Beans Farming in Narok; Germination, Weeds and Pest Control

We kept in contact with our landlord, checking on the beans’ progress for two weeks before we traveled back to Narok. The rains had disappeared ever since we put seeds in the ground, and we were getting worried. Last year had been bad news, the rains had started well but after a week and a half they disappeared for good. Farmers in Narok did not harvest anything, literally. The cultivated wheat became livestock food. The beans withered and fed soils with their humus.

So there we were, worried that we were going to face same catastrophic fate. Our beans had germinated, but not very well. There were gaps, areas that had not germinated at all. We went digging randomly along the planting strips and our only relief was seeing the bean seeds still lying in the soil desolate but hopeful. We prayed for rains. It was the best we could do.

Then there was this other disappointment concerning the spacing; the strips were almost a foot and a half apart, maybe even two. You could see a whole lot of space inhabited by very healthy weeds, wasted. Weeds occupied greater space than crop, a sore sight. We reminisced how we had asked those planter guys whether they had used right ratio and spacing, and how they swore that it was the correct bean planter setting.

We left, and it wasn’t until after another week that it rained for the first time. The rains were so heavy that the entire farm was flooded. From that day on it continued pounding like it was paying up for disappointing farmers the previous year, and early this season. There were reports of flooding in Narok town, and the big damages caused by waters trying to find their way into the Enkare-Narok river. The heavy rains and resulting floods lasted for weeks and it was wise to stay away from that town until they subsided. The next time we visited was weeks later, and alas! The farm was all green and pretty. Most of the beans had germinated well, but you couldn’t miss to notice how choked they were by weeds.

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Common weeds in Narok

It was only given then that we had to weed the farm to save our crop. After consulting the, and with consideration on costs and time, we chose to use herbicides instead of doing the manual weeding. 32 acres of land with that amount of weeds would take a whole month to dig out, and at Kes. 3,000 per acre would cost a whooping Kes.96,000. However, having chosen to use a herbicide, we were advised to get “Beans Clean”, a broad spectrum herbicide that is selective on beans only. An agricultural officer advised us to use 1.5litres of the chemical in every 200litres of water. Ideally the entire farm was to be sprayed using 2600litres of water. The summary of cost for spraying was as below:-

  • 20litres of Bean Clean@1200= 24000 – (11litres@1200)= 10800
  • Labour (spraying using the engine pump) at Kes.300 per acre = 9600
  • Water supply at Kes.15 per 20litre can= 675 (we used 900litres of water)

You notice that we only use 900litres of water against the predicted 2600litres. That is one ambiguity that puzzles me till today. This is my fourth year in farming but not once have we ever used the predicted amount of water while spraying. That should also tell you that we only used a few bottles of herbicides, nine to be precise. We had to sell the remaining 11 bottles with the help of the agro-vet shop we’d bought them from; and you guessed right, that took quite a number of weeks. Sad truth is that this herbicide did not work very well and as usual there were a myriad of excuses from all corners. The agro-vet guy told us the weeds had grown too strong and we sprayed quite late. The fact however was that spraying against herbicide in so much rain would have been useless. Other people said the guys who sprayed did a shoddy job. When things go wrong there are many local doctors around with all sorts of ‘solutions’.

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Images of  Mature weeds on some parts of the farm even after spraying

About three weeks later we came back to spray liquid fertilizer and insecticide as we had been reliably informed that worms had invaded the crop. After looking at the farm we decided against using fertilizer. By then the weeds were flourishing, and adding fertilizer would only invigorate their growth. Our beans weren’t doing so bad, but the worms had done quite some damage.

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Images; Bean leaves damaged by caterpillars

Pesticide cost 1000 per liter, and we used 5litres in 1200 litres of water. The worms were surely eradicated, thankfully. So far that was the single most successful activity we had undertaken, maybe because this time we did it differently. We split the farm into three portions of about 10 acres each and gave strict instructions for spraying to be done on each strip on three different days unlike the herbicide that was done in about four hours the entire 32 acres.

As I write this, the beans are mature, and have started turning (ripening) for harvest. We can only wait to see how much harvest we shall get. Good thing is that we have a ready market, one thing that most people forget to work on till it is harvesting time. A few lessons were learnt over the period between after planting to date, and those will be my main discussion in the next article “Beans Farming in Narok; Lessons on Weeding and Pests