MAIZE BASIC


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Introduction
Both as food for man and feed for animals, maize is one of the most important crops in world agricultural economy. It has yield potential far higher than any other cereal and that’s why it is sometimes referred to as the miracle crop or the ‘Queen of Cereals.’In India with the growth in demand of poultry feed the demand for maize is also going up. The following is the consumption pattern for maize produced in India at present:
  1. Human Consumption 35%
  2. Poultry Feed 25%
  3. Cattle Feed 25%
  4. Food processing (corn flakes, popcorns, etc) and 15%

Other Industries (mainly starch, dextrose, corn syrup, corn oil, etc).Experts opine that there is a need to increase the production of maize in the country otherwise looking at the demand growth, India may well have to import maize in the coming years. Production of maize has been going up in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, in many other parts of the country, farmers are shifting from maize cultivation in search of more lucrative crops. It is also widely believed that in the very near future maize may become a staple food for human consumption if the demand for rice and wheat is not fulfilled through increased production. Some estimates indicate that India may have to produce 20 million tonnes of maize to meet its requirement for human consumption, poultry, piggery, pharma industry and fodder by 2020. According to experts a maize revolution is likely in sub-Sahara Africa, South Asia and East Asia. The maize crop is extremely productive in the US. The crop has high generic yield potential and is used both as animal feed and for human consumption and is also required by the industry.

 
Season

Maize is essentially a warm weather or kharif crop and as such is largely dependent upon the rains. There are three distinct seasons for the cultivation of maize : the main season is kharif ; whereas its cultivation during rabi in Peninsular India and Bihar, and in spring in northern India is done. Higher yields have been recorded in the rabi and spring crops. The higher yields are primarily due to better water management and a lower incidence of disease and pests. In most parts of India, maize during kharif is sown with the break of monsoon, the actual dates varying from region to region. It is sown in early March in north-eastern hills, in April to early May in north-western hills, in May-June in Peninsular India, in the end of June to mid-July in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. The late sowing of maize may extend up to late August in certain irrigated tracts of Punjab. Spring maize is sown in late January to the end Rabi maize is generally sown in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the end of October to mid-November. Both the spring and the rabi crops are raised, more or less, under irrigation.Maize can grow from sea level to 3000 metre altitudes under diverse conditions. Maize does however, require considerable moisture and warmth from germination to flowering. The ideal temperature for germination is 21° C and for growth 32°C. 50-75 cms of well-distributed rainfall is conducive to growth. It can be successfully grown where the night temperature does not go below 15.6oC (60oF). It cannot withstand frost at any stage of its growth. In India, its cultivation extends from the hot arid plains of Rajasthan and Gujarat to the wet hill of Assam and Bengal (receiving over 400 cm of rainfall).

 
Area of Cultivation
Area under maize has remained relatively steady at around six million hectares since the early 1970s. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab account for over 75 per cent of the area and production of this cereal in the country. Each of the districts of Bahraich, Gonda and Bulandshaher in Uttar Pradesh; Monghyr, Saran and Darbhanga in Bihar, Udaipur and Bhilwara in Rajasthan; and Panchmahal in Gujarat put annually over one lakh of hectares under maize. These nine districts account for a quarter of the national area and production of maize in India.
 
Soil

Maize requires fertile, deep and well-drained soils. Although, it can be grown on any type of soil, ranging from deep heavy clays to light-sandy ones, it is best adapted to well drained sandy loam to silty loam soils. It is, however, necessary that the pH of the soil does not deviate from the range 7.5 to 8.5. Maize plants, particularly in the seedling stage, are highly susceptible to salinity and water-logging. Accordingly, the provision of proper drainage is essential for the successful cultivation of this crop. The light-sandy soils greatly facilitate drainage, but have a relatively poor water-holding capacity; on the contrary, very heavy soils, with excellent water-holding capacity, have relatively poor drainage. Hence, soils ideally suited for maize cultivation should have adequate water-holding capacity and should also provide for good drainage. Over 85 per cent of the maize acreage is sown under rain-fed conditions during the monsoon when over 80 per cent of the annual rainfall is received. The alluvial soils of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab are very suitable for growing maize crop.

