Finger Millet Farming in Kenya
Finger millet farming in Kenya is an important agricultural activity in Western Kenya and Uganda. Finger millet can be stored for as long as ten years without the use of insecticides. It has small seeds which dry out quickly and insects cannot fit inside them.
Finger millet is an indigenous cereal which is popular due to its nutritional benefits and resistance to pest infestation and drought.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Ecological Requirements
Rainfall: Finger millet can tolerate drought in the early stages of growth but after the first month it requires a good supply of moisture. It is commonly grown in areas receiving 900 mm of rainfall annually.
Altitude: It grows well from sea level to 2400 m above sea level.
Soil: It requires fertile free draining soils.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Varieties
Indigenous varieties; These are low yielding, and less resistant to drought and diseases.
Improved varieties such as:-
P224: It is a brown seeded variety. It is a tall type with uniform plant height and is tolerant of lodging and blast. It takes 3-4 months to mature.
Katumani: It is a red seeded variety. It is a short variety and is drought tolerant. It takes 3 months to mature
U-15, Gulu and Okahale-1: These are new, superior finger millet varieties, which guarantee higher yields, tolerance to drought, Striga weed and blast disease.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Selection and Preparation of Planting Materials
The harvested grains are sun-dried, threshed, winnowed and then stored for use as seeds. Certified seeds can also be bought from certified Seed Companies.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Land Preparation
The seedbed should be thoroughly prepared to a fine tilth because the seeds are very tiny and are usually broadcasted. A fine thilth in the seedbed ensures that the small grains germinate. The other reason is that weed control in finger millet is very difficult and thorough seedbed preparation reduces weed competition for nutrients.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Field Operations
Finger millet should be planted as early as possible in the season on the onset of rains. The earlier it is sown the higher the yields. It is usually broadcasted by hand. If planted in rows, the furrows should be 30-33 cm apart and the plants should be thinned to 5 cm apart within the rows. It is commonly grown in pure stands.
(b) Weed Control
This is done manually because finger millet is very closely spaced and a jembe cannot be used. Thorough seedbed preparation and sowing in rows reduces the labor required for weeding. Eleusine Africana and Eleusine Indica are common weeds found in finger millet fields. They are difficult to distinguish from the crop in the early stages of growth. Also, weed can be controlled by the use of appropriate herbicides.
(c) fertilizer Application
The recommended rate is 125 kg/ha of sulphate of ammonia. It is applied when the crop is 15 cm high. This can give an increase in yield from 450-900 kg/ha. Organic manure improves the organic matter content of soil and soil structure. It is recommended at the rate of 100kg per acre.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Pest and Disease Control
( a ) Pests
The most Common pests are shoot fly, head bugs and birds. These pests can be controlled by the use of appropriate insecticides and using birds scare craws to scare away birds. Also, early planting can control pests. Finger millet is rarely destroyed by pests in store because of their small size. The major pests are usually in the field.
- Chafer grubs– these are whitish C-shaped caterpillars found in the soil which feed on the roots and may kill young seedlings.
- Stem borer– the larvae/maggots feed on the funnels of the crop before tunneling down to feed on the developing tissues. Others bore holes straight into the center of the stem. Feeding causes stunted growth and production of sterile or poorly developed ear heads. In severe cases, the plant dies. Young plants are more susceptible to attack by stem borers
- Shoot fly– the larva enters the funnel of the crop and moves down to feed on the young shoot killing the growing point and the youngest leaf which turns brownish and withers. This damage is commonly referred to as ‘dead heart’. Tillers can also be attacked.
- Midge– the larvae feed on the developing grains causing them to shrink and flatten. Damaged panicles have small, transparent midge pupae attached to the tips of the damaged spikelets.
- Armyworms– these are seriously destructive pests that cause serious damages to mostly the young plants by eating away the leaves. Heavy infestations can cause defoliation.
- Aphids– they suck plant sap on the ear heads or on the undersides of the leaves and produce honeydew which encourages the development of sooty mold. Infested plants become stunted, leaves dry up and yield is considerably reduced.
- Earhead bugs– the adults and nymphs feed on the developing kernels by sucking the juice from within the grains when they are in the milky stage. Kernels shrivel, become small and discolored, especially if attacked in early development stages.
Common diseases in finger millet are Ergot-honey like discharges from the floret which lead to no grain formation and Grain smut-where the affected grains show black sacs. The most serious disease of finger millet is the head blast which is caused by fungus Piricularia 0ryzae_ It is common under hot and humid conditions like those found in western Kenya. It causes brown spots with grey centers, on the leaves, the stems are affected below the inflorescence. Control for these diseases is by planting resistant varieties of finger millet and use clean dressed seeds.
- Damping off– infection causes rotting of seeds before they emerge as well as seedlings after emergence from the soil.
- Cercospora leaf spot– small dark lesions develop on leaves which are usually oval in shape but maybe oblong to rectangular. The centers of the lesions are gray to tan in color with visible black dots and may be covered in spores during wet weather. These lesions may also be present on the stems and are slightly longer than those on the leaves.
- Blast– elliptical or diamond-shaped lesions form on leaves. The centers of these lesions are grey and water-soaked, surrounded by a chlorotic halo and there is an appearance of concentric rings on leaves
- Rust– small yellow or white raised spots to develop on the upper and lower leaf surfaces. These spots tend to be more numerous on the lower leaf surface. They enlarge and develop into red-brown pustules which may be surrounded by a yellow halo.
- Downy mildew– the infected plants develop thick, stiff, twisted, pale green leaves with bumpy surfaces. In severe cases of infection, the plants do not produce.
Nitrogen deficiency– the growth rate of the plant is highly reduced and leaves turn yellow, starting with the older ones. Plants become stunted as deficiency continues.
Phosphorous deficiency– plants turn dark green and leaves show reddish-purple discoloration starting with the older to the young leaves. Stunted growth occurs as the deficiency progresses.
A potassium deficiency– leaves develop marginal chlorosis then necrosis starting with the older ones to the young ones. Stunted growth occurs in severe cases of deficiency.
Zinc deficiency– leaves develop broad bands of yellow coloration which later turns pale brown or grey. Symptoms start with young leaves and progress towards the older ones.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Once the finger millet mature, hand knives are used for cutting individual heads. The heads are then dried, threshed and winnowed. The new improved varieties can yield 1100kg to 2900kg per hectare.
Finger Millet Farming in Kenya – Storage and Marketing
Finger millet should be stored in bags and put in a dry place. The grains are dried and stored in bags. Finger millet is mainly grown for subsistence and only a little is sold in the local markets.
Frequently Asked Question About Finger Millet Farming in Kenya
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