Beetroot cultivation is not prevalent in Kenya, as many are unfamiliar with this type of fruit. Beetroot, also known scientifically as Beta vulgaris, is similar to onions in growth patterns and is often associated with several health benefits such as potassium, vitamin C, fiber, manganese, iron, and folate (vitamin B9).
Aside from taking vitamin supplements, beetroot can be consumed in various ways, such as raw in puddings, cooked in broth, or in cocktails and fruit juices. Even the beetroot leaves are edible, much like spinach.
Therefore, let us focus on how to cultivate, harvest, and market beetroot by becoming familiar with soil requirements, land preparation, planting, applying fertilizers, pest control, and harvesting.
Soil requirements for the Beta vulgaris plant vary from a pH of 5.8 to 8.0, and it is always advised to taste the soil for acidity levels to ensure healthy crop growth. Overly acidic soil results in a deficiency of essential nutrients that affect growth patterns.
After testing the soil, prepare the area by tilling it to a depth of 15-20cm and removing debris such as twigs, shrubs, decaying plants, and tree stumps.
Mix the field’s soil with composted manure and create ridges or terraces to provide good air circulation and proper water transport. Create rows 20–25 cm apart on top of the seams, add cow dung manure, mix it well with the soil, and start sowing the seeds.
Cover the seeds with light soil and dry mulch to include the entire field. Inadequate rainfall will require you to water the area twice daily, in the morning and afternoon.
Fertilizers are an essential aspect of beetroot farming. It is recommended to apply cow dung manure every seven days and water the soil to provide adequate nutrients. Industrial fertilizer NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) in a good ratio can also be used as fertilizer.
Cultivating beetroot has several pests and diseases that affect the crop’s growth patterns. Attakan cc-344e and Abamectin, among other insecticides, should be used to prevent aphids, which come in various colors and sizes and love sitting underneath the leaves. Plant rust and downy mildew are common diseases that affect beetroot farming, with the latter causing the leaves to turn yellowish or brown.
Harvesting beetroot requires pulling them by the leaves from the ground, with good farming techniques yielding 1000–1500 kg of beetroot per acre of land. The perfect climate and soil in Kenya make it an ideal location for cultivating beetroot, with numerous companies displaying interest in purchasing locally grown beets. Farmers who grow this crop receive excellent pay, support their families, and encourage others to cultivate beetroot.
In conclusion, beetroot farming is a thriving industry in Kenya due to the perfect climate and soil, government support, and high demand for the crop by buyers.