Mastering Onion Farming in Kenya: Expert Insights from Onion Doctor

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An Expert Guide to Onion Farming in Kenya by Onion Doctor There are two main types of onions grown in Kenya: bulb onions and spring onions. The best-suited areas to grow onions include Nyeri, Nakuru, Narok, Maimahiu, Kieni, and Nyandarua.

Bulb Onions: Maturity: Bulb onions take 3 to 4 months to reach maturity. Harvest Time: Short rains are ideal for bulb onions as they can be harvested between January and February. During this period, local farmers benefit due to the low supply of onions from Tanzania. After the long rains of March, the prices of these onions increase, providing farmers who harvest after this period with good profit margins.

Spring Onions: Ease of Planting: Spring onions are easy to plant and can even be grown in a kitchen garden. Uses: Commonly used in vegetable salads or as seasoning in soups. Health Benefits: Include lowering blood sugar and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Varieties of Bulb Onions: Imported Variety: Small, thin, and firmly layered onions with a strong pungent smell from Tanzania. Local Variety: Big, loosely held onions grown locally in Kenya.

Challenges Facing Onion Farming in Kenya: Rains or Excess Watering: Impact: Too much rain or excess watering can waterlog the crop. Solution: Focus on growing during the short rains, raise beds for better drainage, and avoid excessive watering. Drip irrigation is the best method for onions, while overhead irrigation should be avoided as it causes fungal diseases.

Diseases: Common diseases include Downy Mildew, Bacterial Soft Rots, Pink/White Root, Botrytis, and Rusts. Control: Use herbicides to manage these diseases.

Pests: Common pests include maggots, thrips, nematodes, and the leaf miner. Control: Use pesticides from accredited brands.

Weeds: Impact: Weeds compete for nutrients, light, and space and can harbor pests and diseases. Control: Remove weeds physically or use herbicides. Conduct 2-3 weeding sessions per season.

Conditions for Onion Farming: Soil: Well-drained, fertile, sandy loam, non-compacted soils with a pH of 5.8 to 6.8. Climate: Ideal temperatures range between 13 – 35 degrees centigrade, making most parts of Kenya suitable. In hotter regions like Ukambani and some coastal areas, investing in a greenhouse and drip irrigation is necessary.

Planting Onions from Seeds: Nursery Bed Preparation: Make a raised nursery bed 1m wide and of any desired length. Apply well-decomposed manure at 15kg per square meter and mix with DAP fertilizer at 20 grams per square meter. Make shallow furrows 15cm apart, mix the seeds with dry ash, sand, or soil at a ratio of 1:3, plant the seeds, cover lightly with soil, and apply mulch. After planting, irrigate liberally for the first 10 days and continue watering regularly.

Transplanting: Transplant seedlings 6 weeks after planting when they have a pencil-thick base, a height of approximately 15cm, and 3-5 well-formed leaves. Two weeks before transplanting, reduce shade to improve seedling survival in the field.

Harvesting Onions: Timing: The best time for harvesting is during the dry season. Record essential dates to ensure timely harvesting. Bulb Onions: Ready for harvesting once they form a shiny membranous cover around the bulbs or when the foliage withers. Spring Onions: Ready for harvesting when they are 15 centimeters tall and 1.5 centimeters thick. Process: Harvest by pulling the bulbs, chopping off the leaves, and drying the bulbs in the sun before storing.

Onion Doctor: Supporting smallholder farmers across Africa with quality and affordable Onion and Garlic seedlings, farm planning services, soil testing, drip irrigation installation and maintenance, agronomic support, Onion and Garlic value pack, farm management, e-extension, and on-farm training to optimize yields and achieve maximum profits.