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Field Practices - Agriculture Form 2

Field Practices

Importance of mulching in crop production

Smothers weeds.
Reduce speed of run-off.

Reduce evaporation rate and moderate temperature.

The following are the advantages and disadvantages of mulching.


  • Maintain soil moisture
  • Reduces evaporation rate
  • Control of soil erosion
  • Suppress weed growth
  • Improve soil structure and water holding capacity
  • Improve soil fertility


  • Acts as breeding ground for pests.
  • Prevents light showers from getting to the soil.
  • It is a fire risk example dry grass.
  • It is expensive to acquire, transport and apply.

Field Practices


Pruning involves the removal of the unwanted parts of a plant. The following are the reasons for pruning;

  • To train up the plant so that it can have the desired shape
  • To remove the diseased, non productive and unwanted parts of a plant
  • Control of cropping - remove extra vegetative/ unproductive parts in order to maintain correct ratio to ensure uniform bearing in all season or year.
  • To facilitate picking, e.g., tea and coffee are pruned to maintain a low plucking table and bearing head.
  • To ease the penetration of the spray
  • To control pests and diseases -humid, bushy and dark parts encourage some pests and diseases e.g., Antestia bug, CBD in coffee.

Methods of pruning

Note that pruning of crops like tea encourages vigorous vegetative growth and maintains a convenient plucking height.

Pruning tools
Below are the tools used in pruning different crops.

  • Pruning saw -used to cut hard branches and stems in coffee and citrus
  • Pruning knife - cutting/pruning tea by use of strokes
  • Pruning shears - for trimming hedges
  • Secateurs - for cutting soft branches in coffee and citrus

Pruning in tea and coffee

  • Tree crop branches are cut at specific points for various reasons.
  • Cut surfaces should be protected by paint or Stockholm tar to seal wound.
  • The wound may also become entry point for pathogens.

Use individual hooked pegs


Each branch is held down by a single peg measuring 50cm long. A lot of pegs are required.

Use of rings and pegs

A ring of 30cm diameter made up of thin sticks or thick wire is used.
Placed on branches then gently forced to bend to the sides of bush at an angle of 30 degrees to 45 degrees.
Three pegs are then placed to hold it into position

Using parallel sticks (fitos) and pegs

  • Two parallel straight light fitos are placed on either side of a row of tea bushes.
  • Pegs are used to hold the fitos down. The tips of the shoots are nipped off to encourage the growth of more shoots
  • Light sticks (45cm) long are placed under the parallel sticks to hold in position any branches and lie between the fitos.

Field Practices

Maintenance of a plucking table

  • Done to prevent a rise in height of a plucking table.
  • Done by cutting back the tea bush to 5cm above the last pruning height after 2-5years

  • Three months later, tipping is done.
  • After many such pruning, cutting back to 45 cm above ground is done to maintain plucking height (This is called rehabilitation)
  • It is done after every 45-50 years

Pruning mature tea

The following needs to be observed when pruning tea:

  • Side branches below the pruning height should never be cut back.
  • The outside edge of bush should not be cut at a higher level than the centre.
  • The bush should, from the beginning, be pruned parallel with the slope of the ground and not on a horizontal plane. Use a pruning stick.
  • Cut the branches across as far as possible to minimize the area of the wounds. Long sloping cuts increase die-back and risk disease infection.

Pruning cont....

  • Small branches and twigs on the frame are removed by hand. Do not clean-up with a knife after pruning.
  • Protective cap should be left to grow above the frame in Rift Valley and Meru districts during the dry period.
  • Cut branches are left to rot in the field and act as mulch.
  • Use a sharp pruning knife to avoid breaking cuts.
  • After several pruning, cut back the tea bushes to original table, i.e. change the cycle.
  • Every 3 years, tea bushes must be pruned back to 5cm above the previous pruning level to avoid the development of detrimental callus tissue.

See the video below to appreciate prunning and tipping in tea field

Field Practices


Involves the cutting back of shoots to the desired table height at 20cm above the pegging height.

  • Done 3 months after formation or after the last cutting back.
  • Involves removal of 3 leaves and a bud from each shoot above the required table height level.
  • Y-shaped sticks, 50 cm high and a long straight stick 2m long are used.
  • The straight stick is placed on the Y-shaped stick which touch the ground.

