News and knowhow for farmers

Green maize farmers double profits through transplanting

Savvy green maize farmers are utilising maize transplanting to beat other growers to market, doubling their profits.

Over 90 per cent of Kenyan farmers rely on the rains for irrigation. This means that there’s a definite farming calendar. “The next bulk green maize harvest or mukohoro as it is often referred to in markets will be between the end of July and the beginning of June. Since most farmers will be in the market at the same time, I can predict with a fair bit of certainty four months before that they will be selling a cob for Sh7-10.

Thanks to transplanting, my corn will hit markets two to three weeks ahead at a time when green maize is scarce and can fetch me Sh15-25 depending on the quality of the cob,” said Allan Mwangi an agronomist and green maize farmer.

With optimum spacing, an acre of land can take in a maximum of 24,000 seeds. Of this, about 20,000 will mature. At a lower price of 15 shillings a cob, this translates to Sh300,000 in gross profits.

Green maize stalks are also highly sought after by dairy farmers for silage making with an acre going for Sh40,000.

“Farmers growing dry maize on average harvest 20 bags an acre. Assuming you are an expert farmer harvesting 50 bags and you happen to be selling your grain during a historic seller’s market as was the case last year when the average price of a bag of maize went up 76.2 per cent to Sh4,799 you will make Sh239, 950 an acre,” he explained.

Other benefits

Researchers have shown that transplanted maize has a 15.4 per cent higher grain yield, reduced nutrient requirement, optimised plant density, better uniformity and crop stand, and a shortened growth period allowing farmers to harvest a third crop.

The crop is grown in a nursery with treated soils or on soilless media to ensure it isn’t attacked by any pests. “This ensures that the crop that emerges is hardy and robust to not suffer from transplanting shock. Seeded maize is often attacked by thrips or Fall Army Worms immediately it emerges from the soil and is highly vulnerable,” Mwangi said.

Pioneer 3253 two-months after transplanting

Seeds are also often scorched when there is little moisture in the soil and rains are delayed. This hinders their germination.

Higher production costs?

Three laborers can directly seed an acre in one full day. A similar amount of workers can transplant maize in two days. 

Additionally, for those looking to outsource seedling preparation before transplanting, there is an additional cost. This takes two weeks and is charged about Sh1.25 per germinated seedling. 

Three week old maize at transplanting

Ideally, the transplanted maize should be planted in holes with organic matter or well-dried manure which helps improve soil structure and filtration around the crop. This is however often impractical in large-scale farming. In this case, the correct amounts of planting fertiliser should be applied.

Easily Perishable

Green maize is highly perishable and needs to be sold in under one week post-harvest. “It often moves from the shamba to markets and is sold in under two days,” Allan said.

Green maize is sold through brokers who aggregate the crop from smallholder farmers or direct buyers, often from Nairobi, who buy it in bulk from large-scale producers.

The demand for mukohoro is never low; it’s a favorite for mahindi choma, muthokoi, and githeri lovers.

Allan Mwangi: 0716574475

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