Featured Past Articles

The past two and half years have seen the world grapple with some of the biggest challenges facing humanity in recent times. Kenya and Kenya’s floriculture industry was not spared by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst demand for our products remained strong, after getting over the initial shock of Covid, freight or should I say lack of freight capacity coupled with massive hikes in freight rates, introduction of more stringent taxation, the industry grappling with control of the False Codling Moth (FCM) has made the last period challenging.

Despite these challenges, the industry adapted, as it does and performed remarkably well over the last two and half years.

Augusto Solano with Richard Fox

Augusto Solano succeeds outgoing President Richard Fox (Kenya Flower Council, Kenya), who has served on the Union Fleurs Board of Directors since 2008 and held the position of Vice-President from 2014 to 2018 and President since 2018.

Richard Fox was the first representative of a non-European member country to hold the presidency in the 60 years of existence of Union Fleurs. The Board of Directors and members of Union Fleurs are immensely grateful to Richard Fox for his outstanding service and highly valuable contribution to Union Fleurs over the past 14 years and for his achievements in promoting the collective mission of Union Fleurs, as well as for his relentless efforts over the years to secure the continuation of the free trade of floricultural products, particularly between Kenya, the EU and the UK. They also acknowledge his long-standing dedication in promoting socially and environmentally sustainable business practises both in Kenya and globally as representative of the trade on behalf of Union Fleurs on the Board of Directors of FSI, the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative from its inception in 2013 to 2022.

The Ninth edition of the International Flower Trade Expo (IFTEX) Nairobi took place on May 3oth –June 1st, at the Visa Oshwal Centre, Westlands, Nairobi. Below is a chat with Dick van Raamsdonk, President HPP, and the organizer of the event;

After staging eight consecutive IFTEX exhibitions in Nairobi, you were happy with the outcome, one of the reasons why even after two years of absence due to Covid the event is back this year. What would you attribute this success to considering you indicated earlier shows exceeded expectations?
The fact that Kenya is the only country in the world where the production area of flowers structurally increases is a strong indicator that the sector -overall- is in a good shape. Moreover, growth in a worldwide economic turmoil shows that the sector has to row against the stream and still moves forward. This cannot mean anything different than strength for even more growth when coming into calm waters. Therefore IFTEX is an excellent instrument for the Kenyan floriculture Industry to support and accelerate this growth.

Informing, advising and debating in order to improve the quality productivity of our floriculture sector in the region. That is the aim of Floriculture Magazine. With new molecules been registered into the country yearly and the agrochemical market in full swing, growers are taking a renewed interest in crop protection. To quench your thirst on safe and effective use of agrochemicals, meet our professional correspodent. In this issue she has picked a key area and will talk direct to the people who draw spray programs in your farms.

Briefly discuss the choice of a good, safe and effective insecticide in a spray program.
Be sure to use suitable chemicals rather than just familiar ones. When choosing a chemical several factors are important – not just price alone. Is it effective against that pest/disease? Its mode of action? WHO classification? MPS/Kenya flower council coding? Will the with-holding period or other safety issues fit with your harvesting schedule? Can it cause any damage to the crop? Will it kill beneficial insects you are trying to protect? Do you know how to use the chemical to its full effectiveness? Do you have the right equipment and application methods for that chemical? Is it legal to use it on your crop?

How do you handle the different chemical groups?
Rotate products basing on chemical group / target sites in case in the same chemical group but no cross resistance known. Check with FRAC /IRAC the comments on resistance (High, medium or Low resistance risk). Rotation of the Chemical Groups should be done every 2-3 sprays. This will manage the threat of insecticide resistance. These procedures will help to reduce the risk of increasing the level of resistant insects in the pest populations. You must have a chemical group rotation plan which you must follow religiously. You must also ensure that the chemical is correctly mixed and used under the right conditions (additives (+/-), temperature, pest threshold level etc.). When spraying, Make sure that you get good coverage to get the maximum kill and do not spray more often than you need to. Spray interval range from 3-7 days depending on the level of infection and infestation which is a function of weather.

When do you spray?
The grower must spray when Pest/Disease pressure is not too high. In this case, you must follow all requirements of effective insecticide application, taking careful note of the different application requirements of some chemicals. Crop monitoring and insect scouting will inform you when the pests have reached a level where spraying is required. To reap maximum profit, the grower must follow the requirements of effective insecticide application. The grower must select an insecticide from the right chemical group according to the chemical rotation plan.

When spraying one should follow all important legal and safety requirements (e.g. protective gear, re-entry time and with-holding period from spray to next pick).

For maximum benefits the grower should examine and closely follow all guidelines for effective use of the chemical (e.g. use of a wetting agent if required, avoidance of high temperatures etc.), ensure mixing of the correct rate and volume for the crop and pest. One should avoid using any other additives in the tank mix unless certain that it is a safe and effective combination. Application must be done promptly and at the best time of day for a good kill - usually morning or late afternoon. Head of sprays must check pH of the mixture before adding the chemical to make sure it is between 6.0 and 8.0 (6.5 is best) and also find out how long it should take the chemical to work (minutes or days).

