How to practice Okra farming in Kenya
Okra is characterized by an inherent slimy texture and a viscous juice used to thicken sauces.
It contains small edible seeds inside the pod.
It is biologically classified as a fruit but generally used as a vegetable in cooking.
It is nutritious and boasts of a wide range of health benefits such as being an antioxidant, lowering heart disease risk by lowering blood cholesterol has anti-cancer properties, lowers blood sugar, preventing diabetes and obesity.
Farmers TV spoke to Ken Zachariah from Kilifi who shared tips on how to carry out Okra farming.
Okra has a ready market and is fast growing; taking 30 to 45 days to mature and harvest.
Okra is planted through broadcasting or seed propagation.
A farmer should plant the seeds at a well-ploughed soil that is rich in soil nutrients.
The farmer should then water the soil to provide the seeds and plants adequate soil nutrients.
A farmer keeps a spacing of one foot between the plants or 30cm, and from row to row 30cm too.
A farmer can plant two or three crops to maximize the chances of growing to maturity in case one of them die thus maintain the plant population.
Okra can grow in sloppy areas and in a wide range of soils.
It performs best in deep soils rich in organic matter thriving in loam sandy soils with a soil PH of 5.8 to 6.5.
Okra can also grow in shallow soils as long as there is enough existence of nutrients and water.
Ken performs basin irrigation to grow his okra as it gets the water it needs as it is deep and flat.
Okra is drought resistant and can grow in semi-arid areas requiring 35 mm of water weekly.
A farmer should add manure to the soil to achieve the best results.
To get high-quality pods okra requires an optimum temperature between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius.
A farmer should ensure the farm is weed-free to keep off pests and diseases and reduce competition for soil nutrients, water, sunlight and space.
Weeds that attack Okra include annual grasses and perennial grasses.
Pests and diseases
Common diseases that attack okra include blossom blight which is avoided and controlled by avoiding over-fertilisation, overhead irrigation, planting in low and shady land sections.
Pests that attack okra include foliage feeders and pond feeders. They are controlled by spraying with chemicals and maintaining farm hygiene.
Okra pods should be harvested at the correct stage by cutting off or snapping off.
Due to fast growth, the ponds be harvested often thus should not be left to mature on the plant which inhibits more ponds from developing reducing plant productivity.
The pods should be handled carefully when harvesting to prevent bruises.
Okra dried seeds are used to extract oils and its fibres for making papers and it is also used for medicinal purposes and to make hair products.
Aside from human consumption, it can be used as feeds for poultry such as chicken and ducks and cows as a good nutritional source.