Lime Farming Guide For Starters
The following article details about “Lime Farming in Kenya” or “How to grow Limes in Kenya”.
The small tree has numerous sharp spines which is 1 cm long. An evergreen leaves are leathery, alternate, elliptic to oblong measuring 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches) long with narrow winged stems. Flowers are white in color and are solitary. Each flower measures 5 cm across with 20 to 25 stamens and 4 to 6 petals. Fruits are small, greenish which ripens to yellow. Fruit are round to oval to elliptical in shape measuring 5 cm in diameter. Pulp is juicy, greenish to yellow which is divided into 6 to 15 segments with few small seeds.
Lime is a crop which also comes with a range of problems and pests. Apart from the diseases which are very common in lime plants and commonly in citrus varieties, the range of pests are also quite high. Controlling pests is crucial for farmers and determine their success. High rainfall, High humidity and flood prone areas are not suitable for lime farming. Also , lime requires that the temperature be high during the fruiting season. Water is required at least fortnightly dring the fruiting season.
- Climate for Acid Lime Cultivation : Acid Lime thrives best in Semi Tropical or tropical weather. They prefer hot and no cold. Temperature below 8 degree is not recommended and flowering happens best when summer is at its peak at 35 degrees to 40 degrees celsius. Rains and high humidity is not tolerated during flowering season and affects yield. Flooding in root area are causes for root diseases and should be avoided.
- Ideal Soil for Acid Lime Cultivation : Soil is not always a major concern for acid lime cultivation. From medium black to alluvial soil, sandy loam or partly clay soil are all tolerant for acid lime as long as there is sufficient drainage and no water logging. With that said, a PH of 6-7 is best suited for acid lime cultivation, just like most other citrus fruits.
- Propagation of Lime : Acid lime could be tricky when germinated from seed. They are not usually reliable and the best plants are either from grafted lime seedlings or air layered. Air layering is common but most experts rely on grafting with a root stock which is tolerant to diseases. Grafted plants with a good rootstock has the ability to yield more , resist diseases related to root problems and sustain longer.
- Season : The season for planting Acid lime is just during the onset of rain. In most parts of Kenya its around January to April. The rains will help with irrigation and the weather is perfect for growth of plant and its establishment. The right season to plant makes all the difference in the plants health and initial growth. Planting during the spring is often not recommended. Even with the best irrigation facilities, plants tend to do a bit poorly compared to those planted in monsoons.
- Land Preparation : Like all crops, Preparing the land for Lime cultivation is the first step and key to success. The land has to be ploughed, tilled and levelled . in Hilly areas, Terrace formation should be constructed. Plantation in hilly areas allow denser planting due to better aeration, but remember that the plants require the right weather conditions for Lime to grow. Summers should be sufficiently warm and frost is not permissible at all. Altitude is to be below 900m above sea level. Water drainage should be provided and depending on soil conditions irrigation should be provided. Flood irrigation is almost always not recommended. Drip irrigation is much more feasible, saves water and is more affordable.
- Intercropping : Intercropping in lime is not recommended and only legumes are feasible till the yield period. Cultivation of cow pea, moong and other legume crops can be done with proper care. Flood irrigation is not allowed and this limits the number of crops grown in between lime trees and the practice of cultivation also is complicated.
- Planting : Pits are dug 1meter By 1 Meter By 1 Meter (depth, width , length) and field with farm yard manure, compost and let to sit for 2 weeks before planting . 15-20 Kg of farm yard manure is applied to the pit. Its recommended that the fym sits in the pit for at least 2 weeks to ensure that all pests and bugs are off the pit and cannot damage the plants. After planting the saplings, ensure that the soil is a bit higher than ground level to prevent water logging.
- Spacing and Density : a distance of 6 Meter by 6 meter is recommended between plants to plants and row to row. Approximately 275 lime plants can be accommodate in 1 acre of land. The density of plants for lemon is 5 meter by 5 meter as opposed to lime and the total number of plants per acre of lemon is approximately 400.
- Irrigation : Irrigation is mandatory for good Lime production and the plant establishment. Irrigation should be minimal and frequent. The soil should be just damp on each irrigation and not flooded. Frequency of irrigation depends on weather conditions with summer irrigation being more frequent and almost daily. In other seasons the irrigation may be once in 2 to 3 days. Proper irrigation setup is mandatory and drip irrigation is the most recommended. Water should have low salinity levels and salinity over 1000ppm is often bad for lime plants. Water stagnation in the root area is to be avoided for root diseases and collar rot, which are very common problems in lime cultivations.
- Fertilizers : Application of fertlizers start during land preparation . Pits are filled with 15 to 20 KG Fym and 500 grams of SSP. Apart from FYM The basic fertilizers of NPK at the proportion of 100 Grams, 50 grams and 25 grams are applied respectively. Every year , the nitrogen is increased by 100 grams, Phosphorus by 50 grams and potash by 25 grams till the 5th year.From the 5th year, 500 grams of Nitrogen and 250 grams po potash and phosphorus is applied there after every year. The application of Zinc Sulphate, Manganese sulphate and Iron sulphate is also applied every year at 25 grams the first and second year, 50 grams the 3rd and 4th year, 100 grams from the 5th year and 150 grams from the 6th year onwards. Application of fertilizers should differ depending on the soil chemical contents. A soil test is recommended every year before application of fertilizers to make slight changes where required
- Pests : Pests and diseases in Lime plantation are one of the biggest challenges. The common pests in Lime is Leaf miner, Citrus black fly, Citrus Black fly, Citrus Psylla, citrus Thrips, Trunk Borer and Bark eating caterpillar. Pesticides are available in the market for each of these pests and application of pesticides in a timely manner is recommended once the pest is detected. Some of these pests are known to be fatal for plants and should be controlled as early as possible.
- Diseases : Citrus plants are sensitive to water logging and root rot and color rot are common problems in citrus plants. Flooding should be avoided at all costs and drip irrigation should be practiced for successful commercial lime plantations. Other common diseases include powdery mildew, anthracnose, citrus canker Phytophthora gummosis, Citrus greening and citrus tristeza virus.Application of the right pesticides and control of pests should prevent most diseases
- Weed Control : Weed control is practiced to prevent pests and diseases. Proper management and weed control is mandatory for lime farms to keep the farm free from all pests and diseases. Manual weeding is often practiced in mature plantations and tracators can be used in younger plantations to reduce costs.
- Training and Pruning : Pruning lime trees are known to increase yield and also maintain the tree to the right shape and size. Trees are pruned to avoid branching out from 50 centemeter above ground. The trees are trained to branch upwards and all side branches are removed in intervals. A total of 8 branches are usually recommended in mature trees with sub branches regularly trimmed. Pruning allows more smaller branches, increase foliage , flowering and fruits, thus increasing yield
- Harvesting : Limes and lemons yield 2-3 times a year. The maturity of the fruit takes 120-150 days. Harvesting is done manually and when the fruits change color from green to yellow. Fruits which are partly yellow or turning to yellow are picked. Picking every 10-15 days is recommended for lime.
- Post harvesting : Post harvest processing depend on the market itself. Fruits have a good shelf life of 6-8 weeks if stored in a temperature of 9 degree. Waxing treatment allows the fruits to stay fresh and reduce moisture loss. Investment in a cold storage unit may allow better profit for large scale farmers but is not feasible for smaller farmers.
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