All you need to know about farming French beans
French beans or greens beans, locally known as “mishiri”, are a major export crop to the European Union market but rarely consumed in the country.
In value addition, French beans are processed by canning and freezing which prolongs their shelf life.
Health benefits of having green beans in your diet are weight loss, improving immunity, heart health, anti-aging components, lowers cancer risk, enhances bone health and controls diabetes.
The common varieties in the Kenyan market are Amy, Teresa, Rexas, Samantha, Serengeti, Cupvert, Tonivert, Gloria, Julia and Paulista as listed by nafis.go.ke
Farming French beans is labour intensive and require capital investment.
Farmers are advised to produce a quality harvest as it is bound to be rejected if it does not meet the set standards.
French beans grow fast in areas with altitudes of 1500 to 2100 metres above sea level and an annual rainfall of 900 to 1,200mm per year according to media reports.
French beans are grown in warm areas in Kenya such as Machakos, Thika, Murang' a Kirinyaga, Ndandarua, Naivasha, Nyeri and Embu adds mfarm.co.ke
In areas with low rainfall, it is advisable to practice irrigation.
French beans are grown from seeds.
Spacing should be single rows of 30x15cm (a seed per hole) or double rows of 60x30cm notes cropnuts.com.
They do well in a wide range of well-drained soils from loam, clay and sandy soils that is rich in organic matter and has a PH scale level of 6.5 to 7.5.
A farmer is advised to carry out a soil test before planting.
They thrive in a temperature of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.
It takes one and a half to two months for French beans to grow to maturity.
Farmyard manure is highly recommended to increase the soil fertility.
The farmer should practice farm maintenance practices such as weeding to minimize competition of soil nutrients, sunlight, space and water and to keep away pests causing diseases.
Staking should be done for the climbing French beans to ensure maximum production.
Mulching is also important as it reduces soil erosion, conserves moisture, keeps of pests causing diseases and adds soil fertility on decomposition.
Crop rotation should be done from time to time as it helps control weeds, diseases and improves soil fertility by adding nitrogen into the soil.
The main diseases in French beans farming as listed by cropnuts.com include rust, angular leaf spot, root rots, bacterial blights, anthracnose, Bean common mosaic virus, powdery mildew, and downy mildew.
To control these diseases, farmers are advised to use crop rotation, plant tolerant varieties, ensure field hygiene, use health certified seeds, and recommended insecticides and fungicides.
Major pests that attack green beans as listed by greenlife.co.ke are bean fly, thrips, aphids, whiteflies, cutworms, and African bollworms which are controlled by applying appropriate pesticides.
Harvesting is done from the sixth to the eighth week after planting with the pods being carefully picked and at regular intervals according to the market requirements.
Harvesting is done twice a week for the fine beans and three times a week for the extra fine beans and continues for around three weeks.
mfarm.co.ke highlights that there are two major export seasons in Kenya.
The high demand season which comes from September to March when the European Union is experiencing winter and import a lot of French beans.
The produce at this time is usually from irrigation thus supply is usually good fetching farmers’ good prices.
The low demand season from June to September where there is usually a lot of supply due to the heavy rains and low demand in the European Union when they can produce their own.