Maize is the main staple food of over 85 per cent of the population in Kenya. The per capital consumption ranges between 98 to 100 kilograms which translates to at least 2700 thousand metric tonnes Annualy. Atleast 38 per cent of the food crop producers in Kenya grow Maize
Maize small scale production accounts for about 70 per cent of the overall production. The remaining 30 per cent of the output is from large scale commercial producers. Maize Small scale producers mainly grow the crop for subsistence, retaining almost 58 percent of their total output for household consumption.
Maize Farming in Kenya
Maize is a tall annual crop of the grass family. It grows to a height of between 1.5 m and 3 m. From the stalk grows the conical cob on which the grains are found. The cobs are harvested either by hand or by mechanized harvesters such as in the USA’s extensive farms. The grains from the cobs are consumed or milled for maize flour.
Maize was ﬁrst cultivated in America by the Indians. It was taken to Europe by Christopher Columbus. It has since spread to many parts of Africa and Asia. In Kenya, it was ﬁrst introduced by the Portuguese at the coast in the 15th Century.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Farming Areas
Since maize is adaptable to a whole range of climate conditions, it is the single most extensively grown crop. However, the chief growing areas are Trans Nzoia, Nakuru, Bungoma, and Uasin Gishu counties.
In South Nyanza, other parts of the Rift Valley and Western Province, maize is grown alongside other subsistence crops like beans, potatoes, and bananas. Good yields are obtained with the use of hybrid seeds supplied by Kenya Seed Company. The Kenya Agricultural Research Station has developed a special kind of hybrid maize called Katumani, which is adapted to the drier conditions and is grown in Machakos, Kitui, Tana River and Isiolo counties.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Conditions Favouring Maize Farming
Warm temperatures above 15°C. These are experienced in most parts of the country.
High rainfall of 1,200 mm -2,500 mm. However, maize ﬂourishes under different rainfall regions and at times tolerate rainfall totals between 635 mm to 1,145 mm or even adapt to semi-arid regions with rainfall totals of below 380 mm.
Rich, well-drained light loam soil. However, it also tolerates a wide range of soils found in most parts of the country.
Undulating landscape. This allows for the use of machines. A good example is the topography of Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu Districts which has facilitated large scale maize production.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Maize Farming Practices
Plough early during the sunny season, give two or three ploughing if necessary to get good clean seedbed, and remove couch – grass with.
It is essential to plant early, at the onset of the rains. Yields are greatly reduced by late planting.
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It is important to choose the correct hybrid for your altitude and rainfall conditions.
Population and Spacing
High yields can only be obtained if the correct number of plants per acre are grown. For hybrids grown in the soil of low fertility, a plant population of 37,000 per hectare with a spacing of 90cm by 30-50cm is recommended. For hybrids grown in soils of high fertility, a plant population of 53 000 per hectare with a spacing of 75cm by 25-50cm is recommended.
Plant either 2 seeds per hole or 1 and 2 seeds alternately per hole, and then single to 1 plant per hole when the maize is 6-9 inches tall, leave 2 plants at one side of a gap. The seed should not be planted directly in contact with fertilizers, as this can cause poor germination due to seed scorching. When hand-planting, put fertilizer in the hole, stir with a stick to mix the fertilizer with the soil, then put the seed. Cover the seed with loose soil, then press down the soil.
Two seeds are sown in each hole at a depth of 2.5-5 cm in most soils and 10 cm in dry soils.
The amount of fertilizer to be used is determined by the fertility level of the soil. This can be determined by soil testing.
Keep the maize clean weeded until it flowers, by weeding several times.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Pests and Diseases
The most common maize diseases include:-
Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND)
The disease occurs at all stages of crop. The main symptoms include the appearance of chlorotic mottling on leaves which starts from the base and extends upwards. Also, the leaves show necrosis at margins which later extends to midrib and results in drying of the entire leaf.
Control: Use healthy, disease-free certified seeds. Keep the fields free from weeds. Remove the infected plants and burn them. Control vectors by treating seed and/ foliar spray with suitable insecticide. Follow crop rotation with non-cereals at least for two seasons. Plant maize only in main rainy season instead of the short rainy season. Grow available resistant varieties.
Northern Leaf Blight
It starts as gray-green lesions on leaves. As the disease progresses these lesions become pale gray to tan color. Later stage the lesions looks dirty due to dark gray spores, particularly under lower leaf surface.
