Sugar snap peas snapping up farmers’ interest

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Sugar snap peas farming

They resemble the more common garden peas popularly known as minji, but while sugar snap peas have an edible pod and is less fibrous, the former have pods that are firm and rounded.

Snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon) are a cross between the snow and garden peas and have their whole pods eaten. They have a crunchy texture and sweet flavour.

Snow peas are flat with very small peas inside. The whole pod is edible and has a mild flavour. In Nyandarua County, snap peas are the new attraction, with farmers shifting from their traditional potato crop, to grow this lucrative climbing plant from the legume family.

From an acre, farmers are earning up to Ksh750,000, depending on the season, within only four months of planting. While the Irish potato is synonymous with Nyandarua and has for years been the mainstay, exploitation by middlemen who not only dictate the price of the produce, but also the mode of packaging for the market, have ruined the chances of an otherwise also lucrative tuber.

Mr Reuben Mwangi from Giita Village in Kipipiri Sub-County has been growing potatoes for 10 years, having inherited this from his parents. He is among the farmers who having endured exploitation for too long, has, like many others, taken up this new crop.

“Growing sugar snap peas has proved to be a rewarding venture in two years. We mainly grow it for the export market” says Mr Mwangi.

During the last season, he earned Ksh350,000 from half-an-acre of his land up from the paltry Ksh40,000 he used to get from potatoes.

Sugar snap peas are not only favourable to the pocket, but are also high in nutritional value. Apart from being low in calories, they are a good source of iron, which helps to boost production of energy, activates enzymes and nourishes red blood cells.

They are also a good source vitamin C, and A. The peas are crisp, sweet, and crunchy in the uncooked state; or they can be sautéed, stir-fried, or steamed.

“When we introduced snap peas, it was out of concern over increasing poverty levels. Potato farming was not doing the farmers any good. Lack of implementation of the Potato Marketing Bill was a big blow to farmers,” he says.

Mr Mwangi says the high season is from March to June, and November to January. Thanks to sugar snap peas farming, Mr Mwangi has built a permanent house worth Ksh1.5 million, invested in dairy farming and now plans to buy a two-acre piece of land by mid next year.

He has three dairy cows each producing an average of 15kg of milk in a day. “My three children are in boarding schools. I can now comfortably educate them,” says the 36-yearold farmer.

With proper husbandry, the agronomist says, an acre can produce up to three tonnes of the pods, with the first harvest coming 60 days after sowing and continuing for about two months.

Picking is done twice a week.

The pods are harvested when they are bright green, well-filled with the pea, but with some space between the peas. Pods contain three to eight peas each. In the high season, a kilo of the pods sells at Ksh250, dropping to Sh60 during the low season.

According to Mr Muchai, an acre requires about 10kg of seeds, which must be planted in loosened soils. A kilo of the seeds retails at between Ksh500 and Ksh1,000.

Among the varieties available are Cascadia, Oregon Sugar Pod II, Sweet Horizon and Snow Wind, which are supplied by Amiran or Syngenta

CLIMATIC CONDITIONS

  • Flourish in cool and humid climates of between 12-20 degrees Celsius.
  • Performs well in upper and lower highland areas with an altitude of between 1,500 metres to 2,600 metres above sea level

NB: Plants are sensitive to temperatures. High temperatures during pollination stage affects production.

SOIL

Should be well-drained, with good aeration and rich in organic matter. Should be well prepared. The soil pH should range at 6 to 7.7

FERTILISING

Application of well-prepared organic manure about 5-7 tonnes is recommended.

  • Apply DAP at planting and nitrogen fertilisers at flowering stage
  • Sugar snap peas are nitrogen-fixing plants. Inoculate the seeds with rhizobium to boost this ability and increase production

SOWING 

Sow seeds directly in moist soil

  • Spacing should be 3cm with an interspacing of 75cm and 10cm between rows.
  • Plant one to one-and-a-half inches (2.5–4 cm) deep

NB: The crop can be labour- intensive Growing plants require poles (trellising) to support the vines and keep them off the ground

Water

A well-distributed annual rainfall ranging from 1,500 to 2,100mm per annum is ideal.

  • Water plants regularly, but not too much. Overwatering can stunt the plants.
  • If you live in a hot dry area, do not allow the soil to dry. Keep it moist, but do not overwater.
  • Irrigate once a week where there is no rain.

Weeds 

  • Weeds control is a must at all times until the last harvest.
  • First weeding is carried out two weeks after germination and again just before flowering

NB: Besides reducing the risks of disease and pest attacks, it is easier to harvest in a weed-free farm.

PEST AND DISEASE

Fusarium wilt is the most common disease of sugar snap peas. Plants yellow and wilting leaves

  • Rot, blights and powdery mildew and damping off are some of the diseases that affect the crop
  • Thrips, leaf miners, aphids, caterpillars and slugs are some of the pests. Continuously scout for pests and diseases scouting
  • Be careful when using insecticides. Get the approval of a technical assistant on the type of chemicals to use.
  • Mark sprayed part of farm or block with a red flag
  • Keep spraying records for reference
  • Crops rotation can help to minimize on losses due to pests and diseases

Harvest

Harvest starts 60 days after planting

  • Continues for two months.
  • Picking done twice a week.
  • Harvest pods when they are bright green, well- filled with the pea but with some space between the peas.
  • Pods contain three to eight peas each.

ALSO READ: how-researchers-and-farmers-ensure-you-get-quality-potatoes/

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