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Stevia Agronomy
Stevia is a perennial herb grown for its sweet tasting leaf. It is native to Paraguay; Stevia grows naturally between 20 and 25 degrees latitude. Stevia extracts are used in a wide range of industrial food, beverage, confectionary and pharmaceutical flavouring.
The Japanese market was the earliest adopter of stevia sweeteners on a commercial level since the 1980’s.
Now it is accepted in the USA and EU. These are now the core markets for processed stevia.
Commercial farming has logically located close to the markets, and largely centered in Eastern Central China.
Many countries have trialed stevia over the years, but there are very few centers of real commercial farming.
The last 2 years has seen an explosion of Stevia farming to various degrees of success around the world. It was introduced to Kenya by Purecircle (k) ltd and is now commercially grown in Kericho, Bungoma, Bomet, Uasingishu, Narok, Nakuru, and Nandi Counties. Successful trials have been done in the greater Meru, Embu, and Kirinyaga Counties. Stevia can grow in most parts of the country.
The Origins of ‘sweet leaf’…
Propagation
•Stevia reproduces quickly and economically by vegetative cuttings.
•The cuttings result in multiplication with the desired attributes.
•Roots splits are commonly used as well.
•There are clean stock nurseries.
•The ability to propagate economically is a key factor in the profitability of a farming operation •Chinese farms typically harvest once or twice a year (due to winter season above 30 degrees latitude).
•Equatorial Farms (Colombia and Kenya) achieve 4 to 6 commercial harvests per year.
•In warmer climates, plants are harvested multiple years (2 to 6).
• Subsequent yield / harvest increases over time as the plant has more branching and a better root system.
• Yields range from 2,000kg to 16,000 kg per hectare per year.
• The average is likely on the lower end, from 5,000 to 9,000.
•The higher end may be attained with existing cultivars, sophisticated investments (drip fertigation, etc.).

Ideal conditionsWhat does the plant want?
• Slightly acidic soil: ph of 5.5 to 6.0
•Well drained soil (Sandy loam is ideal)
•Good organic matter (thrives with humus).
•Day temperatures between 15 c and 30 c (22-25 is optimal)
•Plant growth slows above 35 degrees c.
•Plant has poor tolerance for saline soils.

Typical Farming
Farm set up
•Planted on raised beds.
•Frequently use mulch to minimize weeding and maintain soil moisture (but very much climate / region specific).
•Plant densities of 80,000 to 120,000 plants per hectare.
•Because of traditional, high labor input, most farms today are small (0.35 to 5 hectares).
•Successful mechanization (planting and harvesting) has been achieved in various locations and can now be availed locally
Traditional FarmingLabor intensive
• Planting is the key area of labor.
• Weeding is significant field operation
•Harvesting can easily be done mechanically, but the small size of farms has lent itself to manual harvesting.

THE FUTURE OF STEVIA
The changing life styles focus on health eating and drinking habits place stevia as a strategic industrial crop of today and the future. Our geo ecological circumstances give Kenyan stevia farmers an unassailable advantage in stevia farming. The stevia leaf business model in Kenya makes stevia farming in compare able to any other crop in the country (four year contract with inbuilt price and quality safe guards, sunshine through out the year, multiple harvests in a year up to 6). Purecircle Kenya Limited buys all stevia leaf produce by our contracted farmers.
For more information please contact;

Kipkoech Rono
Cellphone +254712432037
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
BRIAN C WELLS (K) LTDby
 
 
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