News and knowhow for farmers

Covering maize with bags reduces bird invasion

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A maize cob devoured by birds. Covering the cobs with a paper cap prevents birds from destroying the crop. Photo by

Farmers, who target off season green maize market, may save up more than 10 per cent lost to birds lice crows by covering the cobs with paper bags.

Birds like crows may destroy up to 20 cobs in every 100 stalks when a farm of maze stands amid other crops.

Andrew Mwashighadi prefers growing maize when the other farmers are raising groundnuts, sunflower, simsim and other crops. The competition for the green maize, which is for roasting or boiling, is minimal.

“Birds are not stupid. They get used to the scarecrow after some time. Actually, with time, they can land on it as they spot the maize cob to attack. I have found covering the heads of the maize with the sack-like papers effective- crows look for the maize cob leaves and leave when they cannot find the milk,” the Mpeketoni farmer said.

In reducing attacks by other small birds that fed on kernels the farmers grows a few sunflowers along the edge of his one acre piece. This distracts the other birds from feeding on maize wince the sunflower is the ‘easier alternative’ when they cannot open the paper covering the ears.

Traders from Malindi and other Coastal town flock the Lamu County farming town in search of fresh maize to complement what they get from up country.

Birds feed on maize soon after pollination, when the cobs start filling. The kernels are tender, a stage commonly called the milk phase.

Crows and other birds moving from the nearby Boni Forest are a menace, and if uncontrolled, maize along the edges of the farms is lost, or reduced in quality as a result of the pecking.

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Pecked maize is less attractive to the boiling and roasting market for urban consumers. With time, the affected parts also develop black abrasions that may habour mycotoxins from fungi. Mycotoxins may lead to food poisoning due to aflatoxins.

In about a month or so, before the kernels start hardening for drying, about 5,000 birds can cause up to 10 per cent in ordinary fields, according to the Purdue University Department of Agronomy.

This percentage is doubled when the maize field stands amid different crops.

The brown papers of are the same ones occasionally used in packaging retail sugar, although they are also used in carrying medication and other goods.

Covering the ears of the maize cob discourages the birds from peeling back the tacked ears to access the kernels or the maturing maize grains.

By just capping the maize cobs from the head, the birds get discouraged when they cannot access the ears.

off-season selling of maize sometimes may fetch about Sh8 for every cob. They also sell three pieces for Sh20. 

Remaining exposed maize may also start germinating after maturity.

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