5,000, 000 ton of Maize? It’s possible!!!

Crop News

The President H.E Edgar Chagwa Lungu recently, during a field day event challenged the Zambian farmers to produce five million tons of maize for the 2019/20 season!!– I say this is no pipe dream – it’s Possible and can be done; roughly 1.4m hectares of land in Zambia is cultivated for  maize production, with over 80% of production under small holders with an average national yield of 2mt per hectare – which needs to be scaled up to an average of 5mt per hectare with the right extension support programs, if our small holders are going to realise the full  value from their farming efforts, its critical we expose our farmers to good farming practices and technology aimed at improving their farm productivity – at Syngenta we pride ourselves through our many initiatives such as the good growth plan which focuses on enhancing small holder productivity by empowering farmers with the right tools and knowledge which is critical for achieving agricultural productivity in a sustainable way at the same time caring for the environment.

Maize is the most important crop in Zambia and is produced country wide under diverse conditions from the low rainfall areas of the south east to the high rainfall areas up north (copper belt, northern, muchinga, luapula and North West ,successful maize production depends on the correct application of production inputs (seeds, plant population ,fertiliser, weeds, disease, and pest management)

To produce maize one needs on average between 450 and 600mm of water per season, and farmers are encouraged to use improved seeds as these potentially offer higher yields, are resistant to pests and usually are  tolerant to adverse weather conditions such as drought.

At Syngenta we have a robust maize portfolio from early (SY5944,MRI514 and MRI594) ; to medium maturing hybrids (SY6444, MRI624, and MRI634) to late or full season hybrids (MRI744) with potential yields of up to 13MT (260 *50kg bags) per hectare, choice of cultivars plays a critical role in production, in order to maximise yields ,farmers are encouraged to plant early with the first effective rains (sufficient ground water and soil temperatures to support germination); late planting potentially reduces yields due to deceasing heat units as the season progresses , farmers should also aim to achieve the right plant population as this has a bearing on yields – 45,000 – 60,000 plants per hectare are recommended in high rainfall areas while 35,000 to 45,000 plants per hectare in areas with low rainfall, 25kg seed rate per hectare is recommended, with fertiliser rate of 400 – 500kgs  ( 4 – 5 * 50kgs) each of basal and top dressing . Basal fertiliser  is applied at or before  planting and top dressing  4-8  weeks after germination/crop emergence -  it’s important that farmers take soil samples to fully understand the nutrient composition /deficiency so that  the right fertiliser is applied, also practice  crop rotation with legumes such as beans and soya beans as this has nitrogen fixation properties which supports maize production other than improving soil properties , crop rotation also helps to address pests and diseases by breaking the cycle, maize does not do well with high PH levels therefore it is important lime is incorporated in the farming regime to manage PH levels, lime helps condition the soil for optimum nutrient utilization and reduces the toxicity elements such as alumium; the optimum pH level for maize production is between 5.5 and 6.5

Weed management is another critical element farmers need to manage as this is potentially yield limiting as weeds compete with the crop for sunlight, nutrients and water therefore its important field are weeds free especially the first 12 weeks which is usually a critical period when the bulk of nutrients are utilised by the crop – Syngenta has herbicides for the control of weeds such as Lumax which is a selective pre emergency control solution, applied at the right time it offers maximum weed control for both broad leaf and annual grasses in maize – other herbicides are gramoxone, touchdown, gardomil gold and dual magnum; weeds if not properly manged can potentially reduce yields up to 90%, therefore it is important that fields are weeds free throughout the entire growing season if one has to maximise yields, farmers are advised to read product labels and carefully follow instructions for safe use of our products.

Fall army worm have had a devastating impact on crop yields as the worms ravages the crop – Syngenta has a seed treatment solution in the bag - Fortenza Duo which protects the crop the first four (4) weeks after germination hence helping farmers reduce the number of sprays to control the pests, look out for Syngenta Fortenza Duo treated maize seed in your agro dealer near you, for follow-up treatment use Syngenta Ampligo or Denim fit applied at 150-200mls/ha and 100- 200g/ha respectively.

Great Farming Season ahead!!