How to Start Sukuma Wiki Farming
1 acre of Sukuma wiki can yield between 8,000 – 24,000 kilos of leaf during a growth period of 9 months.”
Now suppose you sell a kilo of Sukuma-wiki at Ksh.30 at the farm gate you earn a gross income of Kenya shillings Ksh.240,000 to Ksh.720,000.
The above yield projections sound Too Good to be True?
They are not.
Just ask Angote.
The daily Nation ran his story of how he earns thousands of shillings from Kale farming.
Here below is his story.
The green leafy sukuma wiki (collard greens) plants stand about half a metre high and sway as the wind blows in Munango village, Vihiga County.
Christopher Angote, the owner of the farm, grows about 30,000 plants on his two acres. He spaces them 30cm from one crop to another and 60cm from one row to another.
A section of the farm hosts various traditional vegetables plants such as black nightshade (managu) and cowpeas (kunde).
“I have tasted the fruits of sukuma wiki and I can say only those who don’t know can despise it as a money-maker. I grow this crop that is widely consumed round-the-year,” says the former teacher, who has partitioned his farm into nine portions.
Angote, who used to teach biology and agriculture at Holy Cross Emalindi Girls Secondary School, is yet to transplant another 20,000 sukuma wiki seedlings of the Southern Georgia variety.
Vendors pick the vegetables packed in 70 and 90kg bags every Tuesdays and Thursdays for sale.
“I sell a sack at between Sh.2,000 and Sh.4,000, depending on the season, to traders who come to pick them from the farm for sale in Luanda, Ilungu, Chavakali, Mbale, Majengo and Kakamega markets.”
He says in a week, he collects between Sh.20,000 and Sh.36,000 from the about nine sacks he harvests.
“Sukuma wiki is profitable because one harvests for up to five months every week as long as you control pests and apply manure. The crop is easy to grow and manage,” offers Angote, who quit teaching to concentrate on farming.
“I start my planting by buying 1kg of seedlings for Sh.2,000. I then prepare the nursery bed by adding manure in the soil, which I do a month before buying the seeds and planting.”
The crop takes a month in the nursery after which he transplants them and top dresses with DAP fertiliser. They mature in another one month.
When you choose the right variety, you have already succeeded by 50%.
So how do you choose the right Kale variety?
First, you have to know the sukuma wiki varieties in Kenya.
And that is pretty easy because:
There are three popular varieties of Sukuma wiki/kale in Kenya.
1. The “A thousand-headed Sukuma wiki variety”
2. Collards Southern Georgia
3. Collards Mfalme F1.
I have grown ALL the three varieties and can state without blinking, “Collards southern Georgia is the best variety for Kenya.
The collards southern variety yields slightly less yield per acre compared to the “A Thousand Headed Variety” and the Mfalme F1 variety.
However, when you consider a combination of other factors of Collards Southern Georgia Sukuma Wiki, it trumps all the other kale varieties.
For example, Collards Southern Georgia variety produces pleasant dark green leaves.
Its leaves are tough yet tender when cooked—which is an important quality when transporting it over long distances.
The kale variety is also resistant to hot weather and it’s an all zone performer, unlike the others.
Should you maintain your farm well, you can harvest cash from this variety for over 1 year!
From that experience of growing the Collards Southern Georgia variety, I strongly recommend it to any prospective or even experienced farmer.
*Use the correct spacing to maximize yield Sukuma wiki/Kale per acre.*
This is where I have a problem with many academia.
They often recommend that you space Sukuma wiki at 60 cm X 60 cm.
The problem of adopting this spacing is that you get a plant population of 11,200 plants for 1 acre.
That plant population is too low to get high yields from Sukuma wiki.
Let me tell you why…
When you transplant Sukuma wiki at that spacing, as the growing season progresses, some plants die.
They may die due to pest attack, rotting, or injury as you do your farming operations.
When that happens you will end up having even wider spacing within the plants.
I know you are asking can I replant the spaces with new kale plants?
You could do it, but it’s not worth it.
The older plants tend to suppress the younger plants to the extent they won’t give any economic advantage.
On the other hand, if you adopt a spacing of 15 cm X 40 cm, you get a plant population of 59,000 plants.
The close spacing has several yields boosting advantages
1. You get more plants per acre than the spacing of 60 cmX60 cm.
2. Should any plants die during the growth period, you will still have an economical plant population left behind—you won’t have big spaces in-between plants.
