Maize is a cereal crop that produces grains known as corns in rows on a cob. It originated in MesoAmerica, in the region that is now Mexico in North America. Although some scientists still claims it was first discovered in Central and South America making its specific origin complicated.
In the 10th century, the Portuguese introduced Maize in some West African countries including Nigeria. Ever since then, the crop has become a household name and dietary supplement in all Nigerian families.
Maize, also called “Zea Mays” by scientists as it botanical name is a cash crop that can be cultivated both in small scale and in large scale for business purposes and exportation.
So Maize Farming is the art of planting/cultivating maize either for personal use or for commercial purposes.
Maize grows well in almost the 36 states in Nigeria and it can yield bountifully if planted and managed well. In this article, you will learn the best practices needed to succeed in Maize planting business in Nigeria.
Today, Maize farming in Nigeria has helped put food in the table for many homes, it has given many people employment and so many other benefits which will be discussed later on this article.
A farmer can never go wrong with the decision to plant maize in his or her farm because the crop has a lot of potentials and returns on investment (ROI).
Maize (corn) can be planted alongside other crops like Cassava, Melon, Yam, Potatoes etc. Because of its short life span, the crop can be cultivated 3 times in a year which makes it one of the best crops you can plant in your farm.
Its ability to grow in many soil conditions and weather makes it suitable for the Nigerian climate. This is why you see people in the South East, South West, South South, North East, North West, North Central and Middle Belt planting and harvesting maize.
Health Benefits Of Maize
- Maize (corn) contains enough fiber which is good for digestion
- Corn contains a all amount of protein Corn helps in lowering LDL (bad) Cholesterol.
- Corn fights against diabetes
- It can prevent hypertension
- Maize contains anti-cancer properties used in preventing cancer diseases
- Maize is good for vision improvements
- Corn is ideal for your heart
- Maize helps in preventing Alzheimer’s disease
- Corn is good for smooth healthy skin
- Maize help in preventing Hair loss
- Corn is rich in carbohydrates
- Corn also has small amount of oil in it called “corn oil”
- It contains little amount of fat.
- When processed as popcorn, it will give several minerals such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and zinc
- Sweet corns varieties contains folate, Pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, Niacin and Potassium.
These nutritional values of Maize can not be neglected because it’s vital for healthy living. Apart from the health benefits, maize is useful in many other ways.
Uses Of Maize/Corn
Below are the economical uses of corn to the Nigerian populace, Africa and the world at large.
As Food For Human Beings
Maize and its by-products serve as diet for people in Nigeria. A lot of families eat and drink things gotten from corn like corn flakes, palp (akamu), beer, popcorn etc. For instance, almost 95% of Nigerian families feeds their infant babies under 2 years with Palp which is a product of corn. We all also love eating popcorns especially when we visit Cinema to see a movie. All these foods are gotten from maize.
Before I forget, are you aware that the beer you drink is also made of corn? Now you know. So tell your friends.
Stats shows that 8 out of every 10 families in Nigeria eats food or drinks that contains corn. That’s a huge percentage of people so it’s a popular crop for human consumption.
As Animal Feed
A lot of animals depends on corn and its by-products for food. For instance, Chickens, Hens and other birds solely depend on these maize products to feed well. When a fowl is well fed, it will be healthy and lays more eggs. This means without corn, a lot of birds and chicken will die of malnutrition which will eventually result to low availability of eggs for human consumption.
Some other animals that also eat corn or maize products are Rabbits, Goats, Squirrel, Deer, Raccoon, birds, Groundhog, insects and rats.
As Industrial Material
Maize contains a lot of starch and this starch is harnessed in a suitable industry to produce so many byproducts such as Beer, Medicines, Ink, Paints and cosmetics. Maize is also used in making Ice Cream, shoe polish, batteries, syrup and glue.
Used For Making Fuel
Some developed countries and Brazil uses the starch in corn to produce renewable fuel called “corn ethanol” or bioethanol which blends with gasoline to yield E10, E15, and E85 mixtures.
Step-By-Step Guide To Starting Maize Farming In Nigeria
Though Maize or Corn farming is a very simple type of farming that usually requires no higher educational or professional skills to start but there are still some basic best practices you should follow for better harvest.
So if you want your maize crop to grow well and produce more grains, follow these steps.
Step 1: Identify The Best Weather To Plant Maize
Maize can be grown all year round with adequate irrigation or water supply but it’s best planted in April at the beginning of raining season in Nigeria. It’s a good idea to start your planting after 3 or more rainfalls in the location you want to plant.
Step 2: Select The Best Land To Plant Your Maize
Maize can survive in many soil types and weather but it grows and yields better when planted on a loamy soil with good drainage and adequate rain and sunshine.
Avoid planting your maize in a sloppy or rocky landscape. Also avoid a waterlogged land because it will affect the growth of the crop negatively.
A suitable land should also have a PH level that is good for growing maize. Corn performs better on soil that has between 5.5 to 7.0 PH level so it’s a good idea you take the soil sample to a lab to check its PH level before making a decision or pay for artificial soil PH control.
There should be adequate annual rainfall of at least between 60 cm to 110 cm. When these requirements are met, then you move to the next step.
Step 3: Prepare The Land for Planting
Preparing the land involves bush clearing, fumigating, burning and tilling.
Before planting your maize crop, you should clear and burn the bush because it will not just make the land accessible but remove shades, unwanted plants and kills pests that will eventually attach your useful crops.
After bush clearing, you may fumigate the land to get rid of pets and also till the land to loosen it for the crops to easily penetrate the soil for perfect germination.
Another important land preparation technique is to add a suitable fertilizer for cultivating maize. For better results, the farmer need to add a fertilizer that contains more nitrogen and phosphorus but less potassium. Therefore the best Fertilizer to apply in the soil for planting maize/corn is Diammonium Phosphate (18-46-0) also called “DAP”.
