Kenya’s flower farms are arguably some of the most technologically classy entities, the country is proud of. From hydroponics, fertigation, energy conservation to modernized greenhouses these farming techniques have soar the country to be among the best flower producer globally.
As innovations continue to improve to suit the changing global environmental concerns as well as European flower market demands, Winchester farm Ltd in Bahati, Nakuru County is among the pioneer flower farms to have adopted the latest farming technology; plastic mulch in cultivation of their roses.
The farm has incorporated use of both black and silver mulch which has several advantages as far as rose farming is concerned. For instance, black mulch easily absorbs sunlight rays and retains heat in the soil which leads to improved uptake of nutrients and results to a healthy crop.
In addition, white silver mulch helps to repel white flies due to its shinny silver glare. It has also led to a reduction of pests and diseases that are found in the soil.
The adoption of this technology has also led to suppression of weeds which competes for nutrients and space with the flowers. This in essence has made the farm to reduce on their staff in the greenhouses.
The slippery nature of the mulch slides leafs when they fall off from the plants hence leading to easier cleaning of the greenhouses and good level of hygiene maintenance.
Winchester Bahati, is a farm under Mzurrie Flower Group which comprises of three other rose growing farms; Winchester Farm Karen, Maji Mazuri Flowers and Molo River Roses which are located at unique altitudes. “We are a new farm and ideally this is our second year of production.
Currently, we are farming on 10 acres but we are expanding. This farm is the only farm of Mzurrie Group which is on high altitude of 2200m; just few kilometers from the equator and producing roses of 5+ head size with a production rate of 120 stems per square meter,” Raphael Mulinge, the General Manager explained.
“Mzurrie flower group is innovative organization with an eye of meeting our promise of superior quality to our customers. We have also embraced other modern growing techniques including use of light screens to control radiation at one of our farms, use of misters to control humidity, use of banana transport system to reduce on damages on the roses being transported from Floriculture greenhouses among others.
“We also irrigate less as this farming method also reduces loss of water in the soil which ensures moisture is still around the root zone of our plants. We have witnessed several benefits of this technology though costly to install” he said.
The farms first proceeds of roses were handed over to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). This was for the conservation of elephants which have become an endangered spices due to extinction by poachers who’s exhilarating target is their horns.
Cultivating roses in Bahati which is a fairly new area for Mzurrie Group has had a share of challenges.
The area is home to many summer flower farms and is a corridor to white flies.
According to Mulinge, white flies move like a swamp and cause devastating effects when they attack. To counter their effects, they have cleared all bushes around the farm which act as host and adopted both chemical and biological methods of control.
“We have chosen uniforms that do not attract white flies. All personal protection equipments (PPES) worn are also of dull colors thus limiting attraction and we completely close our greenhouses and restrict movements,” Mulinge explained.
Besides mulching being costly, its disadvantageous in terms of water usage. Continuous irrigation of the soil leads to creation of hard pans on the surface of the soil hence becomes an uphill task in replenishing the soil.