3. The close spacing helps the plants to form a thick canopy that suppresses weeds and prevents excessive evaporation thus increasing your yield threefold.
*Ensure that Organic matter in your Sukuma wiki farm is high to Increase Your Yield per acre of Sukuma wiki.*
Sukuma wiki loves well drained soil, rich in organic matter.
Proper drainage is absolutely vital because excessive water leads to:
*Yellowing of leaves
*Development of phosphorus deficiencies
*Thriving of the black rot disease that can exterminate a Sukuma wiki farm in days!
Besides increasing your yield per acre of Sukuma wiki, soil rich in high organic matter well-rotted farmyard manure, compost, and other plants vegetative matter, will make your kale tender, sweet when cooked, and resistant to how weather.
You will see the outcome in the way people will be rushing to place orders.
Once they taste your kale, they will never want to go anywhere else.
Sukuma wiki responds well to fertilizers and foliar feeds thus increase yields significantly.
However, the extended use of such fertilizers is detrimental to your kale farm.
Continuous use of fertilizers will make your kale bitter and highly perishable—especially when used in the dry weather.
If possible, use organic matter such as manure and compost in kale production while supplementing them with inorganic fertilizers.
Never make inorganic fertilizers the foundation of your kale production especially in the dry season as that is the recipe for producing bitter kale.
*Never Ever Overharvest Your Sukuma Wiki*
Never overharvest your sukuma wiki if you want your Sukuma wiki to Produce High yields consistently.
Let me explain:
During the dry season, kale is often in short supply.
What is available is usually bitter and tough when cooked.
For that reason, sukuma wiki buyers wander to and fro looking for good sources of sweet kale. These buyers are OFTEN ready to buy GOOD, SWEET Sukuma wiki at Top prices.
Farmers, therefore, are tempted to overharvest their kale farm in a bid to make an extra coin.
Never do that. Don’t do it even if you are offered money.
If you do it, your earnings will be short-lived.
You will over-stress the plants.
The plants are already overstressed due to the heat and drought. When you add overharvesting, the plant will be truly stressed to regenerate new growth faster.
The recommended harvest rate is 3-5 leaves per plant starting with the bigger bottom leaves.
If the plant exhibits luxurious growth, (during the rainy season) you can harvest more than 5 leaves.
When it’s too dry you may have to harvest 3 leaves per plant.
One last precaution about harvesting…
Never harvest the young tender leaves that are near the top.
Start with the mature lower leaves.
If you harvest the young top leaves, you will be harvesting tomorrow’s harvest today while leaving today’s harvest to go to waste.
*Don’t harvest the same portion daily otherwise you will get poor yields of Sukuma wiki.*
If possible, harvest the entire farm once.
After doing that, irrigate it and let it stay for a whole week before you harvest again.
The advantage of doing this is, “You allow the plants time to recover from the stress of harvest.”
If the farm needs weeding, pest control, and other activities, you can do that after you have done the harvesting.
Should you be unable to harvest the whole farm, divide it into blocks.
Harvest each block each day of the week. Once you harvest a block, don’t harvest it again until one week is over.
*Irrigate your kale farm regularly. Sukuma wiki loves a Lot of water*
To maximize your Sukuma wiki yields, ensure that you irrigate your farm regularly. Without regular irrigation, the vegetables will grow slowly and will be bitter.
The yields that I have mentioned at the beginning of this article will be a pipe dream.
The most preferable time to irrigate is in the evening.
Irrigating at this time is advantages as evaporation is lower, thus you save on water.
The best type of irrigation system for Kale is overhead irrigation.
Though it uses a lot of water, overhead irrigation creates a micro-climate for kale during the hot weather.
The good news about it is that Kale will respond in kind by growing luxuriously.
Here is The Secret to Making a Good Return from Kale/sukuma wiki Farming…
Truth be told.
Depending on the weather, prices of agricultural commodities (including sukuma wiki) plummet, or steeply rise.
In Kenya, the price of Sukuma wiki tends to drop in the rainy season, and rise in the dry season.
The secret therefore, for profiting from Sukuma wiki is targeting dry weather when it is in short supply.
There are times when the price of kale UNBELIEVABLY skyrockets to Ksh.2,000 shillings or more for a 50 kilo bag.
Can you imagine what sukuma wiki farmers earn during those times?
You have the answer!
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