting date using drip system.

First Topdressing

  • 4 weeks after transplanting, top dress your crop with CAN at a rate of 10-20 grams per plant.
  • Form a ring of about 15 cm around the plant in a depth of 5 cm, ENSURE that the fertilizer does not touch the plant stem.
  • Cover the ring-shaped hole with soil and ensure it isn’t exposed to air.

Second Topdressing

  • 7 weeks after transplanting, top dress your crop with NPK.
  • Follow the same procedure as the first top dressing.

NOTE: Do not touch the leaves during fertilizer top dressing.

Farmers Trend

Common Pests and Diseases Affecting Capsicum Farming In Kenya

Pests

  • Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that suck sap from the leaves and stems of plants. They can cause the leaves to curl and yellow, and the plant to wilt.
  • Whiteflies: Small, winged insects that suck sap from the leaves of plants. They can also spread viruses.
  • Thrips: Small, slender insects that also suck sap from the leaves of plants. They can cause the leaves to become discolored and distorted.
  • Spider mites: Very small, eight-legged arachnids that suck sap from the leaves of plants. They can cause the leaves to become stippled and yellow.
  • Fall armyworm: Caterpillars that feed on the leaves, stems, and fruits of plants. They can cause significant damage to crops.

Diseases

  • Bacterial leaf spot: A bacterial disease that causes small, brown spots on the leaves of plants. The spots can eventually join together, causing the leaves to wilt and die.
  • Mosaic virus: A virus that causes mottling, yellowing, and distortion of the leaves of plants. It can also reduce the yield of crops.
  • Damping off: A fungal disease that causes the seedlings to rot at the base. It is often caused by overwatering.
  • Powdery mildew: A fungal disease that causes a white, powdery coating on the leaves of plants. It can reduce the yield of crops.
  • Fusarium wilt: A fungal disease that causes the leaves to wilt and the plant to die. It is often spread through the soil.

It is important to inspect your capsicum plants regularly for pests and diseases. If you find any problems, take action immediately to control them. There are a number of organic and chemical controls available.

You can also take steps to prevent pests and diseases from attacking your capsicum plants. These include:

  • Planting resistant varieties
  • Rotating crops
  • Using good sanitation practices
  • Watering properly
  • Mulching
  • Pruning

Harvest And Post-Harvest

Capsicum are mature and ready for harvest 2 to 3 months after planting from seedlings. Under proper management, you should continue harvesting for the next 4-6 months. Pick your fruits by hand. When harvesting:

  • Cut the holding stem with a sharp object. You will know it is time when a variety of colour starts to appear.
  • Harvest mature fruits that have small twigs holding it. Ripe fruits are filled out and green.
  • Direct sunlight will spoil your harvested capsicum fruits. You need to shade your fruits to avoid drying.
  • Sort your fruits, grade, and pack them as required by the standards for the Kenyan market or the export market
  • Store your harvest in cool temperatures, at a relative humidity of 95%-98%. Transporting should be done under the same conditions.

Grading And Sorting Capsicums

Capsicums are sorted and graded depending on external appearance, size, weight, and colour. For the export market, additional requirements come in. These are texture, shape, defects due to pests and diseases, post-harvest handling, storage conditions, shelf life, and flavour. There might be other requirements such as special requests when it comes to the colour mixes and size.

FAQs On Capsicum Farming In Kenya

1. Q: What is capsicum farming? A: Capsicum farming involves the cultivation of bell peppers, also known as capsicums, for commercial purposes.

2. Q: Which regions in Kenya are suitable for capsicum farming? A: Capsicum can be cultivated in various regions of Kenya, including lowland areas with altitudes up to 1,500 meters and subtropical highlands.

3. Q: What type of soil is best for capsicum cultivation? A: Well-draining, loamy soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8 is ideal for capsicum farming.

4. Q: What are the temperature requirements for capsicum farming? A: Capsicum thrives in temperatures between 18°C and 30°C, avoiding extremes below 15°C and above 35°C.

5. Q: How do I choose the right capsicum variety for my farm? A: Select a variety based on local climate, disease resistance, market demand, and your farm’s specific conditions.

6. Q: What are the common pests affecting capsicum plants? A: Aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and spider mites are common pests that can affect capsicum plants.

7. Q: How can I manage pests in capsicum farming? A: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, including biological control, proper hygiene, and judicious pesticide use, can help manage pests.

8. Q: What diseases are a threat to capsicum farming? A: Common diseases include bacterial wilt, powdery mildew, and various viral diseases.

9. Q: How can I prevent and manage diseases in capsicum farming? A: Crop rotation, disease-resistant varieties, good irrigation practices, and sanitation can help prevent and manage diseases.

