Excel Maize Farms

Excel Maize Farms

Maize (Zea mays L.) is the most important grain crop in Ghana and is produced throughout the country under diverse environments. 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. In Ghana, it is grown in the forest, transition, southern regions, Upper West, Upper East, and Northern regions of Ghana. Every part of the maize plant has economic value: the grain, leaves, stalk, tassel, and cob can all be used to produce a large variety of food and non-food products. Maize is also an important component of poultry feed and to a lesser extent the livestock feed sector as well as a substitute for the brewing industry.

According to the publication Investment Opportunity in Ghana: Maize, Soya, and Rice by the Millennium Development Authority, maize is the largest staple crop in Ghana and contributes significantly to consumer diets. It is the number one crop in terms of area planted (about 1,000,000 hectares) and accounts for 50-60% of total cereal production. Additionally, maize represents the second-largest commodity crop in the country after cocoa. Maize is one of the most important crops for Ghana’s agricultural sector and food security.

Consumption and Use

In developed countries, maize is consumed mainly as second-cycle produce, in the form of meat, eggs, and dairy products. In developing countries, maize is consumed directly and serves as a staple diet for some 200 million people. Most people regard maize as a breakfast cereal. However, in a processed form it is also found as fuel (ethanol) and starch. Starch in turn involves enzymatic conversion into products such as sorbitol, dextrin, sorbic, and lactic acid, and appears in household items such as beer, ice cream, syrup, shoe polish, glue, fireworks, ink, batteries, mustard, cosmetics, aspirin, and paint. The per capita consumption of maize in Ghana in 2000 was estimated at 42.5 kg (MoFA, 2000) and estimated national consumption of 943,000 MT in 2006 (SRID-MoFA, 2007). One million metric tons of maize are reported to be marketed annually in Ghana. A very large quantity of maize grains produced remains within households of producers as a primary staple food (Gage et al., 2012). The maize grain is consumed in different forms in various traditions and cultures and a large proportion of the maize is used in the poultry industry as feed. Only about 20% to 25% of the total maize marketed is used for industrial processing and purposes. The wholesale price of maize is dependent on proximity to markets (location and transport), and the year’s season, with prices generally high during the off-seasons (Amanor‐Boadu, 2012).

The Maize Business Opportunity

Domestic maize production seems to be meeting the local demand for human consumption. The maize supply in Ghana has been increasing steadily over the past few years with an average supply of 1.4 million MT over the period 2005-2010. However, human consumption is competing with the poultry industry and to a lesser extent the livestock industry. While there is no reliable data for maize used in animal feed, the Government of Ghana estimates that 85 percent of all maize grown in Ghana is destined for human consumption and the remaining 15 percent is used for the animal feeding sector (mainly poultry). According to the publication Analysis of Incentives and Disincentives for Maize in Ghana, Technical Notes Series, MAFAP, by the Food and Agriculture Organization, data obtained from major feed mills in Ghana indicates that about 250,000 MT of maize is used for poultry feed annually

According to the Millennium Development Authority, maize consumption is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2.6% based on population growth and increasing per capita income. Based on the most recent domestic production data, the shortfall between domestic production and domestic consumption would reach 267,000 MT by 2015. Further, beyond these projected figures for household consumption, there is considerable unfulfilled demand for processed maize uses and the growing animal feed sector within Ghana.

There are substantial opportunities for increased maize utilization for feed mills. Currently, less than 10% of maize supplies go into the poultry feed industry, although demand is much greater than this supply. In 2008, the government granted special import permits for more than 26,000 MT of yellow corn to supply the poultry feed industry. The limited supply of maize for feed production has led to constraints in the growth of the poultry industry, resulting in significant growth in imports of poultry and other meats for consumption. The estimated demand for maize for poultry feed is projected to grow from 73,000 metric tons in 2010 to 118,100 tons by 2015.

Marketing of Maize

Domestic maize trade relies largely on a network of traders linked by personal and ethnic ties. The so-called “market queens”, women engaged in maize trading, dominate the local and regional markets while larger groups of wholesalers engage in spatial arbitrage across regions/districts. In the Techiman district, aggregators/wholesalers normally obtain their maize either directly from farmers with whom they have long-standing relationships or from district assemblers. The local aggregators/wholesalers then sell to long-distance traders serving urban markets throughout the country (FAO, 2006). Techiman serves as one of the main feeder markets in Ghana because of the maize coming from the main producing areas in Brong and Ahafo Regions. From Techiman the maize is then directed to Accra and/or Bolgatanga, at the border with Burkina Faso, and/or Cote d’Ivoire. Other high maize production areas are Afram Plains, Ejura, Ashanti region, and their environments also have their maize markets where aggregators/wholesalers sell to traders serving the urban markets and also maize processors. Another important feeder market for maize is Tamale located in the Northern region.

