Commonly known as pilipili hoho in Kenya, capsicum is a favorite spice for most Kenyan meals. Other people will refer to it as bell pepper, sweet pepper or just pepper.
Being an horticultural crop, it can be grown in a controlled environment. that is, greenhouse to ensure off-season production and higher productivity.
An 8m by 30m capsicum greenhouse can yield you up to 8.4 tonnes per season.
Types of capsicum grown in Kenya
Main capsicum grown in Kenya are characterized by a green color. Some green capsicums change to secondary colors such as yellow, red and orange.
The commonly grown capsicum varieties in Kenya include: Admiral F1, Buffalo F1, Maxibel, California Wonder, Green Bell F1, Yolo Wonder, Pasarella F1, Ilanga Wonder, Golden sun F1, Kori F1, Minerva F1 among many others.
Facts about capsicum
Capsicum was discovered in pottery from Puebla, the current Mexico and has been used over the decades around the world. They are native to central and South America and are also a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B6, E, folate and rich in antioxidants.
Something that most people don’t know is that the sweetness of capsicums is due to their natural sugars (green capsicums have less sugar than red capsicums). Nevertheless, they can be eaten raw or cooked depending on one’s taste and preference.
How to grow Capsicum in a greenhouse
The effect of climate change is affecting quite a number of crops and vegetables including capsicum for them to grow healthily in the open fields. Hence, a need for farmers to adapt greenhouse farming so that they can control its growing conditions.
Some farmers have adapted the use of Farmshields, AI powered sensors, to remotely monitor and control their farms from their mobile phones and dashboard while getting real-time information on fertigation or irrigation needs.
Here are steps to consider when preparing for capsicum farming in your farm:
1. Soil Test
This is an important step when preparing your greenhouse for planting. Soil test informs the farmer of the soil fertility and acidity level. Additionally, helps a farmer take steps to work on the favorable condition such as adjusting the pH of the soil to ensure proper nutrient uptake and plant health.
Capsicum requires slightly acidic soil with high organic matter, good moisture holding capacity, well drained and well aerated.
2. Seed Growing and Seedling Transplanting
Capsicums are normally grown in the nursery before transplanting the healthy seedlings after 30 to 45 days.
To ensure that you get the best seedlings in the nursery, use this procedure by using seed trays:
A. Nursery Preparation
- Place your seedling trays on a raised flat surface in a greenhouse.
- Fill all the seedling trays with cocopit or any other planting media.
- Irrigate the tray gently with a knapsack sprayer gently until the cocopit is moist.
- Press gently the cocopit using another tray to compact it. After pressing, the tray holes should be ¾ full.
- Place a single seed at the centre of each hole.
- Cover the tray with a thin layer of the cocopit media or any other media.
- Irrigate gently with a knapsack sprayer.
- Irrigate until there is plenty of water draining at the bottom of the hole.
- 5-6 days after sowing your seeds, spray your tray with a chemical to prevent cutworms.
B. Nursery Irrigation
- Once germination has taken place, start applying a starter fertilizer (26:12:12) for root development and vegetative growth.
- Alternate the irrigation with 2 days of water irrigation and 1 day of starter fertilizer irrigation.
- When irrigating, ensure that the water irrigation or the starter fertilizer irrigation does not get in contact with the leaves.
Note: Stress your plants a week before transplanting to force it to develop a root system.
- Before transplanting, soak the soil using the drip irrigation system. Use 2 tanks if possible.
- During transplanting, use NPK/DAP (depending on the soil test) at 30 grams per hole and mix well with the soil.
- Plant hole spacing: Make the plant holes in a depth of 4-5 cm ( covering the roots only) with a spacing of 60cm*45cm between the plants in a zigzag manner.
- Transplant the tomato seedlings in the plant holes. Cover the seedlings with soil and press it gently. Don’t let the stem be in contact with the soil. Do not press the soil so hard.
- Ensure the plants are planted in a zigzag pattern in the greenhouse.
- After transplanting spray with an insecticide to control insects like cutworms and caterpillars.
- Immediately after transplanting, open the drip irrigation system to the new seedlings to encourage seedlings to establish well.
- Water twice a day every day for a period of at least 1 hour. Watering should be consistent. i.e 8 in the morning and 4 PM to avoid stressing the plant.
- Do not over irrigate your crop to prevent damping off.
Capsicum plants prefer stable, warm climates and are usually planted as seedlings. Hence, a need to keep the greenhouse environment favorable by opening and closing the side vents for their growth and high yields.
4. Pesticides and fertilizer
A. Fertilizer Application
- Apply a soluble starter fertilizer which is designed to feed the crop immediately after transplanting which promotes root formation and early crop development.
- Mix the soluble fertilizer in the bucket till its fully dissolved, add the solution to the water tank, and mix well, then irrigate one full water tank.
- Start feeding your crop with the starter fertilizer twice a week during the first 3 weeks from the planting date using the Illuminum GH drip system.
B. First Topdressing
- 4 weeks after transplanting, top dress your crop with CAN/Nitrabor at a rate of 10-20 grams per plant.
- Form a ring of about 15 cm around the plant in a depth of 5 cm, ENSURE that the fertilizer does not touch the plant stem.
- Cover the ring-shaped hole with soil and ensure it isn’t exposed to air.
C. Second Topdressing
- 7 weeks after transplanting, top dress your crop with NPK (yara winner).
- Follow the same procedure as the first top dressing.
NOTE: Do not touch the leaves during fertilizer top dressing.
Capsicum is ready for harvesting when the seedlings mature depending on the ecological conditions and the variety grown. Red capsicums start out green but if left to ripen they eventually turn red. Other types of capsicum turn yellow, orange, brown, purple or black in colour.
Take care when you harvest capsicums. Rough treatment can injure the plant as the stems are very brittle and can snap off easily.
Since Capsicums have soft flesh, care should be taken during harvesting by:
• Fruits should be harvested early in the morning when it is cool since the fruit temperature is low.
• Harvested fruits should be kept in a cool, shaded and ventilated area in order to minimize heat gain and be packed in harvesting crates.
Benefits of capsicum
- Capsicum is a healthy vegetable that is eaten both raw and cooked, often as a side vegetable, especially due to the vegetable’s crispiness.
- Fresh, raw capsicum are mainly composed of water (92%). The rest is carbs and small amounts of protein and fats.
- Like other fruits and vegetables, capsicum has a lot of health benefits including improved eye health and reduced risk of anaemia.
- Useful in preventing Diabetes, Cancer and Yellow Fever.
- Reduces Arthritic pain
- Cures food poisoning
- Alleviates menopausal symptoms
- Gives a glowing skin
- Gives a healthy heart
- Improves overall health
Capsicum is very marketable considering the fact that we use it as a spice in most of our meals. Farming them in greenhouses can harvest more yields compared to an open field. This is because it is easier to control the weather conditions, soil conditions, pests that might attack them and other conditions. However, Capsicum farming will depend on how well you take care of your farm.
Greenhouse farming is hailed for its benefits particularly in improving the quality of produce and maximizing on value. At Illuminum, we will work with you in every step of the way to ensure improved production and increase efficiency through the use of new modern technologies.