All about bamboo farming and growing macadamia

Saturday April 03 2021

Bamboo seedlings

By Editor

I am planning to grow bamboos on my 10 acre piece of land in Kayunga. What are some of the agronomic practices? Andrew Nakibinge. Prospective farmer 

Dear farmer (Answered by Carol Mutua)
Bamboo is the most versatile tree grass with the ability to grow even in poorest soils. It grows well in any type of soil with a soil PH of between 6-8 and requires lowest inputs and care. This tree is, however, most valued, thanks to its multiple usage that has earned it the ‘golden tree’ name across the world.

Land preparation and planting
Planting bamboo does not necessarily require one to plough the whole farm. One is only required to dig holes with a spacing of 5m by 5m. Bamboo clubs meant for the production of edible shoots, animal, chicken fodder planting can be planted on a closer spacing of 2.5m to 3m. Equally, bamboo clubs being planted on wetlands or soggy land can be done on a closer spacing.

Place the bamboo seedling at the center of the hole before filling it with soil mixed with manure. Water it regularly depending on the type of soils until its rhizome is fully developed.

Bamboo is a woody grass and its roots and rhizomes benefit greatly from top dressing of mulch. Rhizomes are naturally attracted to loose topsoil and thrive when mulch is applied. Depending on the material used, mulch can also help recycle nutrients back into the soil. Some suitable mulch material can be bark or leaf mulch, grass, manure, compost, chipped wood and sawdust. Typically 5 - 15cm of mulch is sufficient for bamboo grown in the ground. In areas with severe cold weathers, apply at least 30cm deep layer of mulch.

Fertiliser application
 Although not mandatory, it has been established that adding fertiliser to bamboo can promote its growth and more vibrant leaves. Bamboo, just like other grasses, consumes large amounts of nitrogen hence any fertiliser rich in this nutrient like 20N 5P 5K is suited for it. However, the most preferred fertiliser for bamboo is organic compost or manure, which is applied by top dressing the growing area.


Pest and disease control
Bamboo contains a substance called bamboo-kun – an antimicrobial agent that gives the plant a natural resistance to pest and fungi infestation, though some pathogenic problems do still exist in some plantations. This substance eliminates more than two thirds of bacteria that attempt to grow on the plant. This anti-bacterial property makes bamboo farming more economical than many agricultural based investments. However, some bamboo seedlings can be affected by leaf rust. The rust can be can be controlled using any broad spectrum fungicide.

The growth of bamboo plants can be hampered by weeds and other competing vegetation. It is important to control and arrest the growth of weeds around each bamboo clump. Failure to do so will invariably result in poor root and stem development in the young bamboos. An area within a radius of 60cm around each plant should be cleared of all weeds and competing vegetation then apply mulching.

Pruning is the cutting and removal of culms, branches or leaves of the bamboo. This can be done with a sharp pruners saw depending on the thickness of the culm. Pruning branches gives the stem a robust growth and width. Once any part of the bamboo is cut, it will grow again, a property that allows the crop’s dimensions to be permanently controlled. When pruning bamboo, make cuts just above the culm node and cut above the branch node when pruning branches. 

Bamboo stems mature in three years after transplanting and can survive for at least eight years. Harvesting is done sometimes throughout the year or twice when sap content is low depending on the ecological conditions and type of bamboo. Lack of harvesting leads to congestion of clump, resulting to poor quality and quantity of bamboo stems.

Growing macadamia 

Do ungrafted macadamia seedlings have advantages over grafted ones? Robert

Dear Robert (Answered by Dennis Kigiri an agronomist)
Macadamia can do well in marginal areas and in most soil types as long as they are well-drained. However, poorly drained clay soils should be avoided.

Murang’a 20 is a good variety and is adapted to a wide range of ecological conditions.
You cannot go wrong by choosing grafted macadamia because they mature in two years and they produce between 50 and 200 kilogrammes per season by the time they are five years.

On the other hand, ungrafted macadamia takes seven years to start bearing and they produce between seven and ten kilogrammes in the first year and 50 kilogrammes per season by the fifth year of bearing. Therefore, grafted macadamia has more advantages than ungrafted. 

They prefer deep, well-drained soils that have a pH of 5.0 to 6.5, and require 60 to 120 inches of rainfall per year. They can be grown from sea level to an elevation of 2,500 feet. Macadamia trees have lower nut yields than other nut trees, meaning that it can take a while to start and maintain a positive cash flow.


Choosing a chicken breed 

My name is Simon and I graduated from university but getting a job has become difficult. I have a farm and I am interested in poultry farming where I wish to have improved Kienyeji and Kuroiler breeds. Which is better than the other? 

Dear Simon (Answered by Carol Mutua)

Choosing a breed to rear ultimately depends on your production needs, management (free-range or intensive), resources and target market.

Kuroiler and indigenous chicken both serve as dual-purpose birds, however, Kuroilers are hybrids with the ability to respond well to intensive or semi-intensive systems by attaining market weights of about two to four kilogrammes in four months and reach maturity at five months with egg production levels of 180–200 eggs per year. Indigenous chickens, on the other hand, respond well to free-range system given their high tolerance level to scavenging.

However, the disadvantage with Kuroiler is that they rarely go broody and hence do not sit on eggs.
The type of market you intend to target will influence your choice of breed as certain markets prefer products on the basis of taste attributes. Indigenous chicken is preferred due to lean meat and taste attributes of the products while the Kuroilers tend to deposit a lot of fat on their carcass especially under intensive feeding.