Seed selection important during planting season

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The planting season is here again and as farmers prepare their land for planting, there are crucial decisions to make to ensure a rewarding harvest. The following are the stages to follow to ensure a bumper harvest:

Seed selection

Good harvests start with good seed selection. Good quality seeds are essential for the growth of strong and healthy crops which can resist diseases or even drought. Healthy seeds can be bought from trusted sources like certified seeds stockists or agrovets shops. Farmers can produce their own seeds too. In that case, then, seed selection plays a major role in determining the crop yield. Best seeds offer higher yields.

There are several diseases that are transmitted via the seeds. If infected seeds are used for the next crop, seed-born diseases are transferred into the farm. Seed selection should therefore start by obtaining seeds from healthy plants. Small, shriveled and broken seeds contain less nutrition for the developing seedling. By removing these inferior seeds, the farmer is able to grow stronger and healthier seedlings.

How to select seed

While seed selection is mainly aimed at obtaining healthier seeds, it can be used also to maintain and improve the quality of the crop variety. In a crop field, farmers may observe differences in traits between plants. Some plants may have characteristics that are more desirable. During the growing season, the farmer can try to observe these differences and mark preferred plants with a ribbon or with a stick. During the harvesting season, the seeds of these plants can be reserved as seed for the next crop. In this way, the farmer can slowly improve the quality of their varieties. Good seed selection is also key in controlling pests and diseases. It is important for farmers who want to improve their next crop to select high quality seeds at harvest time to be kept for the next season. The selection of seeds may also be based on market preferences such as the size of the plant, colour or fruits size, number of grains per ear, among other desirable traits.

Use certified seed

Undesirable seeds that are too small, spotted, deformed or discoloured should not be chosen for planting. Certified seed should be ordered and purchased from an approved agrovet shops and other stockists. The use of uncertified seed may lead to spread of viruses and fungal diseases. Farmers should ensure the seeds are handled and stored properly. Poor storage of seed results in excessive sprouting and sprout breakage which in turn leads to poor crop vigour, irregular germination and growth of crowded plants that require thinning.

Intercropping

Farmers should consider intercropping cereals with other leguminous crops such as cowpeas, groundnuts, pigeon peas, soya beans, kidney beans and nuts. This can help fight noxious weeds such as striga in the farm. The striga weed roots cannot attach to the root system of the leguminous plants and will therefore die. The Push-pull farming technology is a proven farming method that helps control the parasitic weed while providing farmers with desmodium for fodder and other legumes that provide an extra income.

Proper spacing

If crops are planted at recommended spacing, the plants cover the ground quickly reducing the need for weeding. In areas of reliable rainfall, weed-free conditions in properly spaced maize need to be maintained until the crop is about 45 cm high. At this stage the crop itself suppresses weeds and further weed control measures become unnecessary. In areas of less reliable rainfall, weed-free conditions should be maintained until flowering to minimize the risk of moisture stress at this critical stage.

Timely planting

Maize planted at the right time has vigorous growth and becomes well-established before the growth of weeds. The seeds should be planted at the onset of the rains. This allows the seeds to establish before weeds develop.

Weed control

Hoeing is the most common weed control method used by small-scale farmers. This is commonly followed by hand weeding to remove the weeds that grow after digging. Weeding should be done three to four (3 to 4) weeks after planting. For a healthy crop, weeding should be done two or three (2 or 3) times because a young maize plant is very sensitive to weed competition. It should start when the crop is about 7.5 cm high but once the crop is about 45 cm tall, weeding is not necessary except in a few cases where there are favorable conditions for weed growth. At 45 cm, the leaves of vigorous maize plants will start covering the ground to suppress weeds. In addition, weeding after this stage will destroy the root system. For successful interrow cultivation, farmers should ensure to start inter-row cultivation when the weeds are still in their seedling stage and to cultivate when there is moisture in the field.

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