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Hidden hunger is caused by a chronic lack of critical vitamins and minerals that puts children and adults at increased risk of stunting, anemia, blindness, infectious diseases and even death. Experts state that one in three people globally suffer from hidden hunger are women and children who are especially vulnerable.

Bio fortification is a feasible and cost-effective means of delivering micronutrients to populations that may have limited access to diverse diets and other micronutrient interventions. In publication by Science Direct about improving nutrition through bio fortification, a review of evidence from Harvest Plus, 2003 through 2016 it is stated that since 2003, Harvest Plus and its partners have demonstrated that this agriculture-based method of addressing micronutrient deficiency through plant breeding works.

Farmer’s perspective
As such a team of scientists from Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, National Agriculture Research Organization, Harvest Plus and others have come up to steer this initiative to ensure that bio fortified crop production is enhanced to boost diverse nutritive food consumption in the country.

Types
explains that scientists at Naro have so far bred pro vitamin A orange fleshed sweet potatoes and beans rich in iron and zinc which farmers are already growing across the country. Other crops in the offing are pro vitamin A cassava, bananas and iron and zinc enhanced maize and Perl millet.

Breeding process
bio fortified plants is all about adding micro nutrients to the plant. “What scientists do is to go out to the field and select locally grown plants for the case of propagated crops which include sweet potatoes, bananas and cassava for the case of Uganda. It is a matter of selecting plants at random with already some percentage of pro vitamin A,”

Released varieties
Farmers are already growing orange fleshed sweet potatoes and varieties that include NASPOT 130 which matures in four months and the yield rate is 20 metrics per hectare per annum, NAROPOT 9 which matures in five months and average root yield in 17 tons per hectare with 30 per cent dry matter content, NAROPOT 8 which matures in five months and the yield rate in 20 tons per hectare with dry mater content of 33 per cent, SPK OO4 also known as Kakamega which matures in four months and yields 15 tons per hectare with dry matter content of 33 per cent and Ejumula which matures in four months and the yield is 19 tons per hectare with dry matter content of 34 per cent. These varieties are all resistant to sweet potato virus disease (SPVD) and sweet potato weevils (SPW). Other varieties released which are ordinary white in color are NAPOT 4, NASPOT 3, NASPOT 5, NASPOT 11, NASPOT 12 O, NASPOT 10 O and NASPOT 1. The yield rate is from 11 – 29 tons per hectare depending on the variety.

Soil requirements
Sweet potatoes can be produced in low and high altitudes as long as the soils are fertile.
Seedbed for sweet potato should be fertile and well prepared without big soil clods. The huge soil clods would interfere with tuber development later during growth and development of the crop.
It can be on flat mounds or ridges where three to four vines are planted with spacing of one centimeter apart. This applies to places such as Kabale and it contains soil erosion.

Planting
Dig holes at least 60 cm (2ft) in diameter and 60 cm (2ft) deep. Half fill the top soil mixed with rotted manure before putting in to the planting hole. A cover crop like beans, groundnuts should be inter-planted. It is advisable to plant at the beginning or during the main rain season for proper establishment and subsequent production.

Spacing
Spacing varies with type of bananas. Tall types of bogoya are widely spaced and short ones like nakytengu are closely spaced. On average, spacing is 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft); ranging from 2.4 m to 4.5 m between the holes giving a plant population of 750 – 900 per hectare.

Fertilizer application
For proper production, a good supply of nutrients is needed. The crop will benefit from farm yard manure if available or a dressing of 500gm of single superphosphate, 500gm muri ate of potash and 500gm of calcium-ammonium-nitrate at planting.

Weed control
Weed infestation can cause a drop in banana yield, therefore, weeds must be controlled either by mechanical weeding or by herbicides like gramoxone. For a mature established field mulching with coffee husks, elephant grass or other dry seedless grasses is a recommended practice against weeds.
However Agroking says that on a slope especially where mulching is inadequate, put in bands stabilized with elephant grass to control soil erosion.

Pruning
Leave three to five main stem of varying ages per stool. This is to give continuous crop throughout the year. The fewer the number of stems the bigger the size of bunches.

Staking
Banana pseudo stems are likely to break under the weight of heavy bunches. Thus, forked poles should often be used to keep the stems upright.

Harvesting
The fruit is cut down from the banana tree when mature. The color of the fruits when ripe varies among varieties. For some varieties especially the cooking ones, the color remains green but for the beer and desert varieties, the color turns yellow.
When bunches are harvested for sale, care should be taken to prevent the fruits from being bruised.
Average yields of bananas are 1,000 – 1,200 bunches per annum under medium husbandry practices and 1,250 bunches under excellent husbandry practices.

Storage
Matooke cannot be stored for long as they get ripe and rot after a short time. After harvesting, Agroking notes that they must be marketed quickly to avoid losses.

 

Matooke, Irish, Potatoes, Cassava, Yams

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