When James Balya set out to start an orchard of oranges in Nandere, Kadama sub-county, Kibuku district 10 years ago, community members scoffed at him.
The 56-year-old deviated from the common crop in the region, which is cotton. Many of the elderly attempted to discourage him, saying the soils had never favoured fruit growing.
However, Balya stood his ground. Today, he has a 15-acre orange orchard and is growing seedlings on eight acres.
“Had I been faint-hearted and heeded to what the community told me, I would still be drowning in abject poverty,” Balya says.
There are three seasons for oranges in a year, depending on the month a farmer set up the orchard.
For Balya, his first harvest is usually from November to December. The losses arising from rotting are experienced when fruits are kept in farm storage for a number of days.
This specifically happens in situations, where traders give the impression that they prefer fruits that had spent some time in farm storage because the peel would develop some resistance to breakage and, thus minimise damage during transportation.
His gross earnings are over sh20m per year.
Oranges can be grown from as low as sea level to 200m above sea level. Areas of low humidity are most ideal.
Such a climate is important for the control of diseases and for acquiring good oranges.
Oranges can be grown in a wide range of soils, provided they are well-drained. Fertile and well-aerated soils with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.5 are ideal.
It is advisable to test your soil and know its status. Soil testing can be done at all agriculture research centres.
Water requirements vary according to weather conditions, but, as a whole, the ideal range is between 450mm and 2,700mm per year.
What is the cost of seedlings?
An acre takes at least 120 seedlings. Seedlings cost between sh2,000 for non-grafted seedlings and sh3,000 for grafted seedlings, depending on location. With 120 seedlings, this costs sh240,000 or sh360,000.
It is recommended that you obtain seedlings from certified nursery beds because they have knowledge of the management of diseases and budding.
Orange diseases and pests
Agronomists say fruit flies are the major pests that attack fruits, especially oranges.
These insects lead to loss of 80% of the orchard. It is highly recommended that the affected fruits be removed and buried immediately.
For an acre, you can buy at least six fruit fly traps. Each costs sh20,000, which makes sh120,000.
Some losses arising from rotting are experienced when fruits are kept in farm storage for a number of days.
This specifically happens in situations where traders give the impression that they prefer fruits that had spent some time in farm storage because the peel would develop some resistance to breakage and, thus minimise damage during transportation.
Recommended spacing for oranges is six metres by six metres. When planting, the holes should be two feet wide, as well as two feet deep.
It is advisable to dig the holes 30 days before planting. It is highly recommended you add organic fertilisers in the holes. Digging the holes costs sh1,000 each or sh450,000 for the acre.