Post-Harvest Handling and Losses

Quality cannot be compromised in the agricultural production chain, and post-harvest handling of produce is a critical factor in determining standards and quality. Post-harvest handling involves the management of produce before processing which involves drying, storage, protection against pests, and moisture regulation. This step importantly requires quality control processes, a key in competitive product marketing. There has been the application of traditional methods since olden days to preserve produce until the emergence of modern, and advance post-harvest techniques. The benefits of modern post-harvest handling are many, and most farmers in Ghana appreciate these processes. Ragasa et al. (2014) reported that maize accounts for 50% of the total cereal production in Ghana, and reportedly has postharvest losses of between 5 and 70% (FAOSTAT/FAO Statistical Division, 2012). To improve food security there should be a reduction in post-harvest losses (PHL). Because losses increase the cost of production and thereby reducing consumers’ purchasing power, divert income out of farmers’ pockets, and hinder food availability (Opit, 2014). This report also indicated that the amount of grain stored in warehouses in Ghana is rapidly increasing, and several private and public sector organizations have formed Postharvest Service Centers (PSC) to increase agriculture production, food quality, and reduce PHL. The grains held by PSC are stored in warehouses and are virtually not given protection from insects and pests, and atmospheric air. The National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO) purposely created by Ghana’s Government was to reduce post-harvest losses, ensure price stability, and establish emergency grain reserves (Rondon and Ashitey, 2011). NAFCO is a state-owned enterprise buys, preserves, stores, sells, and distributes excess grains mostly maize in warehouses across the country. Africa, and inevitably Ghana cannot afford to experience 20% or more grain PHL (World Bank, 2011).

Growth, Morphology, and Development

Root system

The plant has a profusely branched, fine root system. Under optimal conditions, the total root length, excluding the root hairs, can reach 1,500m. If root growth is not restricted, the root system of a mature plant extends approximately 1.5m laterally and downwards to approximately 2.0m or even deeper. The permanent root system has adventitious and props roots. Adventitious roots develop in a crown of roots from nodes below the soil surface. Normally four to six adventitious roots are formed per band. After tasseling, prop roots develop into bands from the first two to three aerial nodes. These roots are comparatively thick, pigmented, and covered with a waxy substance. Prop roots have the dual function of providing support to the plant and taking up nutrients.

Leaves

The 8-20 leaves that may form are arranged spirally on the stem, and they occur alternately in two opposite rows on the stem. The maize leaf is a typical grass leaf and consists of a sheath, ligules, auricles, and a blade. The leaf blade is long, narrow, undulating, and tapers towards the tip and is glabrous to hairy. The leaf is supported by a prominent mid-rib along its entire length. Stomata occur in rows along the entire of the leaf surface. More stomata occur on the underside of the leaf than on the upper surface. On the upper surface, motor cells are present. These large, wedge-shaped cells occur in rows, parallel to and between the rows of stomata. During moist conditions, these cells rapidly absorb water, become turgid, and unfold the leaf. During warm, dry weather, the cells quickly lose their turgor with the result that leaves curl inwards exposing a smaller leaf surface to evaporation.

 Stem

The maize stem varies in height from less than 0.6m in some genotypes to more than 5.0m (in extreme cases) in others. The stem is cylindrical, solid, and is divided into nodes and internodes. It may have eight to 21 internodes. The internodes directly below the first four leaves do not lengthen, whereas those below the sixth, seventh and eighth leaves lengthen to approximately 25, 50, and 90mm, respectively. Tillers may develop from nodes below the soil surface. The lateral shoot bearing the main ear develops more or less from the bud on the eighth node above the soil surface. The five or six buds directly below the bud give rise to rudimentary lateral shoots of which one or two develop to produce ears.

Inflorescence

Male and female flowers are borne on the same plant as separate inflorescences. Male flowers are borne in the tassel and female flowers on the ear. The maize ear (the female inflorescence) terminates one or more lateral branches, usually halfway up the stem. Bracts enclose the ear. The silk of the flowers at the bottom appears first and thereafter those on the upper part of the ear. It remains receptive to pollen for approximately three weeks but after the tenth day, receptivity decreases

