Maize is an important cereal crop in the world that provides staple food to many populations. It is very important because it is a good source of minerals, vitamins, fibre and oil; its oil can be used for cooking and soap making.
In developing countries like Nigeria, Maize is a major source of income for many farmers.
Over the past two decades, maize has spread rapidly in West Africa replacing traditional cereal crops such as Sorghum and Millet but in Nigeria, Maize production is low due to many hindrances like low soil fertility, pests/diseases, unavailability of improved seeds, lack of understanding, weeds, droughts, etc.
The fact that most farmers use either saved seeds or open-pollinated varieties is another limitation as the yield from these make it difficult to meet the domestic and industrial maize demand. Therefore good Agronomic Practices are needed to increase maize production, especially in Nigeria.
What are Agronomic Practices?
Agronomic Practices are a vital part of farming systems. These are practices that farmers incorporate in improving soil quality, enhancing water usage and managing crops thereby improving the environment.
If you are looking to produce the highest amount of maize with the lowest possible input, the most effective method is known as Conservation Agriculture (CA), which is popularly known as “Farming God’s Way”
The features of this method are:
Minimal tillage: Avoid using a plough by all means. No draft power is needed to prepare your fields. Instead of compacting or disrupting the soil’s natural structure, you only have to make precise planting holes in a consistent pattern throughout the field.
Mulching: This is done to retain the soil’s moisture and to protect the soil from erosion. You should never burn vegetation covering the soil.
Similarly, avoid leaving the soil bare, because moisture will be lost and erosion is more likely to occur. Instead, graze, cut, or slash the plants and previous stover, allowing the plant to spread more evenly above the soil.
Precise, high-quality plant spacing: Plan out your field and measure where each planting hole will be for the best overall distribution.
Adequate distribution of fertilizer and seed: Broadcasting seed and pouring fertilizer on the soil can be wasteful and often results in poor soil-seed contact, lost fertility and ultimately lower yields.
Planting early: Planting early in mid -November, or immediately after the first measurable rainfall of the applicable growing season to ensure even germination and make the most of the rainwater is good for maize production.
Other best practices include: Thinning out/removal of weaker germinated plants, maximizing yield and maintaining disciplined, regular weed control because weed steals the moisture that your crops need. (Back link to the article on alternative chemical control where weed control is mentioned)
It is also important to note that the soil and climate play an important role in how well the maize will turn out.
Well-drained deep fertile soils rich in organic matter are the most suitable but maize can also be grown on a variety of soils. Soil pH with 7.5 -8.5 supports good crop growth. Maize is a Kharif season crop but with the latest production technologies and new hybrid cultivars winter cultivation of maize is also made possible.
Manure and fertilizer are also needed to improve the quality of crop; Prepare the main field by ploughing and harrowing and apply Farmyard manure at the time of field preparation. Apply well-rotted farmyard manure/compost to improve crop quality.
Applying the appropriate fertilizer 10-12cm from the base of the plants will curb plant destruction.
Seed treatment with some protective agents may still help better germination, good survivability and also better yields.
The use of hybrid seeds is also encouraged.
A hybrid seed is a cross between two or more unrelated inbred plants so when the different varieties are crossbred, it results in a seed that carries one or more favourable traits like being high yielding, disease tolerant, resistant varieties.