|Kilimo News - A Quarterly Newsletter of the Ministry of Agriculture - September 1998 (Agriculture Information Centre, 1998, 32 p.)|
J. Maundu - AIC KABETE
Maize is the staple food for more than 90% of Kenyas population. It is grown on about 1.4 million hectares annually. The bulk of production comes from small holder farmers who produce it for their own subsistence requirements and sell any surplus. Its popularity arises from its high yields in areas with adequate amounts of rainfall and its adaptability to diverse climatic conditions. Despite great efforts to increase yields, the demand for maize occasionally outstrips its supply leading to a need to import.
There has been a major advancement in developing better technologies that are suited for the major agro-ecological zones of the country. Despite the development of these high yielding varieties with a grain yield potential of 2.8 tonnes (31 bags)/acre in good growing conditions, the national average yield of the crop at farm level is seldom above 1.5 tonnes (15 bags)/acre in the central highlands of Kenya. The main reasons for low yields include poor weed control, low soil fertility, lack of credit, e.t.c., which result in up to 40% yield losses. In semi-arid areas lack of adequate rains is an added disadvantage.
Use of recommended varieties result in high yields
Over the years, researchers at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), have developed improved varieties as a way of increasing productivity. These varieties are classified as: -
Hybrids: Fresh certified seeds are required for planting every season. Hybrid seed give greatest yields during the first generation with a general decline in the succeeding generations, characterized by less uniform growth and undesirable traits.
Composites: These are stabilized seeds which can be used for 3 consecutive seasons with proper selection.
In highland areas with high rainfall and altitudes of between 1500-2100m above sea level, the following hybrid varieties are recommended; H626, H614, H613 and H627. These varieties take 6-9 months to mature and yield 30-45 bags per acre.
Varieties H632 and H622 are suitable for highland areas with high rainfall but a lesser altitude of between 1000-1700 m above sea level; These varieties take 6-8 months to mature giving yields of 22-24 bags per acre.
Coffee zones with a long growing season and lying at an altitude range of 1000-1800 m above sea level have proven suitable for maize production. The varieties recommended include H513, H512, H511, Pannar 5195, C5222, and PHB-3253(Pioneer). Apart from PHB - 3253 that takes 4-4½ months to mature the rest of the varieties take an average of 4-5 months. Pioneer 3253 yields the highest producing 28 bags/acre with the rest yielding between 16-27 bags/acre.
Katumani composite, DH01, and DH02 are varieties suitable for dry land areas with marginal rains and an altitude of 1000-1800m above sea level. These early maturing varieties take 3-4½ months to mature and yield 12-16 bags/acre. Drier areas with an altitude of 800 - 1200 m above sea level are suitable for Makueni composite. This variety matures in 3-4 months with low yields of 11 bags/acre.
Lowland zones with tropical climate and lying between 0-1200 m above sea level including coastal hinterlands with heavy soils are suitable for growing varieties - Pwani hybrid, H01 and H04. These take 3-4. months to mature and yield 16-20 bags/acre.
Coast composite is the variety suitable for areas with light sandy soils and irrigation schemes of Northern Kenya and Coastal province. This variety matures in 4-5 months and yields 14 bags/acre.