Sammy Ng’ang’a has been a maize farmer for years and he swears that he will not grow anything else.
His farm is in the lower part of Murang’a County where the climate is warm but soils are fertile to sustain a variety of crops.
Ng’ang’a, who has spent most of his life working in the motor industry as a parts manager, attributes his love for maize farming to a friend, Patrick Mugalo who farms in Kitale.
“I started growing maize after a thorough study on cost of production and labour against the market price,” he says.
“From the calculations, I got the bigger picture and realised that I would earn more if I sell the maize green,” he says.
Green maize, he notes, offers better returns because the market is huge. “I sell a cob at Sh12, which is better than harvesting and drying maize, “ says Ng’ang’a. He works with an agronomist to grow the maize, ensuring that nothing goes wrong.
“I buy certified maize seeds from a certain company which gives me their expert to guide me through the process,” he says. This results in reduced losses assuring him of success of the crop even if the weather fails.
“Different maize varieties are bred for different zones and most farmers are not aware of this. The expert advises from planting, fertiliser use to harvesting.”
NOT AWARE OF THE BASICS
According to him, many maize farmers are not aware of the basics such as correct spacing, depth of planting, amount of fertiliser and timing of planting, what results into low yields.
“For dry areas, farmers should plant their maize at a spacing of 90x 30cm and 75x25cm for other areas, planting one seed per hole and 5g of planting fertiliser per seed,” he offers, showing his knowledge in the area.
Using the spacing, a farmer is assured of enough population per acre, light is able to penetrate within the plants and one reduces chances of the plants competing for moisture and minerals.
“Final crop should be 18,000 plants per acre for dry areas and 22,000 plants for other areas. With this you can get between 30-50 bags per acre. It is the total population per acre that determines the final yield,” says Michael Ndegwa, the regional sales agronomist for Pioneer Hibred Kenya Limited.
According to him, maize yield is equal to the number of grain/cob multiplied by the number of plants per acre divided by 2,000, where 2,000 is the average number of seeds per kilogram of maize seed.
Weeding is key in maize farming and when delay to remove the unwanted plants occurs, the yield is drastically reduced. “A maize farm should be kept clean from planting until grain-filling stage,” he says.
Ng’ang’a sells his green maize to hotels, schools and vendors who buy at better prices compared to brokers.