What else could bring people of different tribes and cultures together like the taste of maize with pear? Each coming season, natives look forward to munching their cooked, roasted, or fried maize with coconut, pear, or whatever perfect combination they could make out of it.
Maize has become a household name in most families in Nigeria. Even individuals that own little gardens never fail to plant a few stands each season because they never want to miss out on the great taste of maize when harvest season comes.
Maize otherwise known as corn is a cereal crop and regular food produce in Nigeria. It is one of the most consumed cereals and it is consumed in different forms by both human beings and livestock.
It can be consumed as cooked maize or processed into other products such as pap, maize food, etc. Maize is also used for other products such as paints, textiles, etc. It is also used in pharmaceutical industries and as biofuels.
Table of Contents
What is Maize Farming?
Maize farming is defined as the growing of maize crops for commercial purposes. Maize can be used for human or livestock consumption and it is also important for industrial use in the production of other products.
Maize farming is known to almost everyone who has lived in the local parts of Nigeria. However, not everyone can do this on a large and commercial scale.
Importance of Maize and Maize Farming
Below are some of the importance of maize
- It is a source of food for humans and livestock.
- Maize farming helps to create employment opportunities
- It is used in the production of ethanol
- It can be used in the production of flours
- It is rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E
- Maize is easier to cultivate
- Maize grows fast thereby leading to a quick harvest
- It can be used in the production of animal feed
Is Maize farming a Lucrative Business?
Maize is a very popular crop in Nigeria. Nigeria is the 11th largest producer of maize in the world and the second-largest producer in Africa after South Africa.
Apart from being eaten as food, maize can be used in making other food and beverage products. This has resulted in high demand from companies and manufacturers. A small investment in maize farming yields large profits and it does not require very large capital to start.
The prospects in the maize farming business prompted me to write this article and I will be leading you on the steps to start a maize farming business in Nigeria
- Create a Business Plan
- Acquire Land in a good location
- Land and Soil Preparation
- Planting of Seeds
- Watering of Plants
- Pest and Disease Control
- Harvest of Maize
- Sales of Maize
Create a Business Plan
Creating a business plan is the first step to take when starting a maize farm. This involves taking time to understand the life cycle of maize and its growth.
Set out for a feasibility study on the market size interested in maize in your location, identify possible sales points, and mark out the possible challenges you are likely to face in the business. This will help you to prepare a proper strategic plan on how to best approach the business.
Acquire land in a good location
This is the next step after creating your business plan. Purchase, lease or rent land in a good location. Commercial maize farming requires extensive land. Agreements can also be entered with governments or communities that own big lands.
These communities can give you a large land space for use. This will reduce the cost of acquiring a large land. Security of land is very important and should be taken seriously. Fences should be constructed around the land. This will help to prevent thieves from entering the farm and will ensure the security of farm products and equipment.
Land and Soil Preparation
This involves clearing bushes and trees, removal of debris, and tilling of the soil. Land preparation allows the soil to have access to sunlight and also helps to make the soil loose for planting. Land preparation is done manually with the use of hoe, cutlass and can also be done mechanically with the use of a tractor and other machines.
The soil should be kept loose to allow for easy penetration of water. Corn grows best in well-drained sandy soil. Ensure to apply organic manure to make the soil rich and fertile. Like most vegetables, corn grows best in soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.8.
Corn requires up to 6 hours of sunlight daily. This is necessary when you are choosing a planting location. After the land has been prepared, planting should commence immediately
Planting of seeds
There is two major planting season for maize. The early planting season is between March and April while the late planting season is August. Purchase healthy and disease-free seeds and soak seeds in water before planting. Some of the maize varieties include:
- Yellow Open-Pollinated Varieties – Western Yellow 1: TZSR-Y-1 (Streak Resistant)
- Yellow Hybrid Varieties – 8425-8; 8329-15
- White Open-Pollinated Varieties – TZPB (FARZ 27); TZB (FARZ 34)
- White hybrids – 8321-18; 9022-19; (Striga Resistant).
- Popcorn e.g White Pop, Yellow composite.
The soil should be tilted up to 6 inches deep with the use of a hoe and then the maize seeds should be inserted facing upwards and the soil closed loosely. Proper spacing should be kept while planting to avoid competition between maize.
Rows should be spaced 30 to 36 inches apart. You may choose to add compost and organic manure at planting time; corn is meant to grow rapidly. If you are confident that the soil is adequate, this can be skipped.
Watering of Plants
Maize thrives well in most soils, as far as they are deep (more than 1 meter) and fertile, and have a good water holding capacity. Maize needs 450 to 600 mm of water per season, which is mainly acquired from the soil moisture reserves.
About 15kg of grain is produced for each millimeter of water consumed. Watering should be done carefully to avoid overwatering the plant which can lead to death.
Pest and Disease Control
Appropriate pest control methods should be used to prevent the infestation of farms by pests. Scarecrows can be used to prevent birds from feeding on the crops before harvest. For small farms, nets can be put across to prevent birds from having access to the farm. Some of the diseases that affect maize crops are:
- Cercospora leaf spot: Brown spot with yellow ring on leaves, lesions on leaves. It is a fungi disease and can be controlled by planting resistant varieties.
- Charcoal Rot: Caused by fungi and leaves become rotten, the plant may break. It is controlled by practising crop rotation.
- Maize Dwarf Mosaic: Chlorotic spot on leaves, which develop into a mosaic pattern, ear formation and development cease. It is a viral disease and can be controlled by planting a highly resistant variety.
Harvesting of Maize
Maize matures very fast, within 3–4 months of planting, the crop is ready for harvest, depending on which stage you want to harvest your crop but then harvesting of early maize is done by May and late Maize is harvested by October. Corn is ready for harvest about 20 days after the silk first appears.
At harvest time, the silk turns brown, but the husks are still green. Each stalk should have at least one ear near the top. When conditions are right, you may get another ear to lower down on the stalk. Remove corn ear from the standing crop, and store in a good storage facility to prevent insect attack.
Sales of Maize
Sales of maize can be done at local markets. Supplies can also be sent to manufacturing companies that use maize as their major raw material. Maize can also be sold to individuals and roadside roasters. Build a relationship with major maize distributors in your location to encourage fast sales of the product.
Maize farming is not capital intensive or laborious. Proper planning will ensure great profit in this business. It is a very lucrative sector in agriculture and farmers are encouraged to invest more resources into maize farming.
This article has provided you with all you need to start your maize farming business. You can also consult an experienced farm expert to help you when starting your business.