Are you a strawberry farmer? Boost your yields by using runners, avoid splits

 By Zablon Oyugi

In the world of strawberry farming, success hinges on the choices made right from the start. Aiming for a flawless 100 per cent germination rate and robust plant growth is the dream of every strawberry farmer.

However, achieving this dream begins with the critical decision of selecting the right plants for cultivation. What should you choose when selecting plants for cultivation, runners over splits? Runners! Experts say.

Additionally, it is advisable to source planting materials from certified nurseries.

This recommendation is particularly crucial at a time when many new farmers in this venture are still making mistakes in their planting methods, resulting in significant harvest losses.

“We have noticed that most farmers, instead of purchasing their seedlings from authorised dealers, opt for splits due to their rapid growth, lower cost, and easy availability, overlooking the runners which exhibit excellent germination and vigorous growth,” says Antony Nyaga from KALRO – PTC Thika.

Antony explains that, besides achieving full germination, runners obtained from certified nurseries also generate new runners from the main plant within three to four weeks, thereby allowing for the expansion of the farm.

Susan Mwangi, a farmer from Kiserian in Kajiado County, made the same mistake due to lack of proper information and initially planted strawberry splits that she bought for approximately Sh2 each. Unfortunately, a significant portion of them perished, with only a few surviving.

“Even those that survived exhibited stunted growth after three to four weeks. When I inquired with the seller about this, I was informed that their poor growth and mortality were due to incorrect planting and inadequate watering,” Susan said. She eventually sought assistance elsewhere and transitioned to using runners. Today, her production ranges from 20 to 30 kilos per week, with a kilo selling at Sh150 and a punnet at Sh235, resulting in an approximate weekly income of Sh4,500.

Most of Susan’s customers are individuals from Karen and traders from Nairobi who place orders for deliveries.

Jack Agricultural Produce strawberry propagation yard

Certified dealers

Robert Gitau, a licensed government seedling propagator and certified strawberry breeder accredited by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), operates Rogita Plants Care. He points out that many farmers make a critical mistake from the beginning by purchasing counterfeit, cheaper strawberry seedlings.

“The issue of seedlings is a significant concern because everyone is now propagating and selling them. Hence, distinguishing genuine from fake ones becomes a considerable challenge,” Gitau explains. He notes that authentic strawberry seedlings should cost at least Sh30, whereas several propagators sell them for as low as Sh3.

“Strawberries are propagated through splits and runners. For high-quality seedlings, it’s essential to turn to licensed propagators. Unlicensed propagators may lure farmers with lower prices, but in the end, it can prove costly when the crop fails or yields are poor,” he says.

Gitau adds that strawberries do not require excessive water but rather need a consistent supply. Farmers should water the crops daily in the evenings during the first month and twice daily in the second month.

Benson Maina, the CEO of Jaick Agricultural Produce (JAP) Company, a specialist in horticultural farming and export that contracts farmers to grow the fruit, points out that a single well-planted and maintained strawberry runner can develop into a plant yielding a kilo of strawberry fruits per year.

For instance, on a quarter-acre of land, a farmer can cultivate 6,000 plants, each producing a kilo per year. High input leads to high output.

According to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), strawberry runners exhibit vigorous growth traits and yield desirable fruits that are large and firm within 60 to 75 days.

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