The quality of certified maize seed is very important since it determines the maize yield, food security and income for the farmer.
As the planting season draws near, farmers are busy preparing their land in readiness for planting.
The choice of seed, especially maize seed is very important and will help determine the amount and quality of the maize harvest at the end of the year. It is important that farmers buy their seeds early enough to avoid the last minute rush that may force them to buy the wrong seeds or even fake seed, which is often sold when there is shortage of seed, a practice that is common every year during the planting season.
Beware of fake seed
Despite our warning on the existence of fake seeds in the market every year, many farmers still end up buying fake seed, mostly sold by unscrupulous traders in all maize growing areas. It is important that farmers keep to the following guidelines to avoid being cheated:
• Farmers should only buy seed from reputable or licensed seed merchants and stockists.
• Buy your seed early enough preferably during the month of January or February when most of the seed companies have adequate seed. If you buy your seeds in March or April, most of the popular maize varieties will have run out of stock. This is the wrong time for buying seed because of shortage. Most fake seed is sold during this period. Farmers therefore risk buying expired or fake seed.
• All genuine seed have Company tags and inspection labels from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) inside the seed bag. Immediately you open the seed bag, check the tags to ensure the seeds you have bought are genuine.
• Check for the expiry date in each seed bag you buy, expired seed cannot grow well.
• Store the seeds in a cool dry place to ensure they do not spoil through humidity or excess sunlight or heat.
Choose right seed for your region
All maize varieties are developed for the various climatic regions in the country. For farmers who wish to get good maize yields, it is important that farmers choose the right varieties for their region. This enables them to increase their income and boost their food security. All maize varieties are developed by scientists for planting in different regions depending on the altitude, rainfall, type of soil, temperature and other climatic conditions. This is done to ensure that farmers get the best varieties that are suited to their climatic regions.
There is an increase promotion of new maize varieties as companies compete to sell their seeds. Farmers should be very careful when going for new varieties. We always advise farmers to work like professionals. When you buy a new seed variety, isolate a small portion of your land and mark it. Plant the new variety in this portion of land and then observe its attributes. Check if the variety is prone to opening the cob at maturity which may lead to rotting of the grain. It is important to check if the variety is susceptible to falling during windy conditions (lodging). Check to see if the maize has adequate good grain weight to ensure you have quality maize for milling. Ensure all maize planted is well-managed throughout the production period. Poor management such as late weeding, poor soils or late land preparation and planting will always reduce your harvest.
How to check if maize seed is genuine
Farmers need to remain alert and ensure that they only buy seed from licensed seed dealers. It is always important to check the shop where you buy seed to ensure they have a licence from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). In the last two years, KEPHIS has come with a method of checking if the seed you buy is genuine. All genuine maize seed in small packages (2kg and below) have sticker label from KEPHIS attached to each bag. All the farmers need to do is to remove the label and scratch it the same way you do for the mobile phone airtime. After scratching, check the number on the label and send to 1393. You will receive a message indicating if the seed is genuine or not. For those buying 10kg and 25kg seed packages, one should open the bag and check for a KEPHIS tag that usually shows the variety and even the lot number. You can call KEPHIS on Tel. 0709 891 000. If you provide them with these details, they will advise you if the maize you have bought is genuine or not.
Seed quality depends on strict inspection
To improve and maintain the quality of seed in the country is a very important process. Maize seed is inspected thoroughly at every stage of growth to ensure it has all the desired qualities and characteristics when it is finally released into the market.
If not well- maintained, seeds can lose their vigour. Seed inspectors from KEPHIS visit the seed production farms on a regular basis to ensure the maize seed meets all the parameters.
Some of the factors that reduce the quality of seed during production include the following:
Selfing: If the removal of tassels from the mother plant is not done properly, the plant will pollinate itself (selfing), this reduces the quality of the seed from such lines.
Drought stress: If the seed maize is affected by drought, the surviving plants cannot produce quality seed since they lose some of the characteristics of the parent material.
General crop failure or diseases: If the maize seed does not grow as it is expected eg stunting, attack by diseases eg. Maize smut or Grey Leaf Spot (GLS) the maize seed should be condemned because it will lead to crop failure or transfer of diseases. Diseased maize seed will lead to spread of diseases to all parts of the country where such seed is planted.