CASHEW NUTS FARMING IN KENYA

Cashew is a known commercial crop. The ancient cultivators of cashews purposely did it for purposes of afforestation and soil conservation. Currently it is widely grown in various countries for commercial purposes and foreign exchange.

Types of cashews.

  • W210-popularly known as Jumbo nuts.
  • W240-it is reasonably priced.
  • W320-the most popular and readily available.
  • W180-large in size and the most expensive.

Cashew nuts also known as kernels are available when roasted, raw or baked.

Cashew nut growth requirements.

It does better in poor but well drained sandy- loam soil without hardpan and with a PH level around 5-6.5.Sandy loam is better than sandy since in sandy soil mineral deficiencies are more likely to occur. Temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius are ideal and a plantation altitude of between 0-800m.

Cashews require an optimal rainfall if 1500-2000mm yearly although, if it rains during flowering season, it causes flower abortion due to anthracnose and mildew. Cashew trees are tropical and sensitive to frost hence best grown in frost free areas.

Cashew plants have a well-developed root system hence they are able to withstand high temperatures. Cashews require enough direct sunlight. It grows slowly and doesn’t fruit if grown in the shade. Heavy clay soils with poor drainage and PH more than eight are not suitable for cashew growth.

Planting.

Selected trees are multiplied by grafting or air layering as it brings about best production and quality cashews. Trees that grows vigorously are selected. Trees that produce yellow to grey-brown apples have proven to have the most resistance anthracnose and have best productions.

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Fresh seeds are planted in upright position in a planting bag which contains loose,sterilised soil mixture.3-4 seeds are dropped in one planting hole. The seedlings that thrive well are allowed to develop further but the weak ones are thinned out. The seedlings by then are prone to phytophthora root rot, as tap root grows very fast and bends when it touches the bottom. When seedlings are preferably tall enough, they are grafted by preferably side grafting and wedge grafting After 3-4 months old they are transplanted to the orchard to prevent tap root from bending. Root system must not be disturbed during planting.

In order to ensure young trees are not blown over by wind, they are supported for the first time,2-3 years. Establishment of clonal orchards and improvement of fertilising and irrigation practices improves growth and production of cashew trees.

Development of cashews.

The lifespan of a cashew tree in a commercial plantation is 25 years of which they are replaced. Cashew tree can grow and reach a height of 12m.Flowering of cashews continues for approximately 3 months and varies from tree to tree. Flowering mostly occurs cold seasons. Fruit setting also takes place during cold seasons.

Young cashew trees are trimmed to remove branches that are broken or diseased. Treat with appropriate insecticide in case pests like twig borer eat the tree foliage. The rose-colored fragrant flowers develop into edible red fruits known as cashew apples.

roasted cashew nuts

Land preparation.

By onset of monsoon season, land preparation should be completed. In order to enhance migration of ants and termites, topsoil and subsoil are separately laid to allow withering to take place under the sun. Forest wastes and debris inside the pits dug, should be burnt and topsoil mixed with manure is applied to the brim of the pits.

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Precautions.

Water cashew nuts plants during dry spells. Apply fertilizer during growing season and mostly during the stages of flowering and development of nuts.Applied fertilizer should contain nitrogen and phosphorus and possibly zinc.

Harvesting.

After development of a fruit, a period of about two months is taken for it to turn pink or red cast and nut turns gray.Nuts grow in shells containing caustic oil at bottom end of the apples The caustic oil cause burns and skin irritation in case of contact. Therefore due to protection and safety son gloves and a long sleeved shirt together with glasses are worn. Freezing the cashew nuts makes it easier to separate the nuts from caustic shell. Waiting for a fruit to fall from the tree,to confirm its ripeness is an alternative way of harvesting cashews, although, if cashews nuts fall on the ground during harvesting level and stays there for sometime, it either rots or starts germinating within four days due to rain and overcast weather. Hence thorough collection of nuts should be enhanced during harvesting. Use hands to twist off nuts from from the apples.

Dry nuts after harvesting them, to enhance them to last longer and prevent spoilage after storage. By doing this quality mostly flavour of kernels is enhanced. Fungal and other infections are prevented also. Dried cells do not become rancid.moisture makes kernels rubbery limiting kernels breakage.Sorting is done after processing kernels, that is the whole and broken Cashews take 2-3 years from time of planting till the first time of harvest.

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Uses of cashew nuts.

  • They are used as sweeteners in sweets.
  • They are used in cooking special dishes like chicken and mutton.
  • cashews contain monounsaturated fatty acids that promotes healthy levels of good cholesterol.
  • They also have magnesium which protect against high blood pressure and supports healthy bones and muscles.

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