 
Rotation

Since maize is a short-duration crop, it conveniently fits into a wide range of crop rotations. In northern India, particularly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Bihar, it is rotated with wheat, potato, barley, etc. in a one-year rotation under irrigated conditions. It is also grown in rotation with cotton and sugarcane in a two-year rotation. It is usually grown as a pure crop, but occasionally legumes, e.g. mung, arhar or beans, and quick-growing vegetables, e.g. pumpkins and various types of gourds are taken as subsidiary crops. In central India, under rainfed conditions, however, cotton and arhar are grown mixed with maize. A usual kharif crop can also follow maize grown for green ears or fodder. In spring, very early-maturing varieties, e.g. Sathi or Kathr are intercropped in sugarcane. Given below are some of the most important crop rotation:

  1. Maize – potato 1year
  2. Maize - wheat 1 year
  3. Maize – toria – wheat 1 year
  4. Maize – potato – wheat 1 year
  5. Maize – berseem 1 year
  6. Maize – toria – sugarcane 2 years
  7. Maize – wheat – sugarcane 2 years
  8. Maize – wheat – cotton – berseem 2 years
  9. Maize – senji – sugarcane – cotton 2 years
  10. Maize – wheat – jowar – sugarcane 3 years
Crops like soybean, urd, moong, cowpea etc., are also grown mixed with maize. These legume crops are grown in the space between two rows of maize. In some parts of the country maize is also grown with pigeonpea.
 
Cultivation
A good seedbed for maize should be fine but compact. Maize kernels need a seedbed which is friable, well aerated, moist and free from weeds. It is desirable that the previous crop refuse is buried under with a mould-board plough. In due course, two or three ploughings with the wooden plough are given. In case the tractor is used, one ploughing followed by a couple of diskings is generally adequate. There is no need of preparing extremely fine seedbed for maize. The first ploughing for maize should be done with soil inverting plough so that 20-25 cm deep soil may become lose. It should be followed by two or three harrowings or three or four intercrossing ploughings with local plough. Planking should be done with each ploughing. It is important to note that while preparing the field for maize, crop leveling is not overlooked. A properly leveled and uniformly graded field is necessary for good water management.
 
Seed and Sowing

It is necessary to use certified seeds of improved varieties. Before planting, the seed lot must be tested for its germination percentage and the seed quality must be adjusted accordingly. Experts point out that for achieving maximum yield, every year a new hybrid seed must be used. Sowing made a week to ten days before the usual date of the break of monsoon, with initial one or two irrigation, provide a better chance for the establishment of plants, and yield increases of 15-20 per cent have also been recorded.It is important that optimum plant density is maintained in maize, because unlike tillering plants such as rice or wheat, maize cannot compensate for lost space. Maize is sown in rows, 60-75 cm apart, whereas the plants in the row are spaced at 20 to 25 cm. A population of 60-75 thousand plants per hectare at harvest is required for obtaining the optimum yield. Sowing in rows is generally done with drill or by dropping the seed behind the plough. The practice of broadcasting, particularly under rain-fed conditions and for fodder maize is still prevalent in several parts of the country. Seventeen to 20 kg of seed for the grain crop and 35-40 kg per hectare for the fodder crop is needed.Maize should be planted across the slope and the seed sown 3-5 cm deep. The planting depth to a large scale will depend on the moisture status of the field and the type of soil. For example, if the soil is dry and sandy, it is advisable to plant deeper. Normally planting is done in one of the following ways:

  1. Planting on the side of the ridge: A method adopted in high rainfall situation
  2. Planting in narrow furrows: A method adopted in low rainfall areas
  3. Planting in flat bed with no earthing up: In normal conditions
  4. Planting on flat bed and earthing up after 40-50 days of planting: In areas where is heavy storm during rainy season
 
