Capsicum farming is one of the promising and high profit earning ventures that many Kenyans have begun to explore in spite of it being a challenging task.

Capsicum (Capsicum annum) of the solanaceae family is a tender, warm crop that performs very well in hot areas. Typically known as pili pili hoho in Kenya, Capsicum exists in a number of varieties.

Most Kenyan varieties grown for commercial purposes are hybrid, which have a mature green color or yellow. They normally have a secondary mature red color or sometimes orange or yellow among other colors.

Benefits of Capsicum

They are undoubtedly the best sources of vitamin A and C. They are also cherished for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. In addition to this, Capsicum also maintains good health as they are rich in antioxidants.

More so, they work well in regulating blood pressure since they are rich in proteins. Lastly, they are excellent sources of dietary fiber and vitamin B6 and folate which is essential in lowering homocystin level.

Nutritional Facts

Vitamin C 80.4mg
Vitamin B6 (16% of RDA)0.224mg
Vitamin E (2% of RDA)0.37Mmg
Vitamin k (7% of RDA)7.4mg
Folate (3% of RDA)10mg
Niacin (3% of RDA)0.480mg
Riboflavin (2% of RDA)0.028mg
Thiamine (5% of RD)0.057mg
Calcium (1% of RDA)10mg
Iron (3% of RDA)0.34mg
Magnesium (3% of RDA)10mg
Phosphorous (3% of RDA)20mg
Potassium (3% of RDA)175mg
Sodium (3% of RDA)3mg
Energy 20Kcal

Ecological Requirements

Depending on the varieties, capsicum can do well both outdoors and indoors (green houses). It performs better in slightly warmer temperatures. For fruit setting, the optimum temperature ranges between 16-21 degrees Celsius.

Moreso, night temperatures of 15-17 degrees Celsius and day temperatures of 24-30 degrees Celsius are required for good fruit development. Capsicum is intolerant to frost. The fruits may become small, hard and malformed. And even develop some growth cracks.

The crop does exceptionally well in altitudes of up to 2,000 M above the sea level, and have a rainfall requirement of 800-1200 mm per annum. In addition to this, the crop requires well drained soils rich in nutrients and with the pH range of 5.5-6.5.

Seed Selection

Some commonly grown varieties in Kenya include;

Commandant, Maxibel, California Wonder, Ilanga Wonder, Green Bell F1, Admiral F1, Buffalo F1, Pasarella F1 andYolo Wonder.

The above varieties are characterized by a green primary color. However, some turn yellow or red or other colors on ripening.

Raising Seedlings in the Nursery

Capsicum is propagated by seeds, which are basically raised in a nursery before they are transferred to the main field.

Procedure

  • Make the nursery bed, width of about 1 meter. Take LOYALTYR 700WDG10G + PYRAMIDR700WP 100G + OPTIMIZERR 20 ml in 20 liters of water and add to the soil.
  • Mix the soil thoroughly.
  • This rids off the soil from pests and diseases as well as providing nutrients, breaking seed dormancy and promoting uniform germination.
  • Make drills with a depth of about 2 cm for drilling the seeds.
  • Sow the seeds and cover them lightly with soil.
  • Use a thin layer of mulch to cover the nursery bed and water it.

Field Operations Production and Management

Land preparation

The land should be ploughed and harrowed thoroughly to attain a clean and fine tilth. It is recommended to spray with CATAPULTR 480SL 200ml/20L. This is a non-selective weed killer that gets rid of both broad leaf and grass weeds.

Transplanting

When seeds attain 4-5 leaves, approximately 6 to 7 weeks after sowing, they are ready for transplanting.

The rate of irrigation should be reduced a week before transplanting as well as withdrawing the shade in order to harden the young plants.

The nursery bed should be irrigated before lifting the seedlings.

Procedure

  • On the prepared land, make raised or sunken beds.
  • Prepare the soil by mixing it with local manure or 1kg HUMIPOWERR.  
  • You may use 50 kg DAP and /or 1 ton of manure for an acre
  • For easy planting, irrigate the beds
  • Plant the seedlings at the recommended spacing of 75 x 45 cm.
  • Water the seedlings everyday very early in the morning or late in the evenings (unless it rains).

Weeding

The field should be well weeded since Capsicum is not tolerant to weeds. These weeds may harbor pathogens which may attack the crop. Weeds also compete for growth essentials like nutrients and water.

Weeding should be minimized when the crop begins flowering in order to minimize disturbances. But they can be uprooted if need be.

Irrigation

One major requirement for Capsicum is adequate water supply for optimum production.Losses like stress, wilting, flowers abortion and development of physiological disorders e.g. Blossom end rot result from inadequate water supply.

Fertilizer application

Throughout the season, the crop ought to be supplied with enough nutrients. This is to enhance optimal production which is best done by supplying both macro and micro-nutrients.

At planting, 50 kg of DAP in one acre should be applied before planting because it’s rich in phosphorous. TSP is another essential fertilizer that can be effective.

After a period of 1 to 2 weeks, the young plants should be sprayed with LAVENDERSUPER STARTERR 20ML/20L OR GATIT SUPER STARTR 50g/20l, in order to enhance root formation and early crop development.

Top dressing

Use CAN 50 kg per acre 2 to 3 weeks after lifting the seedlings; and 4 to 5 weeks,at the rate of 100 kg per acre. It is also recommended to apply other Nitrogen-rich fertilizers like urea.

The crop should be sprayed with GATIT SUPEGROWTHR 50g/20l or LAVENDER SUPER GROWTH & VEGETATIVER 2Oml/20l to enhance quick vegetative growth.