Maize kernel

The maize kernel consists of endosperm, embryo, a pericarp, and tip cap. The endosperm contains the main carbohydrates. The embryo contains the parts that give rise to the next generation, while the pericarp and tip cap enclose the entire kernel. The endosperm contains approximately 80% of the carbohydrates, 20% of the fat, and 25% of the minerals, while the embryo contains about 80% of the fat, 7 % of the minerals, and 20% of the protein found in the kernel. The starch part of the kernel is used in foods and many other products such as adhesives, clothing, and pharmaceutical tablets, and paper production. The starch can be converted into sweeteners and used in products such as soft drinks, sweets, bakery products, and jams, to name but a few. The oil from the embryo is used in cooking oils, margarine, and salad dressings. The protein, hulls, and soluble part of the maize kernel are used in animal and poultry feed. Kernels can be of the dent or flint (round) types. Dent kernels have a dented crown, which is formed during drying when the softer starch in the middle of the kernel shrinks faster than the outer more translucent sides. The dent kernel has two flat sides opposite each other and the one side contains the embryo. The embryo contains all the parts that give rise to the next generation. Flint kernels can be round or flat in appearance and contain mainly translucent starch, with only a small part of soft starch in the middle, hence the name. The pericarp and tip cap enclose the entire kernel. Maize with a high percentage of translucent of hard endosperm is preferred by the dry-milling industry because it produces more of the popular high-quality and high-value products sought after than does soft maize

 Stages of Growth and Development

Different growth stages are numbered 0 to 10. Growth stage 0 lasts from planting of the seed up to when the seedling is just visible above the soil surface. Growth stage 10 is reached when the plant is biologically mature

Growth stage 0: From planting to seed emergence During germination, the growth point, and the entire stem are about 25 to 40mm below the soil surface. Under warm, moist conditions seedlings emerge after about six to 10 days, but under cool or dry conditions this may take two weeks or longer. The optimum temperature range for germination is between 20 and 30ºC, while the optimum moisture content of the soil should be approximately 60% of soil capacity.

Growth stage 1: Four leaves completely unfolded. The maximum number of leaves and lateral shoots is predetermined and a new leaf unfolds more or less every third day. The growth point at this stage is still below the soil surface and aerial parts are limited to the leaf sheath and blades. Initiation of tasseling also occurs at this stage

Growth stage 2: Eight leaves completely unfolded. During this period, the leaf area increases five to 10 times, while stem mass increases 50 to 100 times. Ear initiation has already commenced. Tillers begin to develop from nodes below the soil surface. The growth point at this stage is approximately 5.0 to 7.5 cm above the soil surface.

Growth stage 3: Twelve leaves completely unfolded. The tassel in the growth point begins to develop rapidly. Lateral shoots bearing cobs develop rapidly from the sixth to eighth nodes above the soil surface and the potential number of seed buds of the ear has already been determined.

Growth stage 4: Sixteen leaves completely unfolded. The stem lengthens rapidly and the tassel is almost fully developed. Silks begin to develop and lengthen from the base of the upper ear

Growth stage 5: Silk appearance and pollen shedding. All leaves are completely unfolded and the tassel has been visible for two to three days. The lateral shoot bearing the main ear as well as bracts have almost reached maturity. At this point demand for nutrients and water is high

Growth stage 6: Green mealie stage. The ear, lateral shoot, and bracts are fully developed and starch begins to accumulate in the endosperm

Growth stage 7: Soft dough stage. Grain mass continues to increase and sugars are converted into starch.

Growth stage 8: Hard dough stage Sugars in the kernel disappear rapidly. Starch accumulates in the crown of the kernel and extends downwards.

Growth stage 9: Physiological maturity. When the kernel has reached its maximum dry mass, a layer of black cells develops at the kernel base. Grains are physiologically mature and only the moisture content must be reduced.

Growth stage 10: Drying of kernels (biological maturity). Although grains have reached physiological maturity, they must dry out before reaching biological maturity. Under favorable conditions, drying takes place at approximately 5 % per week up to the 20% level, after which there is a slowdown.

Climatic Requirements

Temperature

Maize is a warm-weather crop and is not grown in areas where the mean daily temperature is less than 19ºC or where the mean of the summer months is less than 23ºC. Although the minimum temperature for germination is 10ºC, germination will be faster and less variable at soil temperatures of 16 to 18ºC. At 20 ºC, maize should emerge within five to six days or a maximum of 10 days. The critical temperature detrimentally affecting yield is approximately 32ºC. Frost can damage maize at all growth stages and a frost-free period of 120 to 140 days is required to prevent damage. While the growth point is below the soil surface, new leaves will form, and frost damage will not be too serious. Leaves of mature plants are easily damaged by frost and grain filling can be adversely affected.

Water

Approximately 10 to 16 kg of grain are produced for every millimeter of water used. The yield of 3,152 kg/ha requires between 350 and 450 mm of rain per annum. At maturity, each plant will have used 250l of water in the absence of moisture stress.