Field Practices

Coffee pruning

Pruning helps to regulate the quality and quantity of coffee berries

Coffee is pruned for the following reasons:

  • To regulate bearing.
  • To remove old and unproductive branches.
  • To make harvesting easy by regulating the heights of trees.
  • To open up the bush and allow better air circulation. This removes micro climate suitable for pests and disease cousing organisms.
  • Open pruning facilities penetration of sprays.
  • Economical use of chemicals.

Single stem pruning [ssp]

Systems of coffee pruning include the following

  • Single stem pruning Involves establishing one permanent stem with a strong framework of primary branches.
  • The main stem is capped out at various heights as the bush grows.
  • The best sucker is allowed to continue growing upwards at each capping.
  • The cappings encourage the development of strong primary branches.
  • 1st capping is done at 53cm, 2nd at 114cm, and the final at 168cm The height of single stem bushes ranges between 1.5cm and 1.8cm.
  • In young trees, the initial crops are borne on the primary branches. However, as the bush matures, the main crop is borne on secondaries and tertiaries, respectively.

Annual pruning in single stem pruning

Annual pruning involves the removal of suckers, dead, and damaged branches, those touching the ground and any other undesirable growth habits, e.g. growing inwards, downwards, crossing or touching each other. It is done after harvesting.

Advantages of SSP

  • Allows easy picking and spraying
  • Minimizes breakage of branches

Disadvantage of SSP

  • Requires skilled labour to establish
  • Takes time to bring bushes into bearing
  • Require shade trees to avoid scorching the top branches and fruits

Multiple stem pruning

Aims at establishing two or three main upright stems with laterals to bear the crop.
There are two types
multiple stem pruning.

  • Capped multiple
  • Non capped multiple system

Capped multiple system

Established by capping the main stem at 38cm and allowing 2-3 selected shoots to grow to a height of between 1.5m and 1.8m after which the bushes are managed in the same manner as in single stem system.

Non-capped multiple system

Established by capping the main stem at 38cm above the ground and then allowing suckers to grow 2 or 3 of the suckers are selected and allowed to grow

  • The crop is borne on the laterals, which are pruned from the base upwards after bearing at least two crops.
  • A bearing head of 0.9-1.5m is left on each stem
  • Any crossing, dry or broken laterals are removed
  • As the stem grow tall, it bends outwards due to the weight of the crop
  • When old, that is after 4-6 years, the stems can be removed, this is called changing the cycle.

Annual pruning in multiple stem pruning

  • Laterals that have borne two crops are removed
  • Also removed are those that are too close, dry, or broken or any other undesirable characteristics
  • Done after 4-6 years
  • Sucker removal is stopped 18 months before cutting down
  • Three suitable evenly spaced suckers are selected
  • Inward pointing laterals should be cut higher toward the end of the cycle
  • This allows light penetration and encourages the development of healthy suckers

Advantages of non-capped multiple stem system

  • Requires less skill to establish
  • Easy to prune
  • Does not allow accumulation of CBD due to removal of old stems

Disadvantages of non-capped multiple stem system

  • Breaking of stems and branches
  • Difficulty in gathering the berries from top points
  • Difficulty of spraying the tall bushes
  • Rotting of stumps with age.

See the video below to appreciate Coffee pruning


Field Practices

Banana stool management

Pruning involves the removal of extra suckers in the stool
3-6 stems per stool is recommended.

  • These should be at different stages of development; one bearing, one half grown and the other starting to grow so that they come into bearing at different times.

  • Suckers should be cut deep at the root to stop them growing again.

  • Dry, diseased leaves should be removed using a sickle or a panga.

Field Practices

Cutting back in pyrethrum

Involve the removal of old stems down to the level of the top foliage at the end of each cropping year towards the end of the dry season.

Cut down dead stalks

Field Practices


Achieved through staking, propping, and trelishing.
Training practices:


Supporting plants having weak stems with help of a thin long strong stick. Crops staked include tomatoes, garden peas and some bean varieties.

(ii) Propping:

Providing support for tall varieties of bananas and those that have heavy bunches using forked stakes.

