Is Maize Farming Profitable in Kenya? A Beginner’s Guide

Is Maize Farming Profitable in Kenya? A Beginner’s Guide

Maize farming is a profitable venture that plays an important role in the country’s food security and economy. It is a staple food that accounts for over 5 million tons and contributes to about 65% of daily per capita cereal consumption.

Maize products include roasted, baked, or boiled fresh maize on the cob, flour, porridge, pastes, beer, oil, starch, and animal feeds.

The profit potential is influenced by a variety and ecological factors such as soil fertility, climate, location, and farming practices.

What Determines the Profitability?

Ecological Conditions

Maize is adapted to diverse climates, with most varieties maturing in 90 to 210 days. The nutritional value and tolerance to pests, diseases, and drought vary depending on the variety.

  • Altitude. Maize thrives in an altitude range of 800m asl at coastal regions to over 2000m asl of the highlands.

  • Rainfall. Maize requires moderate, well-distributed rainfall although they also perform well under irrigation. Moisture stress especially during flowering affects pollination and leads to reduced yields.

  • Soil type. Although it grows in a wide range of soils, maize performs best in places with deep, well-drained fertile soils with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. Lowland soils with a poor structure will give you uneconomical yields. Waterlogged soils should be avoided.

  • Temperature. The optimum temperature for maize production ranges from 18 to 32°C. Cold temperatures will extend the life cycle leading to reduced yields.

Varietal Selection

The choice of a variety matters as each has a unique set of characteristics and thrives well in a specific location, soil type, and climatic conditions. The maturity period and yield potential also depend on the variety.

There are two categories of maize varieties you can choose from.

  • Open-pollinated variety (OPV). If the farmer follows proper selection procedures, they can use their seeds for up to the third generation. However, yields are relatively lower.

  • Hybrid variety. Farmers plant new seeds each season. They have a higher yield potential and varying maturity periods.

Recommended maize varieties for different regions and conditions

Eco-zone and main areas where

found

Recommended

varieties

Maturity

(months)

Yield

potential

(bags/acre)

Highland zones with high rainfall;

Altitude:1500-2100m above sea level;

Areas: Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Kericho, Nandi, Bungoma, Laikipia, Kisii, Narok, and Tea zones of Central and Eastern provinces

H6218

H6213

H6210

H614D

H629

H624

H 628

H 626

H 625

H622

5-7

5-7

5-7

5-7

5-7

5-7

6-8

6-8

6-8

6-8

56

52

50

38

35

35

46

42

40

22

Highland zones, high rainfall;

Altitudes: 1000-1700m above sea

level; Areas: Baringo, Siaya, Kisumu, Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Nakuru, South, Nyanza, Taita Taveta

DK90-89

WH505

D727

BINGWA

PAN67

4-5

5-6

5-6

4-5

4-5

33

33

33

33

30

Soil fertility management

Soil fertility in maize farms can be managed using a combination of manure, organic fertilizers, and synthetic fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers/manures

Apply farmyard manure at the rate of 5 tons per acre. You can apply manure in combination with organic fertilizers.

Inorganic/chemical fertilizers

The type required depends on the soil type and agroecological zones. The most common ones that you can use in maize farms are DAP, 20:20:0, 23:23:23, NPK 17:17:17, UREA, and CAN.

Soil management

In acidic soils, you should apply lime at the recommended rates. Get experts like Oxfarm to test and analyze your soil.

If your soils are too alkaline, you should apply sulfur to lower the pH.

Crop protection

Like other crops, maize is also prone to pests and diseases, which can be a major challenge in production and result in extreme yield losses.

Maize is prone to pests like;

  • Armyworm

  • Maize stock borers

  • Maize leafhoppers

  • Cutworms

  • Aphids

  • Bollworms

Maize is susceptible to diseases like;

  • Fusarium ear rot

  • Maize streak disease

  • Maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND)

  • Common smut

  • Common rust

  • Southern leaf blight

  • Gray leaf spot (GLS)

  • Downy mildew

  • Northern Corn Leaf Blight

To increase maize yields and profitability, farmers need to adopt improved crop management practices. This includes proper soil preparation, timely planting, effective pest and disease management, and appropriate use of fertilizers.

Farmers should conduct regular soil tests to determine nutrient deficiencies and apply the right fertilizers to optimize crop growth. Implementing good agronomic practices can significantly enhance maize yields and ultimately improve profitability.

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