Maize Farming is a lucrative agribusiness with high potential business opportunity for Africans. Maize is a staple food in Africa. It is an agribusiness requiring little capital to kick-start. You can harvest within 3-4 months your maize produce.
Nigeria is the largest producer with about 8 million tonnes produced annually in the country followed by South Africa , Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
Maize is a major cereal crop of the savanna. Maize grows very well on a loam, sandy clay soil that has free drainage with good moisture retention.
Maize crop has a wide range of uses and can be processed into other forms.
USES OF MAIZE.
- Food for Humans:
Maize is one of the staple human food. Maize can be eaten in different forms. The fresh grains are eaten roasted or boiled on the cob. The grains can be dried and cooked in combination with some edible leguminous crops like beans. The grains can be milled and boiled as porridge with or without fermentation. Maize can be processed into other forms for human consumption.
- As a Livestock Feed:
Maize is one of the component of the concentrates feed to farm animals. Thus this forms a good channel of converting maize grain into meat, eggs, and dairy products. The dry grains are milled and other ingredients added to make the mash which vary in composition for the different classes of livestock. Maize supplies mainly the carbohydrate used for the release of the energy for the various essential activities of the farm animals. It also supplies protein of some lower quality.
- As raw material for many industrial products:
The industrial uses of maize can be divided into : mixed feed manufacturing, dry milling, wet milling , distillation, and fermentation. The outputs of the dry milling industry are maize meal, maize flour and breakfast cereals. The wet millers manufacture starch, feed, syrup, sugar oil and dextrines. The distillation and fermentation industries manufacture ethyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, propyl alcohol, acetaldehyde, acetic acid, acetone, lactic acid, citric acid, glycerol, whisky etc.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE OPTIMUM MAIZE PLANT POPULATION IN A GIVEN LOCATION:
There are majorly seven factors influencing the optimum maize plant population – they are:
- Variety: Maize varieties particularly the hybrid react differently to increased planting rate.
- Maturity: The length of time required for maturity is an important factor affecting the optimum rate of planting for maximum yields. Early maturity varieties can be planted thicker than late-maturity varieties.
- Soil Productivity: Widely spaced maize plants produce more grain per plant than those closely spaced. This planting ethics is a way of giving maize plants access to extra plant food. As the number of plant increases, competition for materials in the soil becomes greater. The addition of fertilizers becomes necessary to alleviate the struggle for plant nutrients and to enable a large number of plants to develop to the same size as a small number of plants did before fertilizers were added.
- Water Supply: A farmer will experience largest increase in yield of maize when he is fertilizing and managing for top yield in the presence of plenty of water. High yields are possible as long as moisture is adequate.
- Intercropping: crops like legumes ,okra,maize and cassava are intercropped. The practice necessitates planting maize in widely spaced rows to give the intercropped plants a chance to compete for food , water and sunlight.
- Time of planting: The time of planting plays a minor role in determining the optimum planting rate. Maize planted on the early date for a locality may show a good response to higher population than that planted rather late in the season.
- Purpose for growing the maize: The purpose by which the maize is grown has some bearing on optimum rate of planting . The optimum planting rates for fodder, or silage and grains differ. The optimum plant population for silage is at least 10 percent more than for grain.
- Find a Suitable Flatland and Prepare the Land: Maize abhors waterlogged areas. Maize grows best on well drained and slightly acid soils. On strongly acid soils, maize may suffer from aluminum and sometimes from Manganese toxicity. For viable maize production, it is better to grow on the less acid upland soil. Maize farming requires warm temperature above 15 degree centigrade and high rainfall of 1200mm -2500mm in a rich well drained light loamy soil. Get the Land ready for planting by Clearing the land and remove thick shrubs and weeds.
- Purchase Improved Seedlings from Agricultural Institutes and Research Centers. Purchase maize varieties that have high growth, high yielding output and disease resistant traits. Avoid buying maize seeds from open market. Hybrid maize shows better adaptability than local varieties. Optimum populations of well managed improved varieties vary from 40,000 to 100,000 plants per hectare.
- Fertilizer Application: The rate of fertilizer application depends on the soil fertility status. Maize varieties are responsive to both organic and inorganic fertilizer application. Maize plant has a relatively high demand for nutrients particularly N,P and K for producing high yields. A maize crop producing 5 to 6 t/ha of grain will need about 100-150kg N.40-60kg, P2O5 and 100-150kg per hectare. Besides the primary nutrients NPK, the maize plants also require Ca,Mg ,S and Micronutrients such as Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Boron, Molebidium and Chlorine.
- Planting: In planting your maize seeds for better growth and maturity for your maize crop, you need to plant your maize after the raining season has commenced at least 2 or 3 times after the first rain. You need 20kg of maize seeds to sow in one hectare. Seeds should be planted about 5cm deep to ensure good seedling and output.
- Pesticide, Herbicide and Disease Control: Apply pesticide, herbicide to protect your maize crops from pest, weeds and diseases attack such as grasshoppers, downy mildew, army worms and others. Weeds growth can be checked using application of Atrazine.
- Harvest Your Mature Maize Crops: After three or four months the maize is ready for harvest. The maize crop is ready for harvest when the cobs-sheath (husk) dries up. After harvesting, you can preserve your cobs by drying in the sunlight for one week and proceed to shelling them using hand sheller or powersheller.
You can harvest about 10 tonnes of maize per hectare
In conclusion , Maize farming is a profitable venture anyone can go into and it requires little capital and technical know-how. Start Maize farming today.