Carrot Farming In Kenya; A Comprehensive Cultivation Guide
Carrot farming in Kenya is a profitable agricultural venture that has gained momentum due to the country’s diverse climatic conditions and fertile soils. The cool orange color and crisp texture of carrots make them a popular add-on to both local dishes and international markets. Carrot are very rich in vitamin A which is what gives the characteristic bright colour and weetness good to be used in some fruit-like roles. When grated, they can be used in cakes, carrot puddings, blended in jams and other fruits.
Carrot is a short season crop that takes about 2-3 months to mature with the potential of high yields for family food security and fresh market sales. It does well in the cooler areas of Kenya under both rainfed and irrigated conditions.
Common Carrot Varieties In Kenya
- Nantes: This is a popular hybrid carrot variety that is known for its smooth, cylindrical shape and sweet flavor. It is resistant to pests and diseases, and it can be grown in a variety of soil types.
- Chantenay: This is another popular hybrid carrot variety that is known for its short, stubby shape and sweet flavor. It is also resistant to pests and diseases, and it can be grown in a variety of soil types.
- Oxheart: This is a hybrid carrot variety that is known for its large, bulbous shape and sweet flavor. It is not as resistant to pests and diseases as some other hybrid carrot varieties, but it can be grown in a variety of soil types.
- Danvers: This is a hybrid carrot variety that is known for its long, slender shape and sweet flavor. It is not as resistant to pests and diseases as some other hybrid carrot varieties, but it can be grown in a variety of soil types.
- Imperator: This is a hybrid carrot variety that is known for its high yield and resistance to pests and diseases. It is not as sweet as some other hybrid carrot varieties, but it is a good choice for commercial growers.
Carrot Growing Regions In Kenya
Carrots are cultivated in various regions across Kenya, taking advantage of the country’s diverse agro-ecological zones and favorable climatic conditions. Here are some of the notable carrot-farming regions in Kenya:
- Central Kenya: This region includes areas such as Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, and Kirinyaga. The cool temperatures and fertile soils in these highland areas provide suitable conditions for carrot farming. These regions are known for producing quality carrots that are often in demand in local markets.
- Rift Valley: Parts of the Rift Valley, including Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, and Bomet counties, have become significant carrot-producing areas. The altitudes and temperate climate in these regions are conducive to carrot growth. Additionally, the availability of irrigation water has contributed to successful carrot farming.
- Eastern Kenya: Counties like Meru, Tharaka Nithi, and Embu in Eastern Kenya have also embraced carrot farming. The cooler temperatures in higher altitudes and well-drained soils provide favorable conditions for carrot farming.
- Nairobi County: The urban area of Nairobi and its surroundings have seen an increase in urban farming, including carrot farming. Farmers are utilizing small plots and container gardening to grow carrots for local consumption and sale.
- Western Kenya: Some parts of Western Kenya, such as Kakamega and Bungoma, have also ventured into carrot farming. The availability of fertile soils and adequate rainfall in these areas supports carrot farming.
- Coastal Region: While not as prominent as in other regions, coastal counties like Kilifi and Kwale have experimented with carrot farming. These areas often require careful soil management and irrigation due to their warm and humid climate.
Ecological Requirements On Carrot Farming In Kenya
Climatic requirement on carrot farming in Kenya
Carrots are moderately hardy and also tolerate high temperature but seedlings are more sensitive to both extremes of temperature.
Carrots prefer cool to mild temperatures. The ideal temperature range for carrot growth is 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. Carrots need full sun to grow well. They will not produce good yields if they are shaded.
The best altitude to grow carrots in Kenya is between 700 and 2,000 meters above sea level. Carrots can be grown at higher altitudes, but they may not grow as well. At lower altitudes, the climate may be too hot and humid for carrots to thrive.
Soil Requirement On Carrot Farming In Kenya
Carrot farming in Kenya thrives when rooted in well-prepared soil that meets specific requirements. The soil serves as the foundation for healthy root development and successful crop yields.
Carrots prefer loose, well-draining soil with a sandy loam or loamy texture. This type of soil structure allows roots to penetrate easily, resulting in straight and uniform carrots. Soil that is too heavy or compacted can hinder root growth, leading to misshapen or stunted carrots.
Additionally, proper soil preparation is essential to remove rocks, stones, and debris that can obstruct root growth. Incorporating organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, enriches the soil with essential nutrients and enhances its ability to retain moisture without becoming waterlogged.
