Benet Sub-county in Kween District, is an agriculturally endowed land with breath-taking gardens of Irish potatoes and cassava on the Tuyebei hills.
The picturesque is complemented by patches of blossoming cereal crops in many parts of the county where farmers who have invested adequate resources in barley, wheat, maize and millet, are reaping fortunes.
One such farmer is Grace Mogosu, a 63-year-old retired teacher minting serious money in her locality from barley farming, just seven years since she ventured into it.
Mogosu started on a small scale in 2015 but has since upgraded the acreage since entering a memorandum of understanding with a beer company last year.
The mother of 10, who lives in Tuyebei Village, says she has planted barley on large scale thanks to Nile Breweries Limited (NBL), who are working to increase food security and also create market for farmers’ produce.
To plant barley, Mogosu begins by tilling the land. She uses the vertical tillage method.
A special farm implement (tractor) does three things at ago. It cuts deep into the soils, slices across the farm and picks up the weeds to allow aeration and water infiltration.
“We do the vertical tilling and also chisel plough and finish with light harrowing to ensure there is minimal soil disturbance to conserve moisture,” Mogosu says.
Once tilling is completed, planting starts but only after the barley seeds have been graded using a machine that sorts out good from bad ones.
“This helps us to attain over 95 per cent germination of seeds and control pests and fungal infections in the soil because there are some poor seeds which can host them,” explains Mogosu.
After grading the seeds, she dresses them. Seed dressing involves mixing the seeds with fungicides and herbicides using a machine.
“It helps to prevent the deadly worms in the soil from feeding on the seeds, which may prevent them from shooting off the ground,” she says.
Mogosu explains that it is important to conduct a soil analysis before planting to determine what the soil lacks or possible diseases.
“We do soil testing annually. Most farmers fear that it is costly, but you will reap good returns because of the simple exercise,” she says.
“The seeds are planted in rows and we ensure that there are 20 to 25 seeds per square foot of space,” she says, adding that varieties of seeds they plant are imported from South Africa.
She explains that the crop grows well if planted in loam and volcanic soils with a normal PH and that the land should be prepared one month before the planting.
Maturity & marketing
Barley takes 16 weeks (four months) to mature, unlike wheat which is ready for the market in five months.
“What makes barley lucrative and different from wheat or maize is its tillering ability. Tillers are tiny shoots that sprout out resulting into seed heads, thus, more yields.”
“When it has matured, it changes the colour from green to yellow. The seed heads also starts drooping towards the ground but it also requires moderate rains,” she says.
On one acre of barley, a farmer can harvest up to 30, 100 kilogramme bags because of tillering.
Mogosu earns Shs152,000 per 100 kilogramme bag. She sells each kilogramme at Shs1,500.
“On average, I earn Shs2.2m per acre,” says Mogosu.
Mogosu says in order to earn more from the crop, there is need to practice good agronomic practices.
Mogosu plans to expand the growing of barley to more than 10 acres. She also plans to engage in growing of other cash crop and fruits in future.