Notes to broadcasters
Maize is a major crop in some parts of Nigeria, with an estimated 6.85 million hectares planted to maize in 2019, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
In these radio spots, you will learn more about a variety of farming and post-harvest activities related to maize, including:
- Planning and budgeting
- Sourcing quality inputs
- Land preparation
- First and second weeding
- First and second fertilizer application
- Control aflatoxins with Aflasafe
The spots vary in length from about 45-60 seconds and could be played multiple times during programs on maize production and post-harvest activities. They could also be played at other times when farmers are listening, especially during important times in the seasonal maize calendar.
There are four kinds of benefits.
First, budgeting helps you predict your expenses and income and create a spending plan for your farming season.
Second, to receive a loan, you must show that you have a farm budget and a business plan.
Third, budgeting helps farmers determine how well their farming businesses are doing. With a budget, farmers can identify where they can be more efficient, and stop wasting money on non-profitable purchases and activities.
Fourth, budgeting helps farmers know the difference between what they need and what they only want.
To make a budget, list all your farm activities at the start of the farming season. This might include, for example, fertilizer, harvesting, spraying, digging trenches, agrochemicals, and hiring labour for weeding and other tasks.
Then calculate and record the needed quantities of these items and the anticipated costs.
Then, calculate your expected sales income.
The difference between your expected income and your total costs is either a loss or a profit.
Here are some important tips to remember when sourcing two very important inputs: seeds and crop protection chemicals.
Seeds are the most important inputs in farming. Poor seeds almost guarantee failure. Good quality seeds should be uniform in colour, size, and shape, and should not show any damage. They should also be disease- and pest-resistant. For many maize farmers, early-maturing seeds are best. Farmers should also make sure that their seed varieties are well-suited to the climatic zone where they farm.
When purchasing crop protectants such as insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides, it’s very important to buy from a reputable, well-known dealer. Many products are adulterated or fake, so ensure that the product is certified by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). And check the expiration date carefully before purchasing any agro-chemicals.
Finally, always ask for receipts for farming inputs. This helps you keep accurate records and may be necessary if the product is sub-standard and needs to be returned to the dealer.
There are two important steps in preparing land: clearing and harrowing.
First, thoroughly clear your land of debris and unwanted materials. But remember that plant residues should not be cleared. Instead, you should incorporate them into the soil, so they decay and add valuable organic matter to the soil.
Then, maize farms should be harrowed, or turned over. This helps to decompose soil organic matter and allows water to more easily penetrate to root levels. Harrowing also makes it easier to build planting ridges and encourages uniform growth of your maize.
There are a few challenges to land preparation. Hiring labour can be expensive. Tractors or animals may also be expensive or unavailable.
One good way to solve those challenges is to join or create a cooperative group and get financial support from the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency, and micro-finance banks.
First: Obtain good seed from reliable seed companies, research institutes, agro dealers, and licenced seed companies.
Second: Prepare your fields well.
Third: Ensure that your seeds are viable by conducting a germination test.
Fourth: Sow only when the rains are well-established, sometime between May to July.
Fifth: Make sure you cover your seeds with the appropriate depth of soil, five cm.
And finally: If seeds do not germinate, re-seed three or four days after sowing.
Remember: best planting practices lead to best yields!
The first weeding can be manual with a hoe or by handpicking, or by using herbicides.
If you manage weeds with a hoe, do your first weeding two to three weeks after planting. Do your second manual weeding five to six weeks after planting, either with a hoe, by hand, with animal traction, or a tractor.
If you choose herbicides for weed control, apply the chemicals for the first time before any weeds emerge from the soil, one or two days after planting. Apply herbicides for the second time after weeds emerge, three weeks after planting, after a rainfall in the early morning or late evening. Always apply herbicides to the surface of the soil. And make sure you follow the instructions on the herbicide label carefully! If you need assistance to read and understand the instructions, ask for help.
Weeding is a critical part of achieving a good yield of high quality maize.
Choose inorganic fertilizers based on the type of soil in your farm. For sandy soils, NPK works better than DAP.
