Kenya Mangos come in various varieties that meet international quality standards. Common as maembe in Swahili and enjoying a range of references in various dialects in the country, these fruits never seem to lose glory. They save locals in times of drought as a vital source of nutrients even as the international community hankers after the juicy fruits for their proven benefits. Now here is a guide that will address issues that farmers have always wanted to know to boost mango yields and improve their market performance right from planting into post-harvesting stages.
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There are two ways to plant mangos. The first involves transplanting from seedlings out of a nursery bed. The bed should either be sunken or upraised with mulch to prevent steep water infiltration and curb erosion in the seed bed. Usually, the mulch also serves as manure when dry and conserves heat beneath the surface of the earth vital for enhancing germination. The second method involves the use of a grafting agent. In Kenya there are now a number of varieties that go well with local tree varieties. Farmers, since 2010, have been sourcing quick maturity and high yield varieties like Kent and Tommy Atkins from the United States to improve yields.
The difference between a seedbed transplant of mango and grafted ones lies in the development. A transplanted tree takes approximately ten years to come to proper fruition, whereas, on average, a grafted one can reach maturity from 3 to 5 years. Indeed, if you are wary of time, you can choose the grafting method.
Mangos require suitable soil with a PH ranging from 5.5 to 7.5, though they still thrive in alkaline conditions. The transplanting holes should be at least 10 square meters apart in dry areas and a little more spacing in cool climates where vegetation growth occurs regularly.
You need to fill holes with:
Unadulterated soil: Meaning local, fertile soil common in the Kenya highlands. The mango does well also in sandy soils being a hardy plant. When going for apple tree grafted mango, local soil with a few grains of sand is advisable.
Organic manure: Make sure it’s the kind that has come straight from a farmyard in its well decomposed condition.
Once you plant, here are a few things to observe:
- Mangos require care and attention to help them mature into stable young plants through regular watering early on in life.
- Due to the delicate nature of the young stalks, you ought to prop them as they grow to make them shoot up straight.
- Weed out any vegetation growth that may hamper their fast development especially in rainy areas.
- Just before they sprout into flower, reduce your irrigation trends, and leave them to natural factors like rain. 90 days before pollination, mangos need less water and more sunshine in order to blossom well into flowers. Less water also reduces weed growth underneath the trees.
- Finally, the young trees require less shadow as they mature unlike when young when they need a lot of shading.
Seed weevil: Kenya mango is commonly susceptible to mango seed weevil which burrows its way to the center of the fruit. The fully grown insect is about a centimeter long and leaves its whitish larvae inside the core before it emerges from the fruit just after it begins ripening. Though there are no visible signs of damage from outside, weevils can cause a threat to an unsuspecting sampler who sees a beautiful fruit only to find it hollow inside. You can control weevils by destroying every fallen fruit and also going for harder varieties that are more immune to pests like Kenya Ngowe mango.
Hopper: The hopper is also a widespread pest in the world of mangos. It attacks the juicy, young tender parts of the plant, sucking sap off it. If left unattended, the growing plant will be wrought dry and its sap will turn into a dry cone that will hamper development of fruits. You can control hoppers by using carbayrl (at 0.2 percent), a spraying agent. Though, it is advisable to use organic remedies like mallada boninensis as these serve as natural predators of the hoppers thus eliminating the problem through lifecycle means.
Mealy bugs: Mealy bugs also lay havoc on the sap of the tender mango tree. The best remedy, other than pesticides is the use of water to kill off the larvae during the egg-laying season. Since the mango season in Kenya runs mainly from October through March, the best time to combat them is around November to December by frequently flooding the areas where these bugs lay their eggs.
Throughout the growth stages, you need to maintain lateral growth of branches in young trees to allow development of strong branches that bear spurs that, in turn, bud into fruit. The best time to do pruning is just when the fruit starts to expand at about one year or two years. Alternatively, you can prune overgrowth soon after harvesting to renew growth which also improves fruit size.
Mangos being hardy varieties thrive in dry areas in Kenya and sometimes may require irrigation. Irrigation though is a canvas for bushy weeds and grass that form lush underbrush in the shade of the tree. You can eradicate these through pesticide control measures, regular weeding and pruning of overgrowth. Like all other fruits, Kenya mangos follow the laws of science when. Firstly, constant watering at a lesser rate is advised when the plants begin to flower and blossom into fruit. Botanists recommend that you water your trees just after they bear their first little fruits at intervals of 15 days and no more, and follow those intervals up to the harvesting stage.
You can also enhance the quality of your mangos through intercropping. If you propagate your trees at good spacing with short season and narrow root plants such as beans, guavas and greens, they will definitely leave some of their nutrients behind for the mango trees. Legumes like peas and red beans, for instance, leave their nitrogen intact in the soil.
- Mangos are usually considered mature when the end of the fruit next to the stem has bloated out and the fruit itself filled out completely.
- For grafted varieties, maturity sets in with fruits at an average age of 4 years producing just up to 20 mangos for every tree.
- You can actually measure the maturity of the fruit by pricking it with a penetrometer, which has an 8-millimeter tip for testing the firmness of the flesh. Too much succulence shows that the fruit may not be quite ripened and may need to be given more time to mature.
- Once the tree attains the age of ten years, it will start producing 100 mangos per season.
- At 50 years, the mango tree still bears fruits but thereafter productivity ebbs to a few fruits.
Mangos need to be picked when mature just before they ripen. Picking them when they are ripe can reduce their lifespan to less than 1 week in the market.
Kenya mangos undergo harvesting at least three months or, at most, five months after they start flowering. You can harvest mangos that have a succulence of just 14 percent of dry matter.
Mangos in the same tree do not mature at the same time as others. The ones on top will precede the ones below due to their exposure to the sun and you will pluck them first by hand or by a cutting blade. However, even after picking or harvesting, the fruit will still wait a couple of days, less than a week mostly, to be fully ripe.
Varieties such as Kenya Ngowe mango have shorter spans of maturity with the fruit being ready for harvest as early as 100 days after the onset of the flower.
How to harvest: Mangos require pruning shears to cut off a little bit (about 4 inches) of the stalk attached to the fruit.
Before transporting the mango, you can store them in dry conditions still with their stalks but reduce the length of the stalk to a quarter inch from the fruit.
Additionally, mango farmers should practice selective harvesting, which is ideally a way of knowing the best time to start harvesting the fruits. For example, the mango should have at least 14 percent dry matter so that it will have a long shelf life. Secondly, you need to check the little particles on the skin of the fruit known as lenticels. When the fruit is ripe they are brownish in shade but white, green or yellow when unripe.
You also need to monitor the little drops of mango juice that start to ooze out after harvesting. These must be left to dry before the mango is taken from the ground where you place it after picking from the tree. If you leave the early juice it will spread and stick on the skin of the mango hence making it look ugly and with time it will spoil the mango.
The many years of waiting is worthwhile but will amount to nil if you stow your mangos into waste through poor storage. Don’t be in a rush especially when there is no immediate market. Hold your horses by looking for a cooling facility with just as low temperatures as this tropical fruit can withstand at most 10 degrees Celsius and nothing less. Keep your fruit in wait for clients for only 21 days, this being the maximum shelf period of the fruit.
Through patience, and by remembering all of the above, you will be one very happy farmer of Kenya mango, helping supply the world with the best variety of mangos from Kenya.