Avocado Farming in Kenya is one of the most demanded products for local and export markets. Such is the success of the avocado market in Kenya that it has become known as green gold due to its high price, which has reached record figures in recent years.
This increase has also been associated with a series of drawbacks since the avocado crop requires large water for its optimal development.
In areas where the level of rainfall does not meet the plant’s water requirements, it should be subjected to very abundant irrigation systems, thus putting the natural water sources at risk, mainly in those places with minimal resources.
Avocado Farming in Kenya – General characteristics
Although the taxonomic classification of avocado has been discussed for an extended period of time since different species came to be differentiated.
It is a kind of arboreal bearing, which can reach 20 meters in height, although it generally remains between 8 and 12 meters.
In commercial plantations, the tendency is not to let them grow above 5 meters, thus facilitating the different tasks to be carried out, such as harvesting, pruning, and pest and disease control.
Avocado flowers are hermaphroditic. They present dichogamy: meaning, the female and male organs are on the same flower.
To avoid self-fertilization, You need to mix two types of avocado trees in the same field. These two types(type A and type B) will then flower at different times of the year. Hence encouraging cross-pollination, which in turn leads to high yields as compared to self-pollination.
Bees are considered the primary pollinators of the avocado flowers, hence needing beehives in your orchard.
Avocado Varieties in Kenya
There are over 40 varieties of avocado trees countrywide. However, the main preferred avocado fruits for processing and export are the Fuerte and Hass variety.
Other types used commercially include;
- Booth 8
- G6 & G7
Avocado Growing Conditions in Kenya
The avocado is a highly heliophilous crop, which means that it needs full exposure to sunlight to ensure high fruit-bearing production levels.
Although this factor is vital, temperatures should not be, in any case, above 36ºC since, from that point, the damage can be considerable, especially in fertilization and fruit set.
A rainfall amount of 1000 to 2500 millimetres is also required, adequately distributed throughout the year. Thus you need a system of irrigation in case there is no enough rainfall in your region.
Prolonged drought causes leaf drop, lowering the photosynthetic rate and reducing yield. Despite this, prolonged waterlogging can also have serious consequences.
The avocado tree is a species susceptible to the wind, which causes significant damage, leading to falling branches, flowers, and fruits and friction injuries between fruits and stems. Therefore, you must protect the farm, or if not, the provision of windbreaks is essential.
The most optimal soils for avocado farming in Kenya are deep with good drainage and adequate moisture retention capacity—avoiding soils that support the accumulation of water in the root zone.
This means that the avocado tree can adapt to a wide range of soils of PH 5.5-6.5. Even so, those with a medium texture, such as sandy loam, among others, are preferable.
The soil’s drainage capacity is related to its structure and organic matter content, ensuring porosity or the adequate proportions of oxygen and water.
Since it is necessary to avoid continuous puddling of the soil, the most recommended irrigation system is drip irrigation, allowing water savings more efficiently.
Drip irrigation also decreases the appearance of adventitious species such as weeds by being localized flooding.
Avocado Farming in Kenya: Avocado Seedlings Planting
Once the type of irrigation has been decided, the planting framework must be designed. This is a determining point since it will significantly influence the correct development of the trees.
Avocado spacing requirement
In Kenya, the traditional plantation framework is 8 x 10 meters, 9 x9 meters, and 10 x 10 meters.
This amplitude is because a central axis from which the ramifications start is not maintained. Instead, employing pruning, they maintain different lateral axes, which are made to grow horizontally, making it necessary for a great distance between the other trees.
However, in more intensive crops, distances can be reduced to 6 x 4 meters and can be reduced to 5 x 2 meters without compromising production levels.
How to plant the avocado tree seedlings
you should do a soil analysis to determine the type and rate of fertilizer to be applied before any recommendation is given.
Nitrogen is the essential nutrient in avocado farming in Kenya. However, the quantity of manure and fertilizer application to be used is dependent on soil fertility and the age of the seedlings.
To plant the tree seedlings, remove the plant from the plastic wrappings or container and place it firmly at the centre of the hole.
Cover the crop lightly, leaving a basin-like hole with a mixture of farmyard manure, 120g of Double Superphosphate (46% P2O5), and topsoil. In this way, there will be more water available to the plant if there is low rainfall.
Remember to plant the seedling with the same depth as it was in the nursery and
water the plant immediately after planting. In hot areas, provide some form of shade to the seedlings after transplanting.
Mulching and Weeding
Do not use herbicides or any other form of weed control on an avocado orchard. For efficient moisture retention, the recommended mulch used in the farm is dry leaves or grass.
You can also intercrop in the orchard using peas, beans, cabbage, and males during the first 3-5 plants.
Avocado Farming in Kenya – Pruning
Pruning is carried out with two main objectives, which are the maintenance of harmonious and well-balanced development of the crown, which ensures a uniform incidence of sunlight in all parts; and the guarantee of a balance between the production levels and the correct development of the rest of the tree, as well as concerning the quality of the fruits.
A classification can be made between pruning, formation pruning, production pruning, and rejuvenation pruning in this crop.
The pruning of formation is the one that is carried out in the first phases of growth, determining the form that you want the tree to maintain; that is, it helps to define its final structure.
The one of production looks to obtain an improvement. On the production levels, its name indicates that eliminating old branches, damaged or not being productive enough, favouring that younger ones replace them.
Finally, the rejuvenation pruning in which most of the tree is trimmed, either due to most of the structures’ involvement due to some pathology of ageing.
It is not advisable to drastically carry it out, as this could cause stress to the avocado tree.
Different avocado varieties have different harvesting seasons. For example, the Hass avocado season in Kenya starts from June’s months and runs through to the mid-month of September.
Whereas Fuerte seasons start a little earlier in March or April and take roughly three months to mature and then start bearing fruits, the first harvest peaks occur during July to August.
Avocado Farming in Kenya: Harvest and Marketing
In Kenya, the avocado fruit is usually harvested between April and September.
Most of the avocado fruit varieties in Kenya do not change the colour of their skin on maturity. So you need to do a test with some samples by picking up a few fruits and then storing them at room temperature to determine their ripeness.
After a period of 7- 10 days, check to see if they have softened without shrinking to know if they are now ready for harvesting.
Avocado Harvesting, treatment, packaging, and storage
- Avocados are harvested from the trees by cutting while leaving a 3cm stalk.
- Treat the avocado fruits by immersing them in heated water of 50°C for 3-5 minutes. Optionally, you can use commercial treatment fungicides such as Sporta K. Brochlura z and Bavistin (Carbendazim).
- Next, sort and grade the avocado fruits according to weight, size, and skin texture.
- Finally, dry and store the fruits at an optimum temperature of five degrees celsius (5°C). However, for the Hass and Fuerte varieties, storage is done after five hours of harvesting.
Avocado Farming in Kenya: Marketing
To be successful in marketing, you need to develop high labelling and packaging methods that suit your need.
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