This article focuses on sunflower farming in Kenya. Sunflower farming is a profitable agribusiness venture. The cash crop is grown by small-scale farmers in most parts of the country. It is best grown with maize and beans.
Sunflower Growing Areas In Kenya
The main sunflower growing areas in Kenya are Meru, Homabay, Bungoma, Kakamega, Kajiado, parts of North Rift and the Coastal region.
Varieties Of Sunflower Grown in Kenya
- H 893.
- H 008.
- H 894.
- H 8938.
- H 8998.
- H 001.
- H 898.
- Kensun 22.
- Kenya fedha.
- Kenya shaba.
- Kensun 33.
Ecological Requirements for Growing Sunflower
- Rainfall of 450mm.
- Altitude that ranges from 0- 2600m above sea level.
- Well-drained and slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5.
Land Preparation and Planting
Land should be prepared to a fine tilth. This should be done early enough before planting. Planting is done after the onset of rain.
Propagation is by seeds which are sown directly in the soil. The seeds can be purchased from any of the seed companies in the country. 3-5 seeds are enough for each hole. The distance between the planting holes should be 1-2 inches.
During planting, apply well decomposed farmyard manure to improve soil fertility. Thoroughly mix the farmyard manure with soil.
Pests and Diseases
Pests that attack sunflower plants include cutworms, African bollworms and semi loopers. The pests can be eradicated using the necessary pesticides as recommended by experts.
Common diseases include charcoal rot, downey mildew, sunflower rust and sclerotinia wilt. The diseases can be controlled by planting certified seeds, applying recommended fungicides and practicing crop rotation.
Sunflower takes about 3- 4 months to be ready for harvesting, depending on the variety grown.
Harvesting is done once the sunflower heads turn yellow or brown. It is done manually by cutting the head and spiking it upside down on the stalk.
Sunflower Market In Kenya
Sunflower is mainly grown for its end products like sunflower oil which is extracted from seeds. Sunflower oil fetches more in the market due to its rich nutritional value.
Cooking oil processing companies are one of the biggest buyers of sunflower seeds. They source the seeds from local farmers.
Sunflower is also used to manufacture soaps and cosmetics. The respective manufacturing companies can also be good market sources.
As a farmer, you can also sell sunflower leaves as fodder to dairy farmers. The leaves can be used to manufacture animal feeds.