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Agronomist's notebook: Consider this when you grow ‘dhania’



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In my daily encounters with the farmers, I met this one who was growing coriander.

The farmer’s production programme was proper since she planted at intervals to ensure a continuous supply.

Coriander, locally commonly known as dhania, takes four to six weeks to mature, depending on the variety.

The long and short varieties of are the most commonly grown in Kenya.

Coriander is consumed almost in every household due to its aroma and the flavour it adds to food. It is used in stews and salads

It is a relatively easy crop to grow, requiring minimum maintenance. Few pests and diseases attack it and it does not require intensive labour. Coriander can be grown in the greenhouse or open field.

Despite being an easy crop to grow and maintain, it is not always the case as I came to understand during my fieldwork.

The farmer had several beds that were almost ready for harvest.

However, the beds were bushy and overcrowded, the coriander leaves were yellowing and purpling while the stems were weak.

The cracks in the soil showed that the moisture content was obviously low.

Coriander in some beds had germinated, but the mulch was still on the ground. That made the tiny plants to find their way through the mulch in search of sunlight.

In the course of my interaction with the farmer, I realised that she also had challenges with water since the rainfall and supply from the community source were unreliable.

However, she was still determined to be productive in terms of quality and higher yields to meet consumers’ demands.

Having identified her shortcomings, we sat down to discuss what she could do to improve her farming techniques.

Here are some of the most essential factors, which coriander farmers must put into consideration.

To start with, land should be prepared to a fine tilth and well-decomposed manure incorporated into the soil.

Beds of a metre in width and the length of one’s desire should be made in areas that are of poor drainage or prone to erosion.

If the drainage is good, one can use flatbeds to plant the crops though this depends on the method of irrigation.

The crop requires plenty of Nitrogen during the vegetative stage and phosphorus for proper root development.

With the above, DAP fertiliser should first be applied before planting, with proportions depending on soil test analysis reports.

Nitrogenous fertilisers such CAN or any other foliar that has high nitrogen content can be top-dressed during week three.

Use certified seeds that are free of pest and disease as this plays a role in determining the quality and quantity of yields.

The seeds should be sowed in drills 2.5cm in depth and 15-20cm apart and covered lightly with soil.

To avoid overcrowding, the seeds should be sowed singly, otherwise, they end up developing weak stems and leaves become yellow due to inadequate light.

Thinning can be done to remove the excess plants while they are about seven to 15cm in height.

Watering should be done immediately after sowing until germination takes place but the frequency will depend on soil moisture content.

After this, one should ensure the crop has adequate moisture since this aids in increasing the growth rate of the coriander.

It is advisable to do mulching before watering to stop the seeds from being washed away.

The mulch should be removed immediately after germination to avoid the young plant from developing weak stems or damaging them when removing the mulch.

In some cases, shelters are erected to prevent the direct sunlight. The shelters also control soil erosion occurring due to raindrops.

Maintaining field hygiene is important. This is done by ensuring the crop is free of weeds that may attract or harbour pests such as aphids and diseases like bacterial leaf spot.

Harvesting is done as soon as healthy green coloured leaves are seen, failure to which the leaves turn feathery and yellow.

To maintain the freshness of the coriander, harvesting should be done early in the morning or late in the evening.
In some cases, the roots are soaked in water after harvesting.

With good management practices, one can get 5kgs of coriander per square metre. The farm gate price per kilogramme varies from Sh25 to as high as Sh80. Coriander growing has plenty of merits. Many a farmer should be encouraged to try coriander production.