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A farmer's guide to growing French beans

MONEY & MARKET
By Jennifer Anyango | October 9th 2021

French beans are generally grown in well-drained soils. [Courtesy]

The growing of French beans, also known as snap or green beans and miciri locally is gaining currency in Kenya.

While local consumption is growing, the bulk of the fresh produce is processed for export, mainly to Europe. French beans are rich in protein, fat, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B, D and starch.

They grow well in warm and wet parts of the country. Japheth Muriungu from Murang’a County is a small-scale French beans farmer. He shares a few tips on getting the best out of the crop. The varieties grown in Kenya include Amy, Teresa, Samantha, Serengeti Julia and Paulista.

Ecological requirements

Beans are generally grown in well-drained soils and rainfall ranging between 900mm and 1200mm per annum. The crop does well in rich soils (with plenty of organic matter). The soil should have a slightly acidic to alkaline pH of 6.5 to 7.5 at the optimal growing temperature of 14 to 32°C, depending on the variety.

“Get your seeds from certified seed companies like Kenya Seed Company,” Muriungu said.

Planting

French bean seeds are planted at a depth of two to three inches, with 10-14 inch spacing between rows and 15-18 inch spacing within the rows.

“Ensure you have a reliable source of water, as French beans require a lot of water during the growing season, especially in flowering and pod development stages. Do not plant on dry, shallow or exposed soils,” he said.

French beans are susceptible to waterlogging, and the plants should be grown on raised beds with good drainage. The water should constantly flow through the field.

Weeding and fertiliser application

It is best practice to apply Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP) to provide phosphate to the plant before planting and then top it off with Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) twice for nitrogen once the crop produces three leaves and again at flowering.

Harvesting

The average maturity period of french beans is 45-60 days. With an average yield of 3,000kg to 6,000kg per acre, French beans are harvested before the pods are fully mature, usually between 42 and 56 days after planting and up to two months after the first harvest.

For those in the export market, to maintain high export quality, French beans should be picked at regular intervals, ideally three times per week. French bean flowers and young green pods are also picked.

Marketing

As mentioned earlier, farmers can make more money by venturing into the export market. However, it is also consumed locally, though on a small scale. One can sell to supermarkets and restaurants.

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