SQU plans to make this superfood popular

Muscat, Feb 2 – Kale, a winter crop and part of the cabbage family, is a superfood that can lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancer. Either served as kale chips, or easy garlic kale or simply steamed, kale has taken the world by storm, thanks to its health benefits that includes high fibre and loads of vitamins including vitamin K that may reduce cancer. Kale can also be eaten fresh in salads. A group of researchers from the Department of Crop Sciences of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University, headed by Dr Rhonda Janke is conducting research on this crop to benefit farmers by experimenting with organic methods of growing crops at SQU’s Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) greenhouses.
According to Dr Rhonda, the retail price of non-organic kale RO 5 to 7 per kg whereas in the US, the wholesale price of non-organic kale is about RO 2 per kg. Organic kale will likely sell for a little more. “Kale is gaining popularity as a superfood due to the higher level of protein, dietary fibre, calcium, and iron as compared to other green vegetables such as arugula, spinach, lettuce and broccoli”, she said. “We only know of one farm in Oman now growing kale, Pairidaeza Organic Farm, in Barka. We would like other farms to know about kale, about organic growing methods, and encourage consumers to try this new superfood.”Dr Rhonda and team decided to grow organic kale at SQU as a winter crop with other vegetables. In warm climates, kale can be grown outdoors in the winter or in the summer in partial shade or in greenhouses. A well-drained soil is best, supplemented with compost for the organic crops. These will be compared to crops receiving conventional fertilizer, and no fertilizer in the experiment.
“Kale seeds are grown in trays for 4 weeks before they are transplanted to the green house soil. Plants mature in 50 to 65 days, but you can also pick leaves much sooner. The harvesting can be done for at least 6 to 8 weeks, and it can be planted repeatedly for an extended harvest.”
At SQU’s research station, the researchers planted the kale in the first week of December 2018. Now the vegetable is ready to harvest in the greenhouse. Dr Rhonda added that her department has plans to organise workshops in April for farmers to learn more about organic farming with kale and other crops.