Some of Lemon fruits at Ahmed Abdirahman Hassans farm in Mandera county. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]

Lemon farming is a lucrative agribusiness due to the high demand for lemons in both local and export markets. With an increasing number of juice makers focusing on value addition, lemon farming presents a promising venture.

Before delving into lemon farming, conducting a thorough feasibility study is crucial. Michael Mutuma, a small-scale farmer from Kiambu, emphasizes considering factors such as market demand, competition, and the economic viability of lemon farming in the chosen location. Mutuma notes that during the Covid-19 period, the demand for lemons surged, leading to a significant increase in prices. For large-scale farmers, minimising post-harvest losses is essential. Mutuma advises on the importance of proper storage facilities and equipment to ensure fruits remain in perfect condition. Managing inventory and having suitable storage options are vital to prevent unsold lemons.

Successful lemon cultivation involves key steps

Climate and Soil Requirements

Lemons thrive in warm subtropical to tropical climates with well-distributed rainfall. Sandy loam or loamy soils that are well-draining and slightly acidic to neutral are ideal. Incorporating organic matter into the soil, such as compost or well-rotted manure, improves soil structure, water retention, and nutrient levels.

Selecting Lemon Varieties

Choose lemon varieties suitable for the local climate, such as Eureka, Lisbon, and Ponderosa. Consulting local agricultural extension services or nurseries for advice on the best varieties for a specific location is recommended.

Site Selection

Select a site with plenty of sunlight, as lemon trees require at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Good air circulation is essential to prevent diseases.

Planting

Purchase young trees from certified nurseries or grow plants from seeds. Plant lemon trees during the rainy season or provide irrigation for a good root system. Proper spacing according to the recommended distances for the chosen variety is essential.

Irrigation

Provide consistent and deep watering, especially during dry periods. Drip irrigation is often recommended for efficient water use.

Fertilisation

Regularly fertilize lemon trees with a balanced fertilizer following recommended application rates. Incorporating organic matter into the soil during planting enhances nutrient levels.

Mulching

Apply mulch around the base of lemon trees to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Pruning

Prune lemon trees to shape them, remove dead or diseased branches, and improve air circulation. Regularly remove suckers and water sprouts.

Pest and Disease Management

Monitor for pests such as aphids, mites, and scale insects. Use organic or chemical control methods as needed. Watch for diseases like citrus canker or citrus greening and take prompt action.

Harvesting

Harvest lemons when they reach the desired size and colour, varying by variety. Use pruning shears to cut the fruit from the tree.


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