Yellow maize is good for people and livestock

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Although yellow maize is more nutritious than white maize, Kenyans consider it food for poor people since it is often brought into the country as relief food for starving people. Yet it can be a food option for people, even as it is used majorly for livestock. 

Maize is a staple food for many millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Although white maize is more popular in most households, few know that yellow maize is more nutritious than white maize.

Yellow maize is not liked by most rural communities in East Africa. For many years, yellow maize was donated to Kenya from different parts of the world as relief food during the famine of the late 1980s, 1990 and late 2000. 

This made many people view yellow maize as food aid for poor people. Besides, many people think yellow maize is only used for livestock feed in Western countries and is therefore not meant for human consumption.  “There was no way we can eat feeds meant for livestock,” Joseph Makhanu, a farmer in Bungoma argues. Some people just do not like the taste of yellow maize. Most of the people interviewed by TOF say yellow maize has a sugary taste, which they do not like. Those who eat yellow maize say they harvest the crop early, when still green.

Yellow maize is nutritious

Despite the taste and the colour, yellow maize is nutritious. In fact, research has shown that yellow corn has a higher nutritional value than the ordinary white maize, due to its higher levels of lutein, carotenoids and vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is very common in Africa and afflicts millions of children, resulting in diseases, blindness, and even death.

One large cob of boiled yellow maize contains almost 4g of protein, 3.5g of dietary fiber, about 30g of carbohydrates, 1.5g of fat and 3.6g of sugar and 100 grams of water. It contains no cholesterol and has about 126 kilo-calories. Yellow maize also contains both pro-vitamin A and non-pro-vitamin A carotenoids, which promote general growth and eye health. Here are more maize nutrition facts and information about the vitamin and mineral content in one large ear of yellow maize, when cooked without salt.

Although most people prefer white maize, it’s better to know that Carotenoids are mainly found in yellow maize. White maize has little or no carotenoid. This beta-carotene content is an important source of vitamin A.

Farmers are growing yellow maize

Jones Lusalia, a farmer in Kitale has a ¼ acre shamba where he grows yellow maize. He says that yellow maize matures faster than white maize. The main disadvantage, however, is that yellow maize is not popular in the market, compared to the white maize. He, therefore, grows most of his produce for his family’s use.

After harvesting, Lusalia keeps some grain for the next planting season. To do this, he must ensure he has good stores and bags to prevent rotting and damage by pests. This has been a challenge for him, but he is working to solve it.

Yellow maize is also good for livestock

After harvesting, yellow maize stalks can be used to provide fodder for livestock. The grains can also be used as poultry feed. This is an opportunity for Kenyan farmers. Instead of depending on imports, farmers can venture into the business and produce yellow maize, which is a source of nutrients for livestock.

To get the most out of the crop, the maize is harvested when green. The cob is used as a vegetable while the other parts are fed to livestock.

Yellow maize is planted in the same way as ordinary white maize. The maize is planted through direct seeding, preferably early in the season or as soon as soil and temperature conditions are favourable. Delay in planting always leads to reduced yields - there is a drop in yields by 1 – 2% every day if planting is delayed. Seeds are dropped in furrows or planting holes. For a pure stand of maize, the Ministry of Agriculture recommends a spacing of between 75cm by 30cm for all areas with adequate rainfall, resulting in a total population of about 44,000 plants per acre.

Good management

Yellow maize should be planted as soon as the seedbed is prepared. Like the ordinary maize, yellow maize is sensitive to weeds during the first 4-6 weeks after germination. The crop should be weeded twice until it reaches a height of one metre. In areas of low rainfall, irrigation should be done especially at the time of tasselling and fertilization. The maize can be intercropped with legumes as this increases yields.

Harvesting and storage

Yellow maize can be harvested when mature, when the leaves start yellowing. The maize can be left in the field until when the moisture levels fall to about 15-20%. However, care should be taken to protect the maize from pest attack. The yellow maize can also be harvested when immature for use as a vegetable. After harvesting, maize should be stored well to prevent attack by pests and diseases.

There are new metal silos that are effective against maize pests such as the larger grain borer. The silos are made out of galvanized flat iron sheets. The structures are airtight and can be used to store different types of grain.

>>Tell us how useful this information is to your farming enterprise. Share your experience by email to or leave a comment below this article. You can also send an SMS to 0715 916 136.

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