What you should know about growing maize

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Soil: Maize prefers well-drained soils with neutral to mildly acidic phi it is a big user of nutrients and requires balanced quantities of plant nutrients and chemical properties. It also requires lots of water. Soil tests are necessary to enable you to identify the needs of your soil and use fertilizer in a balanced way. It will also help you determine the liming requirements to facilitate the application of optimum quantities and avoid overliming. Soil tests should be done prior to planting and carried out after every three years. You can have your soil tested at Kari centers for a small fee.

Seeds: Ensure use of the right seed variety for your region. If unsure consult agricultural officers in your area.

Ploughing: Do it early. For virgin land, ploughing should be done a month before the onset of the long rains while for previously planted land, it should be done two weeks to the start of the rains. A second ploughing is not mandatory. But should you want to do so, do it a week after the first ploughing for an old land. “We advise farmers to practice minimum tillage* to avoid disturbing the soil. This also cuts down on expenses,” said Mr. Cheboi .He advises farmers to use of herbicides instead of ploughing and then use a heavy harrow to break the soil for planting.

Planting: Do it as soon as groundwater and soil temperatures are suitable for good germination. This is immediately after ploughing when the soil still has enough moisture. Seeds can stay in the soil for three weeks after dry planting.

Fertilization: Apply adequate amounts of fertilizer. Some small-scale farmers do not apply fertilizer or use very little. Instead of planting a large portion and using less fertilizer, why not plant a portion commensurate with the amount you have to get maximum yields. Using little or no fertilizer is a major reason for low production levels. Continuous use of fertilizer, however, changes the soil pH to either alkaline or acid, which can lower productivity. Correct this by adding lime. Use manure or other organic matter to improve soil structure. It can be done as a combination with chemical fertilizer. Crop rotation helps maintain soil fertility. It can also be used to control pests and diseases.

Top dressing: Apply Urea if the soil does not have enough nutrients and crops seem to be performing poorly, otherwise a farmer should use CAN. Urea has got 52 per cent nitrogen as opposed to CAN, which has 26 per cent. Urea acts as a food to the plant. Second top dressing should be done three to four weeks after weeding.

Weeding: Keep your shamba free from weeds and weed in a timely manner. Weed control during the first six to eight weeks after planting is crucial, because weeds compete vigorously with the crop for sunlight, nutrients and water during this period. Grass weeds must be controlled early. Once the maize crop reaches approximately 80 cm the plants will restrict weed growth as it out competes them for sunlight. The presence of weeds during harvesting may slow the process, pollute grain with seeds, transmit odors to grain, causing downgrading, or incur additional costs for removal of seeds.

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