Soil requirements

The most suitable soil for maize is one with good effective depth, favorable morphological properties, good internal drainage, an optimal moisture regime, sufficient and balanced quantities of plant nutrients, and chemical properties that are favorable specifically for maize production. Although large-scale maize production takes place on soils with a clay content of less than 10 % (sandy soils) or over 30 % (clay and clay-loam soils), the texture classes between 10 and 30 % have air and moisture regimes that are optimal for healthy maize production. Maize can be grown on a wide variety of soils, but performs best on well-drained, well-aerated, deep warm loams and silt loams containing adequate organic matter and well supplied with available nutrients. Although it grows on a wide range of soils, it does not yield well on poor sandy soils and heavy clay soils, except with heavy application of fertilizers, deep cultivation, and ridging is necessary to improve drainage. In sandy loam soils, good yield could be obtained with increased fertilization and water management. Maize can be grown successfully on soils with a pH of 5.0 – 7.0 but a moderately acid environment of pH 6.0 – 7.0 is optimum. Outside this pH range results in nutrient deficiency as a result of the unavailability of nutrients and mineral toxicity. High yields are obtained from an optimum plant population, several ears, and kernels with appropriate soil fertility, and adequate soil moisture. Where possible, it’s advisable to have soils routinely analyzed to know the characteristics of the soils and to get advice on how to improve soil fertility and/or correct soil pH for optimum maize production.

 

Field Management Practices

If planting is to be done manually, plant each seed and 10g of fertilizer at a depth of 5cm and 10cm in the soil respectively. With machine planting, a fine seedbed is necessary to avoid interference from large clods. This will allow even, uniform and rapid germination and create a relatively weed-free environment. However, a fine seedbed has the risk of soil erosion (especially when the field is on a slope), silting, soil compaction that will lead to poor aeration. For proper germination of maize requires moist soil is important.

Planting

As a result of changes in the rainfall pattern, it is recommended to plant the major season in early May through the third week of May after the rains have established good soil moisture and the minor season in the third week of August to end of September. Planting is generally recommended to be done at the onset of rain but since Pioneer hybrid maize is drought resistant, dry planting can be done when rain is expected. Delayed planting concerning the onset of rains will lead to reduced yield especially when there is drought in the critical window of 45 to 70 days after planting when there is tasseling, silk, and cob formation. Good soil moisture at sowing time is required before the crop is planted. It is recommended that there be at least 30cm of wet soil throughout the soil profile before sowing. Because of this higher water requirement, the majority of corn is planted at places where rainfall is more reliable and there is more of it

Depth of Planting

Planting and basal fertilizer applications are recommended at the same time. The depth of planting should be 5cm deep and fertilizer is 10cm deep respectively. Deep seed placement under dry planting is recommended so that seed germinate only after adequate rains have fallen. However, the depth of planting should be uniform to allow uniform plant growth.

Plant Population

Most of the hybrids such as Mamaba and open-pollinated varieties such as Obatanpa are planted at a distance of 80cm to 90cm between rows and 40cm between plants giving a plant population of 10,833 and 11,875 plants respectively per acre (26,000 and 28,500 plants per hectare respectively). The recommended spacing for Pioneer maize hybrid is 75cm between rows and 25cm between hills when planting one seed per hill. With this planting distances, the plant population will be 20,000 plants per acre or 50,000 plants per hectare. Plant populations that are higher than the optimum will lead to competition among the maize plant resulting in slender plants that will give low yield. Lower plant population will result in low yields (though with bigger cobs) due to the reduced number of ears per unit area. Planting should be planted in rows, without planting in rows, a farmer will never achieve an optimum plant population. Besides, rows ease field operations like weeding and will facilitate harvesting

  Fertilizer Application

Apply a basal fertilizer of 20g of Nitrogen in bands next to seed at 10cm deep at planting.

NitrogenApply approximately 35-50 Kilos/acre or 125 kilos/hectare, one-third at the planting stage, and two thirds as top dressing during 3-4 weeks after planting.

Phosphorus – Apply most at planting at a rate of 35 Kilos/acre or 85 Kilos/Ha

Potassium – Apply most at planting at a rate of 35 Kilos/acre or 85 Kilos/Ha

Pest and Disease Control (Selected Pests and Diseases)

Maize diseases can reduce yield potential, interfere with normal physiological development, lower grain quality, and cause lodging, which affects harvest. Examples are;

  • Peronosclerospora spp
  • Southern Maize Leaf Blight
  • Fusarium spp. (Stalk rot and ear rot)
  • Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus
  • Meloidogyne hapla (nematodes)
  • Aspergillus flavus (aflatoxin)
  • Puccinia polyspora (corn rust
  • Macrotermes (Termites)
  • Helicoverpa armigera (heliothis)
  • Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda.)