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Research find fertilisers & certified seeds have biggest impact on Kenyan maize yield

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By George Munene

Researchers from the University of Delaware have shown that Kenyan smallholder farmers have the most significant increase in the yields of rainfed maize through fertiliser application and the use of certified seeds.

According to the paper, other notable contributors to productivity were; nearness to markets, size of farmland, and access to extension services.

Farmers who used fertilizers had a 0.362 unit increase in maize yield, while those who planted certified maize seeds were associated with 0.197 units higher productivity than non-certified maize seeds users.

“I was trying to look at more of a wide range of factors and what happens when you put all of them together. A key point is we’re not comparing current yields with a modeled hypothetical situation. We are comparing the yield between quite similar farms. There is one farmer implementing this practice and there is another farmer not implementing it so you can compare the two and see which farmer has the better yield,” outlined lead researcher Kevin Oluoch on the University’s website.

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Surprisingly, an increase in the maize plot size led to a reduction of 0.046 in yield. A unit increase in the time taken to reach the nearest market decreased yields slightly (− 0.048). At the same time, farmers who had accessed extension services in the current or a previous season had increases of 0.116 and 0.195, respectively, in normalized maize yield units. 

Farmer access to sources of credit, and distance to (government) extension services had a negligible effect on maize yield. Though the scientists noted that other factors, such as the use of certified seeds and the application of fertilizer, through which access to credit and distance to extension services may impact maize yields may be influencing their effect size and statistical significance.

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Speaking of his research, Oluoch noted it will serve to inform maize producers not only in Kenya but sub-Saharan Africa. “It is a well-elaborated approach that you can use to inform your production of other crops as well.”

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