Amiran launches tomato variety resistant to bacterial wilt.

KAMUNDIA MURIITHI

Agro inputs company Amiran Kenya has introduced a new hybrid tomato variety that is resistant to bacterial wilt. Plant habit: the variety is bacterial wilt tolerant for open field production, it is a strong strong vigorous plant with very good foliage coverage, and is suitable for growth during the dry and rainy sea­sons.

Maturity; it has a characteristic of early to medium maturity and it takes 75·80 days from transplanting to harvesting depending on the prevailing weather conditions

Production/yield: it has a concentrated flowering and food fruit set with six to seven fruits per cluster and it can be har­vested up to 10 weeks with production of 25 to 30 tonnes per acre under good agronomic practices

Fruit: it is oval shape, non-green shoul­ders, smooth with average fruit weight of 110 to 130grammes. It has a very firm excellent shelf life and long transporta­tion. Disease resistance; it is very tolerant to bacterial wilt and has intermediate resistance to TYLCV, ToMCV. Fusarium wilt race1 and 2.

Speaking during a field day at Elijah Gitari's farm in Kang'aru area of Kirinyaga County Amiran Kenya officials recommended that the optimum Zara Fl tomato variety that farmers plant in an acre should be 10,000 seedlings.

Douglas Munyao, an agronomist from Amiran Kenya, said 20g of Zara F1 has 10,000 seeds that would be adequate for an acre. He advised that 30g would be best to provide extra seeds to take care of those that get damaged during transportation.

Munyao further urged farmers to practice crop rotation as a way of preventing pests and diseases. Zara Fl variety tomato is available in stockists and costs as follows: 5g (Shl,500), 10g (Sh3,000), 25g (Sh7,000), 50g (Sh14,000).

Amiran Kenya officials train farmers in Kirinyaga on successful tomato growing. The company has introduced a tomato variety that is resistant to bacterial wilt, known as ZARA F1. (Caption)Attach a better photo above it.

 

How to become a millionaire tomato farmer – Gitari

 

KAMUNDIA MURIITHI

Gurded about his achievements, Elijah Gitari Njaria introduces himself as a junior employee of the Kirinyaga County Government, but a visit to his farm gives a totally different picture.

His seven acre farm has plots of healthy tomatoes at different maturity levels; those just a week old after transplanting; the blossoming tomatoes; and the mature ones just about to ripen.

A few sections of maize, thorn melon and vegetables rotating between the tomatoes as a cultural method of managing pests and diseases enhances the beauty of the farm gripping the attention of visitors.

Gitari is one of the most successful tomato farmers in the region raking in profit of millions of shillings every year.

He is also well versed on farming matters and people come from far and wide to learn from him.

Recently, Amiran Kenya, an agro inputs company held a field day at his farm in Kang'aru area of Kirinvaga County where local farmers and those from other counties visited to tap from his practical experience,as well as learn from agronomists from Amiran Kenya on best farming practices.

His seven acre farm has plots of healthy tomatoes at different maturity levels; those just a week old after transplanting; the blossoming tomatoes; and the mature ones just about to ripen.

A few sections of maize, thorn melon and vegetables rotating between the tomatoes as a cultural method of managing pests and diseases enhances the beauty of the farm gripping the attention of visitors.

Gitari is one of the most successful tomato farmers in the region raking in profit of millions of shillings every year. He is also well versed on farming matters and people come from far and wide to learn from him.

His seven acre farm has plots of healthy tomatoes at different maturity levels; those just a week old after transplanting; the blossoming tomatoes; and the mature ones just about to ripen.

A few sections of maize, thorn melon and vegetables rotating between the tomatoes as a cul­tural method of managing pests and diseases enhances the beauty of the farm gripping the attention of visitors.

Gitari is one of the most successful tomato farmers in the region raking in profit of millions of shillings every year.

He is also well versed on farm­ing matters and people come from far and wide to learn from him.