A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal for carrot farming, as it promotes nutrient availability and uptake. Ensuring consistent moisture throughout the growing season is crucial; however, excess water can lead to rot. Adequate drainage mechanisms, such as raised beds, can help manage water levels. By adhering to these soil requirements, Kenyan farmers can create an environment that nurtures healthy carrot plants.
Propagation and planting Carrots In Kenya
Seed bed preparation on carrot farming in Kenya
Carrots need finely prepared soil for good seed germination and proper root development. Therefore, fields to be grown with carrots should be ploughed to a depth of 30 cm, finely prepared and levelled. A raised seedbed 1 m wide, 10 m length and 20cm height is prepared especially in areas with poor drainage and during long rainy season. About 40 cm wide furrows are used between the beds for irrigation.
Seed sowing on carrot farming in Kenya
Carrots are established by direct seeding in the seedbed. The seeding rate is about 5 kg per ha. In
rainfed crops, rows 25 cm apart are traced across the width of the seedbed and seeds are drilled 5 cm apart within the row at the depth of 1 cm. In irrigated crops, 4 rows of carrots are sown at the same spacing along the raised seedbed. Seeds are often mixed with sand (2 sand: 1 seed) to ease handling and uniform spacing of seeds.
Carrot seeds are slow to germinate and seedlings are rather weak. Cover the seedbed with grass after sowing and water them adequately. Carefully remove the grass when seeds germinate.
Carrots are often densely sown. The plants should be thinned to 5 cm spacing within the row. Thinning results in uniform and good sized roots and avoids lodging of plants. Thinning is done several times beginning from 3rd week after sowing, as plants attain 10-15 cm height or during 1st cultivation. Hand thinning is very expensive thus seed should be sown as thinly and uniformly as possible to reduce the need for thinning.
Because of their limited space requirements and early growing habits, carrots are ideal for intercropping between other crops such as tomatoes, lettuce or capsicums and because of their fragrant leaves can help keep pest levels low. Other crops good for intercropping with carrots include garlic, dwarf bean, onion, parsnip, leek, small peas, pea mange-tout (snow peas), and radish.
The most profitable example of an association is that of carrots and leeks. Carrots have very deep roots that extract nutrients deep in the soil, whereas leeks have extremely superficial roots, which help the crop to extract nutrients near the soil surface. Moreover, carrots can drive away worms from leeks, while leeks can drive away flies from the carrots.
Cultivation of Carrots
Carrots grow very slowly for the first few weeks thus they can’t compete with weeds. Repeated shallow cultivation is necessary to keep down weeds especially in the early stages of growth. Deep cultivation may be injurious to roots as many of them are found within 5 cm of the surface. Keep the top of the roots covered with soil to avoid greening especially with Nantes variety.
Irrigation Requirement On Carrot Farming In Kenya
Carrots grown during dry season, and must be irrigated to accelerate seed germination and root growth. Irrigation has to be supplied every morning and afternoon after sowing seeds using watering can. Furrow irrigation after sowing or at early stage of the crop washes away and displaces seeds and uproots seedlings.
Irrigation can be applied every 5 to 7 days to field capacity depending on soil type and environment. Water-logging should be avoided. Inadequate irrigation increases roughness, decreases root size, and slows growth, and leads to poor color development. Irrigation has to be stopped when the crop matures.
Carrots are mostly harvested manually by pulling up the roots at the leaves as long as the soil is moist and soft. If the soil has dried, it will be necessary to use either a spade or similar tool to loosen the soil and harvest the roots. Carrots are usually ready for harvesting 60-85 days after sowing. Mature roots should be orange-coloured internally down to the blunt tip.
A good market price can be fetched from young carrots with a fresh top, but leaving the top on dries out the root quickly and reduces the marketing period of the crop. An alternative is to trim the top back to about 2 cm and package attractively.
For mature carrots the tops are trimmed down completely to avoid storage rots before marketing. Carrots can remain in good condition (Shelf life) for 100-150 days when the foliage is removed and they are stored at 1-4° C with 95-100% relative humidity. Carrots should be stored separately from other vegetables to prevent a bitter flavour induced by ethylene (a colourless gas with a sweet odour that is produced by many fruits and vegetables that accelerates the ripening process). Generally carrots store better when they are mature and harvested under moist conditions, and undamaged and free of diseases and pests.
