Maize Farming in Kenya

Large scale and small scale maize farming.

maizeMaize is a common grain among Kenyans. It is a staple food for most of the communities. Maize originated from America where it was planted by the Indians. The grain was introduced in Kenya by the Portuguese. Maize is the most extensively cultivated grain in our country presently. In Kenya, the chief areas where maize is grown are; Transzoia, Nakuru, Bungoma and Uasin Gishu counties. Maize farming in Kenya has several importance;

  • It is a staple food
  • It is used as a domestic food( maize stalk leaves)
  • Used in the manufacture of corn oil.
  • Also used in the production of animal feeds to supplement milk production.

In Kenya maize production is done both by large and small scale farmers though the bulk of maize production comes from the small scale farmers.

Ecological requirements.

Kenya’s KARI has introduced various maize seed varieties that suits the different ecological zones in our country. There are varieties for high altitude areas (H614, H613, and H611), medium altitude (H511, H512) and low altitude areas (Katumani composite B and DH04)

  • Temperatures of about 15°-21° to allow growth of healthy crops
  • Maize requires high amount of rainfall ranging from 1200mm-2500mm which is evenly distributed. However, due to the change in the weather pattern as a result of climate change it is important for farmers to irrigate their maize crops.
  • Soils should be rich in nutrient content, well drained and with light loam soil.
  • Cultivation of maize on a large scale should be done on an undulating landscape to allow mechanization during planting and to facilitate harvesting.

Important tips for planting and harvesting maize

Land preparation. All maize varieties require a fine seedbed for better seed establishment. In case of using a virgin land for maize growing, first clear all the bushes and old stumps to facilitate ploughing. Avoid burning as a means of clearing as it kills important microorganisms and deprive soil of its moisture. If a tractor is used in ploughing, it is advisable to harrow the land severally to obtain a medium tilth.

Sowing of seeds. Planting of maize is recommended to be done before or at the onset of rain. In case rain fails, the seeds should be irrigated to prevent cracking of the seeds. When planting dig a hole of about 2.5-5cm in moist soils and a depth of 10cm in dry soils. A farmer should always use certified seeds and heathy ones. Maize is usually sowed at a spacing of 80cm by 25cm.

Maize can be inter-cropped with the leguminous plants e.g. beans, peas to allow nitrogen fixation in the soil.

Field maintenance

Application of manure and fertilizers. Fertilizers of nitrogen and phosphate are the most important in maize cultivation. Again farmers are advised to avoid excessive use of inorganic fertilizers as they lead to poor soil fertility. The use of organic manure is highly recommended as it increases organic matter in the soil leading to improved soil fertility. If possible farmers should practice organic farming and use minimum inorganic fertilizers to boost their yields.

Thinning of weak seedlings. Maize plants which are weak are thinned by uprooting and only the healthy plants remain to reduce competition of nutrients and water.

Watering through irrigation. The best irrigation method to use in growing of maize is drip irrigation as it does not tamper with leaf development or even damaging them.

Harvesting. Maize is ready for harvesting in 4-12 months. This depends on the seed variety and altitude of a place. The maize is harvested when the grains and the cobs are dry. The crop can be harvested manually or use machine on a large field. Once harvested the maize stalks can be used to feed the animals or used for compost manure preparation. Most importantly don’t keep maize in the field after maturity. It is prone to damage by birds.

Drying and storage. The harvest is dried in direct sun to remove all the moisture and prevent rotting. Sort the grains and remove all damage. Before storage the maize is dusted with a chemical to kill pests. The storage facilities which include silos, granaries, and bunkers should be clean and free from pests.

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