Control: Follow proper tillage to reduce fungus inoculum from crop debris. Practice crop rotation with nonhost crop. Grow available resistant varieties. In severe case of disease, incidence applies a suitable fungicide.
Downy Mildew disease
The disease appears as early from two weeks after sowing resulting in chlorosis and stunting. In older plants, the leaves show mottling, chlorotic streaking and lesions, and white striped leaves. Usually, the leaves are narrower and more erect when compare to healthy plants and are covered with a white, downy growth on both surfaces.
Control: Grow available resistant varieties and hybrids. Follow crop rotation with non-host crops. Use suitable systemic fungicide for both seed treatment and foliar spray. Keep the fields free from weeds. Drying seeds before sowing reduces the disease incidence.
Bacterial leaf blight
It appears as water-soaked linear lesions on leaves as they emerge; lesions turn brown and may subsequently turn gray or white; lesions may have a red border; after the leaves are mature, lesions do not tend to extend any further; no new lesions tend to appear after tasseling; if corn variety is susceptible, mature leaves may shred after maturity
Control: Resistant hybrids should be planted in areas where the disease is prevalent; plowing crop debris into the soil and rotating crop may not be effective at controlling the disease due to its extensive host range
The most common maize pests include:-
Heavy infestations of aphids can result in curled leaves and stunted plants; honeydew secretions promote growth of sooty mold. Aphids may transmit viruses when feeding
Control: It is rare for aphids to reach levels that are damaging to the plant and no control is generally warranted as insecticide sprays will not prevent transmission of viruses
Armyworms are leaf-eating caterpillar pests of many crops. They usually feed heavily leaving only stems and mid-rib of leaves.
Control: Organic methods of controlling the armyworm include biological control by natural enemies which parasitize the larvae and the application of Bacillus thuringiensis; there are chemicals available for commercial control.
They attack the stems of young transplants or seedlings.
Control: Remove all plant residue from the soil after harvest or at least two weeks before planting and apply appropriate insecticides to infested areas of garden or field if not growing organically.
Maize is harvested in the dry season to avoid incidents of grain rotting in the field. On small farms, the maize is left to dry while on the stalks. The cobs are then removed from their husks by hand and taken to the stores.
Maize is periodically dried in the sun until the grains are completely dry. On large farms, the plants are cut and piled in several places in the ﬁeld in straight heaps. This enables the grains to dry for some period. The cobs are then removed and shelling done usually by machines. The grain is winnowed and packed in sacks.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Maize for the green market is ready for harvest when the grain hardens or when the silky flowering at the top of the maize cob turns black.
Dried Maize Harvesting
Maize should be harvested at physiological maturity. Maize can be left in the field beyond physiological maturity to allow for further drying. This can be done through stooking for about 2 to 4 weeks. Maize is physiologically mature when:
1. Most leaves have dried up
2. Cob husks are no longer green
3. Stalks turn yellow or brown
4. Cobs begin to droop on the stalk (figure 1)
5. Kernels show a black layer between the seed and point of attachment to the cob (figure 1).
6. Grains are hard and not milky
7. Cobs are no longer good for roasting
Preparations for the harvest
Before the new harvest farmers are prepared for postharvest activities. They must ensure that equipment needed for the harvest and post-harvest activities are available and in good condition; they decide where activities such as drying and threshing will take place; that there will be sufficient storage space for the crop; grain stores and sacks have been thoroughly cleaned before the new harvest so that residues of last season’s crop are removed from all cracks and crevices; the new harvest should never be mixed with grain from the previous season as this will encourage the movement of pests from the old to the new harvest.
The old harvest can be stored in a separate place for consumption. In addition, good hygiene should be ensured to prevent postharvest losses, the new harvest should never be placed on, or with, grain from the previous season as this will encourage the movement of pests from the old to the new.
Methods of harvesting
Harvesting of maize is done by hands for small-scale maize farming in Kenya. Maize stalks are cut using sickle and machete (panga) and stooked on farm , or carried to the storage area.
Stooking has the following enables the maize to dry in the farm and thus allowing farmers to have enough time to prepare the stores. It is also easier to pick cobs from one spot and dehulling the maize on the farm.