Reproduction stage

Apply N.P.K at the rate of 50 kg per acre during the flowering and fruiting stages of the crop.

Spray it with GATIT SUPERFLOWERS &FRUITSR 50G/20L or DIMIPHITER 20ml/20L orGOLDCHANCE MULTISUPER KR 50G/20L OR LAVENDER SUPER FLOWERS &FRUITSR 20ml/20l.

Yield

You should be expecting between 5 to 8 tones. Although different varieties would yield differently.

Harvesting

2.5 to 3 months after planting, depending on the ecological conditions and crop variety grown, harvesting can begin. And it can go for 4 to 6 times if the crop is well maintained.

Harvesting should be done when the fruit is green,partially green or yellow. Of course, it depends on the purpose for which the crop is grown.

It is recommended that the harvested fruit be kept under shade for sorting, grading and packaging.

Major Pests & Diseases of Capsicum

The video below shows some common capsicum (bell pepper) problems most farmers experience and how to solve them. Video rights not ours.

Cutworms

These are caterpillars with a soft body, brown to black in color which damage seedlings by cutting them near the soil level. They normally cause immense crop loss when they heavily infest.

The soil should be drenched with PROFILER 440 60ml/20l or PENTAGONR50EC 20ml/20l to control them.

Thrips

These are insects characterized by slender body and fringed wings. They have asymmetrical mouth parts that they use to feed on leaves, flowers and also tender fruits by sucking the sap.

Heavy infestation leads to great loss i.e. distortion of leaves, stunted growth,sunken tissues on leaf underside, silvery appearance on flowers and also scarring of fruits.

To .get rid of these, spray ALONZER 50EC 5ml/20l or BAZOOKAR18 EC 10ml/20l.

Red Spider Mite

These are tiny pests found on the underside of leaves making them turn yellow and curl upwards. However, heavy infestation causes death of the leaves.

The crop should be sprayed with ALONZER 50EC 5ml/20l or BAZOOKAR 18EC 10ml/20l or OCCASION STARR  2005SC 2ml/20l.

Aphids

These are light green insects with a soft body which cluster on the undersides of leaves or stems. They suck plant sap causing great harm such as wilting, stunting and leaf curling and distortion.

Spray the crop with KINGCODE ELITER 50EC 10ml/20l or PENTAGONR 50EC 10ml/20l or LEXUSR   247SC 8ml/20l.

Common Diseases of Capsicum

Damping-Off

Caused by bacteria: Pythium Spp, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium spp. This is a soil borne disease that frequently attacks seedlings in the nursery.

The soil should be drenched thoroughly with PYRAMIDR 700WP 100g/20l and the crop sprayed with DOMAINR 250EC 10ml/20l or GEARLOCK TURBOR250WP 25/20l.

Anthracnose

It is caused by this bacteria Colletotrichum spp. It is characterized by circular black or brown sunken lesions on the fruits.

Spray the crop thoroughly with RANSOMR600WP 15G/20L OR ABSOLUTER 3755SC 10ml/20l or DUCASSER 250EW 20ml/20l or KATERINAR720SC 40ml/20l.

Bacterial Wilt

Caused by bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum, this is a soil borne disease whose infection is characterized by wilting, starting with the young leaves.

In addition, the vascular tissues loose color and turn brownish and dark brown to black when the infection intensifies; and ultimately the crop dies.

To control this, spray GREENCOPR 500WP 50g/20l, a copper-based products\that is effective in suppressing the pathogen.

Post-Harvesting Handling and Marketing of Capsicum

Sorting

This entails the removal of the bruised/damaged, malformed or infected fruits. Make sure that only whole, clean and high quality fruits are selected for transportation to the market.

Grading

This is guided by the shape, size and color of the fruit. Always ensure that you get the highest quality grade for high market returns. Place the different fruits into grades for easy selling.

Packaging

It is recommended that the fruits be packed in corrugate cartons or in crates. Do not pack until they are sticking out of the crate. This may lead to damage when the crates are stacked on to each other.

Storage and transportation

You will need to store your crop in cool conditions at a relative humidity of 95%. Preferably, cold chain should be used for transporting the product to the market for sale. The capsicum fruits are highly perishable and need to be sold immediately after harvesting.

Here is the Gross-Margin Analysis of Capsicum Production on One Acre

Open Field Production Cost

Inputs Quantity Cost Per Acre (Ksh)
Capsicum seeds 500 grams 2,000
DAP Fertilizer 25 kg 2,500
NPK or CAN Fertilizer 50 Kg 4,000
Manure Compost 1 ton 1,200
Pesticides/Fungicides 5,000
Water Supply/Drip Irrigation 30,000
Labor and miscellaneous 10,000
Total Budget Cost 54,000

On one acre, you can get a gross income of up to Ksh. 520, 000 or even more. This is per season of production on open field. So subtracting the cost, as seen in the table, you are talking of Ksh. 470, 000 profits.

Greenhouse Production

The cost of greenhouse production will go up drastically. So adding the cost of buying the greenhouse structure of Ksh. 180,000, you are talking of a whopping Ksh. 234,000 in the first production season.

From the greenhouse, you can even reap more. This is because the conditions in these structures are highly favorable for maximum potential production of the crop.

Therefore, from one acre, you can get a gross income of Ksh. 1.6 Million. Removing the costs that is Ksh. 230,000, you would be getting a net profit of not less than Kshs. 1.3 Million.

Comparing the two ventures, you can clearly see the difference. Working with greenhouses would bring more profits compared to open field, by far.