Maize stays South Africa’s biggest grain

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Zunel van Eeden seems to be at maize manufacturing, and the pests and ailments that farmers needs to be looking out for to keep up their good yields and profitability.

Maize remains South Africa’s greatest grain
Maize stalk borer, Busseola fusca, wreaks havoc.
Photograph: Zunel van Eeden

It’s no secret that maize is among the most vital crops worldwide, and on the fee at which maize plantings enhance with every new season, it is going to in all probability overtake wheat plantings by 2030.

That is largely resulting from meet the rising demand for human consumption, livestock and industrial use.

READ Understanding the worth of maize

White maize is primarily grown for human consumption by smallholders and industrial producers, and yellow maize is planted by industrial producers for industrial use and animal feed.

South Africa is the largest maize producer in Africa. Nevertheless, the 2022/23 harvest season was challenged by quite a few components, and producers in co-operation with agricultural companies needed to undertake a defensive mode to succeed in noteworthy yields.

Extreme local weather anomalies (heatwaves, drought, extreme precipitation, and hail) locations South Africa’s nationwide meals safety and financial development in jeopardy due to the importance of maize manufacturing for each native consumption and exports to different African international locations.

One of many largest obstacles to maize manufacturing in South Africa is drought, particularly in semi-arid and drought-prone areas just like the Western and Japanese Cape.

Prolonged dry spells have a unfavorable impact on maize yields as a result of the crop wants sufficient moisture to develop to maturity.

Excessive local weather anomalies pose a risk to meals safety. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

Decrease yields and lower-quality grain are the result of stunted development, decreased tassel and cob manufacturing, and poor grain growth brought on by drought stress.

Decreased kernel set, poor grain fill, and pollen sterility can all consequence from warmth stress throughout the flowering and grain-filling phases, which additional lowers maize yields.

The need for mitigation and adaptation methods on the farm stage to spice up the resilience of maize to curb losses throughout future droughts is essential, and that is emphasised by the mixture of rising temperatures and frequent drought occasions.

It’s due to this fact essential for producers to arrange for the worst case, and their irrigation design needs to be of a nature that ensures crops obtain the correct quantity of water on the proper time of the crop’s development stage.


Fortuitously, producers of in the present day can depend on Agrico, who has superior expertise and knowledge at their fingertips to customize irrigation programs to satisfy the producer’s preferences.

Johan Myburgh, technical supervisor at Agrico, identified a number of benefits of their irrigation programs.

Firstly, their employees are specialists who work with the producer to grasp his/her wants and circumstances to be able to design a system that’s managed simply.

Additional, Agrico’s merchandise are designed and produced domestically or sourced from dependable worldwide suppliers who perceive South Africa’s manufacturing situations.

Lastly, producers have fast entry to their irrigation programs, and by way of the Agrico Internet Management system they will handle and monitor their programs utilizing a sensible telephone.

In a time the place each hour of irrigation is critically vital, it could actually have a big impact on a producer’s harvest once they don’t must drive to each pump and hub to regulate water stream.

READ The principle kinds of irrigation

With 40 branches throughout Southern Africa, Agrico isn’t too far to service and help their purchasers.

The South African harvest of the previous season was affected by extreme precipitation and harmful hailstorms, akin to those who struck Wakkerstroom and surrounding areas in Mpumalanga.

Maize that sustains hail injury exhibits indicators of bodily hurt akin to bruising, stem breaking, and leaf shredding, all of which lowers yield.

Hailstorms can additional impair the amount and high quality of maize produced by interfering with the planting and harvesting schedule.

After hail injury, farmers often face monetary hardships because of crop losses and better manufacturing bills associated to replanting and crop safety measures.

Pests and ailments

The yield of the previous season was affected by many pests. Nevertheless, maize stalk borer (Busseola fusca), fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and the widespread cutworm (Agrotis segetum), three of probably the most economically vital pests in South Africa with a excessive pest standing, prompted vital injury.

The administration of those pests throughout the previous season was difficult resulting from numerous components.

Busseola fusca
The pest density depends on the extent of altitude. Subject stories confirmed that larger infestations had been skilled at increased altitudes than low-lying areas. Injury varies in keeping with the expansion stage of maize and the pest density.

When B. fusca strikes down into the whorl and bore into maize ears, it could actually affect cob growth and even result in weak seed fill.

When larvae bore into stalks at late maize development shut to reap, stalk breakage can happen throughout sturdy winds.

It’s essential to use early management when shot gap injury is seen throughout scouting, since yield will not be affected by leaf injury. An alternate, environmentally pleasant method is a push-pull system that makes use of lure cropping and may simply be applied in small-scale farming programs.

Fall armyworm
This sporadic pest made its debut in 2017 and has since badly affected maize harvests. The pest standing of fall armyworm on maize in South Africa differs between the Lowveld and Highveld, and different areas such because the Japanese and Western Cape, the place sporadic infestations are skilled later within the cropping season.

Fall armyworm injury. Photograph: Simone Louw

Subject observations have indicated that everlasting populations are current within the Lowveld, northern elements of Limpopo, in addition to the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and the Japanese Cape.

Infestations in different areas could also be a results of migrating moths that happen sporadically.

