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Kindly explain how Tithonia diversifolia is used as manure, foliar feed and as a pesticide.
Antony Toweet

Tithonia diversifolia is a species of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family that is commonly known as the tree marigold, Mexican sunflower or Japanese sunflower.

It is native to Mexico and Central America but has a near pantropical distribution as an introduced species. Depending on the area, they may be either annual or perennial.

This plant was originally domesticated in Mexico and spread to other parts of central and South America and north into the United States.

It was brought over to parts of Africa and Asia as an ornamental plant and has become an invasive weed that is widely spread.

It is most commonly found in areas with an altitude of between 550m and 1,950m. Most of the time it is scattered along riverbeds and roadsides.

It has shown great potential in raising fertility in soils depleted in nutrients. Originating in Mexico, research has shown its potential in benefiting poor African farmers.

This plant is a weed that grows quickly and has become an option as an affordable alternative to expensive synthetic fertilisers.

It increases crop yields and the soil nutrients namely nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

Potential in soil fertility: According to a 2000 research by Jama, and others, green biomass of tithonia has been recognised as an effective source of nutrients for lowland rice (Oryza sativa) in Asia and more recently for maize (Zea mays) and vegetables in eastern and southern Africa.

Chemical composition of tithonia: Tithonia green manure has proved to be a reliable source of Nitrogen (N), potassium (K) and phosphorous (P) for plant growth.

It is, therefore, used as an organic fertiliser. The percentage composition of the major organic mineral elements abundantly found in tithonia plant include: Nitrogen (3.2—5.5 per cent), potassium (2.3—5.5 per cent), phosphorous (0.2—0.5 per cent), calcium (1.8—2.0 per cent) and magnesium (0.3—0.4 per cent).

In addition to providing nutrients, tithonia incorporated at five tonnes dry matter per hectare can reduce P absorption and increase soil microbial biomass.

Fahrurrozi and others in 2015 also did a research on carrot using tithonia in organic vegetable production. They made liquid organic fertiliser using Tithonia diversifolia to improve organically growing of carrots.

Propagation of tithonia: This shrub can naturally exist as a weed on farms or planted using either cuttings or seeds.

When using seeds, they are scattered in narrow furrows and covered with a thin layer of sand. When using cuttings, 20cm stems with two nodes below the ground and three nodes above the ground are planted at an angle of 450.

Use of tithonia plant as organic pesticide and fertiliser: The organic fertiliser is mined from mineral deposits from synthetic compounds and contains N, P and K.

Tithonia helps curb reliance of chemical fertilisers that have impoverished soils. It is, therefore, used as an organic fertiliser.


The fertiliser can be used in the growing of sukuma wiki, sorghum, cowpeas, beans, maize and tomatoes. Tithonia has been mixed with bio slurry from biogas to increase the amount of NPK in the fertiliser for carrot production. Some training is also required on the process.

Advantages of using tithonia as liquid fertiliser: It has a high concentration of dissolved nutrients, which are readily available for the plant unlike in the mineral fertiliser where these nutrients are bound in fertiliser filler materials.

Presence of micro-organisms in this fertiliser breaks down the organic matter in the soil enhancing the activity of the soil, and increasing nutrient availability to the plant.

T. diversiforlia acts as an insect repellent, hence controls insects when used to make the liquid fertiliser. It provides organic elements like N, P and K in amounts excess to what mineral fertiliser provides. It is also used in demarcation of different plots on the farm and screen hedges.

The plant can further be used as fodder and it improves soil aeration.

Biological pesticide: To make the pesticide, harvest leaves and twigs and crush them in a mortar and pestle. Add water to the Tithonia diversiforlia crushed paste and sieve to get a clear liquid.

Five litres of water are used to dilute 17kg of concentrated T. diversiforlia paste to form a clear liquid pesticide. This pesticide has been used in controlling pests in vegetables.

The advantage is that it is effective, cuts the cost of production and the vegetables are free from chemicals. That is our field observation, however, as an Egerton University, we are in continuous investigation process for the compound (active principles) that control these pest and diseases.

Peter Caleb Otieno,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and soil. Egerton University.

Please share a list of agricultural products exporters and buyers in Kenya.

There are so many companies that export and buy agricultural products in Kenya. They include Sunripe, Agriflora Kenya Ltd, Interveg Export Ltd, Jade Fresh Ltd, Kenya Horticultural Exporters, Homefresh Horticulture Exports Ltd, Kandia Fresh Produce Suppliers and Hillside Green Growers and Exporters Company.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.


I’ve just ventured into agribusiness, growing strawberries as a start. I need to source a laser drip irrigation system, which I understand is better than what is currently available in Kenya.

Do you have anyone who is a distributor and who can install this system?

Laser drip irrigation is better than the drip irrigation currently being used in Kenya. Drip Tech Company based in India sells the laser drip irrigation.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.