The grower must apply the chemical to achieve good coverage by making sure the spray equipment is calibrated to deliver the correct volume for the crop area and growth stage and that the jets and pressure setting are delivering the right droplet size and penetration to get good coverage The movement of the spray nozzles must achieve good coverage from top to bottom, between plants and under leaves. The sprayer must avoid run off with most chemicals as this often leads to leaf burn and can actually leave less chemical on the leaf for insects! General rule is from 6.30 to 10 am and 2 to 3.30 pm depending on the weather condition. Make sure there is ample time for crop foliage to dry before night to avoid outbreak of foliar diseases. Thrips ,caterpillars,aphids should be sprayed between 8-10.30 when they are active.

What should I consider when spraying?
Grower must take into consideration the weather Pattern. Disease /Pest Cycles are a times linked to the ecological prevailing weather conditions. Incorporation of protective measures is a key factor to delay or lower the Disease/Insect pressures. Cultural Practices should also be incorporated like proper Hygiene, crop rotation etc. Target pest/disease and Spray Volume is a key factor. Spray volume/Crop canopy ie: 3000lit mites, 1500lit Powdery Mildew, 800lit Botrytis,1500lit Downy Mildew, Insects 2000-2500lit/Ha. The grower should also consider drift effect. In case you are spraying Herbicides make sure that the adjacent crops are safe to avoid damage.

What precautions should I take after spraying?
The grower must check plants after spraying to confirm the effectiveness of the spray application. This is done by comparing before and after spray pest numbers. You also need to check fruit, leaves and flowers for a comparison of pest numbers in 1-3 days depending on how long the chemical takes to work. Then finally check sticky traps twice over the next week for pest build up (at 2 and 5 days). Re-entry interval is also a key element.

By Mary Mwende Mbithi

Dr. Solveig Haukeland of ICIPE

Nathan A. Cobb, the father of American nematology, in a 1915 quote describes the tremendous ubiquity of nematodes on our planet and says “If all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable ... we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings, there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways.”

Nematodes are found nearly everywhere, both on land and in the sea. The word ‘nematode’ is derived from the Greek, ‘nema’ meaning ‘thread’ and ‘odes’ meaning ‘resembling’.

By Mary Mwende Mbithi

Air freight has for years been the sole mode of transport for flowers in the entire continent. With the international flower business growing substantially recently, sea transport is ‘the new kid in the block’. Coming just in handy as an alternative when the cost of air freight has shot up to $5.8 per kilo of cargo, is more of a milestone to the flower industry.

Kenya Flower Council’s CEO Clement Tulezi, says that, “sea freight is a solution to gaps left by air freight which amount to about 1500 tonnes per week and the air freight is not expanding. The only way forward is flowers by sea.”

According to Tulezi high freight charges have made produce from neighbouring countries like Ethiopia sell at by 2030. All in all, the use of both air and sea freigh would cut out Kenya as East Africa's Horticultural lodestar.

So far Kenya has created a niche as a mega producer and exporter in horticulture earning the country’s GDP of more than 1% with the horticultural produce ranging from flowers to vegetables and fruits.

Flowers shipped by sea have less stress compared to those shipped by air. However, sea freight is not yet a common practice in the flower business.For instance, a major challenge is the duration it takes for roses from Kenya (about 30-35 days) to reach EU markets. This tells that poor handling and improper treatments may compromise on quality of flowers at their final destination. After arrival in Europe, roses should be able to withstand 3-4 day period in the retail channel and should have a remaining vase life of at least 7 days of acceptable quality. According to Van Doorn, of Chrysal, sea transport of flowers is cheaper than air transport, more flower-friendly and when all steps are adhered to, it gives better quality vase life. To reach the end consumer in a good state, flowers ought to be in right stable conditions and handled carefully.

Flowers set for sea freight are meant to follow a strict cold chain management as well as botrytis control in order to alleviate damages. Early openings, leaf desiccation and fungal infections also need good management. Speaking at the ‘Flowers by Sea’ conference held at Visa Oshwal Center in Nairobi, the Chrysal team talked of a protocol to manage these with pretreatment dip as the initial step before packing the flowers in a sea freight box customized to allow air flow in and out of the box.

According to Dennis Nyamweya of Kuenhe+Nagel, when shipping temperature-controlled goods like flowers, there is the need for reliable logistics that provides seamless cold chain transportation throughout the journey. Flowers via sea could take more than two weeks to their destination, therefore temperature should be maintained so as not to compromise on standards. Kuenhne + Nagel offers transport in reefer containers that are monitored around the clock with temperature controlled interventions in case of deviations in temperatures.

Jeroen van der Hulst, founder and managing director of Flower Watch says, “The implementation of sea freight in Kenya to Europe is a worthwhile development that makes the Kenyan industry more resilient, efficient and sustainable.

Today, more than ever, the agricultural sector is feeling the pressure of emerging pests and diseases. Intensive international movement of plant material, fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants contribute to this. Moreover, many of the previous known pathogens and insect pests have also become more resilient and resistant to chemical pesticides. A shrinking pool of available chemicals, coupled with few new entrants, means that growers are heavily burdened.

Where we are as Kenyan growers
Kenyan cut-flower growers have in the recent years adopted biological control and integrated pest management (IPM). In spite of this achievement, growers still have to contend with less success in using the same approach to control emerging pests. To date, IPM has focused on insect pests and not on common diseases such as powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis. To add insult to injury, more and more bacterial and viral infections are occurring in crops and as a response to this, growers are frequently resorting to disinfectants.