In Summary
  • Market price. Julius Ahagaana contends that in dry season the market for passion fruit within the country is in abundance because the current price per 100 kilogramme is between Shs750, 000 and Shs800, 000 depending on the quality.
  • With the farming dynamics changing every year, farmers have been advised to go for particular money minting crops that will meet the fluctuating market demands. Denis Bbosa details the five major crops that agribusiness experts believe will bring smiles on the farmers’ faces this year if the best practices are followed to the dot.

Just like in business and education, carrying out research is the threshold to success of any practicing and aspiring farmer.
The year has started with a scary drought that can derail the faint hearted farmers but experts have come up with varieties of crops that farmers in need of high yields from their produce should turn to.

Passion fruits
Learning that passion fruit is one of the rare crops that can withstand the drought is delightful and encouraging enough for any farmer.
According to Julius Ahangaana, a passion fruit expert based at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute, Kabanyolo (Muarik), passion fruits can also withstand the woodiness virus and is an all-year round crop that can thrive if given light and water. “First and foremost it is a medicine to over 64 diseases. Passion fruit is a source of nutrition (vitamin C) and many farmers have given touching testimonies on how they have developed their lives through growing it,” Ahangaana reveals.

The expert also adds that passion fruit flowers can provide nectar for bees and that a farmer integrating the production of the crop and harvesting honey can benefit greatly. “It does not require vast space and can be started with little investments compared to other crops. Its marketability is so high at the moment one bag of passion fruits in Kampala goes for Shs750,000,” he said.
Ahagaana recommends the UPF, B4 and KPF varieties for high quality and quantity produce and they are all bred at Muarik.

Banana
Crop expert Erastus Nsubuga comes up with a list of varieties that farmers should embrace in its order; Kisansa first, Muvubo, Musakala, Kibuzi, Nakitembe, Lwadungu and Mbwazirume. “Farmers should be considerate of the fact that bananas grow according to the region. For example, Mpologoma is not good for soils in Masaka yet in other central areas it can thrive. They should be selective on the varieties they opt for,” he says. Nsubuga advises prospective elite farmers to run for Gonja farming for its countless benefits.

“Gonja has begun to be so profitable and the demand is high because of the end products such as chips,” Nsubuga adds. He says that although Gonja takes 14 months for maturity and bananas 12 months, they should opt for the former for its new market.
“If they follow the best practices such as planting disease free seeds, prepare the holes well, add nutrients like chicken drops and cow dung and establish a water source, banana and gonja growers are destined for bigger yields this year.”

Coffee
For years, coffee growing has been a goldmine to the patient and robust farmers. According to Moses Lumu, a trained coffee expert and tutor, farmers should stick to growing the crop in areas whey they grow best. “Farmers should know that Robusta growing is best suited in areas such as central that are of low altitude (800-1300 meters above sea level). Arabica coffee is grown in areas of up to 2000 metres that are mountainous,” Lumu advises. He says there are 10 varieties of coffee that farmers should yearn for this year such as Kituuza Robusta 1 to Kituuza Robusta 7, Naro Robusta 8, 9 to 10 because they are resistant to the deadly coffee wilt disease and brings quality yields.

Groundnuts
Groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea) are the second most important staple legume, after common beans, grown by smallholder farmers in Uganda according to David Kalule, a crop expert.
The crop also represents a significant source of income that contributes to food security and alleviates poverty. Groundnut seeds contain 40 – 50 per cent high quality edible oil, 20 – 50 per cent easily digestible protein and 10 – 20 per cent carbohydrates depending on the variety. “With the cost of animal protein becoming increasingly prohibitive, groundnut is becoming an even more important source of protein.
Any farmer who grows the crop this year will not regret,” says Kalule. Currently the price of groundnuts per kilogramme is Shs3,500. The multiple uses of groundnut make it an excellent cash crop for both domestic and foreign markets this New Year. The most recommended varieties include Serenut 12R, Serenut 13R and Serenut 14R.

Cassava.
“Cassava is the only crop that can survive the dry season and stay green, it gives farmers food security and its marketing opportunities are quite enormous,” says Tom Omara, an agronomist on root crop research at National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro). He recommends the varieties such as Nase11, Nase19, Narocasss1 and Narocass2 if farmers are to meet the seven million metric tonnes demanded on the market at the moment. The increasing demand of its products such as starch and flour for use as raw materials in bakeries, breweries, bioethanol, paper boards, bio-degradable plastics, animal feeds and textiles also makes a must have crop in your gardens.

How to deal with passion fruits in drought

Passion fruit is a perennial crop grown by farmers based in tropical climatic regions in Brazil, Africa and particularly Uganda. Farmers are however faced with a number of challenges during dry season which leads to lack of water absorption both in the plant’s leaves and the roots in the soil. Julius Peter Ahagaana, an agronomist from Muarik says a farmer who follows proper practices will harvest though out the year. Such farmers are in position to explore both the internal and external markets fetching better market price due to scarcity of the fruit

How to get bumper harvest
Ahagaana, explains that before the rains stop in December, passion fruit farmers are expected to have harvested rain water from running drainages and house roof tops. This can be stored in underground water tanks of different capacities depending on the farmer’s ability. The preserved water is used for irrigation during the dry spell. It is important for a farmer to continuously mulch their passion fruit farm to maintain moist soil. Ahagaana recommends drip irrigation because it delivers water to the plant stalk directly. Farmers are advised to apply fertilisers concurrently with water during dry season. Farmers are further advised to plant varieties that tolerate drought. The common varieties include grafted BV4 and UPF1 which are bred at Muarik and NaSARRI in Serere, eastern Uganda.

How to plant
The most common farm practices adopted by farmers when planting include; the elaborate trellising system (wires and plastic ropes run across the poles) and sideway trellising system (ropes run horizontally and the plants are spread sideways). Ahagaana, says the sideway trellising is the best because it makes the plants spread well, giving room to enough sunlight whereas the elaborate system leads to too much accumulation of shed which is not good for the plants growth. During dry season farmers are free to use either method. It is important to carry out massive irrigation for both methods during dry season.