10. Q: Is greenhouse or open field cultivation better for capsicum farming? A: Both methods have advantages. Greenhouses offer controlled conditions, while open fields provide a natural approach. Choose based on your resources and goals.

11. Q: How often should I irrigate capsicum plants? A: Capsicum plants require regular watering. Drip irrigation is recommended to avoid overwatering and minimize disease risks.

12. Q: What nutrients do capsicum plants need? A: Capsicum plants require nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients. Soil testing can guide proper nutrient application.

13. Q: How can I improve fruit size and quality in capsicum farming? A: Adequate irrigation, proper spacing, and balanced fertilization contribute to larger and high-quality capsicum fruits.

14. Q: When is the best time to harvest capsicum? A: Capsicum can be harvested when the fruits reach their desired color and size, depending on market demand.

15. Q: How can I market my capsicum produce? A: Establish connections with local markets, grocery stores, and restaurants. You can also explore exporting opportunities.

16. Q: What is the expected yield per acre in capsicum farming? A: Yields can vary widely, but a range of 20,000 to 30,000 kilograms per acre is achievable with proper management.

17. Q: How do I prevent soil-borne diseases in capsicum farming? A: Soil sterilization, crop rotation, and using disease-resistant varieties can help mitigate soil-borne diseases.

18. Q: Can I use organic methods in capsicum farming? A: Yes, organic methods such as composting, cover cropping, and using natural predators can be effective in capsicum farming.

19. Q: What are the potential challenges in capsicum farming? A: Challenges include pest outbreaks, weather fluctuations, market fluctuations, and diseases. Proper planning and management are crucial.

20. Q: Is capsicum farming profitable in Kenya? A: With proper planning, management, and market access, capsicum farming can be profitable due to its high demand and culinary versatility.

21. Q: Can I save seeds from my capsicum harvest for the next planting season? A: Yes, you can save seeds from mature capsicum fruits. However, ensure they are properly dried and stored in a cool, dry place to maintain their viability.

22. Q: What role does pollination play in capsicum farming? A: Capsicum plants are self-pollinating, but pollinators like bees can enhance fruit set and quality. Adequate flowering and pollination are crucial for yield.

23. Q: How can I manage weed growth in my capsicum field? A: Regular weeding, mulching, and using pre-emergence herbicides can help control weed growth and minimize competition with capsicum plants.

24. Q: Are there organic alternatives to chemical pesticides for pest control? A: Yes, organic options include neem oil, garlic spray, and introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs or predatory mites.

25. Q: Can I intercrop capsicum with other crops? A: Yes, intercropping with compatible crops like tomatoes, onions, or herbs can maximize land use and enhance biodiversity.

26. Q: What post-harvest practices are important for capsicum storage? A: Proper washing, sorting, and storing capsicum at the right temperature and humidity levels can extend shelf life and maintain quality.

27. Q: Is there a risk of overwatering capsicum plants? A: Yes, overwatering can lead to root rot and other diseases. Maintain proper irrigation practices to avoid excessive moisture.

28. Q: How long does it take for capsicum plants to start bearing fruit? A: Capsicum plants typically start bearing fruit around 70 to 90 days after transplanting, depending on variety and growing conditions.

29. Q: Can I use organic compost for fertilizing capsicum plants? A: Yes, organic compost is a great source of nutrients for capsicum plants. It improves soil structure and enhances overall plant health.

30. Q: Are there specific precautions for preventing capsicum diseases during the rainy season? A: During rainy periods, ensure proper drainage, avoid overhead watering, and consider applying fungicides preventively to mitigate disease risks.

31. Q: How can I determine the maturity of capsicum fruits for harvesting? A: Capsicum fruits should reach their full color, and their skin should be glossy. Gently press the fruit; if it’s firm and snaps off easily, it’s ready for harvest.

32. Q: Can I use organic mulch in capsicum farming? A: Yes, organic mulch such as straw or leaves can help conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and enhance soil health in capsicum farming.

33. Q: What role does sunlight play in capsicum cultivation? A: Capsicum plants require ample sunlight for healthy growth and fruit production. Plant them in a location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

34. Q: How can I prevent capsicum fruits from developing blemishes or scars? A: Careful handling during harvesting and post-harvest practices can minimize blemishes. Use proper tools and avoid dropping or mishandling the fruits.

35. Q: Are there specific considerations for growing capsicum in greenhouses? A: Greenhouse capsicum farming offers controlled conditions, but proper ventilation, temperature, and humidity management are crucial for optimal growth.

 

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