The Mango, Mangifera Indica, is a long term fruit plant that has been known to last for 100 years. The fruit can be grown in a mono-crop orchard or intercropped as part of a food forest or pasture
With a long term view in mind, the mango tree farmer can farm mangoes for the fresh fruit market or the processed fruit market. The fruit can be processed raw into preserves and pickles or ripe into juices, jams, canned mangoes among other many uses.
The wood from the tree is used as firewood, in construction, in making furniture, and boat making. The bark can be used in making wall hangings and as a tannin for leather.
With a growing local market and export market, and development of high yielding variety, mango farming in Kenya presents a long term opportunity for income.
Health Benefits of Mangoes
Mango is not only tasty but also has a high nutritional value. Recent research links mango to health benefits such as;
- High in antioxidants that protect your cells against free radical damage. Scientific research confirms that radical damage leads to signs of aging and chronic diseases such as cancer.
- Mango is a great source of immune-boosting nutrients. It is a good source of several B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K- all which helps boost your immunity.
- Mangiferin, an antioxidant found in mangoes, may protect heart cells against inflammation, apoptosis (controlled cell death), and oxidative stress.
- It also contains a group of digestive enzymes called amylase. The enzymes break down large food molecules for easy absorption. Moreover, water and dietary fiber in the fruit aids digestive health.
Challenges experienced by mango farmers in Kenya
In order to succeed in mango farming, you will need to deal with the challenges that most mango farmers face. These are:-
- Pest and diseases - Mango pests and diseases can wipe out your mango orchard, or make your mango harvest be of inferior quality, leading to losses.
- Poor Management - Most mango farmers ignore their mango trees, only paying attention during harvest time. The trees are left to scatter in the farm and grow as they wish, without any activities like pruning, disease control, pest control, etc. Proper management activities of the mango orchard can lead to good quality harvests, hence more income.
- Poor market identification - Most mango farmers, due to poor planning, are not able to identify a market for their produce early enough. This leaves them at the mercy of brokers, who dictate meager prices. If you plan early, project your harvest, identify a target market, then mango farming will be a lucrative venture.
- Poor Planting Material - Most mango farmers germinate seeds from the available indigenous seeds, instead of going for the grafted seedlings that start bearing fruit earlier than the ungrafted counterparts. Grafted mangoes are easier to manage and are more productive.
- Post-harvest Losses - Mangoes in Kenya are harvested during one season. This leads to a glut in the market. During the mango season, lots of fruit goes to waste because of a lack of proper storage and transport to the market.
The Market for Mangoes
In Kenya, the mango industry has rapidly expanded over recent years. Many farmers throughout the country have embraced improved cultivars.
This has not only developed the local market but also enabled mango to be a vital export fruit for Kenya. If you are planning to grow mangoes for export, you need to seek training on GAP production standards mangoes, which will enable you to produce mangoes that meet export standards.
If you want to opt for a nearly lifetime investment, you should think of an orchard full of mangoes.
Varieties of Mangoes in Kenya
In Kenya, various varieties are propagated in orchards and commercial nurseries. The differences appear in color, shape, texture, seed size and pest and disease resistance.
If you want good produce, the selection of the best mango cultivar in Kenya should consider the following criteria:
- Designated use and market requirements
- Good adaptation to local climatic conditions
- Alteration of flowering and fruiting
- Tolerance to pests and diseases
Kenyan mango varieties also referred to as mango cultivars, are divided into 3 categories. There are:-
- Early maturing - these mango cultivars mature from November to mid-January. In this category, we have Haden Mangoes, Ngowe Mangoes, Dodo Mangoes, Kensington Mangoes, Zill, and Apple Mangoes.
- Midseason - These mature between mid-January and late February. Under this mango cultivar category, we have Sabine Mangoes, Peach Mangoes, Sabre Mangoes, Tommy Atkins Mangoes, Matthias Mangoes, Irwin Mangoes, Van Dyke Mangoes, Boribo Mangoes, and Smith Mangoes
- Late maturing - There mature between Late February and April. They include Kent Mangoes, Sensation Mangoes, Zillate Mangoes and Keitt Mangoes.
In some areas in Kenya, especially the coast, there is a second season for harvest, which occurs between May and August.
The months for maturity for the different cultivar categories may vary from region to region. For example, the Ukambani mango season may differ from the central province mango season or the coast mango season.
You should also note that most mango varieties tend to have biennial characteristics, producing bumper harvests in alternating years. This means you will have a good harvest one year, then fewer mangoes are produced the following year
Tommy Atkins Mango Variety
The Tommy Atkins mango is resistant to powdery mildew and anthracnose. It is ideal for the export market due to its long shelf life. The flesh is firm and yellow in color, with moderate fibre and a sweet pleasant aroma.
Ngowe Mango Variety
Best suited for commercial production and the export market, the Ngowe Mango variety has a small round shape. It is affected by powdery mildew, hence as a mango farmer, you need to take control measures against powdery mildew.
Kent Mango Variety
The Kent Mango is ideal for the export market. It is a vigorous growing tree, with dense leaves producing greenish-yellow large mangoes. It is juicy, with little fibre, and has a great taste.
Apple Mango Variety
With its origins in the Kenyan Coast, the Apple Mango Variety is sweet, with no fibre. The fruits are medium to large in size, round in shape, and have a smooth texture. Apple mango trees are affected by powdery and Anthracnose.
Sabine Mango Variety
The Sabine Variety produces great quality mangoes, with fruits that grow while exposed to the sun are bright yellow in colour, and the ones inside the canopy dark yellow in colour.
Haden Mango Variety
The Haden mango is of great quality, used for commercial production, and also as a parent for other mango varieties.