Water Management

Maize is extremely susceptible both to excess water and moisture stress. Maize can withstand heavy rain, however the water should not be allowed to stand in the field any time during maize growth. Water stagnation even for as small period as six hours can destroy the crop. Hence for kharif cultivation, it is essential that adequate drainage is provided. It may be provided in the form of very shallow surface drains at 40-50 m apart (depending on the slope and the texture of the soil) across thd slope can connected to a main outlet. Shallow drains do not obstruct the movement of cattle or tractors during cultivation. Surface drains should be provided before sowing. In regions with about 60 cm of well-distributed rainfall during the growing season, any additional irrigation is not necessary. A good crop of maize does require about 460-600 ml of water during its life cycle. It must be ensured that the maize plants never wilt because of water shortage any time during their life cycle. Tasselling and silking stage is very crucial. At this stage water shortage for even two days can reduce maize yield by 20%. Also inadequate soil moisture during flowering and post-flowering particularly during the grain-filling period markedly reduce the yield. During the grain filling period, the most susceptible stage, additional irrigation, if needed, should be applied. The total number of irrigations will depend on the rainfall-distribution pattern. The spring and rabi crops are entirely raised under irrigation; the number of irrigations may, however, vary from 5-10, depending upon the type of the soil and the prevailing temperature.

 
Fertilizer Management

Fertilizers and manure both play a critical role in maize cultivation. For obtaining high yields, the maize crop should be heavily manured. Twenty-five to thirty cartloads of farmyard manure or compost should be ploughed into the soil before sowing. For hybrid and composite varieties of maize, 100-120 kg of nitrogen, along with 60 kg of P2O5 and 40 kg of K2O per hectare, is recommended. The precise level of application of phosphorus and potash should be modified in the background of soil analysis. One-third of the nitrogen and total quantity of potash and phosphorus should be applied before sowing, while the remaining nitrogen should be applied as side-dressing at the Knee-high stage and at tasselling in two equal doses. In freshly levelled fields and soils with very light texture, a soil application of 10-20 kg/ha of zinc sulphate before sowing has also given good results. To control soil-infesting insects, 10-20 kg of 10% DDT or BHC per hectare may be mixed with basic fertilizer application. Farmers planting local varieties may apply 40-60 kg of nitrogen to the soil per hectare.

 
Harvesting

The maize crop is harvested when the husk has turned yellow and the grains are hard enough having not more than 20 per cent moisture. The appearance of the plant may be misleading, particularly in the case of high yielding hybrids and composites whose grains are dry, while the stalk and leaves may be still green. Ears are removed from the standing crop. Harvested ears are dried in the sun before shelling. In the case of the late-sown crop, farmers prefer to harvest the whole plants and pile them, and the ears are removed later. Maize stalks are used as a cattle-feed and fuel. In fact, no part of the maize plant, even the cobs from which the grains have been removed, is left unused.Maize grown for fodder should be harvested at the milk to early-dough stage; the earlier harvested crop is likely to yield less and have a lower protein content. For silage, however, the late dough is preferred. Both power- and hand-operated low-priced maize shellers are available indigenously. These shellers are considerable more efficient than hand-shelling or beating with sticks, the common practice in northern India.Farmers using hybrid maize should not save their own seed for their next crop, as the advanced-generation hybrid seeds are likely to lead to a yield reduction of 25-30 per cent. However, farmers can save seed from composites and the open-pollinated varieties, when grown in isolation. At least seeds from 500 to 1,000 ears of the best-yielding, normally-spaced plants resistant to prevalent diseases and pests should be bulked. Ears should be dried, shelled and treated with an insecticide and the treated seed is necessary, as the untreated seeds on ears are at times badly attacked by stored-grain pests and the germination is markedly reduced.Considerable variation in grain yield is observed. The yield levels depend upon the variety, the amount of the fertilizer used, the rainfall pattern, etc. Under irrigated conditions and recommended cultural practices, an average yield on 4 tonnes per hectare in the Indo-Gangetic Plains is not uncommon; in Peninsular India and at higher elevations, a mean yield of 5-7 tonnes per hectare has frequently been obtained. Under low-fertility and rain-fed conditions with poor-yielding varieties, a grain yield of about one to two tonnes/ha is obtained.

 
Minimum Support Price

(Rs. per quintal)

Increase in latest price

over previous year

Commodity

1995-96

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

1999-2000

Absolute

% age

Maize

310

320

360

390

415

25

6.4%