Carrot Seeds In Kenya
An acre piece of land requires at least 2.5 kg of seed. Most carrot seedling sellers in Kenya sell them in packets ranging between 10-500 grams. With an average price of 3,500Kshs per Kg.
The soils must be well prepared and the planting depth should about one centimetre. The spacing is 30cm from row to row by continuous drill at planting time.
Carrot Yield Per Acre In Kenya
Carrot yield per acre in Kenya can vary based on a range of factors, including the carrot variety, soil quality, climate, cultivation practices, and pest management. On average, under optimal conditions and with proper care, carrot yields in Kenya can range from 15 to 25 tons per acre.
It’s important to note that achieving higher yields requires implementing best practices throughout the cultivation process, from selecting suitable varieties to preparing the soil, managing pests and diseases, providing consistent irrigation, and practicing proper spacing and thinning. Additionally, factors such as altitude, temperature, and local weather patterns can influence yields.
To maximize carrot yields, farmers should consider factors such as soil preparation, adequate fertilization, proper spacing, timely irrigation, and effective pest and disease control.
Cost of Production and Expected Profits On Carrots Farming In Kenya
Please note that these numbers are for illustrative purposes and may not reflect current market prices or conditions.
Cost of Carrot Production per Acre:
- Plowing and Harrowing: 20,000 Ksh
- Land Clearing: 3,000 Ksh
- Compost or Goat Manure: 20,000 Ksh
- Total Land Preparation: 43,000 Ksh
- Carrot Seeds: 3,500 Ksh
Fertilizers and Soil Amendments:
- Fertilizers (NPK): 4,500 Ksh
- Lime (if needed): 1,000 Ksh
- Total Fertilizers and Amendments: 5,500 Ksh
Pest and Disease Control:
- Pesticides and Herbicides: 4,500 Ksh
- Watering and Maintenance: 10,000 Ksh
- Planting, Weeding, Thinning, Harvesting: 20,000 Ksh
- Equipment and Tools: 3,000 Ksh
- Overhead Costs: 5,000 Ksh
Total Production Costs: 43,000 + 3,500 + 5,500 + 4,500 + 10,000 + 20,000 + 3,000 + 5,000 = 95,500 Ksh
Expected Yield: 15 tons
Selling Price: 40 Ksh per kilogram
Potential Revenue from Yield: 15 tons * 1,000 kg/ton * 40 Ksh/kg = 600,000 Ksh
Profit Calculation: Profit = Total Revenue – Total Production Costs Profit = 600,000 Ksh – 95,500 Ksh = 504,500 Ksh
Expected Profits per Acre: 504,500 Ksh
With a yield of 15 tons and a selling price of 40 Ksh per kilogram, the potential profits per acre would be 504,500 Ksh. As always, consider that these calculations are approximate and subject to variations in market conditions, yield, and unforeseen expenses.
Common Pests and Diseases That Affect Carrot Farming In Kenya
Pests that affect carrot farming in Kenya:
- Carrot Fly (Psila rosae): Carrot flies are a major pest that lays eggs near the base of carrot plants. The hatched larvae burrow into the roots, causing tunnels and making the roots unappetizing. Crop rotation, covering crops with fine mesh or using floating row covers, and planting onions or leeks as companion plants can help deter carrot flies.
- Aphids: Aphids are small insects that suck sap from carrot leaves and stems. They can transmit plant viruses and weaken the plant. Natural predators like ladybugs and parasitic wasps can help control aphid populations. Insecticidal soap or neem oil can also be used.
- Wireworms: These are the larvae of click beetles and can cause damage by tunneling into carrot roots. Proper soil preparation and rotating crops can help reduce wireworm infestations.
- Cutworms: Cutworms are caterpillars that cut through plant stems at the soil level, causing young carrot plants to wilt and die. Protective collars around seedlings can prevent cutworm damage.
Diseases that affect carrot farming in Kenya:
- Aster Yellows: This disease is caused by a phytoplasma and is transmitted by leafhoppers. It leads to yellowing, stunting, and distorted growth in carrot plants. There’s no cure for infected plants; removal and destruction are the best control measures.
- Alternaria Leaf Blight: Alternaria fungi cause brown lesions on carrot leaves, eventually leading to defoliation. Crop rotation and ensuring proper spacing between plants for good air circulation can help prevent this disease.