Ineffective management has been skilled, for the reason that preliminary cryptic feeding behaviour of larvae inside plant whorls usually are not simply detected.

Infestations are due to this fact noticed too late, when vegetation already exhibit superior ranges of leaf injury brought on by bigger larvae, that are harder to regulate chemically.

Maize producers in these areas want to remain alert all through the cropping season and usually monitor their maize fields for the presence of this pest.

Though chemical management is the most typical methodology to beat cutworm, the previous planting season confirmed that the effectiveness of insecticide purposes diversified.

Hypothesis relating to insect resistance to pesticides have been a subject of debate amongst producers, brokers and cutworm specialists, however no claims might be made because it has not but been confirmed by the Insecticide Resistance Motion Committee.

READ The fundamentals of cutworm administration

The noticed management failures can probably be ascribed to different components in-field. Subject stories confirmed that extra cutworm complaints had been acquired from no-till fields.

Extra producers have shifted to no-till fields as a result of soil well being advantages and plant development, nonetheless, it has implications when attempting to handle cutworm.

One of many most important practices of no-till fields is to depart crop residues and sow straight into residues of the earlier crop, often known as ‘direct seeding’.

This follow will increase the survival of larvae, as a result of crop residues present shelter from excessive climate situations and pure enemies.

Weeds are additionally a available meals supply in no-till fields. Then again, typical fields are additionally impacted by cutworm infestations.

Cultivation practices play an vital function within the administration of cutworm because the life cycle of the pest is disturbed when fields are cultivated.

The timing, nonetheless, is essential. It’s steered that fields needs to be left naked for at least 35 days after winter cultivation.

Signs of cutworm injury to maize seedlings. Photograph: Zunel van Eeden

This leaves cutworms with no meals supply, shelter or oviposition website, and they are going to be unable to finish their life cycle.

Planting ought to happen after the 35 days; planting too near cultivation/weed administration will depart seedlings prone to cutworm injury.

Leaf ailments and ear rot
Danie Leeuwner, product portfolio supervisor at Limagrain South Africa, highlighted that leaf and ear rot ailments had been additionally a problem.

The prevalent leaf ailments are gray leaf spot, brought on by Cercospora zeae-maydis, and northern corn leaf blight, brought on by Exserohilum turcicum.

For each the ailments, the Limagrain South Africa maize portfolio has merchandise with good tolerance to cope with them.

The dominant ear rot is Diplodia ear rot, brought on by Stenocarpella maydis. Diplodia ear rot produces particular mycotoxins that have an effect on grazing animals otherwise by inflicting diplodiosis, which is a nervous system dysfunction of cattle and sheep ensuing from the ingestion of mouldy cobs infeced by S. maydis.

For the discount of danger of Diplodia ear rot, Limagrain South Africa is actively breeding maize cultivars with higher tolerance and resistance to this and different ailments.

Agronomical practices might be applied to decrease the danger of an infection:

  • Number of maize hybrids which can be tolerant or immune to the pathogens.
  • Stubble discount or retention.
  • Stress discount.
  • Crop rotation.
  • Early harvesting.

Harvesting challenges/alternatives

On account of a wetter-than-normal season in most elements of the maize manufacturing area, producers achieved above-average yields on their crops, with the nationwide common yield throughout each white and yellow maize reaching 6,34t/ha, in keeping with information from the Crop Estimates Committee.

Regardless of quite a few setbacks throughout the 2022/23 planting and harvest season, South Africa’s complete space planted previously season was roughly 2,6 million hectares, of which 1 521 300ha was white maize and 1 064 800ha yellow maize.

READ Components influencing maize yield

The Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 46%, 22%, 20% and 4,4% of the entire nationwide maize manufacturing within the 2022/23 season.

From the realm planted, the third-largest harvest was recorded at a complete of 16,4 million tons, which is 5% greater than 2021/22 season.

The big harvest is primarily ascribed to massive yields, as the realm planted is barely down on the 2021/22 season.

The big harvest tons implies that South Africa may have enough provides to satisfy home maize wants of about 11,4 million tons and have over three million tons for export markets within the 2023/24 advertising 12 months.

The 2023/24 harvest is anticipated to be even larger, as an extra 51 650ha have been planted.

Financial affect/alternative

There may be at all times a marketplace for maize, each domestically and overseas, which provides producers a gradual place to promote their harvest.

Additional, due to its adaptability, maize could also be used to create a wide range of revenue streams, together with promoting it as grain, making maize meal, or supplying it to processing enterprises.

Moreover, the financial potential of maize cultivation has been boosted by technological developments.

Precision farming strategies, akin to utilizing drones and GPS-guided gear, maximise the effectivity of the planting, irrigation, and fertilising processes, rising yields whereas reducing enter prices.

Genetically modified maize varieties that provide options akin to insect resistance and drought tolerance, enhancing productiveness and resilience in harsh environments, additionally play a big function.

Though challenges persist, strategic investments in expertise, analysis, infrastructure, and producers’ sturdy relationships with agricultural companies may place South Africa’s maize manufacturing for sustained development and competitiveness within the years forward.

Telephone Agrico on 021 950 4111 or e-mail [email protected]. Contact Limagrain SA on 082 824 5442. 


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