Step 4: Find The Best Maize Variety To Plant
Below are available maize varieties also known as corn species.
- Baby cornBlue corn
- Dent corn
- Field corn
- Flint corn
- Flour corn
- Hopi maize
- Peruvian corn
- Purple corn
- Shoepeg corn
- Sweet corn
- Waxy corn
- Zea mays saccharata
- Zea diploperennis
But the best varieties of maize that yields larger grains and has better disease resistance are Zea Mays Saccharata and Zea diploperennis.
In Nigeria, the popular varieties are locally called “white maize” and “yellow maize”. These names are derived from the color of the corn.
The white variety is predominantly grown in Umunoha, a remote village in Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State Nigeria. Also some states in the North West like Kaduna, Zamfara and Kebbi State grows the white coin while most other states in Nigeria including Ifakala community, Mbieri, Ubomiri, Urata and Agwa grows the yellow specie.
The white corn is softer and easy to chew while the yellow corn is a bit harder but tastes better when cooked or roasted.
So to find the best variety of maize to plant, you have to consider factors such as how popular that variety is in your locality and how likey people will buy it.
Therefore in a bombshell, if you reside in area where the white corn is popularly eaten, go for it.
Other factors to consider while making your selection is the ability of your chosen maize variety to survive in several weather conditions, withstand pests, corn diseases and yield larger harvest.
Local Names of Maize In Nigeria
- It’s called “Oka” in Igbo Language
- It’s called “Masara” in Hausa language
- It’s called “àgbàdo” in Yoruba language.
So is maize different from corn? No, both name refers to one particular cereal crop. So it’s same meaning. They are used interchangeably.
How To Plant Maize
Maize can be planted by hand or mechanized. For hand (manual) method, you will till the soil, make mounds or ridges as the case may be and insert four kernels (corn) faced up 5CM to 7CM inside one mound and close the soil. Continue this pattern for other mounds in your farm.
For planting in a ridge, create about 5cm deep into the ridge and insert four corns inside it facing upwards and close. Leave about 30 cm space on the same ridge and repeat the same method.
Corn can be planted in the same land used for Cassava Farming without issues.
How To Take Care Of Your Maize Farm
Maize farming requires commitment, monitoring and serious attention. You should pay close attention to pests and animals in your farm that can destroy the crop. Make sure you carry out the following maintenance activities for better productivity.
Weed control is a compulsory activity to be carried out for all farms in Nigeria and Maize farm is not an exception.
Weeding is he art of separating the unwanted plants from your wanted plants so that the useful plants will enjoy the whole nutrients available im the soil as well as have enough space to grow. It also proves photosynthesis supply to the farm and reduces pests habitation.
Weeding can be done manually with hoes and cutlass. If it’s a bigger farm for commercial purposes, you will need the services of extra laborers to weed the farm.
While weeding will help reduce the number of pests in the farm, you can also develop the habit of inspecting the farm to spot pests and kill them outrightly.
To control animals from coming to feed om your crops, you can put rags and torn clothes in strategic locations in your farm. I use this trick to scare away most animals as they think it’s a human being.
If your corn farm lacks water or if you planted in a dry season, you will have to supply adequate water to the farm either by manual spraying or through irrigation.
This will help the maize survive even in drought condition.
Common Maize Pests
These are harmful living things that can disrupt the growth of your maize in the farm, there are pests grouped according to: maize pests by crop stage, helicoverpa, soil insects and others.
The following are some maize/corn pests:
- Helicoverpa armigera (corn earworm)
- True wireworm (soil insect)
- False wireworm
- Heteronyx spp Sericesthis (feeds on maize roots)
- Maize leafhoppers
- maize thrips
- Corn aphid
- Green vegetable bugs (GVB)
- Two-spotted mite
- Redbanded shield bug
- Whitefringed weevil
- Leaf beetles
- Yellow pitch moth.
The most popular corn pests in Nigeria are locusts, caterpillars and corn earworms. More reference on Maize Pests.
Common Maize Diseases
The most common diseases of maize are; Downy mildew and leaf spot.
Downy mildnew can be controlled by removing the affected maize and Spraying Metalaxyl 72 WP @ 1 kg per hectare, or Mancozeb 1 kg per hectare, 20 days after sowing.
While leaf spot can be controlled by spraying Captan or Mancozeb kg per hectare when the disease intensity is high.
How To Harvest Maize
Maize 🌽 is usually due for harvest after 3 to 5 months of planting. At this time, the cob turns from green to brown or white in some varieties. This shows it’s ready to be harvested.
Now to harvest by hand, cut off the ears but to harvest with a machine, you may take both the ears and the grains together.
After harvest,a special machine can be used to separate the seeds for storage.
The seeds (kernel) can also be reused in next planting season to plant new corn.
How Maize or Corn Yields
The quantity of yield depends on some factors such as farm management, corn variety planted, fertilizer used, etc.
But on the average, quality corn seeds planted on a suitable land can yield up to 2500 kg per hectare.
Marketing Of Corn
Like I said earlier, maize farming can be done in a larger scale for local markets and exportation to other countries.
There is no problem finding buyers because it’s really in high demand. Families can cook and use it as meal, it can be roasted and used as sandwich, it’s used to make popcorn, industries buy it in large quantities for producing beer and so many other things as discussed earlier in this article.
Maize farming, if done properly can turn your financial status from a poor man to a wealthy millionaire.
Maize or Corn is a widely eaten cereal grain in Nigeria, it has so many byproducts, it’s easy to cultivate, it grows and matures fast within a short period of time and finally, it’s market is readily available because it’s in high demand.