Transpotation of harvested maize
After harvest, maize may be transported from the farm to the homestead by any of the following methods: Head loads, Bicycle and motorbikes (boda boda), Oxen carts, Pick-up trucks and, tractors and lorries. Farmers are encouraged to use methods which do not cause damage (bruising, cracking or breakage) or loss through spillage.
Drying of maize on cobs
After harvesting, the maize must be dried before threshing and storage. Proper drying of maize enables grains to be stored for long and reduces conditions favourable for pest and mould infestation by lowering the moisture content. Drying should be done by spreading the cobs on mats, tarpaulins or in cribs. When drying maize at the homestead, it should not be placed in direct contact with the soil and should be kept away from farm animals, or else the grain may be damaged or eaten. Maize cobs may be dried either with or without the husk cover.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Maize Processing
Bagged maize is transported to the millers. It is weighed and put on trays. It is then sieved to remove any undesired matter, e.g. tiny rock particles and broken cobs. It is then passed through a milling machine which crushes it into ﬂour of various grades.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Maize Marketing
Maize Farming in Kenya – Uses of Maize
- Maize is a staple food in Kenya. The grains are ground to produce maize ﬂour and it is also consumed as a food grain. It may be consumed fresh, ground, boiled or mixed with other foods.
- The stalks, leaves, and other remains from the maize cobs are used to feed domestic animals especially dairy cattle.
- The stalks and cobs are used to provide domestic fuel, particularly in rural areas. They are also used as organic manure.
- The grains are used in the manufacture of com oil and animal feeds hence it is a vital raw material for industrialization.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Problems Facing Maize Farming in Kenya
- High cost of production – Expensive farm inputs e. g. fertilizers which reduce the farmer’s proﬁts.
- Unstable prices – Fluctuating prices makes it hard for the farmer to plan or at times to even recover their inputs.
- Climatic hazards – Prolonged drought or unfavorable weather conditions lead to the destruction of the crop leading to low yields and income for the farmer.
- Competition – Flooding of the local markets by cheap imports from COMESA countries and heavily subsidized farmers from the European Union or even from genetically modified grains.
- Pests and diseases – These attack the crop or even the harvested grains leading to destruction hence loss to the farmers.
- Monoculture – Prolonged planting of maize has led to soil exhaustion.
- Poor marketing strategies – These has resulted in farmers selling their crop at throwaway prices.
Maize Farming in Kenya – Technology transfer
Major effort must be made to transfer modern technology through education, training and raising the levels of knowledge of the smallholder farmers. Most Kenya maize farmers should be involved in the development of new research packages since they usually understand better the possible impacts of new technologies on their farming systems.
The center of research action should be on the farmers’ farms while the farmers should be important players in research activities. This approach is likely to benefit the farmers more compared to the situation where the researchers concentrate their research in the research station.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQs) About Maize Farmin In Kenya
How will Maize Farming In Kenya benefit farmers?
To farmers Maize Farming in Kenya, it is the single most extensively grown crop in Kenya. It is the staple food for more than 80 per cent of the population. Its average per capital consumption is 103kg per person, relished by both the rich and the poor alike. It accounts for 3 per cent of Kenya’s GDP. With these famers benefits hugely with from their sale.
How much will Maize Farming In Kenya cost?
As per Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural research extension of Egerton University, producing a bag of dry maize costs Sh2,000 translating to about Sh60,000 per acre. The average cost of production for smallscale farmers per acre is Sh1, 600 according to Tegemeo Institute.
What problem is Maize Farming In Kenya solving?
Maize is by far the most important food crop in Kenya, playing an integral role in national food security.
What are most common maize pests in Kenya?
Maize farmer in Kenya endures hard times when thier farms gets attacked by pest. Thesse pest causes a huge destruction on the firm and by that reason famers are advised to be well versed with pesticides and control measures when their farms are attacked by these pests, they include Aphids
Armyworms and Cutworms.
What are the impacts of technology to Maize Farming In Kenya?
Productivity among smallholder farmers is declining in the face of declining land size, soil quality, and limited use of complementary inputs such as fertiliser, water scarcity and drought. The Use of hybrid seed among smallholder maize farmers has not resulted in corresponding increases in production despite the fact that more than three quarters of smallholder maize farmers have adopted improved seed.
Given that a large majority of smallholder farmers grow maize, getting farmers to grow varieties that are suited to their environments is a key strategy. For example, popular maize varieties were released in the 1980s despite the fact that almost 200 maize varieties have entered the market since 2000.