The time of planting is a very critical step in maize production. Planting should be done within the first two weeks of the onset of rains. Early planted maize allows the germinating seed to benefit from nitrogen flux effect, warm soil temperatures and good aeration and escape from insect pests and diseases. Maize planting depth ranges from 2.5-5cm.
Weeds reduce maize yields by competing for moisture, nutrients, space and light. Weeds are also an alternative host to pests and diseases. The most critical stage of weed competition in the life of a maize plant is during the first four to six weeks after emergence of the crop. The most common practice in weed management are hand weeding and use of herbicides. Some of the recommended practices include: hand weeding that should be done at least three weeks after emergence of the plants followed by a second weeding at knee high. Other recommended approaches include the use of a dense legume cover crop to suppress weeds for example lablab (Lablab purpureus), velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) or sunhemp (Crotalaria juncea) and desmodium. Farmers can regularly scout their fields and uproot Striga weed early enough before the seeds are produced.
Crop rotation is highly recommended to reduce build-up of maize diseases and insect pests. Rotation is mainly done with beans, cowpeas and peas. Rotating of maize with other cereal crops like sorghum and millet should be avoided, especially in case of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND).
Controlling pests and diseases
Diseases and pests are largely responsible for the low maize yields, however, the incidence and severity vary between seasons. Integrated pest and disease management is recommended