There are some basic fundamentals about maize and other crop farming. Farming is a business. Farmers should make profit from your farming activities. The money spent on inputs like seed, chemicals, fertilizers, electricity, water, labour among others should be kept less than the total value of the crops and livestock he produce. It is expected that he farm for maximum production at minimum cost. Farming should be treated as a 12-month of the year activity, not a fivemonth of the year activity; it is a full time job. Plan your farming activities in advance and follow a strict rotation of cropping. Alternate planting of a grass for example maize or sorghum with a legume like soya beans. Avoid growing the same crop in the same land in two consecutive seasons. There are golden rules which should always be adopted including Do early planting and standard practices.
Corn and maize refer to the same plant. Maize is a favorite vegetable for many people and is rich in nutrients like vitamin C, carbohydrates and protein. Planting and growing maize takes some patience and requires a lot of space. Corn can grow in many climates but does best in the heat of the summer, over 65 F.
• Select an area of land that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Maize needs plenty of sunlight to grow.
• Prepare the soil. The land should have adequate drainage. The best growth can be obtained at a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Plow or till the selected piece of land about 6 inches deep. Design either a square or rectangle shape. Maize is wind-pollinated, so forming the shape of a square or rectangle will maximize the wind pollination.
• Plant your seeds 10 days to two weeks after the average frost. If you plant too early, you risk frost killing your seedlings.
• Poke holes that are 1 inch deep for heavy soil and 2 inches or less in sandy soil. Make straight rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. The distance allows the roots room to grow. Create at least four or more rows; maize is wind pollinated, and a square or rectangle pattern ensures adequate pollination.
• Sow five or six seeds per hole. Cover each hole with soil.
• Water the field after everything has been planted and apply fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen. Maize needs a lot of nitrogen to grow and produce well. Apply compost as well.
• Form the soil around the roots into small hills when the stalks are about 6 inches high. This will keep the roots cool and assists with anchoring the stalk to the ground.
• Harvest your maize when the plants are mature. The ears should be full and the silk should be brown and crisp. A pierced kernel will produce a milky substance. The end of the ear should be blunt, not pointed.
Disease incidence and constraints
According to IITA, various species of stem borers rank as the most devastating maize pests in SSA. They can cause 20- 40 per cent losses during cultivation and 30-90 per cent losses postharvest and during storage. Other pests in SSA include ear borers, armyworms, cutworms, grain moths, beetles, weevils, grain borers, rootworms, and white grubs. The parasitic Striga weed is another maize pest. In fact, weed-related yield losses ranging from 65 to 92 per cent have been recorded in the Nigerian savanna.
Maize diseases include downy mildew, rust, leaf blight, stalk and ear rots, leaf spot, and maize streak virus (MSV). Maize does not tolerate drought well and the grain can rot during storage in tropical climates. A lack of sunshine and nitrogen can reduce the production potential of the crop.
Worldwide production of maize is 785 million tons, with the largest producer, the United States, producing 42 per cent. Africa produces 6.5 per cent and the largest African producer is Nigeria with nearly 8 million tons, followed by South Africa. Africa imports 28 per cent of the required maize from countries outside the continent.
Most maize production in Africa is rain fed. Irregular rainfall can trigger famines during occasional droughts.
Harvesting: According to 2007 FAO estimates, 158 million hectares of maize are harvested worldwide. Africa harvests 29 million hectares, with Nigeria, the largest producer in SSA, harvesting 3 per cent, followed by Tanzania.
• Flour corn
• Dent corn
• Flint corn
• Sweet corn
• Waxy corn
• Pod corn
• Striped maize