Most small-scale farmers in Zambia grow maize. In fact, Zambia is a country whose economic growth largely depends on the export of maize. With maize being the staple food of the country and the centre of export, we have more farmers venturing into the production of this crop now more than ever. So, how do you increase your maize yield for higher profits?
Most farmers unfortunately are stuck with the same crop yield year in and year out, without properly grasping the cause. If you are one of them, I’ll share 6 ways you can increase your yield in this article.
The government has engaged field experts to find out ways of improving the country’s productivity in maize farming and the following are some of the best suggestions:
1. Pick a high-yield maize variety
Maize seeds come in different varieties, possessing various qualities.
Seed companies gather maize seeds, select and classify them into seed hybrids with high-yielding abilities, disease, and drought resistant, late and early maturity, etc.
Selecting a seed variety can be one challenging decision for a farmer, which is why seed companies have experts there to advise farmers on which seed is appropriate for their field.
On the other hand, high-yielding variety seeds are the best when it comes to maximizing your maize productivity.
Some of the best high-yielding seeds include:
- SC 529
- SC 633
- SC 637
- SC 649
- SC 719
- SC 727
With a careful selection of this combination, coupled with the expert’s advice, you should be good to go.
2. Apply appropriate seed quantity per area
Seed quantity per area has a great impact on crop yields.
The number of crops you plant determines how much yield you will produce afterward.
Therefore, leaving bigger spaces in between plants may not work in your favour, especially if some fail to germinate. Instead, you should use as much space available to plant as many seeds as possible.
However, you should pay attention not to overcrowd the plants as this may bring other problems.
Firstly, maize becomes too vulnerable to pests and infections under humid conditions when there’s little space left between plants. Then overpopulation leads to competition for nutrients, water and sunlight, eventually leading to low yield due to lack.
Approximately, 50 to 75 cm width between rows in beds is recommended, then 40 to 55 cm length between plants as spacing. These measurements should give you approximately 40 to 50,000 plants per hectare.
3. Keep the field free of weeds
Weeds tend to compete for nutrients with crops. Instead of supporting the growth of the crop, fertilizers and other soil nutrients end up supporting the growth of various weeds that sprout all over the field.
This can go on throughout the whole farming season and eventually may lead to low yield of the crop due to lack of sufficient nutrients.
To combat this, you should weed your farm regularly so that the field is kept weed free.
Especially at the onset of the farming season, it is important that as the plants are coming out they have enough nutrients and don’t have to share with weeds.
You might also like: Frequently asked questions about Soya Beans
4. Application of fertilizers (soil organic)
Some land has naturally fertile soil and with a bit of crop rotation, the land may be very fertile such that there may be no need of adding synthetic fertilizers.
However, other areas may not have the best soil components needed to grow maize.
For this reason, you need to apply fertilizers each and every farming season in order to support your farm products. This is done to make the soil fertile so that the crop can have the appropriate nutrients it needs. Fertilization is a must unless the land you are farming on is extremely fertile.
The important point to note here, is that appropriate fertilizer types should be applied at an appropriate stage.
You should start by applying D compound, usually when planting, followed by urea after 2 to 3 weeks of planting the seeds.
5. Plant timing
The time of planting the seeds also matters because it can have an impact on your crop yield if you don’t carefully observe it.
We advise early planting to be the best time. Planting the seeds before or as the rains are about to start gives the seed early exposure to a good amount of rainfall.
Since rainfall patterns have changed, planting early in the Zambian situation will mean planting in November.
The heat of the soil in November together with the new introduced moisture provides a suitable condition for early seed germination.
This further prevents lower crop yield due to droughts should it stop raining before the end of the season.
6. Make use of crop rotation
Crop rotation is a technique of farming in which you change the crops that grow in a particular field every season in an attempt to retain soil nutrition and fertility.
Sometimes increasing soil fertility is not all about fertilizer application, crop rotation maybe just what you need to expose your crops to a variety of nutrients.
Applying too much inorganic fertilizer will make your soil acidic and weak, which eventually leads to low crop yields.
After about two consecutive planting of maize in the same field, you may want to try out other plants like soya beans or groundnuts in the following season.
When you rotate crops, you retain the natural fertility of the soil, which provides an ideal way of increasing crop yield with less fertilization.
Attempts in increasing crop yield may not be as easy as the word sounds, it may come with a series of trials and errors, experiments, and making big decisions.
This is to suggest that you may fail in one or two stages but as the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”
The more attempts made, the closer you get to arriving at something that actually works out for your field.