Comprehensive Guide to Onion Farming in Kenya with Expert Tips from Onion Doctor

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Onion Farming in Kenya: Types and Ideal Locations The major types of onions farmed in Kenya are bulb onions and spring onions. The best areas suited for farming include Karatina, Oloitoktok, Naivasha, Kieni, Emali, and Mai Mahiu. Bulb onions take 3 to 4 months to reach maturity. Short rains are great for bulb onions since they can be harvested between January and February. Local farmers benefit during this time as there is low supply of onions from Tanzania. After the long rains of March, the price of these onions hikes, and farmers who harvest after this period make good profit margins. Spring onions are easy to plant and can even be grown in your kitchen garden. They are commonly used in vegetable salads or as seasoning in soups. Health benefits of spring onions include lowering blood sugar and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Of the two types, bulb onions are more popular due to their long shelf life and sweet taste. Currently, there are two different varieties of bulb onions in the market: the small, thin, firmly layered onion with a strong pungent smell from Tanzania and the big, loosely held variety grown locally in Kenya.

Conditions for Onion Farming Onions perform well in well-drained, fertile, sandy loam, non-compacted soils with an ideal pH of 5.8 to 6.8. Onion farming is a worthy venture as it’s possible to grow onions throughout the year via irrigation. Soil testing with accredited laboratories is advised. Ideal temperatures for onions are between 13 – 35 degrees centigrade, allowing them to grow in most parts of Kenya. To maximize production in hot areas such as Ukambani and the Coastal region, one needs to invest in a greenhouse and drip irrigation. Greenhouses optimize temperatures, and irrigation provides the much-needed water. Onions are a cool-season crop. In terms of requirements, apart from land, other essentials include DAP fertilizer and seedlings. 1 kg of seedlings can be used per acre, while 20 grams of DAP fertilizer is applied per square meter. Different seed varieties perform differently under various conditions. Common hybrid varieties in Kenya include Red Coach F1 and Malbec F1. The most popular seed variety is Red Coach F1 due to its high yield and ideal size and color for the Kenyan markets. Onion Doctor provides quality seedlings, soil testing, and farm planning services to help optimize your farming conditions.

Challenges in Onion Farming in Kenya Rains or Excess Watering: Too much rain or excess watering can waterlog the crop. If the rain in your area is too much, focus on growing the crop during the short rains. Raise the beds to ensure water flows out of the field. Avoid excessive watering of your onions. The best type of irrigation is drip irrigation. Overhead irrigation should be avoided as it causes fungal diseases.

Diseases: Common diseases affecting onions include Downy Mildew, Bacterial Soft Rots, Pink/White Root, Botrytis, and Rusts. Use the best fungicides to manage these diseases. Onion Doctor offers agronomic support to help manage and prevent diseases effectively.

Pests: Common pests attacking onions include maggots, thrips, nematodes, and the leaf miner. Use pesticides from accredited brands to manage these pests. Onion Doctor provides pest control solutions to protect your crops.

Weeds: Weeds are a significant challenge in onion farms. Use Commander 240EC 10-14 days after transplanting your onions to eliminate weeds (grass and broadleaves) until harvesting. Regular weeding ensures your onions get the nutrients and space they need to grow.

Harvesting Onions The best time to harvest is during the dry season. Keep a calendar and record essential dates to ensure timely harvesting. Bulb onions are ready for harvesting once they form a shiny membranous cover around the bulbs or when the foliage withers. Spring onions are ready when they are 15 centimeters tall and 1.5 centimeters thick. Harvest by pulling the bulbs and then chopping off the leaves. Dry the bulbs in the sun before storing them.

Onion Doctor supports smallholder farmers across Africa with quality and affordable onion and garlic seedlings, farm planning services, soil testing, drip irrigation installation and maintenance, agronomic support, value packs, farm management, e-extension, and on-farm training. These services help farmers optimize yields and achieve maximum profits.