Poor choice of seed is a major challenge denying smallholder farmers bumper harvests.
It is no wonder that a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization shows that the at least 54 per cent of all smallholder farmers grow unsuitable seeds every planting season
As maize farmers in Kenya ready themselves for planting, Dhahabu Kenya has sampled some of high quality maize varieties by various seed companies meant for different ecological regions in the country
High altitude varieties
The Kenya Seed Company has two new maize seed varieties H6213 and H6212 which are suitable for high altitude areas of 1700-2100 meters above sea level and annual rainfall of 1000-1500mm.
These varieties take 160-190 days to mature and have an average yield of 52 bags of 90kg per acre.
Fresco Seed company has the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) 600-23A which is sweet in taste, produce double cob and is resistant to leaf blight, rust and Grey leaf spot.
This variety performs well in areas with an altitude of 1700-2300m and rainfall of 1000-1500mm. It has minimal lodging and has an average yield of 43-68bags of 90kg per acre.
These varieties can do well in most parts of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gichu, Nakuru, Laikipia, Kiambu and Kisii counties.
Medium altitude varieties
Most areas in Western Kenya, the lake region, South Rift, Meru and parts of Central Kenya have an altitude of between 1200-600m and an average rainfall of at least 800mm.
For these regions, the Western Seed Company variety WH507 variety which has an average yield per acre of 35bags is most suitable. The variety takes between 120-135 days to mature.
The Kenya Seed Company on the other hand has H624, H624, H516, H516 and H513 which can produce an average of 32,28,26,24 and23 bags per acre respectively. Most of these maize varieties take between 100-190 days to mature
These varieties are bred and recommended for medium to high altitudes (1500-2100m) where day temperatures seldom exceed 28 C during growing season and where the night temperatures drop to as low as 8 C. Rainfall requirements ranges from 800-1500mm.Where similar conditions prevail in the highlands of Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia these varieties are recommended
Low altitude varieties
The Kenya Seed Company has Pwani hybrids which includes PH4 and PH1. These varieties are fairly short hence resistant to lodging and more tolerant to moisture stress. They do well in areas with lower altitudes of 0-250m and low rainfall of 400mm. PH14 takes 90-120 days to mature and produces 20 bags per acre on average while PH1 takes 75-120 days to mature. The latter however is less productive, managing only 15 bags per acre.
Dry land varieties
While Fresco Seed Company has KDV-1 and KDV-6 maize varieties for semi-arid regions, Kenya Seed Company has DH01, DH02, DH03 and DH04. These varieties have less maturing period of between 90-120 days and can withstand low rainfall of 200-500mm.
Although rainfall pattern mostly determines the kind of maize variety to be planted in an area, several companies have developed hybrid varieties which target specific production challenges including pests, diseases and weed which must be put in consideration while selecting seeds.