Farmers can easily increase their beans yield

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If managed in the right way, farmers can get more bean yields, improve their soils and income. Farmers are about to start planting beans for the short rains. If they do it well, they stand to get good yields. Beans is also good for improving soil fertility.

Beans are very valuable to Kenyan farmers as they provide the much needed proteins to Kenyan families, especially those in the rural areas where income is low and many people cannot afford to buy animal proteins. Being a legume crop, beans fix nitrogen into the soil, thus improving fertility levels.

Due to shortage of land, most farmers intercrop beans with maize. Intercropping has benefits because the crops gain from nitrogen fixation and essential elements like lysine, which is found less in maize and other cereal crops. Bean yields in many farms are, however, very low averaging 1 to 2 bags per acre. But if grown well farmers can get up to 11 bags. To get good yields farmers have to grow varieties that are suitable to their areas and adopt good management practices. Beans can grow well under the following conditions:

Altitude: Both high and low altitude areas are suitable as long as there is adequate rain. They, however, tend to grow and mature faster in lower altitude zones.

Rainfall: Medium to high rainfall areas are suitable with an average of 750- 2000mm annually. Too much rain and long spells of drought are not good for beans and reduces their yields.

Soils: Beans grow well in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter and with a pH of between 6 and 7. Growth is poor in water-logged soils.

Land preparation: Land preparation should be done early enough so that the field is free of weeds and ready for planting at the onset of the rains. The seed bed should contain fine soil.

Seed quality: Farmers are advised to buy certified seed. Local farmers, however, prefer using seed from their own stock. This is acceptable (because beans are self-pollinated), but farmers should carefully select seeds for planting. Ensure all wrinkled, damaged or diseased seeds are removed. Seeds when planted are prone to fungal diseases and pest damage before they germinate. To prevent this, all seeds must be treated with organic fungicides and pesticides a range of which are available in the market.

Inoculation: Inoculation of beans before planting is very important as it improves farmers’ yields. Inoculation is the process of mixing bean seeds with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobium, which enables the bean plant to take in more nitrogen during the growth cycle. Inoculated beans produce more than those that are not. Farmers can buy the Rhizobium from seed companies or from agricultural research institutions near them. Taking soil from a field previously planted with beans and mixing this with your seed beans also inoculates the seeds.

Planting: Beans should be planted at the onset of the rains. Delay in planting may cause a reduction in yields or even crop failure.

Spacing: Where beans are planted alone, planting should be done in rows at 50 cm by 10 cm (one seed per hill) if weeding is done using animal drawn implements or tractors, then spacing can be done according to the implement to be used for weeding. For farmers who want to intercrop beans with maize, two rows of beans 15 cm apart can be planted between maize rows. Plant 1 bean seed per hole when using this spacing pattern. The other alternative is to plant 1 bean row and then 2 seeds per hole.

Seed rates: The amount of seed required for a given area will vary from variety to variety and the size of the seed. The bigger the size of seed, the more the quantity of seed required. Beans grown as pure stands take up more seed than when intercropped with maize.

Fertilizer application: The use of farmyard manure or well made compost is highly recommended for bean growing especially in areas where soils are low in organic matter content. The manure should be applied at least 1 week before planting. Apply 7- 10 tons of farmyard manure for every 1 acre of land.

Weeding: Weeding should be done continuously to ensure all the weeds are controlled. Farmers are advised to weed the crop 2-3 weeks after emergence followed by second weeding 3 weeks later (before flowering) when beans are planted alone. Avoid cultivation at flowering time when the field is wet as this can spread diseases.

Harvesting: This should be done immediately the pods turn brown and hard before they start shattering.

Below is a guide for fertilizer application for beans;

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