Politics and policy
Experts device cropping system that boosts maize yield
Posted Wednesday, August 8 2012 at 20:13
Agricultural experts have devised a cropping system that saves on land without compromising maize output.
The experts from the African Soil Information Service (AFSIS), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) say crops spaced 60cm by 22cm yield virtually the same as those with wider spacing.
The Agriculture ministry recommends that maize be spaced at 75cm by 25cm. Under the proposed spacing, only one seed is planted in a hole instead of the traditional two. Field trials in Siaya County established that the plant population under the new system increased from 53,000 per acre to 76,000, yielding between eight and 10 tonnes of maize when harvested.
Dr Peter Okoth, one of the lead soil scientists from CIAT, said that the closer spacing would come with a change in fertililiser used to ensure crops are well nourished.
“We are using Straight fertiliser at the planting stage instead of the ordinary DAP that farmers are accustomed to,” Dr Okoth said.
He said Straight fertiliser has an additional nutrient, potassium, which is essential for healthy growth and aids in nutrient uptake.
Potassium is available in shops as Muriate of Potash and its deficiency normally results into stem rot in crops. With more crops per area, a farmer would need 140 kilogrammes of nitrogen, 40 of phosphorous, and 60 of potassium per acre compared to the previously recommended 100kg, 18kg, and 27kg respectively.
It would also require the farmer to use the right kind of seeds in a given ecological condition.
For this particular experiment, the DK8031 maize variety that has the capability to suppress the growth of striga weed was used.
Dr Okoth said that the scientists were working on a policy brief to be presented to the government for adoption.