Yellow maize farming in Kenya is a vital agricultural activity that has contributed significantly to the country’s economy. Maize is one of the most important food crops in Kenya, and it is consumed widely in various forms, including maize flour, roasted maize, and boiled maize. Yellow maize, in particular, is preferred for livestock feed due to its high nutritional value.
Maize farming in Kenya is mainly done in the Rift Valley, which is the country’s breadbasket. However, the farming of yellow maize has not been given as much attention as white maize farming. This is despite the fact that yellow maize has been proven to be more drought-tolerant and has a higher yield potential than white maize.
With the increasing demand for maize in the country, there is a need to explore the potential of yellow maize farming in Kenya. This article will delve into the benefits of yellow maize farming, the best practices for successful yellow maize farming, and the challenges faced by yellow maize farmers in Kenya.
Climate And Soil Requirements For Yellow Maize Farming In Kenya
Yellow maize is a staple crop in Kenya and is grown in various regions across the country. However, to get the best yield, it is important to understand the climate and soil requirements for yellow maize farming.
Yellow maize is a warm-season crop that requires a minimum temperature of 10-15°C for germination and growth. In Kenya, the ideal climate for yellow maize farming is found in areas with an altitude ranging from 900 to 2,500 meters above sea level.
The crop requires moderate rainfall, with an average of 500-800mm per year. The rainfall should be well-distributed throughout the growing season to ensure good growth and development of the crop.
It is also important to note that yellow maize is sensitive to frost and drought. Therefore, areas with a high risk of frost or prolonged drought are not suitable for yellow maize farming.
The type of soil is also an important factor to consider when planning to grow yellow maize in Kenya. The crop grows well in well-drained soils with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 7.5.
Yellow maize requires a soil that is rich in organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Therefore, it is recommended to apply organic manure or fertilizer before planting to ensure that the soil has enough nutrients to support the crop’s growth.
It is also important to note that yellow maize is susceptible to soil-borne diseases, which can affect yield. Therefore, it is important to practice crop rotation and use disease-resistant varieties to minimize the risk of disease.
Land Preparation And Planting
Land preparation is a crucial stage in maize farming as it determines the success of the crop. The following are the steps involved in land preparation:
- Clear the land of any weeds, debris, or rocks that may hinder planting or growth.
- Plow the land to loosen the soil and make it easier to plant the maize seeds.
- Harvest any previous crop residues and incorporate them into the soil to improve soil fertility.
- Level the land to ensure even distribution of water during irrigation.
- Make ridges or furrows for planting. The spacing between the ridges or furrows should be 75 cm apart.
Once the land is prepared, it is time to plant the maize seeds. The following are the planting methods used in maize farming:
- Drilling: Involves making furrows in the soil using a tractor or hand hoe, placing the seed in the furrow, and covering it with soil.
- Broadcasting: Involves scattering the seeds on the soil surface and then covering them with a thin layer of soil.
- Dibbling: Involves making small holes in the soil using a dibble stick and then placing the seed in the hole and covering it with soil.
It is important to note that the planting depth should be 5-7 cm deep to ensure proper germination and growth of the maize crop. Additionally, farmers should ensure that the seeds are planted at the right time, which is usually at the onset of the rainy season to ensure adequate moisture for germination and growth.
Fertilization And Pest Control
Maize farming in Kenya requires careful management of fertilizers to ensure optimum yields. Both basal and foliar fertilizers are recommended for maize farming in Kenya. Basal fertilizers are applied at the time of planting, while foliar fertilizers are applied after the crop has emerged.
Basal fertilizers should contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the ratio of 14:28:14. The recommended amount of nitrogen is 60-80 kg/ha, phosphorus is 40 kg/ha, and potassium is 40-60 kg/ha. The application of basal fertilizers should be done two weeks before planting. This allows enough time for the nutrients to be incorporated into the soil and be available for the maize crop.
Foliar fertilizers are applied after the crop has emerged. These fertilizers help to supplement the nutrients that the maize crop may not have received from the basal fertilizers. Foliar fertilizers should contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the ratio of 20:20:20. The recommended amount of nitrogen is 20 kg/ha, phosphorus is 20 kg/ha, and potassium is 20 kg/ha. Foliar fertilizers should be applied when the maize crop is at the vegetative stage and when the tassels start to emerge.
Maize crop yields in many Kenyan farms have been reduced and destabilized by pests which also affect the quality of harvested produce. Knowledge of common maize crop pests can help smallholder farmers in early identification and control.
