Characterization, Water Stress and Nutrient Management of Yellow Passion Fruits (Passiflora Edulis, Var F. Flavicarpa. Deg) in Kiambu and Embu Counties, Kenya
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Passion fruit has gained significant importance as a horticultural crop of choice among farmers in Kenya. The yellow passion has been recently commercialized in Embu County due to its adaptation to the hot arid conditions and potential for high yields. Currently, the production levels of the fruit are low due to poor agronomic practices, declining soil fertility levels and changing climate leading to reduced rainfall. To further understand these challenges, there is need for careful investigation of plant-soil-water relations which requires careful in-depth analysis of the soil’s nutrients of any area. This is because each nutrient has a specific role to play in the development of the plant and deficiency symptoms will manifest specific to each nutrient. Further, to establish and manage nutritional and water stress related disorders, their causes requires knowledge of the symptoms. The primary objective of this study was to carry out socioeconomic survey of passion fruit farmers and determine the correct water and nutrient management of yellow passion fruit in Embu County. The study also carried out morphological characterization of the cultivated populations to identify hybrids with favorable characteristics such as drought tolerance. The study involved a mixture of field survey, on-farm experiments with selected farmers and controlled experiments at Kenyatta University research farm. Results of the survey established that majority of the farmers grow passion on small acreages of less than 2 acres and have a common source of planting materials. Further, major agronomic practices including fertilizer and water application were also not correctly followed. The results on morphological characterization indicate the presence of two main groups of cultivars. Further, for fertilizer application, the study established that the treatments 100g DAP+20kg Manure+50g CAN and 20kgManure+50gNitrabor had the best impact on flowering (p≤0.05) and fruit development while results on determination of water uptake established the treatment of 10 liters of water per day giving the longest primary vine and highest number of secondary vines (p≤0.05). In conclusion, field survey and on-farm experimental results indicate the need for increased availing of new knowledge to farmers in the management of the crop while results from controlled experiments at the university farm indicate a need for correct application of fertilizers and efficient monitoring of irrigation regimes. All these factors will lead to improved quality and quantity in yield of yellow passion fruit. The study recommends provision of updated agronomic management practices to yellow passion farmers in Embu County, the use of either 100gDAP+10kgManure+50gNitrabor, 100gDAP+20kgManure+50gNitrabor or 50gDAP+10kgManure+50gNitrabor and the application of 10 liters of water per day per plant for optimum yield of passion fruits. Future studies on nutrient partitioning and water use efficiency can also be conducted to have a clear understanding of the nutrient and water relations in yellow passion fruit.