Tropical sugar beet land evaluation scheme: development, validation and application under Kenyan conditions
In Kenya the government is promoting diversification of crops to embrace high value crops and drought resistant crop varieties in efforts to reduce poverty in rural areas. Sugar beet is one of the crops considered as an option in this context and it is therefore important to increase knowledge about the potentials in the country for cultivating this crop. Sugar beet trials conducted in Nyandarua and Butere Mumias Districts of Kenya have shown that the crop yields are comparable to those obtained in traditional sugar-beet cultivation regions of Europe. Since sugar beet yield is affected by climate and soils, the results of Nyandarua and Butere Mumias sugar beet trials are not adequate to propose that comparable yields can be obtained elsewhere in the country and other tropical regions. Physical land evaluations assessing the potentials and constraints for sugar beet production are therefore essential. The objectives of this study was to develop a Tropical Sugar Beet Land Evaluation Scheme (TSBLES) that can aid assessment of the suitability of different areas in the tropics for sugar beet cultivation; and to test this scheme for an assessment of suitable sugar beet zones and land areas in Kenya. The development of the scheme was based on various literature sources and expert judgment on sugar beet requirements, and a Tropical Sugar Beet yield prediction Model. The TSBLES accounts for physical conditions of land i.e. climatic, edaphic and topographic conditions. According to the assessment results 27% of the land area in Kenya is suitable for sugar beet cultivation. Of this area, 5% is highly suitable, another 5% is moderately suitable and 17% is marginally suitable. Most of the highly suitable land area is concentrated in Rift Valley, Central and Nyanza provinces. The Rift Valley has the highest share of the suitable land area.
KeywordsTropical agriculture Sugar beet Agricultural GIS analysis Sugar beet land requirement Kenya
We acknowledge that this article was made possible due to contributions from a number of persons and organizations. We thank, Flemming Yndgaard for assisting with data and for constructive inputs during the whole write up process. We thank Kenneth Fredlund and Staffan Nilsson for their inputs during the TSBLES development and also for reviewing the manuscript and giving comments that were used to refine the article. We thank Petter Pilesjö for preparing for us the slope data and for his inputs during the concept building of the paper. We thank Syngenta Seeds Company, Sweden for funding this research project.
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