You can easily grow pineapples at home

MONEY & MARKET |

The fruit is eaten fresh and used in salads. [Courtesy]

The pineapple is native to South America, but it gained popularity and is now widely grown throughout the tropics and sub-tropics in Africa.

A temperature range of 18 to 45 degrees Celcius is ideal, 25 being the optimal. Prolonged cold causes the fruit to be more acidic, retards growth and delays maturity.

The fruit is eaten fresh and used in salads. It can be processed to produce other products like juice, jam and dried fruit. The standout nutrient in pineapple is Vitamin C, which supports the immune system and provides antioxidant benefits. Stephen Okech from Homa Bay County grows pineapples on a small-scale and shares a few tips.

Land preparation

This is important for proper development of roots. The pineapple is shallow-rooted and easily damaged by post-planting cultivation.

The best soil for pineapples is well-drained, sandy loam with high organic matter content. The crop does well in soils with a PH of four to five.

Manure and fertiliser

Nitrogen is essential to increase fruit size and total yield. Phosphate fertiliser can also be added later.

Crop rotation

Some crops usually included in rotation with pineapples are groundnuts, beans, rice and vegetables. To prepare the land used for pineapple production, green manure plants like cowpeas can be grown and incorporated into the soil prior to planting pineapples.

Propagation and planting

Propagation is done through vegetation, and materials for planting are crowns, slips and suckers. Crowns are the leafy top part of the fruit, and take 25 to 28 months to develop. Slips are leafy shoots arising from the fruit stalks, and they take 22 to 24 months to develop.

Suckers are from the base of the plant where roots grow. Only healthy and, if possible, large shoots should be chosen (about 400g to 500g in weight are best), in order to ensure a uniform crop.

“To plant, root it in the soil, lightly. Suckers are more difficult to plant. However, they give the highest yield and take 18 to 22 months to mature,” says Okech.

He adds: “All planting material can be stored upside down (to avoid rotting) in the shade for up to three months and then planted in loose pre-irrigated soil.”

The pineapple fruit borer is considered one of the principal pests of the fruit. 

Mulching

Use of black polythene is recommended as it helps maintain high soil temperature, retain moisture and controls weeds to some extent.

“In areas where temperatures are high, use of mulch may not be essential. Use of grass mulch has been found to reduce yields,” says Okech.

Harvesting

The fruits are ready to harvest when they snap off when bent. Fruits destined for the local market are plucked when almost ripe, while those for export are harvested green-ripe (beginning to turn yellow-green at the base). They are cut off with a sharp knife, leaving a stem that is later trimmed to 3.4cm.

Pruning

Once the fruit has been harvested, remove all slips and leave only one (at most two) strong and healthy suckers rising from the ground.

Leaving more suckers will reduce the size of harvested fruits. The rest of the slips and suckers can be used as additional planting material after sorting or can be chopped and used as mulch. The mother plant can be left in the field as mulch.

Market

Since pineapples are widely used, a market is available. Okech sells his produce in restaurants around Homa Bay, through online referrals, and in farmers’ markets.   

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