Growing Apples: Kenyan Farmer Perspective

Did you know that Apple has a lot of benefits to your body ?. The proverbial adage ” an apple a day keeps a doctor away” is not far from the truth. Some notable benefits to human beings entail the cure of diarrhoea, strengthens the teeth in your upper and lower jaw, for those who are diabetic, it lowers the amount of insulin and as well calories for those who are obese.

We shall therefore discuss what a farmer needs to know when it comes to growing apples, and the marketing opportunities a Kenyan farmer can exploit and leverage.

Apple fruit is packed with a lot of phytonutrients and antioxidants such as catechin, quercetin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acids which perform different functions in the human body. If one eats it one will be stronger and healthier that is why the proverb says “ eat an apple a day keeps a doctor away” How are you going to eat an apple a day? The answer is obvious by growing your apples in your orchard.  

The apples we eat in Kenya are imported from South Africa, the Middle East, and Egypt of which they are a handful. There is a big demand for apples in Kenya, therefore there is an opportunity there to invest in this husbandry. The Kenyan Government should mobilize and sensitize farmers to grow more apples to supply our local markets with sufficient apples as well as exporting to earn them some income.

Apple is grown in any soil but the soil should be well-drained and they can also be grown in any climate or any Zone. The apples can be planted in Low lands, Semi-Arid, and cold climates but not in swampy areas or waterlogged lands. Apples do not need a lot of water in the soil, this encourages root rot.  Apples thrive well in cold climates. These climates are found in Kenyan Highlands. High-quality fruits are harvested in these regions which are sweet and tarty in flavor and that is why apples are found in Kiambu, Kitale, Nyandarua,Uasin Gishu,  and  Nandi.

If a farmer wants to start investing in apple farming, first he needs to start with a few trees to have knowledge about apples and to gain experience with those trees.  After gaining the knowledge of apples and everything related to apples he will know when to add manure, fertilizers, pruning, thinning, and harvest.                                                    

With all the knowledge, the farmer can now establish the orchard with ease however with fewer challenges will be experienced. If a farmer has decided to plant one acre of apples, he will earn a ton of millions of money. With the correct spacing of 3m by 3m, a farmer can grow  500 apple trees in one acre while one tree bearing more than 500 fruits in a season giving a total of 250,000 fruits[500 trees x500 fruits produced by one tree ]. Let’s do the calculation of money one gets after harvesting. One piece of an apple is sold at KSh 20-30 at the farm gate. Now let’s use the lowest price that is  Ksh20 x250,000 fruits that gives  KSh 5,000,000m which is impressive.                                                                       

One can use the amount earned to purchase another piece of land to expand his apple farming to gain more profits. To start a new apple farm, one requires people for digging holes about 500 holes which one hole costs Ksh 30 giving us a total of Ksh 15,000 for one acre. The Cost of manure is Ks 3000 per trailer and a farmer needs to heap ten heaps of trailers to plant 500 apple trees. The calculation is Ks 3000 per trailer x10 heaps      =30,000. Also planting materials are needed and one plant costs Ksh 1000 x500 holes =500,000. In general ,a farmer uses  KSh15,000 for digging  + KSh30,000  for manure +500,000  for     seedlings +50,000 for planting = KSh 600,000 which is less the amount earned.                                                                         

A farmer has to wait for 9months ­­-3 years for the apples to mature and come to fruition. Maturity depends on rootstock which had been used during the planting period. Some rootstocks mature faster than others.                                                                                                   

 Varieties Of Apples
There are 7500 varieties of apples grown in the world but only 400 varieties do well in Kenya. If one is choosing apples to grow in his orchard, he needs to look for the following characteristics; the usage of apples, if they require pollinators, adaptability of rootstock, and last but not least the time of harvest. Some varieties are adapted to Highlands, some are adapted to Lowlands. Some varieties are self–pollinated, some are cross-pollinated, some are disease-resistant.

With disease-resistant varieties, the plants can withstand diseases such as powdery mildew, fire bright ,apple scab and cedar  apple rust, . Examples of these varieties are crimson, Gold Florina, Topaz, Enterprise, Liberty, Freedom, Priscilla, and Pixie Crunch.          

About self-pollinated varieties, plants have both male and female parts in one tree but the fruits harvested from these varieties are small and few. Examples are Granny Smith, Grimes Golden, and Alkmene. Some varieties are cross-pollinated so one needs to plant more than one variety in the orchard to interchange pollens for fertilization to take place to produce fruits. The two different varieties grown should flower at the same time, for instance, Anna and Golden Dorsett varieties do match together because they flower at the same time. The fruits harvested from these cross-pollinated apples are much bigger and more compared with self-pollinated apples. These cross-pollinated apple varieties are; Baldwin, King, Jonagold, Winesap, Gravenstein, and Mutsu.

Cold-climate varieties are grown in Kenyan highlands that are Zone 2 and 3. These varieties are; Norland and Battle ford for Zone 2, Cortland, Fireside, Honeycrisp, Frostbite Apple, and Nova Easy grow for Zone 3. Also, apples can be grown in hot climates that is Zone 8. Apple trees require several hours for chilling, the temperature should be below45.5 F (7c) to break buds’ dormancy. A few varieties have been bred to produce fruits in less chilling hours between 250-300 hours so they blossom much earlier than those found in cold climates. Examples of hot climate varieties are; Beverly Hills, Anna, Golden Dorsett, Tropical , Beauty, Gala, Gordon, Mayan,  Elah, Michal, and Tropical Sweet.

