Modernization in agriculture has seen improved innovation; Greenhouse farming is the latest technology being explored by Kenyan farmers in the production of crops. Crops are grown in structures instead of open fields to control environmental factors such as light, temperatures, humidity, pests and diseases. In Kenya Greenhouse farming is mostly associated with flowers, French beans, egg plant and tomatoes grown both for export and local use.
A farmer is required to conduct a study before greenhouse construction on two things; materials and selection of the site. The materials needed for the construction of a greenhouse include; aluminum, galvanized steel, polythene/plastic, wood, polls, tank and a firm foundation. The site should be flat or have gentle slope, safe from strong winds, adequate light, well drained and workable soils, have access to reliable source of water, security and storage facility.
Size: The space needed for greenhouse farming depend on the size of production. Small scale farmers utilize smaller space as the size of a backyard providing convenience in production.
Controlled environment: These structures allow farmers to control temperature, light, irrigation, atmospheric humidity and fertilizer application allowing crops to grow according to their nutritional needs resulting into quality and healthy produce.
Pest and disease control: Greenhouse creates barrier between the inside and outside environment limiting the movement of pests and diseases. Pesticides are applied at rates appropriate for the pest’s population and with reduced wind movements, drifting is minimized increasing the efficiency in management guaranteeing 100% control.
Food security: It provides longer growing seasons. The environment of the greenhouse is manipulated to fit any season (use of ventilation system during hot season and use of heaters during cold season) allowing farmers to continue with production of crops throughout the year. we are all assured of food on our tables thanks to the structures.
Use of technology: Greenhouse farming also allows for the use of modern technologies such as hydroponics; this refers to soil-less farming where water is infused with specialized nutrient mixes required by specific crop. It allows crops to grow faster and of good quality since the nutrients are injected directly into the plant’s system. It also saves on time required to prepare fields aving on cost of production.
Increased production: Crops grown in a greenhouse yield more and have a prolonged shelf-life; this is because the environment of the greenhouse is controlled making plants less susceptible to attacks (pests and stress) which reduce yield potential. When properly managed, an acre under greenhouse can produce upto 25,000 Tonnes of tomatoes. It is also reported that tomatoes have a shelf life of 21 days as compared to 14 days of those grown on an open field.
Management: soil fertility is effectively managed when crops are grown in a greenhouse. Fertilizer is applied according to soil requirements and crop demand following a soil analysis report; this provides no room for deficits and surpluses. It also makes it easy to rotate crops, apply manure and remove unwanted crops from the site. Pest and diseases are effectively managed by changing the entire soil or fumigation before planting.
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