By Wanyaka Gituku
Profitable maize farming in Kenya is becoming a reality for most farmers who are readily taking up new technologies to help them to drastically improve yield.
We meet 24 year old Babuh on his parents’ expansive 700 acre farm in Endebes town, Trans Nzoia County. Looking at the farm from a high vantage point and seeing its rolling beauty gave us a glimpse on why the smart telecommunications engineer would opt for a life on the farm as opposed to a fast paced career in the corporate world. “I love it here,” he says as he gives us a tour of the farm.
Swanky offices, executive boardrooms, luxury cars on urban roads, freshly pressed suits and all other trappings of a successful career in the conventional corporate world is what Sadique Babuh traded for a simple life on the farm.
Sunbelt farm as it’s called is a model of what successful modern farming is. Modern farming in this case means abandoning traditional methods of thinking around farming and allowing experts who understand the science of farming to handle your agricultural needs. Sunbelt farm went through a very difficult time where they were making losses and Sadique advised that they hire experts to help them navigate their challenges.
Profitable Maize Farming
“CropNuts came in and showed us what we were doing wrong and they helped us correct it,” Sadique said. Some of the challenges they faced were low plant population, weed pressure, pests, fungal disease, wrong timing of farm activities and poor crop nutrition. With all these challenges, the farm only managed to harvest 6 bags per acre in 2016. In 2017 however, the story was different and they recorded a tremendous increase in the harvest and continue to do so.
The first step to Babu’s profitable maize farming as advised by CropNuts was to conduct a soil test – which gave an analysis of what the soil lacked and what inputs were needed to correct and improve the soil. The soil test also gave recommendations on what fertilizers they needed to use. This tackled the problem of poor crop nutrition and the crops improved by becoming green, big and healthy. Improved crop nutrition led to increased yields.
The challenge of low plant population was solved by ensuring that the farm machinery (planter) was calibrated correctly. Low plant population leads to various things. One of them being missed targets in regards to crop yields, wasting fertilizer in the case where fertilizer is fed mechanically because the machine puts fertilizer where there are no seeds. This also leads to an overgrowth of weeds because you end up putting fertilizer on weeds.
Weeds which were a major problem on the farm were contained by spraying an appropriate herbicide and manually removing the weeds. Weeds lead to a decrease in yields because they compete with the crop for much needed nutrients. They also decrease the soil’s health by depleting minerals from it. Weeds are also a host for pests.
Fall Armyworm Control
The other challenge on the farm was pests especially the fall armyworm and fungal disease (rust) which were contained by spraying the appropriate pesticides and fungicides. For a more profitable maize farming, Cropnuts advised Sadique not just on the appropriate pesticide and fungicide but also on when these pesticides and fungicides needed to be sprayed. This is because spraying at the wrong time leads to wastage and ineffectiveness combating the fall armyworm. On this same note, Cropnuts created a calendar of activities for the farm advising them on when to conduct various farming activities such as spraying as mentioned above, when to plant, when to plough, when to apply fertilizer etc.
Having a calendar of activities is the hallmark of profitable maize farming. It ensures all farm resources are well utilized, reduces wastage and unnecessary expenses and increases yields. An example of how a farmer can increase their costs because of not having a proper calendar of activities based on expertise is for example when fighting fall armyworm. Fall armyworm control requires that you spray early morning or late evening when fall armyworm larvae comes out to feed.
Not having a proper calendar of activities may mean that you might spray in the afternoon on alternative days. Spraying in the afternoon means you are wasting the pesticide because the fall armyworm will not feed on it and it may evaporate or dry out on the plant making it ineffective. This will then lead to using pesticides for longer whereas if you had a calendar of activities based on expert advice, you will have better results with less pesticides saving you money.
The intervention by CropNuts led the farm to harvest 32 bags per acre from a meagre 6 bags per acre. As Sadique attests, embracing modern methods of farming through expert advice is how to reap maximum benefits and profits from your farm.