Here are some of the common pests in maize fields:
- Stem/stalk borers
Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies should be used to control pests in maize fields. IPM involves the use of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods to manage pests. Cultural control methods include crop rotation, use of resistant varieties, and proper sanitation. Biological control methods involve the use of natural enemies of pests, such as predators and parasites. Chemical control methods involve the use of pesticides. Pesticides should be used as a last resort and should be applied according to the recommended dosage and timing to avoid negative effects on the environment and human health.
Also Read: Pests That Threatens Maize Farming In Kenya
Harvesting And Storage
Harvesting is a crucial stage in maize farming as it determines the quality and quantity of the yield. The best time to harvest maize is when the kernels are fully mature and dry. This is usually about 90 to 110 days after planting, depending on the variety and weather conditions. Early harvesting may result in immature and small cobs, while late harvesting may lead to losses due to pests and diseases.
Maize can be harvested manually or using machines. Manual harvesting is common in small-scale maize farming in Kenya, while machine harvesting is used in large-scale commercial farming. Manual harvesting involves cutting the maize stalks using a sickle or machete and stoking them on the farm. Machine harvesting, on the other hand, involves using a combine harvester to cut and thresh the maize cobs.
After harvesting, maize should be properly dried to reduce moisture content and prevent mold growth. Drying can be done on the farm or using a mechanical dryer. On-farm drying involves spreading the maize cobs on a clean, dry surface in the sun for several days until the moisture content is reduced to about 13%. Mechanical drying, on the other hand, involves using a dryer to remove moisture from the maize cobs.
Proper storage is also crucial in maize farming to prevent losses due to pests, diseases, and weather conditions. Maize can be stored in various ways, including:
- Traditional granaries: These are common in rural areas and involve storing maize cobs in woven baskets or sacks and hanging them on wooden poles or storing them on raised platforms to protect them from rodents and moisture.
- Metal silos: These are a modern storage option that involves using airtight metal containers to store maize cobs. The containers are fitted with airtight lids and insect-proof screens to prevent pests and moisture from entering.
- Hermetic bags: These are specially designed bags that are airtight and insect-proof, and can be used to store maize cobs for up to two years. They are ideal for small-scale farmers who cannot afford metal silos.
Whichever storage method is used, it is important to ensure that the maize cobs are properly dried before storage, and that the storage area is clean, dry, and well-ventilated to prevent mold growth and pest infestation.
Market And Profitability
Yellow maize farming in Kenya is a profitable venture that can generate high returns for farmers. The demand for maize in Kenya is high due to its use as a staple food, animal feed, and raw material for the production of various food products. The market for yellow maize in Kenya is broad, and farmers can sell their produce to local and international markets.
The profitability of yellow maize farming in Kenya depends on various factors, including the cost of production, market prices, and yield per acre. According to Agcenture, the net profit for growing maize in one acre in Kenya is KES 41,400. This figure is after deducting other costs such as field surveys, communication with buyers, and transport costs.
It is essential to note that the cost of production can vary depending on the farming practices used. Farmers who use modern farming techniques such as mechanization, proper seed selection, and soil testing can reduce the cost of production and increase their yields. Additionally, farmers who engage in value addition activities such as maize milling and processing can increase their profitability.
As for market prices, they can be influenced by various factors such as supply and demand, weather conditions, and government policies. Farmers can mitigate the risk of price fluctuations by engaging in contracts with buyers or by joining farmers’ cooperatives. These strategies can help farmers secure a stable market for their produce and negotiate better prices.
In conclusion, yellow maize farming in Kenya can be a profitable venture for farmers who adopt modern farming practices and engage in value addition activities. The market for yellow maize in Kenya is broad, and farmers can sell their produce to both local and international markets. Farmers can increase their profitability by reducing the cost of production, securing stable markets, and engaging in value addition activities.
Also Read: Maize Farming In Kenya
Sources: De Groote, Hugo, Simon Chege Kimenju, and Ulrich B. Morawetz. “Estimating consumer willingness to pay for food quality with experimental auctions: the case of yellow versus fortified maize meal in Kenya.” Agricultural Economics 42.1 (2011): 1-16. Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1574-0862.2010.00466.x
Aguk, Joyce, et al. “Enhancing yellow maize production for sustainable food and nutrition security in Kenya.” East African Journal of Science, Technology and Innovation 2 (2021). Link: https://www.eajsti.org/index.php/EAJSTI/article/view/341