Step-by-Step Guide to Farming Maize

Step-by-Step Guide to Farming Maize


Maize is the most important cereal crop in Kenya eaten in form of grains, processed to offer various product ranges including maize flour, fermented to produce alcohol to make local beer. Its remnants after harvesting are used as fodder and can be used to make silage when completely dried.

Maize is also used industrially for starch and oil extraction.

Climatic Requirements for Maize

The maize crop is adaptable to a wide range of climatic conditions and it is thus grown extensively in the country.

Rainfall

The crop can flourish in regions with different rainfall ranges. For instance, a high rainfall of 1200- 2500mm, at times 600-1150mm and can also adapt to regions receiving rainfall total of 400mm. Rainfall requirements vary with different varieties but should be evenly distributed during the growing period, especially during the first five weeks after planting and at the flowering stage.

Temperature

Warm temperatures of between 15-30 0C are fit for the growth and development of this crop. Cold conditions extend the maturity period.

Soil

Maize crop prefers a well-drained light loam or alluvial soil with a pH of between 5.5-7.0. However, it also tolerates a wide range of soils found in most parts of Kenya but it is not tolerant to waterlogged soils.

Altitude

The crop grows in a wide range of zones with altitudes ranging from 100-2900M ASL. This however depends on the maize variety.

The Choice of Maize Seed to Plant

It is very important to choose the right maize seed variety for your altitude and rainfall conditions.

 

Maize Seed Variety

Altitude

Recommended Areas to Plant Maize

H6218, H6213, H614, H626, H627, H629 and H628, KH600-14E, KH 600-15A, ADC 600-23A, 600–15A

Highland Altitude range of 1,500m to 2,100m above sea level

Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kiambu, Meru, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Eldoret, Nakuru, West Pokot, Keiyo, Marakwet Laikipia, Nandi, greater Kericho, Taita, Nyeri (upper parts), Laikipia, Lower Nyandarua and Kisii

WH507, KH 500-33A, WH505 , WH 403, H624, H524, H525, and H526, H513, H515, H516, H517, H518, H519, H520, H521, and H522

Medium and Transitional altitude range of 1,000m to 1,800 m above sea level

Bungoma, Kakamega, Bumula, Lanet, Busia, Western Kenya- Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Nyanza Region- Homa Bay, Suba, Migori Rongo, Siaya, Bondo; South Rift- Tinderet, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Sotik, Trans-Mara; Central Province- Muranga, Kirinyaga; Eastern Province-Embu, Meru

PH1, PH4

The lowland altitude range of 0 to 1,200m above sea level

Kilifi, Mombasa, Tana River, Lamu and Kwale

DH02, DH04, H513, H511, KATUMANI, Drought TEGO, DH01, DH02, DH03, KDV-1, KDV-6

The dryland altitude range of 800m to 1,200m above sea level

Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Mwatate, Mpeketoni, Homa Bay, Rongo, Unguja, Siaya, and Baringo

The Recommended Retail Prices for Maize Seed

  • 2kgs – Ksh 360
  • 10kgs – Ksh 1,800
  • 25kgs – Ksh 4,500

Where to Buy Maize Seed Online

  • Western Seed Company
  • Kenya Seed Company
  • Seed Co Kenya
  • Syngenta
  • Simlaw Seeds

Land Preparation for Maize Farming

It should be done early to allow for weeds to dry and decompose before planting. The first plough is best done after harvesting the previous crop.

Procedure

  • Spray weeds with Catapult 480SL, 2, 4-D Agromine, Lumax 537.5 SE, Roundup Turbo, Touchdown Forte 500SL, Kausha 480SL, Weedal 480SL
  • Plough land and make it level with a fine tilth.
  • Mix soil with manure and DAP. For efficient and improved nutrient uptake as well as stabilizing soil pH, mix 1kg HUMIPOWER® with 50kg DAP and /or 1 ton of manure.
  • Make holes at a spacing of 90*30-50cm if soil fertility is low or 75*25-50cm if the soil is fertility is relatively high.
  • Place either 2 or 1 seed per hole or alternate 1 and 2 seeds at a depth of about 4cm if the soil is moist and about 10cm if the soil is dry.
  • Cover seeds with loose soil
  • Considering the size of land, machines like tractors or ox-drawn ploughs can be used, observing the correct spacing.
  • Optimal yields are realized if the correct number of plants per unit area are grown.

