Potato Farming

The most favorable climatic conditions are in areas with an annual rainfall of between 850 mm and 1,200 mm, and altitudes of between 1,500m and 2 800m above sea level, and cool to moderate temperatures. The counties in Kenya which are best suited are Bomet, Bungoma, Elgeiyo-Marakwet, Kiambu, Meru, Nakuru, Narok, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Taita-Taveta, Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, and West Pokot.

Some of the seed varieties available are: Kenya Mavuno, Rudolph, Shangi, Sherekea, and Tigoni. Others include Ambition, Arizona, Arnova, Kenya Karibu, Dutch Robin among others. Varieties are best selected for the market (chips, open market, etc) and disease resistance.  It is recommended to plant certified seeds from official sources e.g. Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), to prevent diseases such as bacterial wilt and early blight.

PLANTING

Prepare the land where the potatoes are to be planted. Add compost manure and or fertilizer as advised (see below). Potatoes are commonly grown in hilled rows. This involves digging shallow trenches 70–95 cm apart. Space the potato seeds 30 cm apart. Before covering, mix 40ml AFRIKELP and 20ml RODAZIM in 20 Litres water and apply to the tubers in the trench. Cover with 7.5 cm of soil.

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When the plants reach about 25 cm in height, mound the soil up around the stems of the plants so that they are covered up to about half of their height. This protects shallow tubers from turning green from exposure to sunlight. Allow the plants to grow another 25 cm and again mound the soil. Add another spray of AFRIKELP 40ml/20ltr immediately after emergence. This will ensure strong root growth.

FEEDING

In order to ensure maximum yields, make sure the crop is well fed from early on. Soil testing in a good laboratory will enable you to make the best decision on fertilizer application. Use of plant or animal compost manure is recommended, but it should be well matured and free from weed seeds and other pests/diseases. Ideally, it should be applied when dry, and at least a week before planting. Generally, you can start with a Phosphorus fertilizer (DAP, 150kg/Acre) during planting. Remember to apply AFRIKELP 40ml/20ltr plus RODAZIM 20ml/20Ltr also during planting, to ensure strong root development, and protection against disease.

Using HARMONY at 25-40ml/20ltr from week 2 will guarantee strong foliar growth in any conditions. You can continue application every two weeks up to 4-6 applications in total. (If the soil condition is rather poor, or if there are more stressful conditions like too much rain, or heavy pest/ disease pressure, increase the dose up to 60ml/20ltrs). This will increase your yields significantly while enhancing your soil fertility. There is generally no further need for topdressing with granular fertilizer, if this is done.

PEST CONTROL:

If you have used manure, it is recommended to drench the plants with IMAXI mixed at 15 ml per 20ltrs water to protect against wireworms and grubs.

Crop rotation and mulching are important in preventing build-up of pest populations such as Flea beetle as well as soil borne diseases. Potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, and cabbages should not follow in a rotation. These should be alternated with maize, beans, peas, spinach, or carrots.

Spray JACKPOT at 12.5 ml/20ltrs water, repeated after 3 days to control aphids. These are serious pests as they can transmit viral disease. For control of whiteflies, alternate ALPHASIN and IMAXI, and ensure the block is free from bushy foliage around the perimeter. Ring Spraying is good practice. Spray around the edges first, before spraying in the center. This denies the insects a hiding place during spraying.

Tuta Absoluta is a serious pest which can totally destroy your crop within one week. Whenever your crop has been attacked, spray immediately with ROMECTIN 10ml and IMAXI 12.5ml in 20ltrs water.

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DISEASE CONTROL:

Fusarium wilt, Early Blight, Late Blight and Bacterial Wilt are the most serious diseases in potatoes. Practice good Crop rotation for effective long term control.

For potato varieties that are less resistant (Shangi), ensure an early spray of RODAZIM 12.5ml/20ltrs one week after emergence. To add more protection, follow this with a spray of STAGE at 10-15ml/20Ltr and repeat after 1 week. This will protect the crop from fungal infections later. Add 30ml/20ltr HARMONY to every spray of RODAZIM and STAGE. This will increase the effectiveness of the fungicide, while increasing the plants resistance to stress.

WEEDING:

Avoid weeding by hand hoe, as this tends to damage the roots, thus increasing risk of disease infection. Use 35ml/20ltr AMBAR just after planting, or later when shoots are 4-6cms high, aiming between the rows. This will remove all broad leafed weeds effectively, while saving you much money in labor cost.

HARVESTING AND STORAGE;

Potato are ready for harvesting approximately 4 weeks after flowering. Observe the vines for signs of senescence (drying out). Some farmers cut back the stems to encourage hardening, for a period of 3 or 4 weeks.

Use a fork jembe when harvesting to prevent excessive damage to tubers.

Store the tubers in cool, dry conditions, away from direct sunlight for maximum shelf-life.

PEST AND DISEASE TABLE

DiseaseImageSymptomControl
Late Blight

Necrotic spots on leaves, stems, leading to total scorch of foliage. Occurs during cool, wet periods.Plant tolerant varieties.
 
Drench with RODAZIM during transplanting.

Foliar application of STAGE from 1st week and interval of 2,3 weeks depending on weather
Early BlightCircular Spots with necrotic halos, leading to leaf drop. Generally poor condition of plant.Plant tolerant varieties.
 
Drench with RODAZIM during planting
 
Foliar application of STAGE from 1st week and interval of 2,3 weeks depending on weather
Fusarium Wilt

Browning and rotting of xylems (just under the outer tissue).

Yellowing of leaves on one side, leading to total wilting.
Practice drop rotation.

Drench with RODAZIM during planting.

Foliar spray, RODAZIM, STAGE upon any signof attack.

Apply AFRIKELP to bolster tolerance and reduce stress.
Bacterial Wilt

Spots on leaves accompanied by yellowing, starting from edge of leaf towards the center.

Presence of mucus-like emission from cut stem.

Generalized wilting while green.
Practice crop rotation. Remove diseased plants and destroy.

Drench with RODAZIM before planting. Control nematodes and soil insects.
MildewWhitish powdery deposits on leaves.

Stunted growth.

Common during warm dry periods.
Irrigate using sprinklers where possible.
 
Apply a metalaxyl based fungicide  at weekly interval.
InsectImageSymptomControl
Spider MiteSpotty discoloration of leaves, webbing on underside of leaves. Stunted deformed leaves. Common during warm periods.Apply ROMECTIN at first sign of attack.

Tuta Absoluta

Irregularly shaped spots on leaves.
 
Look for signs of the adult, small 0.5cm elongated low flying, brown moths.
Apply ROMECTIN / IMAXI mixed at the first sign of attack, repeat after 3 days.
White FlyFound in large numbers on underside of leaves.
Causes poor plant condition due to intense sucking.

Flies produce whitish honeydew (sukari), which turns mouldy and black.
Apply IMAXI followed by ALPHASIN on 3 day intervals.

Apply to underside of leaves using a round nozzle.

Remove vegetation around edge of samba.

Apply ring spraying.
Wireworms

Check for adult Click Beetle in the soil.

Damaged tubers often rotted, can be confused with bacterial wilt.
Drench with IMAXI 20ml/20ltrs during planting.