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Agronomist notebook: Potato growing in times of extended rains

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ANN MACHARIA

By ANN MACHARIA
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As unexpected rains continue to pound different parts of the country, among those who are counting losses are potato farmers.

A visit to a potato farm in Nyandarua County last week brought me face-to-face with the challenges the rains have unleashed on potato growers, thanks to the flooding and the cold weather.

On one of the farms, the potatoes had brown lesions on the leaves, a symptom of potato blight caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans.

Peter, the farmer, said the disease had spread fast when the rains started, adding the leaves started to rot, then collapsed, shrivelled and turned brown.

As the leaves shrivelled, on the stems, dark brown lesions developed. The rapid spread of the disease causes total leaf defoliation. From the stem, the disease normally spreads to the tubers as the rainwater washes the spores into the soil, creating a film of water around the tubers that facilitates the spread of the diseases.

Infected tubers can easily be identified by slightly sunken water-soaked areas on the surfaces. Upon cutting the tubers, brown rusty colour is seen.

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The best practice is that one should sort and remove affected tubers since they normally develop bacterial soft or dry rot as a secondary infection during storage. Potato blight normally leads to growth of small tubers or total crop failure if not well-managed.

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With the erratic rains expected to continue, it is, therefore, important prevent the disease. The first preventive measure is planting tubers that are resistant to the disease.

Second, enhance farm hygiene so that the disease doesn’t spread when the rains start.

Third, affected tubers should be properly disposed of after grading is done and all the volunteer crops removed so that they don’t act as a source of secondary infection.

Normally, the fungus can remain in the soil once the previous crop is harvested, thus it is advisable to practise crop rotation with crops such as spinach or sukuma wiki.

Avoid excess use of nitrogenous fertilisers as this leads to extra foliage, which creates favourable conditions for the spread of the disease. Excess nitrogen may also result in lodging, which makes the potatoes more susceptible to blight.

Proper weeding to avoid mechanical damage prevents the spread of the disease. Preventive fungicides can be used to control the disease.

Away from the disease, with the heavy rains, harvesting of potatoes normally becomes a tough task. Given that potatoes are a heavy produce, the wet soil makes harvesting impossible, leading to rotting of the tubers.

When harvesting, care should be taken to ensure the tubers do not get mechanical injuries, which serve as an entry point for pathogens.

Harvested potatoes should not be left in the sun as this causes scalding, which lowers the quality. Also, exposing the tubers to sunlight makes them turn green and become inedible.

When harvesting during the rainy season, avoid washing off the mud as this decreases the shelf life of the potatoes. Only wash them when they are ready for use.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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