Recommended Spacing of Maize

It is important to space your maize correctly. There are two spacing options:

  • 75x30cm when planting one seed per hole.
  • 75x60cm when planting 2 seeds per hole.

Maize Planting Time

Early planting is essential as yields are greatly reduced by late planting.

Planting is best done within the first two weeks of the onset of rainfall in highlands, while in lowlands, maize is best planted before the onset of rain for it to benefit from the scarce rainfall in these areas.

If the rainfall is not enough, irrigation should be done.

Maize Field Operations

Thinning and Gapping

Gapping is done to replace ungerminated seeds immediately after germination is complete while thinning is done when maize has grown to a height of about 15 cm by removing the weak and deformed seedlings to leave the desired number of seedlings per hole.

Fertilizer Application on Maize

The timely application of both basal and foliar fertilizers is highly recommended in order to achieve optimum yields. Manure should be added especially for soils with little or no organic matter.

During Maize Planting

When planting manually, place a teaspoonful of fertilizer (DAP) into each planting hole, mix it thoroughly with the soil to make sure that the fertilizer doesn’t burn the seeds, then place the seeds. Under mechanical planting, well-calibrated planters with fertilizer hoppers are used. The fertilizer can also be mixed with soil before planting, at a rate of 50Kg per acre.

DAP fertilizer contains phosphorus which helps the crop with root development.

Spray the young plants with LAVENDER SUPER STARTER 20ml/20L or GOLD CHANCE SUPER START 50g/20L to promote early crop establishment.

Top Dressing Maize

Topdressing with CAN fertilizer is done after 2-3 weeks after planting or when the crop is 45cm or 1.5ft high. Apply 1 teaspoonful of CAN fertilizer at the base of each plant in a ring or along the row, about 15 cm away from the plant. In high rainfall areas, top dressing is done in two splits. 1st split is done 6 weeks after sowing and 2nd split is done 10-15 days later or just before tasseling. In low rainfall areas, fertilizer is applied once, at a rate of 50-100Kg per acre.

CAN fertilizer fixes nitrogen in the soil which increases the green color of the leaves, responsible to make food for the plant. Other nitrogenous fertilizers like urea can be used.

To promote vigorous vegetative growth of the crop, spray it with GOLDCHANCE SUPER GROWTH 50g/20L or LAVENDER SUPER GROWTH & VEGETATIVE 20ml/20L.

During flowering and grain filling stages, spray GOLDCHANCE SUPER FLOWERS & FRUITS 50g/20L or DIMIPHITE 20ml/20L, to promote quality and quantity production.

Weeding Maize

Weeds compete with maize for nutrients, water, and light and harbor diseases and pests which lowers yields.

Weeding can be done mechanically/manually or by the use of herbicides.

If done manually, the first weeding should be within the 3rd week after planting or depending on the growth of weed in the area.

In pure stand, herbicides can be used to effectively control weeds. The herbicides are mainly grouped in two, pre-emergence herbicides (e.g. Catapult 480SL which are applied before the maize germinates and weeds appear, and post-emergence herbicides e.g. Agromine 860SL which are applied when the maize and weeds have germinated.

  • After planting, before germination, spray weeds with Catapult 480SL 200ml/20L to get rid of all types of weeds.
  • When maize crop is at the knee-high stage, about 30cm high, spray Agromine 860SL 150ml/20L which selectively kills broadleaved weeds.
  • Spray Hurricane 200SL 200ml/20L between the rows, when maize is waist-high, at later stages of growth. It clears all types of weeds leaving the fields weed-free.

The field should be kept weed-free till maize tasseling after which their presence might not cause crop loss.

Main Maize Pests and Diseases

Maize Pests

Fall armyworms attack the crop at seedling, vegetative, flowering, and fruiting growth stages, and its rapid spread and damage potential can cause up to 100% crop loss.

Use Occasion Star 200SC 3ml/20L or Total Touch 250SC 18ml/20L or Escort 19EC 10ml/20L.

Apply the insecticides in the evening or early in the morning for effective control because fall armyworms are nocturnal.

