Use certified maize seed to increase your yields
This planting season, the choice of seed is very important. In rural farming areas, many farmers still plant traditional maize varieties that give very low yields. According to a study conducted by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute (Enhancing Small-holder Productivity in Kenya, 2016) findings show that maize yields have been declining at the rate of 10 per cent.
The same study shows that in some regions in the country, only 0.72% of the seeds used are certified hybrid seeds; a very small proportion indeed.
Maize yields have been going down in regions where farmers use traditional varieties although the area under maize has increased. Farmers interviewed in the study indicate that the high cost of certified hybrid seed and the increase in fake seeds in the market had forced them to use traditional open pollinated maize varieties or recycled seed.
Another problem that faces farmers is buying their maize seed or planting late due to lack of proper preparations. Ideally, all maize should be planted by mid- March. But due to the impacts of the changing climate sometimes, maize planted in March may fail if the rains are insufficient. So, it is advisable for farmers to subdivide their land into two portions with one portion planted in March while the other portion is planted in mid-April. This will help prevent loss of inputs such as seed and even labour if the rains fail.
Due to the high demand for seeds, especially the popular varieties, farmers who buy their seeds late face the danger of either buying fake seed or getting none. However, the problem of fake seed is likely to reduce
following new measures introduced by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), which enables farmers to verify if the seeds they have bought is genuine or not.
Avoid planting uncertified maize
Due to lack of money, some farmers in rural areas use commercial maize (harvested the previous year) for seed. Commercial maize cannot produce good maize yield. It is important for farmers to know that maize seed is produced in a special way that enables it to produce high yields when planted only once. After it is harvested, commercial maize cannot be used as seed as it loses most of the characteristics or vigour once it is planted again.
Control diseases and pests
Besides, commercial maize when replanted can transfer diseases and pests such as the Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN), leaf inflammation, stalk and the Larger Grain Borer (LGB). Currently, there are many diseases and pests that threaten maize production in the country. The most serious disease is the Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) diseases. The main vectors of the disease transmission are insect pests such as thrips, stemborer and flea beetles. To avoid the disease, farmers are advised to plant only certified seeds from established companies to avoid transferring the disease to their farms through infected maize.
Practice crop rotation
Maize is a heavy feeder, which means that it takes a lot of nutrients especially Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) from the soil. Unless the farmer has very little land, it is always advisable to practice crop rotation. Farmers can also prevent diseases such as MLN or head smut and pests. Farmers can rotate maize with beans, peas, potatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, kales (sukumawiki), sunflower or any other crop that is not in the maize family. Crop rotation with leguminous crops such as beans and peas help replenish important nutrients such as nitrogen into the soil.
New method to identify genuine maize seed
Buy your seed only from stockists licensed by KEPHIS (insist to see the license before buying the seed).
• Expired seed cannot do well. Always check to ensure the seed is not expired.
• Genuine maize seeds in small packages of 2kg and below now have a new inspection label from KEPHIS attached to each bag. Remove the label and scratch it the same way you do for mobile airtime scratch cards. Type the number in the label and send to 1393. You will receive a message indicating the seed is genuine and certified.
• For 10kg and 25kg seed packages farmers are advised to check for the KEPHIS tag that is inside the seed bag from where they can check the maize variety and lot number. You can call or text KEPHIS using the telephone number given in the tag to confirm if the seed is genuine.
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