Maize is the most important grain crop in Uganda and is produced throughout the country.

Successful maize production depends on the correct application of production inputs that will sustain the environment as well as agricultural production. These inputs are, inter alia, adapted cultivars, plant population, soil tillage, fertilization, weed, insect and disease control, harvesting, marketing and financial resources.

Increasing maize yield levels per unit area (productivity) is the major driver as far as achieving food surplus is concerned in. Improving maize productivity has immense benefits to the farmer and the nation at large. Basically, what a high productivity level means is that a farmer will be producing more for less in terms of fewer resources (variable costs) and less land area, which has positive implications on profitability and sustainability.

Good Agronomic Practices ensure that all pre-planting, planting and post-planting operations are followed in simple steps.

Well-conditioned soil 

Soil pH is an excellent chemical indicator of soil quality (acidity/alkalinity) and its ability to avail nutrients to the crop. A well-conditioned soil has high Fertilizer Use Efficiency (FUE). Liming generally ‘sweetens’ acidic soils by correcting pH to optimum levels. The optimum pH range for maize is 5.5 to 6.5 based on a Calcium Chloride scale.

  1. Lime reduces the availability of toxic elements in the soil such as aluminum and manganese.
  2. Liming improves the soil’s physical structure, resulting in good crop emergence and stand, greater root proliferation, and improved nutrient uptake.

It is therefore important to maintain or condition soils to optimum pH levels (5.5 to 6.5) for maize. This can be achieved by liming following recommendations from soil analysis results.

Well-prepared seedbed 

Thorough land preparation is essential in maize if the crop is to be grown productively and profitably. In fact, successful crop establishment is centred on good land preparation.

  • Loosen the soil and to form a fine tilth-this aids good seed-soil contact and emergence
  • Control weeds and start on a weed-free seedbed
  • Conserve moisture and improve drainage and water movement in the soil.

The right seed variety 

Choosing the right seed variety contributes significantly to increased yields per unit area. A maize bumper harvest begins with choosing the right hybrid seed variety. Farmers should always select hybrids with high yielding ability and good defensive agronomic traits that make them adapt to the current climatic and biotic conditions. Productive farmers target the right variety for their ecologies and use only certified seeds for assurance of performance.

Optimum population and even stand 

A seed rate of 20 to 25 kg is required per ha depending on the seed size while 10 kg is enough to plant 1 acre and 5kg for half an acre.

Establishing an optimum population that allows a hybrid to maximize its yield potential. A good start for the crop offers the best opportunity for higher yields. Farmers are encouraged to always aim to achieve optimum population levels depending on varieties, rainfall, and nutrition-related conditions. Farmers are advised to follow practices that will enhance stand establishment. Adjust seeding depth according to soil conditions and monitor planting depth periodically during the planting operation and adjust for varying soil conditions.

Time of planting 

The time of planting has a major effect on the yield of a maize crop as yields decrease with late planting. It is advisable to always plant with the first effective rains. A maize crop that is planted before the start of the main rains has a more vigorous root system and it is therefore beneficial to plant early. Planting early also lengthens the growing season.

Weed and pest control 

It is important to start with a weed-free field, especially for the first 10-12 weeks of a maize crop cycle as this is the period when more than 60% of the available nutrients are used/required by the crop. So, competition from weeds must be kept to a minimum or to zero. Weeds during this period have a dramatic effect on yields. It is generally advisable to maintain a weed-free maize field throughout the growing season. Generally, failure to control weeds during the first five weeks of the crop cycle leads to a 50% yield reduction. Weeding can be done manually or by application of a selective herbicide.

Fall Armyworm is proving to be a menacing pest, which threatens farmer productivity and yield forecast. Fall armyworm can attack the plant at various stages of its life cycle. It is important to scout fields every 2-3 days and make spraying decisions early and with the appropriately registered pesticide. Spraying should be done early in the morning or late at night.

Urea application (Top dressing)

Top dressing should be applied when the maize is at 3 to 6 Weeks After Crop Emergence

Harvesting Operations

The maize crop is usually harvested when the cobs are properly dried or when they reach physiological maturity (30-35% moisture content) or when the maize cob’s husks and stands become deep brown and dried. Also, a manual moisture level check could be done by gently peeling off part of the husk of the cob while still on the plant and gently removing 2-5 kernels, If the kernel is wholesomely removed without cracking, then it is time to start harvesting.

Harvesting your maize early and at the right moisture content helps to prevent postharvest losses which may result from rainfall damage to cobs left on the plant after maturity, theft, and rodent attacks.