Stalk borer larvae are caterpillars that feed on leaves. As infestation continues, they find their way into the stalk of the plant, feed on the stalk tissues making the stalk weak. They also tunnel into maize cobs causing significant losses.

Spray KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20L or Profile 440EC 30ml/20L or Lexus 247SC 8ml/20L.

Maize aphids are soft-bodied insects that feed by piercing and sucking. Heavy infestation by these aphids causes leaves to curl and become distorted. The plant also becomes stunted. As they feed, they secrete honeydew which encourages the development of sooty mold which lowers the rate of photosynthesis, especially if on the leaves. Aphids are also vectors of viral diseases.

Spray KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20L or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20L or PENTAGON 50EC 10ml/20L.

Cutworms are found in the soil and attack the stems of young plants.

Drench soil with PROFILE 440EC 60ml/20L or PENTAGON 50EC 20ml/20L.

African bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera)

Caterpillars of the African bollworm also known as the corn worm or earworm attack mainly the developing cobs, although they may occasionally feed in the leaf whorl or on tender tassels.

Eggs are laid on the silks. Caterpillars invade the cobs and feed on developing grain. The development of secondary infections is common. Local outbreaks of this pest are sometimes severe.

Use bio-pesticides. Plant extracts (e.g. neem, garlic, chili,) and Bt are reportedly effective against the African bollworms. However, the timing of the application is very important. Spraying when caterpillars are inside the cob would be ineffective.

White grubs

White grubs are the larvae of scarab “chafer” beetles. They are white, C-shaped with a brown head and 3 pairs of legs.

Some species of white grubs (e.g. Phyllophaga spp, Heteronychus spp.) feed on the roots of maize plants. Root damage is manifested by wilting seedlings, poor stands, and patches of tilted or lodged plants showing uneven growth. Injured plants can easily be pulled out of the ground.

Plough and harrow the field to expose eggs and grubs to predators (e.g. ants and birds) and to desiccation by the sun. Once exposed, they can also be picked by hand. This is feasible in small plots.

Ensure proper drainage. Grubs love moist soil, especially with decaying organic matter. Female beetles prefer to lay eggs on moist-decaying organic matter.

Maize Diseases

Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) is a combination of two viral diseases that can attack the crop at any stage of growth and development. Infection is shown by the appearance of chlorotic mottling on leaves which starts from the older to the younger leaves. Leaves also show marginal necrosis which extends to the midrib as infection advances eventually causing the leaf to die. Dead hearts are very common.

Control vectors (aphids, thrips, and leaf beetles) then spray to ensure proper nutrition.

Maize smut is a soil-borne disease that is manifested in the tassel or kernel of the crop causing severe crop losses. The infection causes the formation of whitish galls/swellings which rapture releasing dark spores.

Drench soil with PYRAMID 700WP 100g/20L or GREEN COP 500WP 100g/20L.

Northern leaf blight infection starts as gray-green lesions on the leaves which turn pale gray as the infection progresses.

Spray GEARLOCK TURBO 250WP 25g/20L or FORTRESS GOLD 720WP 40g/20L.

Maize Harvesting and Storage

Maize matures after 3-4 months especially for the short season varieties with others going up to 10 months or more. Harvesting can be done while the maize is green or when dry. Cobs are harvested by hand or by use of mechanized harvesters e.g. combine harvesters.

Maize should be properly dried before storage. An easy test for moisture content: take a few grains and try to crush them with your teeth – below 13% moisture level the grains are extremely hard and almost impossible to crush this way.

Treat your maize before storage against storage pests like weevils or use treated gunny bags. This increases their shelf-life.

Store the maize in clean and dry storage places or silos to prevent fungal disease attacks and to control storage pests like weevils. using Actellic Gold Dust or Actellic Super Dust.

Key Factors to Focus on Maize Farming.

  1. Land preparation must be properly done and narrowed
  2. Plant spacing should never be assumed
  3. Fertilizer application shouldn’t be ignored
  4. Germination must be assessed.
  5. The crop must be kept weed-free
  6. Avoid losses during shelling

With adequate rains, I don’t see any other reason that would deny the farmer a production of over 60 bags per acre if these steps are strictly adhered to.

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