Ecological Requirements for Growing Mangoes
Mangoes in Kenya grow well at an altitude below 1000 mm. However, other cultivars are reported to yield well at an altitude of up to 1800 mm.
Grow your crop on well-drained and fertile soil. A soil pH of 5.5-7.5 is ideal for your trees.
Temperatures of between 24 – 28 degrees Celsius is desirable. Mango is known to yield well in a warm tropical monsoon climate. It needs a prolonged dry period of about three months, followed by rain.
In regions that do not vary in rainfall or temperature, your trees will not produce any fruits.
Planning Your Mango Orchard
In addition to choosing the variety and location, you also need to plan how your orchard will be laid out. Examples of layouts include mangoes in as a mono-crop (Plantation), intercropping with other crops, mango trees in border areas of the farmland or mangos as part of an agroforestry or pasture system
Management Activities in a Mango Orchard
There are several management activities that need to be carried out on your mango trees to ensure that you get the best out of your mango orchard. These include:-
- Pruning - structural and formative pruning
- Supporting heavy branches
- Controlling fruit formation and flowering
- Managing soil fertility
Nursery Preparation for Mango Seedlings
Use fresh, healthy seeds from well-grown mature trees. Dry your seeds and efficiently space them. Holes should be about 5 cm deep.
When sowing, the most prominently curved edge should be upwards, so that they produce a straight stem. If you want to fasten germination, you can remove the hard husk before sowing.
Your seeds will sprout after 1 to 2 weeks. Plants are ready for grafting when they are at about 20 cm above the soil level.
You need to shade the grafted plants and water them frequently.
Land Preparation for a Mango Orchard
You need to select the site carefully for the orchard. Clear the field of weeds, bushes, and trees 2-3 months before sowing.
Plowing is recommended for deep soil cultivation. Prepare planting holes 100cm deep. The holes should be 60cm by 60cm.
Transplanting Mango Seedlings
Grafted seedlings are ready for transplanting about four months after grafting. You should transplant at the beginning of the rains. Depending on the variety, the spacing between trees is 9cm by 9cm to 14cm by 14cm.
For maximum yield, you are advised to mix a minimum of two buckets of good compost manure and a handful of rock phosphate with the dug-out soil. The soil around the plant should be firm. Effectively mulch and water your plants.
Mango Yield Per Hectare
If you carefully select your seeds and follow proper husbandry, you can have a yield of 15 tons per hectare from the 7th year onwards.
Pests affecting Mangoes
The worst pests that can attack your mangoes grown in Kenya include black flies, fruit flies, cotton scales, seed weevil, mealybugs, and cicadas. All varieties have natural enemies such as wasps, ladybird larvae, spiders, and parasitic fungi.
- Mango fruit fly- fruit flies, may lead to a loss of more than 50% of your fruits. Their infestation leads to rotting of your fruits, which may eventually fall off. To effectively control this pest, you need to spray with Lexus at 8ml/20lts or Integra 3ml + Profile 440EC 30ml /20lts.
- Cotton scales, mealybugs- These pests are characterized by sooty mold or honeydew, which leads to an ant invasion. Their infestation will reduce the quality of your fruits. You need to spray with Ranger at 40 ml/20lts or Emerald 20ml/20lts.
- Seed weevil- The transportation of infested fruits usually spreads this pest. The infestation develops within the mango seeds. You need to control this pest from flower bud initiation using King code Elite at 10ml/20lts.
- Black fly- This pest suck sap from leaves. When they attack in huge numbers, they weaken your plant. You will notice a large amount of honeydew where sooty mold develops. Natural enemies can control this pest. You can also spray neem extracts to keep them off.
- Mango aphid- Mango aphids may be black, brown, or reddish-brown covered with powdery dusting. They suck sap on the lower surface of young leaves, branches, and fruits. Leaves that have been heavily attacked appear black. A wide range of natural enemies usually attacks aphids.
Diseases affecting Mangoes
Your mango trees grown in Kenya may be affected by diseases such as;
- Powdery mildew- Infected leaves appear white with a powdery growth. You will notice curled leaves, and the flowers fail to open and may eventually drop from the tree. This disease is spread by wind. It usually prevails in dry weather when humidity is high. The most critical stage of infection is the flowering stage. Monitor your trees daily for the disease. A correct choice of appropriate cultivars is the best way to prevent this disease.
- Anthracnose- This is the most common disease that may affect your mangoes. An initial sign of infection is small black spots. In severe cases, the spots may grow, forming an irregular patch. Anthracnose can attack your crops mostly after harvesting the fruits. During transport and storage, the fruits usually develop black, sunken spots. The development of the spots may be favored by rainy weather during blooming. You need to cut out dead twigs and branches and completely eradicate them. This is the best way to avoid this infection. Weekly monitoring of your trees helps you to manage them effectively. You can use tolerant varieties if you want the best results.
Weed control in a Mango Orchard
You need to prepare your orchard 2 - 3 months before planting. Proper timing helps you manage weeds efficiently.
It also allows crop residue to decompose. Weeds that grow beneath your trees should be cleared regularly. Use mulch to prevent weed growth.
Harvest and Post-harvest
Your mango tree will mature approximately 4 to 5 years after planting. If you take good care of your trees, you will get a marketable amount of fruits.
A tree achieves maximum production after eight years. Depending on the variety, a single tree can produce 100 to 700 fruits per year.
Mango trees reach full maturity after about 20 years. You will know that the fruits are ready for harvest when they are hard and green. Harvesting is done by hand. Clip off the fruits with a stalk of about 3 cm.
Pack the fruits in a box or crate with the stalk facing downwards. Mature fruits ripen fast.
You need to store them at temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius. Ripe fruits require a room temperature slightly below 10 degrees Celsius.