• Yams need fertile clay soil which should be cultivated well for it to be loose. I normally dig a hole of about 2ft by 2ft and covers the seed loosely with soil.
• Earthing up involves covering the crop that if exposed to the sun can be destroyed while thinning is performed only when the crops grow too close
• All that yams need for good harvest is quality care. One should apply potassium fertilizer to help in growth of the tubers.
• Anthrancose is an infectious disease caused by fungus, which devastates the crop. Most fungal diseases affecting yam crops interfere with blackheads on the nerves of the leaves.
Kiltal village in Karachuonyo, Homa Bay County, is currently dusty, with many farms hosting dry plants. But amidst the desolation are few farms that are greener with various crops flourishing, thanks to irrigation.
Nicholas Akoko’s four-acre-farm is among those where plants are blooming. Akoko grows yams, a venture he started with Sh15,000 capital, after quitting his accounting job at a plastic making company in Nairobi seven years ago.
“I used the money I had saved to buy rhizomes from farmers, to clear and cultivate two acres that I started with, which I leased for Sh22,000 for a year,” says Akoko, noting he had seen huge market for yams in urban areas.
Following advice from extension officers, the farmer cut the yam seeds into pieces before planting.
“Yams need fertile clay soil which should be ploughed well for it to be loose. I normally dig a hole of about 2ft by 2ft and covers the seed loosely with soil,” he explains.
“Loose soil aids the sprouting of the seed with both the roots and the tendrils developing faster. Once they sprout, after about a month, I mulch with sawdust or grass to retain moisture.”
The major task in growing yams include earthing up, weeding, thinning and fertilization.
“Earthing up involves covering the crop that if exposed to the sun can be destroyed while thinning is performed only when the crops grow too close,” says Akoko, noting the farm’s proximity to Oluch Kimira Irrigation Scheme has made watering his crop easier.
Some seven to 12 months after planting, harvesting starts once one sees the following signs.
“There should be wilting of the aerial parts of the plant, the stems should be slightly turgid and leaves brownish,” he says, noting once he removes the yams, he sometimes grows groundnuts and potatoes on the piece on controlled irrigation.
DISEASE AND PEST CHALLENGES
In his first harvest, Akoko got about 200kg of yams, making some Sh35,000 sales. Over the years, the farmer has perfected the art of growing the crop, earning handsomely to enable him buy the two-acre leased land he started with and another of the same size, both at a total of Sh248,000.
Last month, he harvested 1,700kg of yams and sold each kilo at Sh200.
“All that yams need for good harvest is quality care. One should apply potassium fertilizer to help in growth of the tubers,” says Akoko, who sells his produce in hotels and markets in Rongo, Oyugis, Kendu Bay and Kisumu, with some traders picking the produce from his farm.
His challenges include diseases and pests attacking the crop, whose life depends on adequate availability of water.
Homa Bay County agriculture officer Jennifer Ndege identifies anthracose and rhizome rot as diseases that affect the crop.
Symptoms of anthracose include dark brown or black spots on the rhizome and tubers, water soaked spots or lesions on the stem while for rhizome rot, crops have stunted growth, leaves yellow and infected plants can be easily pulled out from the ground.
“Anthrancose is an infectious disease caused by fungus, which devastates the crop. Most fungal diseases affecting yam crops interfere with blackheads on the nerves of the leaves,” says Jennifer.
To keep the diseases at bay, she advises farmers who intend to have large production of yams to subject rhizomes to disinfectant them.
via Seeds of Gold