Mulberry Farming In Kenya is done on less than a piece of an acre by most of the farmers. Current acreage of mulberry stands at 250, spread over Western, Nyanza, and Rift Valley and Coastal regions. Mulberry is used for its fruit, as a delicious vegetable, for medicinal purposes, landscaping and the leaves and stems are used as animal fodder.

mulberry kenya

Mulberry (Morus spp.) is a fast growing woody plant that has a deep root system and belongs to the Moraceae family. It is easily propagated and grows rigorously in fertile soils. It originally came from the temperate zone of Asia and has now spread across the world adapting itself well in our tropical climate.

Mulberry, in its young shrub stage, is excellent forage for ruminant animals such as sheep and goats and monogastrics such as pigs. The leaves and stems are delicious for animals and very digestible. The crude protein and mineral content of mulberry is very high.

Mulberry Farming In Kenya

In Kenya, establishment of a mulberry cultivation orchard at the KALRO was done in 1974 because of the introduction of sericulture. Some high yielding cultivars were imported from India and Japan in order to assess their performance under Kenyan climatic conditions.

Mulberry is a plant that is grown for silkworm rearing in Kenya. It is the exclusive food for the silkworm, which during its larval life is reared for silk production. Mulberry forms the basic food material for silkworms.

Production of mulberry leaves on scientific lines is essential for organizing sericulture on sound economic lines. It is estimated that one metric ton of mulberry leaves is necessary for the rearing of silkworms emerging out of one case of eggs which will yield about 25kg to 30kg of cocoons of high quality. Findings show that mulberry plant can grow and thrive very well in Kenya because of very good climatic conditions that are favorable for mulberry plant. It is worth nothing however that mulberry tree can grow in a variety of climatic conditions.

As a result of successful production of mulberry, silk production training is needed for skilled labour in mulberry growing and silk worm rearing in these high production areas of the country with similar climatic condition to the experimental area of Eldoret. Sericulture has the potential of poverty eradication and economic empowerment especially for women and youth in Kenya because it is a labour intensive venture.

Despite the fact that the sericulture has been going on in Kenya for more than 45 years, there has been several challenges that has crippled the success of sericulture. The major bottleneck is the lack of domestic demand for the finished products due to unclear goals in quality and minimal product awareness, lack of well established government policies and lack of capacity and insufficient technical skills on mulberry and silkworm rearing.

Mulberries grows very fast when young, but the growth slows down later and rarely exceeds 15 meters. The arrangement of leaves is alternate, simple and often lobed and serrated on the margin. Lobes are mainly found in the juvenile shoots than on mature trees. Mulberry can be established
through stakes or seeds. Yields depend on variety and location. In a quarter of an acre, it is possible
to plant 3556 plants using a spacing of 5 x 2 feet.

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Mulberry Varieties In Kenya

In Kenya, there are four locally adapted varieties, which are:

  • Morus Alba Ex-Embu: this is characterized by short internodes, reddish bark, small size and high drought-resistance.
  • Morus Alba Ex-Thika: this has large light green leaves, long internodes whitish bark and it is fairly drought-resistance.
  • Morus Alba Ex-Limuru: it has small finger-shaped deeply serrated le3aves.it has very thin short internodes. It is a heavy berry producer. It is not recommended for silkworm rearing and is only recommended for berry production.
  • Morus Alba Ex-Ithanga. This has medium heart-shaped and smooth light green leaves. It roots easily and it is fairly drought resistant. It is suitable for both silkworm rearing and berry production.

In sericulture development project, the morus Alba ex-Thika variety is the one used for silkworm rearing.

Soil Type for mulberry farming in Kenya

Mulberry grows well in fertile soils that are flat, deep, well drained, loamy to clayey, and porous with a good moisture holding capacity. The ideal range of soil pH is 6.2 to 6.8.