His seven acre farm has plots of healthy tomatoes at different maturity levels; those just a week old after transplanting; the blos­soming tomatoes; and the mature ones just about to ripen.

Gitari works as a veterinary officer in the county government but his decision to try farming as a side venture in the 1990s is one that he relishes and would encourage many to try. He is nearing retirement from government work when he clocks 60 in a few years' time, but that is none of his worries as that will give him an opportunity to tend his tomatoes more intimately.

"As a young man I didn't like agriculture and just tried farming so that the land would not lie idle. But gradually I liked it after making tidy sums from small-scale growing of tomatoes," he shares. This would awaken his mind to the huge potential that lay in farming and he decided to fully dive into it. ''When I glance back to those days, I am happy that I ventured into serious farming. During peak times, from just a single sale of tomatoes I make money equivalent or more than my monthly salary," he says. He continues to say that he has put his children through university without financial upheavals from the proceeds of tomato farming.   

Locals refer to him as daktari (vet) since he is  always moving about treating their animals, but his knowledge transcends even to crop farming where just like the way physicians constantly research on new trends on treatment, Gitari keeps abreast on tomato farming.

Consequently, he was among the first farmers in the county to try cultivation of the hybrid ZaraFl tomato vriety that is billed as early maturing, more productive and disease resistant. "I planted two blocks of Zara Fl variety and the ordinary tomatoes in another block. I have noticed that the new variety did not wilt while the ordinary variety wilted by almost 90 percent," he told farmers as he took them on a tour of his farm.

This forced him to clear the wilted tomato, re-plough and plant another crop; losses he reckons he would have steered clear of had he embraced the new variety in entirety.

Gitari and agronomists at the field day concurred that wilting is a major challenge in tomato farming that occurs after a farmer has already spent a lot of money, time and labour on the crop.

From an acre of a thriving crop, Gitari harvests about 300 crates (the wooden box of 60kgs).

Marketing is not a challenge since demand for tomatoes is always high throughout the year. If he has crop when price is high at Sh,5000 to Sh6,000, he earns about Shl.5 million from an acre. The production cost of a well-tended acre of tomato is about Sh150,000. But there are times when prices fluctuate to lows of Shl,000 per crate when a farmer struggles to meet cost of production. "I try to maximise my profit by having a crop ready for the market throughout the year.

Seasons of high prices are more frequent that those of low prices," he advises. Gitari sees no benefit in timing the crop by planting way before the rains hoping to get good prices before that of farmers who depend on rain matures. He argues that nowadays every other farmer is timing and the crop flood the market the same time fetching bottom prices. He also does not see the need of transporting his harvest to Nairobi where he will make just an extra Shl,000 per crate but incur transport and other logistical expenses.  

Gitari who employs between 15 and 25 workers every day at between Sh300 and Sh400 considers labour an expensive component in tomato farming.

How Gitari tends his tomatoes? The farmer takes his soil for testing to determine its deficiencies and the nutritional elements to add. He plants the tomato in a nursery where he keeps off pests and diseases, especially fungal ones, - by spraying as required. He also waters regularly.

He carefully transplants them after 21 to 30 days observing the recommended spacing of 60X100cm. He applies top dressing fertiliser.At the farm he constantly checks the crop to ensure it is watered, fertiliser applied, sprayed, pruned, staked and weeded as required.''Where you are unsure, always consult experts," he advises.

During the field day, Amiran Kenya agronomists called on farmers to use hybrid seeds variety saying their yield is double that of ordinary tomato varieties.They said hybrid seeds though high in cost they are tolerant to pests and diseases, and climate change hence the higher yields.They cautioned farmers against seed saving (the practice of extracting seeds from overripe tomatoes, drying and replanting them later) saying the resultant plants give lower yields.

Diana Orinda, an agronomist with Amiran, stressed on the need for farmers to practice integrated pest management that entails among other things use of traps to manage fruit flies, thrips and other pests."This ensures that a famer does not apply too much chemicals on their crops which would be harmful to health. Use of traps is also cheaper,'' he said.