Kakamega County played host to the western Kenya Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show last week.
The event attracted hundreds of farmers, researchers, exhibitors, innovators and ordinary show-goers, both young and old.
Among the things that stood out at the three-day event were new varieties of seeds, fertilisers, agrochemicals, artificial insemination services and farm machineries.
A team from Seeds of Gold attended the event and unveils some of the innovations and varieties of common crop seeds that were on show to help increase your production.
The various varieties of crop seeds showcased at the event were suited for western farmers. The region has three macroclimatic zones, namely the highlands, medium altitude and low lands. Matthew Mwarei, a researcher at Kenya Seed Company, said maize varieties such as DH04 and PH04 would do very well in the western lowlands such as Busia.
“Middle attitudes will work well with hybrid 513, 516, 517 and 522. For the highlands such as Trans Nzoia, the slopes of Mt Elgon, Bungoma, parts of Kakamega, Kericho, Nyamira and Kisii, Hybrid 624 does well,” said Mwarei.
Moses Wepukhulu, western region manager of Seed Co. Ltd, said their Duma 43 maize variety thrives in lowlands.
Sungura 301, an early maturing variety, also does well in western, said Wepukhulu. Frankline Biwott, a technical salesperson at Monsanto Kenya Ltd, advised farmers to plant Dekalb maize variety (DK).
“DK 90-89 works well for farmers in Kakamega and Bungoma. It is a medium maturing hybrid (four months) and is also good for silage making,” said Biwott.
But even as they embrace hybrid seeds, the experts said farmers have to guard against pest and diseases and embrace good agronomic practices.
Currently, the fall armyworm is the biggest threat to production of maize. Mwarei noted most farmers have not understood the biology of fall armyworm. “You need to scout the field early to see any traces of pests. Preventive measures include spraying to minimise the impact of the fall armyworm,” he said.
When spraying, farmers should ensure that the spray goes down to the funnel of the plant. He continued: “Alternate the chemicals with different actions. If one is an insect regulator, it can control the eggs and the other can control the adults. Most farmers face a challenge in striking a balance when trying to control the eggs, larvae and adult stages of the armyworm.”
To defeat striga weed, which is common in western Kenya, Mwarei said farmers should plant Hybrid 528, which is coated with a herbicide that curbs the weed.
With limited land available, farmers were urged to embrace climbing beans, which offer higher yields compared to field beans.
Traditional field beans give farmers eight to 10 bags per acre while the climbing beans have the potential to yield 15 bags, Wepukhulu said.
With climbing beans, farmers will need 10kg of climbing seeds per acre while with the field one, one uses up to 30kg. Three varieties of beans do well in Kenya, namely Kenya Mavuno, Kenya Safi and Kenya Tamu.
Apart from the irrigated rice, which is common in the paddy areas of Bunyala, Busia, and Kano in Kisumu, farmers can plant the Nerica rice variety.
Varieties such as Nerica 1, Nerica 4, Nerica 10 and Nerica 11 do well in the region. These varieties are being planted in upland or medium altitude areas, but one doesn’t have to use water for irrigation.
Mobile tree seedlings kiosk
Most growers of tree seedlings have fixed locations where buyers go to whenever they need plants. In most towns, seedling sellers have established their nurseries along major roads and city bypasses. But how about the seedling sellers going to the buyers’ homes or farms?
This is the idea behind a mobile tree seedlings kiosk developed by a student from the Sigalagala National Polytechnic.
The machine, which resembles a trolley, is made of metal and has three decks where one can place dozens of seedlings growing in nylon pots.
The roof consists of a black net, which protects the seedlings from extreme temperatures. It also has a small water tank from which a pipe is connected to supply water to the seedlings.
The floor of each deck is perforated to allow excess water to drip to the ground. The tree seedling kiosk is fitted with four wheels for mobility.
Gloria Kendi, who is studying Finance and Accounting at diploma level, is the brain behind the kiosk. The first-year student said her aim is to make seedlings farmers reach more people.
“Often, I see people selling tree, flower or fruit seedlings along the roads. Rather than having the seedlings in one place, why not move them around?” said Kendi, noting that she is working on having the machine peddled or pulled by a motorbike or even car.
With the mobile tree seedling kiosk, she hopes tree seedlings sellers can reach more people and boost the country’s forest cover.
Jackton Amahati displayed an automatic solar water pump, which farmers can use to irrigate their farms in a cost-effective way.
“Once the solar energy is tapped by the solar panel, it is stored in a battery and powers an electronic chip called ‘ardunio’, which is a single-board micro-controller kit that links all the gadgets attached to the machine,” he said.
These include a moisture sensor that detects the moisture content of the soil. If the soil is dry, the sensor picks signals and sends to the ‘ardunio’.
This will then trigger the pump water from a tank or borehole to irrigate the farm. Amahati said the need to promote irrigation agriculture made him come up with the machine.
Elvis Muoma, a mechanical engineering student at Sigalagala polytechnic, showcased a “solar pendulum irrigation pump”.
The machine is mechanical or solar-powered. The solar energy, tapped in a panel placed at the top of the machine, is stored in a battery.
“Once you switch it on, it automatically pumps water stored in a reservoir to the farm through pipes. To use the mechanical system, one must turn the crank handle four times to draw water from the reservoir,” he said. Mouma said the solar pendulum irrigation pump can water a quarter-acre in a few minutes.
Improved solar grain dryer
The solar dryer is an innovation developed by Edwin Wairimu, a student pursuing a Diploma in Applied Science at Sigalagala Polytechnic.
The dryer has an air inlet, a solar collector, drying chamber fitted with three trays and a chimney. The inlet allows air to flow through the solar energy collector, explained Wairimu.
“Air is drawn into the dryer through natural convection process. It is then heated as it passes through the collector and then partially cooled as it interacts with moisture from the grains.” Inside the drying chamber, there are three wire mesh traps where grains are placed.
The wire mesh allows free flow of hot air which hastens the drying of grains. The dryer is fitted with solar panels on both sides, with the energy tapped stored in a battery, said Wairimu.
He added that the heatwave generated and stored in the solar battery helps in drying the grain in the absence of sunlight.
At the top of the dryer, there is a chimney, which acts as the outlet. “The grain dries faster depending on the moisture content but generally, the process should take about six hours. It has the capacity to dry up to 20kg of grains at once,” said Wairimu.
The dryer protects grains from flies, dust, pest and rain, the main causes of post-harvest losses.
Besides grains like sorghum, maize and beans, the machine can also dry vegetables and meat, prolonging the shelf-life.
At the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation stand, one of the machines that stood out was a dairy feed maker.
Dubbed the Total Mixed Ratio (TMR) compactor, the machine compresses fodder grass like Boma Rhodes, lucerne and brachiaria with other ingredients to make a quality feed named TMR feed block for your animal.
It can help a smallholder farmer to save huge cash. The baled feed can also be sold. Ludovicus Okitoi, who came up with the machine, says it can work manually or use electricity.
The fodder is harvested, dried and then cut into small pieces. It is then mixed with molasses and salt. Thereafter, the feed is put in the machine and compacted.
The TMR block not only offers an animal quality feed but also enables a farmer have feeds in the long-term.