By Bob Aston
Adopting good agricultural practices is key in ensuring farmers make profit in maize production. Speaking during a two day Maize Value Chain Workshop at Olivia Court Motel in Sipili, Laikipia West Sub County on November 25-26, 2015, Mr. Moses Lokwawi, Ol-Moran Ward Crops Officer noted that farmers who harvest less than 15 bags per acre rarely make a profit.
He noted that land under maize cultivation in Ol-Moran Ward has been increasing while production has been declining over the years. During a farmers discussion session, it was noted that they are harvesting an average of 10 - 18 bags per acre.
He said that the gross margin on maize does not auger well for farmers who harvest few bags, as they will realize losses unless they adopt best agricultural practices particularly during land preparation, soil and water conservation, planting and crop husbandry and post-harvest management.
“Sustainable practices and activities carried out in and off farm in crop production ensures the right quality and safety of food produce. This calls for responsible and ethical production and marketing of agricultural produce,” said Mr. Lokwawi.
He noted that land under maize production in 2005 was 2,100 acres and farmers managed to harvest 79,800 bags while this year 2015 with 4,970 acres under maize production farmers managed to harvest 93,441 bags.
He noted that in a good year the whole of Laikipia County usually realize 1. 5 million bags of maize. Communities in the county consume 500,000 bags while farmers sell the surplus. He noted that the rise in cost of production calls for reduction in mechanical tillage and labour cost, which is possible through adoption of conservation agriculture.
He implored farmers to embrace record keeping and particularly Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS-Kenya) as they are able to know at the end of a season whether they have made a profit or loss and to help in decision making particularly when deciding on which enterprise is more profitable.
Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture officer noted that soil fertility is lost through waterlogging, use of synthetic pesticides, excessive use of DAP fertilizer which reduces the rate of organic matter decomposition, and burning of crop residue.
He urged farmers to use the recommended hybrid seeds like H600 series, H511, H513, H515, H517, H520, Pioneer 30G19, pan 67, Faida, Duma, Katumani Composite.
The farmers were also encouraged to make use of the AgroZ and PICS storage bags which do not require use of chemicals before storing cereals. The bags are currently retailing at Ksh250 each. Farmers were informed to invest in modern storage facilities like the household metallic silos as a solution to high maize postharvest losses caused by the maize weevil and large grain borer that are major destructive pests of stored maize.