Land Preparation for mulberry farming in Kenya

  • Remove all vegetation by brush cutting or spraying with a systemic herbicide.
  • Plough the soil to a depth of 30 – 35 cm (1 ft) then primary rotavate the soil.
  • Make cambered beds 6 meters (18 ft) wide.
  • Broadcast the following treatments on top of the soil followed by secondary rotavation.
  • Apply 1000 kg/ha (892 lbs/ac) of hydrated limestone. This is equivalent to twenty 50kg bags
    per hectare.
  • Apply 500 kg/ha (446 lbs/ac) of well-rotted animal manure. This will improve the structure of
    the soil and provide much needed nitrogen which is important for mulberry growth.
  • Apply a granular fertiliser high in phosphorus such as 12-24-12 at a rate of 200 kg/ha (178 lbs/ac).

Planting mulberry in Kenya

Mulberry can be grown from both seeds and cuttings. Mulberry plants grown from seeds will produce a stronger and more developed root system than using stem cuttings. The seeds are however not readily available and their germination rate is very low.
Propagation from seeds is also a costly operation.

Establishment by Cuttings

Use cuttings from mature branches that are more than three months old and cut into 30 – 35 cm (1 ft) long pieces with no less than 3 buds on it.

These may either be planted directly into the ground at a depth of 8-10 cm or may be set in grow
bags with a growing medium of 3 parts manure and 1 part sharp sand. Cuttings should be dipped in a suitable rooting hormone for quicker root development before planting.

Establishment by Seed

Seeds can be sown individually 3 – 4 cm (1.5 in) deep in grow bags filled with growing medium of 3 parts manure and 1 part sharp sand.

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This is placed in a nursery with 50% shade after which it is transplanted out in the field at 2 – 3
months after germination.

Adequate moisture must be available when establishing mulberry plants whether by seeds or cuttings. It is therefore recommended that in the absence of irrigation, planting should be done at the beginning of the rainy season.

Spacing mulberry trees

High density planting of mulberry is recommended for maximum production. This can be achieved by single row and double row planting.

Single Row Planting

Plant cuttings 60 cm (2 ft) within rows and 45 cm (1.5 ft) between rows. This would require approximately 9,600 plants per hectare (4,000 plants/ac).

Double Row Planting

Plant two cuttings in one row using a spacing of 30 cm (1ft) between rows and 60 cm (2 ft) within
rows. Each row should be established 1.5 m apart. This would require approximately 19,200 plants per hectare (8000 plants/ac).

Fertiliser application

Most of the nutrients supplied from fertilisers that are needed by the plant should have already been made available in the soil during land preparation. However further application of fertilisers are needed to replenish the nutrients taken up by the plants especially after harvesting which should be done every 6 – 8 weeks.

After harvesting, apply an NPK fertiliser high in nitrogen example 20-10-10 at a rate of 300 kg/ha
(267 lbs/ac) or 1500 kg/ha (1338 lbs/ac) of well-rotted animal manure and incorporate into the soil this will encourage rapid re-growth of plant foliage for maximum yield. Ensure irrigation is provided when applying fertilisers.

In cases during the dry season where irrigation is limited, a foliar applied fertiliser high in nitrogen
such as liquid litter can be substituted.

Weed Control

A selective post emergent herbicide should be used to control grass weeds. Manual control such as the use of a weed whacker can also be used to control weeds between rows. Organic mulch such as dry grass can be applied on the surface of the soil to control weeds. After a year of growth there would be no need to control weeds since mulberry trees would shade out the emerging weeds.

Pruning:

Pruning is done once a year to a height of 1.5-1.8 m and allowed to grow with a maximum of 8- 10 shoots at the crown. This allows more shoots to grow from the base. In a six months period, the shoots are able to attain the height of 3 ft when three strong shoots are selected. Pruning is done at 1 ft above the ground to create a pruning/harvesting table.

Harvesting

Mulberry plants are ready for harvesting (cutting) at 3 – 4 months after planting, and at intervals of
6 – 8 weeks. Harvest mulberry trees by cutting the branches in an upward direction to prevent stripping of the bark that will cause fungal infections. Cut two thirds of the plant and feed to animals in its fresh state. This will include branches and leaves.

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A brushing cutlass can be used for this type of harvesting.

Mulberry Yield Per Acre

One hectare (2.4 acres) of freshly cut mulberry can yield 30,000 โ€“ 35,000 kg per year this isย  equivalent to 26,000 – 31,000 lbs of foliage (fresh) per acre per year provided that proper management practices are done.

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