All these varieties are grown for different purposes according to the usage and need of people. Some are grown for:

  • making snacking
  • baking
  • making apple juices
  • Apple pie
  • making cedar vinegar production
  • making apple sauce for spreading on bread
  • Cooking
  • making smoothies
  • making wines

Health Benefits of Apples


 Improves immune system
Apples contain quercetin which helps to fight bacteria and viruses. Quercetin also combats with stress. Stress can strain the nerves which makes the body to be weak not to prevent itself from diseases.

Liver Detoxifier
The liver is threatened with toxins from processed foods, drinks, and every product we consume but by eating enough apples the liver will be rejuvenated again.

 For Better, Healthier, and Stronger Heart

Soluble fibers taken into our bodies combat with a buildup of cholesterol which prevents cardiac arrest. The fibers called phenolic compounds stick to arterial walls to prevent the accumulation of cholesterol on the walls thus making arteries getting a better flow of blood.

Prevent Diabetes.

Apples prevent diabetes by consuming soluble fibers apples that regulate sugar levels in the bloodstream.
Prevent The Growth Of Cancer.
Flavonoids compounds in apples are known for combating pancreatic cancer. Apple peels contain
triterpenoids that reduce the growth of tumors. Apples contain polyphenols that have anti-cancer qualities, prevent cardiovascular disease,  inflammations and various infections. Phloretin in apples manages and eliminates the growth of breast cancer cells.
Reduces Cholesterols

Consuming soluble fibers from apples can reduce cholesterols. Soluble fibers and fats combine in
intestine to prevent saturated fats from being transported to your bloodstream.

Reduce Allergies                                                               
Apples are composed of compounds such as catechin and chromogenic acids which have oxidant power to fight sicknesses such as allergies.
Build strong Bones
Apples are fruits packed with a lot of nutrients such as vitamins, potassium, and calcium which help in the growth of healthy bones. Also, another natural plant compound in apples is phloridzin which prevents bone loss.
Boost The Brain
Apples contain a lot of anti-oxidant which play important roles in the human body by maintaining brain health. Metastatic shows that eating apples can solve some problems in the brain such as Alzheimer’s mental decline due to age factor which can be improved by drinking apple juice to maintain neurotransmitters in the brain. Apples are known for flushing out toxins in the body and providing other health benefits.
Ecological Requirements for Growing Apples
An apple is a hardy and perennial tree that grows in different hardiness zones or climates. The best zone or climate for growing apples is zone 3 whereby in this climate the weather is cold in winter, moderate in summer with high humidity. This type of climate or zone is found in Kenyan Highlands. Apples are grown at a high altitude of 1800m-2800m above sea level with temperatures of 20c-25c during the growth period.

Apples require chilling hours for the plant to achieve optimum growth, break the buds’ dormancy and produce quality fruiting. These chilling hours should range between 500-1000 hours. The temperatures required should range between 20c-25c during the growing period.
Apple farm can be raised by either seeds or grafted seedlings but if the orchard is established by seeds one can wait for ten years for the trees to come into production. The farm can be established by grafted seedlings that mature and come to fruition within a period of 9months-3years.

A farmer should consider various things while establishing an apple farm for the  trees to grow faster:

  • purchase specific trees for your climate
  • purchase apple varieties that grow within 2 years
  • purchase trees that grow faster
  • give your trees a strong boost during the planting period
  • grow apples in a layered ground

 Apples can grow well in well-drained loamy soil and are fertile for the farmer to harvest high quality and quantity fruits although apple plants can survive in any soil apart from waterlogged soil. Apples prefer a PH of between  6.0 -7.0 which is neutral and it is necessary to add manure as the apples continue to grow for greater yields
Apples require rainfall of 800mm-1100mm annually. During the period of breaking the buds, the soil should moist to enhance fruit setting and high-quality fruits. The spacing of apples should be 3m by 3m that is 3m from one plant to another and 3m from one row to another. Apples should be cared for during this formative stage by weeding, thinning early sprouting flowers and fruits to improve size and quality to get a bumper harvest. Pruning should be done as early as 2 years-3years to attain the desired shape, allow sunlight to penetrate through apple trees, eliminate unwanted branches, remove dried branches, and obtain optimal height for harvest

Pests and diseases                                                                                                                                                                                

No plant grows on earth without pests and diseases. Some diseases are brought by some of the pests. A farmer should care for his apple trees not to be infected by pests and diseases. Some pests are more hazardous than others which cause more harm to apple trees making trees to be stunted in growth. Pests that attack apple trees include; spider mites, fruit flies, aphids and  thrips, codling moths, and birds. Diseases that attack apple trees include; apple scab, armillaria root, and powdery mildew.                      

Diseases and pests can be prevented by making sure that a high standard of hygiene is maintained in the field of apples, planting certified seedlings free from pests and diseases, and last but not least is planting varieties suitable for your climate.

Harvesting of apples comes after 100days to 200days of the flowering stage when buds have been broken by dormancy. The fruits should be exposed to full sunlight to change color and mature.


Kenya imports 4,000 tons of apples from South Africa, Middle East, and Egypt this shows that the commodity is insufficient in the country. This is an opportunity to venture into for those who have even a small piece of land. Apples can be grown along the fence, the fence to give support.  The market for apples is huge both locally and internationally. A farmer can sell his apples in the local market because the demand for apples is high and one cannot satisfy the need. If a farmer wants to export apples he will liaise with big companies to organize for them the exportation of apples. Exported apples fetch more prices than apples sold locally. Exported apples are sold double price than those sold locally.

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