How to grow and earn quick money from beetroots
The root vegetable crop takes 60 days (two months) to mature
By Zablon Oyugi
Beetroot is one of the emerging high value crops among Kenyan agro-entrepreneurs who are keen to start making some cool cash in just two months.
The root vegetable crop which takes 60 days (two months) to mature is increasingly becoming a darling for the health-conscious consumers due to its nutrition benefits.
Health experts assert that the vegetable is loaded with antioxidants, rich in fibre, iron, potassium, and Vitamin C and associated with lowering blood pressure, improving blood circulation and digestion and fight diabetes cancer.
It also has a strong unique flavour and colour making it suitable in making juices and forming a good base for homemade wine or vinegar.
Despite all the benefits and its commercial potential, the crop, also known as chard, red garden beet, or blood turnip beetroots is easy to grow.
“Beetroots are biennial, easy to grow crop that require little attention and it comes in several varieties,” says Eliud Njoroge, crop researcher at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
Cylindra– This variety has dark roots that are cylindrical in shape. It has a long shelf life and known to be bolt resistant.
Bolt hardy– It has round roots with smooth skin. This variety has a good flavor, a preference for consumption.
Chioggia pink– Beautiful red and white rings give this variety a huge demand in the Kenya market. It is also sweet and tender with round roots.
Burpee’s golden– It has yellow round roots with a good flavor.
According to Njoroge beetroots generally grow best under cool conditions and can do well throughout the year if there is enough water.
“For optimum development, the crop should be planted in areas that experience full sunshine as it requires temperature of between 15-250°C.”
Well-drained, loose, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0 is best for your crop.
Since beetroot seeds are planted directly in the seedbed, land preparation should be to the depth of 15-20cm, and compost manure applied evenly to enrich the soil.
You can them make terraces or dig ridges if need be.
After removing all the soil dirt that include twigs, shrubs and such, the seeds can now be sown to a depth of 1-2.5cm, 30 to 40cm between rows and 7 to 10 cm between plants.
You can then use dry and light mulch to cover the area to prevent much water lose especially during dry season.
“If there is not enough rainfall, you will need to water the area twice a day–morning and evening as you wait for about five to 12 days for the seeds to germinate,” says Njoroge.
Kenya Seed Company, stockists and retail outlets sell 25 grams of beetroot at Sh110 while 50grams cost Sh170.
Weeds should be regularly controlled in beetroot farming. You can use herbicides within rows or shallow hoeing to control effectively. Hand weeding is commonly practiced in East Africa especially Kenya.
Pests and diseases affecting Beetroot
Leafhoppers- these are wedge-shaped, winged insects that feed by sucking sap. They appear yellowish green. You need to monitor your crop regularly for early signs of infestation. The insects can spread virus diseases.
Root-knot nematodes- when they attack, you will notice the formation of galls on roots. Your plants may turn yellow and reduce in vigor. Early signs of attack normally appear a month prior to planting.
Aphids- These are small sap-sucking insects. They may be red, green-black, or white in color. Their bodies excrete honeydew that forms sooty mold on leaves. When they attack your crops, the leaves turn yellow and get curled.
Leaf miners- this pest feed between the leaf surfaces. They are small whitish maggots that form thin, white, winding trails on leaves as they feed. Severe infestation can result in white blotches on leaves and premature dropping of the leaves. This will drastically reduce your yield.
Farmers should also watch out for powdery mildew whose early signs of infection appear on the lower surface of older leaves. It appears small, circular, scattered, white mycelium growth on the leaf surface.
“As the infection persists, it may infect all the leaves, appearing dusty white on both surfaces. The leaves of the beetroot plant may turn yellow and eventually fall off,” said Justice Ngara, agronomist at Agribusiness Media.
The plant takes 60 days to mature, and its average yield depends on the beetroot varieties.
The yield can vary from 25 tonnes to 30 tonnes per hectare.
According to Ngara harvesting starts when beetroot globes are about 5cm in diameter, that is, about the size of a golf-ball.
“Once the beetroot is ready, it is harvested by lifting the leaves then cut them off, washing the roots and grading to sizes before storing on a damp newspaper or polythene bags where it can be kept for two to three months awaiting market.”
Since beetroot is fast gaining popularity due to its versatility, a market is readily available. Those who are into fruit salad and fresh juice business can make good buyers.
Open air markets, supermarkets and referrals can also be good selling points for farmers.
Currently a kilo of beetroots retails at Sh150 hence 30 tonnes will give Sh4,500,000 gross income per hectare.