Always use fertilizers that are recommended by agricultural authorities such as the Ministry of Agriculture and ADPs.
Fertilizers should be certified and stamped by SON, the standards organization of Nigeria, and by FEPSAN, the Fertilizer Production and Suppliers Association of Nigeria.
Make your first application of fertilizer seven days after sowing.
For the first application, use six bags per hectare of NPK fertilizer 15:15:15 to boost root formation and growth.
Make your second application of fertilizer two weeks after the first application.
For the second application, use urea fertilizer at 100kg or two bags per hectare.
To prevent and control aflatoxin in maize, you can apply a product called Aflasafe. Apply before tasselling when maize is height at hip length, five to six weeks after planting.
Broadcast Aflasafe on maize fields at 10 kgs per hectare. Aflasafe require moisture to be effective and should therefore be applied after rain, when rain is expected, or when the soil is wet.
Aflatoxin contamination can happen in the field, during drying and processing, and in storage. Applying Aflasafe in the field strongly reduces the possibility that harvested, processed, and stored maize will be contaminated with aflatoxins.
By applying Aflasafe, maize farmers have a much better chance of selling their aflatoxin-free maize in premium markets.
First, prolonged rainfall can destroy your entire maize harvest. But you can solve this problem by planting your maize at the right time to avoid prolonged rains.
Second, you may lack funds when it’s time to harvest. To solve this challenge, make a farming budget at the beginning of the cropping year that includes enough funds for labour, equipment, and everything else you need for a bumper harvest.
Third, insects and pests such as rodents can damage the crop. You can solve this challenge by using safe and appropriate pesticides.
Finally, thieves can steal harvested maize. To solve this challenges, you might want to hire a guard who can provide constant monitoring.
Don’t waste all your hard work. Follow these four tips for a successful harvest!
Here are four reminders to ensure that your threshing is most effective.
First, it’s vital that maize grains be fully dry before threshing. You can tell if they’re dry enough by biting the grains. If they stick to the teeth, your maize is not ready for threshing.
Second, always thresh on a clean concrete surface or on a tarpaulin to avoid contamination with dirt and sand.
Third, don’t shell maize with a stick. Sticks break the grains, reducing the quality and selling price. Breaking the grains also increases the risk that they will be contaminated with aflatoxin.
Fourth and finally, mechanical threshers are much quicker than manual threshing. But may not be affordable. To use mechanical threshers, farmers can form co-operative societies.
Happy and profitable threshing!
Without good marketing, a good harvest won’t bring you the income you need to support your family.
So what are the secrets to good marketing?
Remember these three valuable tips when you’re ready to market your maize.
First, try to sell in groups. Groups give farmers stronger bargaining power. Groups attract off-takers and minimize the involvement of middlemen. Group selling also reduces transportation costs and security threats.
Second, store your maize until the price is favourable. This allows you to avoid the low prices immediately after harvest when there’s a glut in the market.
Finally, for best results, advertise your maize and other produce on local media: on radio stations, in newspapers, on signage, at local fairs, and markets. If large or small buyers haven’t heard your name, they probably won’t buy from you.
Why? Because it’s an excellent way to maximize profits.
Smart farmers know where their money is going and where it’s coming from.
So keep a record book that records spending on seeds, labour, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and all other farm expenses. The book should also record all money received from selling crops.
What are the benefits of keeping records?
Keeping records helps you understand which crops are profitable and which are not. This helps you plan for next season. Do you want to expand your acreage of one crop and plant less of another? Now you have the evidence to make your decision.
Another benefit of recordkeeping is that your may need it to convince bank managers or other lenders to grant you funds.
If you need help with recordkeeping, ask your extension agent for tips. Or call your favourite radio station’s farmer program and ask a question or start a discussion.
Start keeping records today. It’s an important step in planning for a healthy and prosperous future.
Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, Managing editor, Farm Radio International
Reviewed by: Mohammed Ubale, Value Chain Advisor Maize, Green Innovation Project Kaduna, Nigeria.