(iii) Trelishing:

Providing support for crops with vines using wire or sisals strings. The wires or strings are held by poles at definite spacing.

See the video below to appreciate staking of tomatoes and propping of bananas

See the video blow to appreciate staking of tomatoes

See the video above to appreciate trelishing of passion fruit plant

Field Practices

Earthing up

  • Improves tuber formation in Irish sweet potatoes.
  • Promotes seeds production in groundnuts.
  • Improve drainage when growing tobacco.
  • Provides support to prevent lodging when growing maize.

Field Practices

Crop Protection

1.Control of weeds
Weeds- Plants growing where they are not wanted, e.g. maize in a garden of cabbages
Inter-planted crops are not weeds.
2.Control of pests
Pests-These are living organisms harmful to crops e.g. insects, nematodes, thrips and mites
Damage crops in the fields and stores reducing quality and quantity of product.
3.Control of Diseases
Disease. Any alteration in the state of an organism and functions of a plant or its parts. Its caused by Pathogens and nutritional disorders
4.Deficiency of Calcium
This nutrient deficiency in tomatoes result to crop attacked by blossom end rot

See the video below to appreciate control of control of pests and diseases

See the video below to appreciate protection of crop against weeds

Field Practices


Harvesting is the final operation in crop production. All the preceding operations have already determined the amount of harvest the farmer can expect. At this stage no changes in yield can be made but if done at wrong stage may cause loss in quantity and quality.
Stage and timing of harvesting
Time of harvesting is determined by:

  • Purpose of the crop
  • Market demand
  • Consumers preference
  • Concentration of the required chemical
  • Weather conditions
  • Prevailing market price

Market demand

Consumers preference is considered before harvesting e.g. vegetable, green maize or dry grains

  • Prevailing market price and profit margins Harvesting in some crops e.g. carrots and some fruits can be delayed for a month to wait for market prices to improve.
  • Purpose of the crop or use which the crop was intended e.g. maize for silage is harvested just before flowering one for grains should be harvested after grains mature.
  • Concentration of the required chemical e.g. ripe berries provide the required caffeine in tea, the two youngest leaves and a terminal bud give the highest quality.
  • Weather conditions-Planting should be timely so that harvesting is done during dry season. This is synchronization of planting and harvesting.

Field Practices

Post harvest practices

These are the practices carried out after harvesting.

They include the following;

  • Threshing / shelling:

Commonly done when harvesting cereals.

  • Drying:

Done after harvesting to store grain at an appropriate content to prevent damage in the store.
Vegetables can be sun dried and packed in air-tight containers for use during scarcity.

  • Cleaning: Improve keeping quality e.g. fruits canned. Reduce bulkiness before transportation and storage e.g. sugarcane crushed into sugar.
  • Sorting and grading: Done according to the quality e.g. in coffee, they are graded as grade 1 & II where I are big and well ripened while grade II are under or over ripe, diseased and small.

  • Dusting:
    Application of chemical powder on seeds to prevent storage pest attack.
  • Processing:
    Transformation of a raw material into final products so as to:
    -Improve the flavor of products e.g. tobacco and tea.
    -Improve keeping quality e.g. fruits canned.
  • Packaging:
    Placement of produce into containers for storage sale or transportation.
    It reduces damage to products, makes it easy for farmer to quantify and set prices.

Field Practices


Storage is the keeping of farm produce after harvesting in good conditions. This is necessary to ensure availability of products all the year round and Improves conditions to prevent losses
Farm produce can be stored in Sacks, in containers or Loose (bulk ) in various types of stores
Characteristics of an ideal store
Ideal store should be:
  • Clean
  • Dry
  • Free form pests and diseases
  • Waterproof
  • Rodent free
  • Easy to control pests and diseases

Types of stores

Traditional granaries which are:

  • Elevated above the ground by posts.
  • Made of wooden twigs woven together and roofed with thatching.

Disadvantages of Traditional storage

  • Rats and weevils attack.
  • Rooting of grains.
  • Limited in size.

Preparation of the store

  • Cleaning the store.
  • Maintaining e.g. repair or replacing worn out parts
  • Dusting and painting.
  • Clearing vegetation around the store.

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