The Horticulture programme at AMRI Katumani conducts research in fruit trees, both common and local vegetables, as well as aromatic and medicinal plants (MAPs). The programme research is towards increased vegetable, fruit and medicinal and aromatic plants options which sustainably could be established in marginal lands of Kenya.
Constraints to horticultural production
The major constraints to horticultural production are;
i) Inappropriate crop varieties, farmers tend to try any crop materials even though they may not be suited for the region.
ii) Infestation by major pests and diseases leading to low quality produce that are unmarketable and reduced yields. This translates to loss of income by the farmer and the country.
iii) High post-harvest losses due to bulkiness and short shelf-life associated with horticultural produce which consequently results into glut and low market prices
iv) To identify superior varieties of fruits, vegetables, aromatic and medicinal plants (MAPs) that are tolerant to drought, major pests and diseases, early maturing, high yielding, with good shelf life and consumer acceptability.
v) To develop, validate and promote appropriate environmentally friendly IPM/ICM packages for target horticultural crop
vi) To develop, validate and promote suitable harvest and post harvest handling packages for horticultural crops.
The horticulture programm at Katumani undertakes research on both common, African leafy vegetables and grain amaranth. Vegetables are very nutritious being rich in micronutrients (minerals and vitamins), proteins and dietary fibre while some have medicinal properties. Several varieties of amaranth have been developed and have been to KEPHIS for registration.
1. Amaranth species (grain and vegetable)
Grain amaranth has multiple uses as a vegetable, nutrient-rich grains and livestock feed. Amaranth grain is highly nutritious and contains 16-20% protein, 5-10% oil, minerals, vitamins, trace elements and dietary fibre. It is particularly rich in the amino acid lysine which is low in cereals like maize and wheat. Nutritive values of cereals are enriched when blended with amaranth. Cooked grain is up to 90% digestible and an excellent weaning diet, recommended for the elderly and people who have been through a long fast or starvation. Being an immune booster it is good for those living with HIV/AIDS and severely malnourished people.
Amaranth leaves are high in vitamins A, K, B6, C, riboflavin and folate; and essential minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. The vegetables are very rich in iron and therefore good for anaemic people. They are high in vitamin A and one hundred (100) grams of vegetables cooked without oil can contribute up to 45% of the daily vitamin A requirement.
It is early maturing (75-90 days) and the leaves ready in three weeks after planting. Grain amaranth drought tolerant suitable for a wide range of agroclimatic conditions. Can grow in a wide range of environmental conditions between 0 and 2,400 m. Does well in well-drained high organic matter content, shallow, stony, crusty clay soils.
Grain amaranth varieties developed at KALRO Katumani
i. Katumani Amaranth (KAM) 001
• The stem is green with a light purplish base
• It has broad green leaves
• The plant bears several panicles on each branch
• The panicle is open, green and turns to yellowish- green and then light golden when mature
• Very small seeds (1,000 seeds weigh 0.6-1.2 grams)
• The seeds are golden in colour
• Yield potential in the ASALs is 500 kg grain and 400 kg leaves per hectare
ii. Katumani Amaranth (KAM) 114