- Cavity Spot (Pythium spp.): Cavity spot is a soil-borne disease that causes brown, sunken lesions on carrot roots. Proper soil drainage, avoiding over-irrigation, and improving soil structure can help reduce its occurrence.
- Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that appears as a white, powdery coating on leaves. It can reduce plant vigor and yield. Regular inspection, proper spacing, and fungicide application can help control powdery mildew.
- Leaf Blight (Cercospora carotae): This disease causes circular, brown lesions with yellow margins on carrot leaves. Crop rotation, practicing good sanitation, and removing infected plant debris can help manage leaf blight.
- Root Knot Nematodes: These microscopic roundworms can cause galls or knots on carrot roots, affecting root development. Rotating crops, using nematode-resistant varieties, and improving soil health can help manage nematode infestations.
FAQs On Carrot Farming In Kenya
1. Q: What is the best time to plant carrots in Kenya? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots are typically planted during the rainy season, which varies by region. In most areas, planting can be done in March/April or August/September.
2. Q: How deep should I plant carrot seeds? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrot seeds are small and should be planted shallowly, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.
3. Q: Can I grow carrots in containers? A: Yes, you can grow carrots in containers with good drainage, according to Farmers Trend. Choose shorter carrot varieties suitable for containers.
4. Q: What kind of soil is best for growing carrots? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots prefer well-draining, sandy loam or loamy soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Loose soil allows for straight root growth.
5. Q: How often should I water my carrot plants? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots require consistent moisture. Water deeply when the top inch of soil feels dry, but avoid overwatering to prevent rot.
6. Q: What pests should I watch out for when growing carrots? A: According to Farmers Trend, common pests include carrot flies, aphids, wireworms, and cutworms. Implementing pest management practices can help control these pests.
7. Q: Can I use organic methods to control pests and diseases? A: Yes, you can use organic methods like neem oil, beneficial insects, and companion planting to manage pests and diseases, according to Farmers Trend.
8. Q: How far apart should I space my carrot plants? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrot plants should be spaced 2 to 4 inches apart in rows that are about 12 to 18 inches apart.
9. Q: How long does it take for carrots to mature? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots typically take 70 to 80 days to mature, though some varieties may take longer or shorter.
10. Q: How can I prevent carrot roots from becoming misshapen? A: According to Farmers Trend, proper soil preparation, loose soil, and spacing carrots adequately can prevent misshapen roots.
11. Q: Can I store harvested carrots for an extended period? A: Yes, you can store carrots in a cool, dark, and humid environment, such as a refrigerator or a root cellar, as advised by Farmers Trend.
12. Q: Are there any companion plants that help deter pests from carrots? A: According to Farmers Trend, onions, leeks, and chives are good companion plants that can help deter pests like carrot flies.
13. Q: How do I know when carrots are ready for harvest? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots are ready for harvest when their shoulders are about 1/2 inch in diameter. Gently pull one to check its size.
14. Q: Can I grow carrots from saved seeds? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots are biennial plants, meaning they flower and produce seeds in their second year. Saving seeds requires isolating plants to prevent cross-pollination.
15. Q: Do I need to thin my carrot seedlings? A: Yes, thinning is essential to provide adequate space for root development, as mentioned by Farmers Trend. Thin seedlings to about 2 to 4 inches apart.
16. Q: Can I grow carrots in a greenhouse or tunnel? A: Yes, controlled environments like greenhouses or tunnels can extend the carrot-growing season and protect crops from adverse weather conditions, according to Farmers Trend.
17. Q: Are there any specific nutrients carrots require? A: According to Farmers Trend, carrots benefit from well-balanced fertilizers, especially those with a lower nitrogen content to promote root growth.
18. Q: Can I grow carrots as a rotational crop? A: Yes, according to Farmers Trend, carrots are a good rotational crop as they don’t belong to the same family as common pests and diseases affecting other crops.
19. Q: Can I grow carrots in areas with warmer climates? A: Yes, you can grow carrots in warmer regions, but it’s advisable to choose varieties suited for warmer temperatures and provide proper irrigation, as suggested by Farmers Trend.
20. Q: How can I extend the shelf life of harvested carrots? A: According to Farmers Trend, keeping carrots in a cool, humid environment and removing the green tops can help extend their shelf life.
Please note that while Farmers Trend provides valuable insights, local conditions and practices can vary, so consulting with agricultural experts or experienced farmers is always recommended for good guidance.