Commercial Canola Farming in Kenya
Commercial Canola Farming in Kenya
Canola is a specific type of rapeseed plant. It ranges from three to five feet tall with small, yellow flowers and it produces pods. These pods have seeds that are harvested to create canola oil and meal. Canola seeds contain an oil content of 42-46%.Compared to other vegetable oils, canola oil is low in saturated fat and is considered one of the best sources of omega-3 fats. The meal is very essential in livestock feed formulation. This article focuses on canola farming in Kenya.
Canola is propagated through seeds.
Canola plant has a wide range of varieties such as BN 001, BN 002, BN 003, BN 004, BN 005, BN 006, BN 007, BN 008, BN 009, BN 010, BN 011, BN 012, BN 013 and BN 014. The high-yielding varieties in Kenya developed by KARLO Njoro are Topaz, Gulliver, Karat, 81-53413K, Oro, 81-55705B, Wesroona, willi, Tower, Niklas, Altex, Mary. These varieties contain high amounts of oil and protein.
Altitude: Canola grows best in altitudes between 1800 – 2400m above sea level.
Rainfall: Canola requires 300-600mm of well distributed rainfall. It consumes about 500 mm of water in each growing season and hence about 7.5mm per day especially in peak periods. Irrigation is therefore necessary depending on the weather conditions.
Temperature: It requires cool weather conditions. The optimum temperature is 21°C. Temperatures that are below 10 °C will result in poor germination.
Soils: Can do well in a wide range of soils as long as they are well drained, with moderate fertility.
Canola should to be planted in soils of a fine tilth. Early ploughing in the season should be done during the dry weather for the stumble to dry and rot. You should then do two harrows to achieve a fine tilth before sowing. A smooth and firm seedbed helps to ensure a uniform seed depth and even emergence.
Planting can be carried out using two methods, broadcasting and drilling.
- Broadcasting method
This method saves times and reduces the machinery requirements. Seeds are first broadcasted and then harrowing is done to spread the seed. However, broadcasting depends on the soil moisture therefore requires rainfall soon after you are done planting the seeds.
Drilling is the preferred method of planting. This is because there is better seed placement, seed-soil contact and uniformity of the crop. The drills should have a depth of 2-3 cm at a spacing of 20cm by 30cm. The recommended seed rate is 10kg per hectare. You should apply 100kg of DAP fertilizer per hectare by side banding below and to the side of the seed furrow.
Once the canola plant is established, it will suppress the weeds. After planting, pre- emergent herbicides such as LASSO MT can be used to control the weeds.
Flea beetles- You should conserve their natural enemies such as wasps, which predate on the pest.
Red turnid beetle- Just like the flea beetles, you should conserve their natural enemies such as wasps.
Diamond backmoth- Use a suitable insecticide such as bullet.
Beet webworm- Use a suitable insecticide such as deltamethrin.
Others pests such as semi loopers and cutworms can be controlled using the recommended insecticides and integrated pest management.
Diseases that may attack a canola crop include white rust, Black leg, Sclerotinia stem rot, Brown Girdling Root Rot, White leaf spot, Alternaria black spot and grey stem.
This diseases can be controlled by use of crop rotation programs which allow at least four years between canola crops on the same field. You should also destroy volunteer crops and plant clean seeds. It is also vital to control weeds and pests which mostly transmit these diseases. This can be achieved by use of integrated pest management
If there is a moisture stress especially during the flowering and ripening stages, it can result in reduced yield. The flowering period and maturity will also be shortened. One or two supplementary irrigations are recommended during the dry weather for the canola crop to obtain optimum yields.
Canola should be harvested when majority of its seeds are in tough dough stage. The field appears brownish green and majority of the seeds are firm when they are rolled between fingers. The seed moisture content is usually about 20-45%. Harvesting when the moisture is more than 45% results in immature seeds, with less oil and protein content. On the other hand, harvesting when moisture content is less than 20% increases shattering losses. It can be harvested using the adjusted wheat combines. The yield per hectare is 1.5 -4 tons.
Drying and threshing– Before storing the seeds, you should first thresh and dry them until they reach a moisture content of 10%.
Storage– You should store the seeds in a well-aerated store to prevent spoilage.
Canola can be sold to processors or farmers can set up their own light industries locally to process the oil. Due to the high quality of the oil, its market is readily available in Kenya and outside Kenya. The by-product, meal, can also sold to be used as a livestock feed.
Economic Importance in Kenya
Canola can be a huge income generator in the country both as an oil crop and a livestock feed. Since the demand for vegetable oil which is low in saturated fats is high, the market will be readily available for canola. The by-product is also sold to farmers as a livestock feed. Once the crop is established, it requires little attention.