Maize, also known by its scientific name Zea mays, is one of the most widely consumed crops in the world. Many people think maize is the most important grain on the planet because it is used so often as the main source of calories in animal feed and because it is high in nutrition.
As of 2019, the demand for it was close to 3 billion metric tons, according to the FAO. This is due to the great variety of industrial applications, the fact that it is a primary staple meal for people, and the fact that it is essential in the production of livestock feed.
The global maize output was approximately 1,112,01 million metric tons (MT), resulting in a shortfall of approximately 1,9 million MT.
Ghana’s maize production was 3,000 thousand tonnes in 2020. Ghana’s maize output climbed from 384 thousand tonnes in 1971 to 3,000 thousand tonnes in 2020, with an average yearly growth rate of 8.79 percent.
Problems of Maize Production in Ghana
Drought during the key early phases of crop growth, poor soil nutrient levels (especially nitrogen and phosphate), striga, and insect and disease infestations are the most significant problems restricting maize output in Ghana. Among the other constraints to maize production are poor management practices such as low plant populations, inappropriate planting times, inadequate weed control, a lack of credit, limited use of inputs (particularly fertilizer and improved seeds), the failure to apply adequate quantities of fertilizer at the appropriate time of year, inadequate drying and storage facilities, which result in high post-harvest losses, and a lack of market access.
Recommended Maize Production Practices in Ghana
Consequently, effective agricultural techniques for maize production in a wider range of locations across the country are simplified in this production guide. This is done in order to guarantee that farmers receive the maximum return on their corn investment.
In order for maize production to be successful, it is critical that all of the suggested actions indicated in this guide are followed as closely as possible.
Choosing a Location (Site Selection)
Maize grows effectively in a variety of soil types with pH values ranging from 5.0 to 7.0. When planted on deep, fine-structured, well-aerated, well-drained loamy soils with high organic matter content, maize yields can be expected to be high.
Small, shallow, sandy or clayey soils should be avoided if at all feasible since they are more susceptible to dryness and have a reduced response to fertilizer application. Because maize does not perform well on waterlogged soils, it is recommended that any areas that are prone to waterlog be avoided. As a last resort, if such fields are unavoidable, drain any spots where water collects by excavating channels that guide the flow of water away from the field. Proper drainage allows for earlier cultivation, improved weed control, and a reduction in the chance of nutrients leaking from the soil surface. In general, low-lying locations have poor drainage, which causes waterlogging and reduces crop output.
Maize must be cultivated in direct sunlight in order to provide efficient photosynthesis.
Before planting maize, if at all possible, check the fertility of the place where you want to plant it to make sure it is fertile.
Preparation of Land
Maize seeds require soil that is warm, wet, well-aerated, and fine enough to allow for excellent contact between the seed and the soil in order to germinate as quickly as possible. It is vital for the seed to have good seed-to-soil contact in order for the seed to collect moisture from the soil. It is recommended that the seedbed be composed of 5 to 7 cm of fine, compact soil that is free of weeds. Hardpans and compacted layers caused by over-cultivation should not be present in the rest of the soil profile since they might inhibit moisture penetration and root development in the soil.
Prepare the land so that it is loose, deep, and has a fine tilth so that the seeds will grow evenly.
Planting of certified seed obtained from registered seed producers, seed firms, and licensed agro-input stores in the local community. A seed is a living creature, and it must be handled with care in order to preserve the embryo from which the new plant will emerge. Once purchased, keep it in a cool, dry location until you’re ready to plant it. If you can, don’t throw away seed packets. Cracked and broken seeds are more likely to get microbial and fungal illnesses when they are planted.
Perform a germination test 7 days before planting to avoid a weak stand due to damaged or rotten seed.
Growing maize in the presence of organic manure results in improved soil conditions and water retention capacity, which benefits both the plant and the environment. Mineral fertilizers will enable a more rapid start to vegetative growth while also meeting nutritional requirements throughout the active plant growth phase.
Maize production is largely reliant on mineral fertilizer, which is occasionally supplemented by manure and by crop rotation with legumes, among other methods. Maize has a high nutritional requirement, with the most important nutrients being nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Among these key nutrients, nitrogen is the one that is most frequently responsible for yield reduction. Because it influences the number of leaves and seeds produced by the plant, as well as the number of seeds per cob, it defines the yield potential of the plant. The amount of mineral fertilizer that should be applied varies depending on the soil’s P and K levels, as well as its moisture content.
In addition, the ideal amount of fertilizer for maize is based on the yield of the variety, the previous cropping history, the cultural methods used, and the overall fertility of the field, among other things.
Weeds compete with maize for light, nutrients, soil water, and space, resulting in yield losses, poor grain quality, and higher production costs. Weeds are also a breeding ground for insects and illnesses. While maize is still in its early stages of development, it is particularly vulnerable to weed competition. Because of this, weeds must never be allowed to outgrow maize plants before they are dealt with effectively. Weeding during the first two to four weeks after planting has a big effect on the plants.
According to the USDA, maize should be harvested as soon as the grain is dry and the moisture content of the grain is at or below 15%. Birds, storage pests, and illnesses can cause lodging and damage to crops if harvesting is delayed. In dry savannah regions, it may be necessary to allow the grains to dry on the field before harvesting. If the crop is allowed to dry in the field, it will be ready for harvest when the cobs begin to drop. When maize achieves maturity in the forest and forest-savannah transition zones, it is common for it to be raining at that time.
Maize should be gathered from the field as soon as possible (ideally after two to three days without rain) and dried in the sun or in special drying cribs if the weather conditions are favorable. To achieve equal drying, the grains should be spread across the drying surface on a frequent basis.