Certified seed implies the seed has been grown following strict standards, and the resulting seed has been tried and tested before being given the status of being certified. This ensures that there are no disease pathogens on the seed and the viability is good. It also ensures that the seed is pest free. ‘Certified seeds’ are not necessarily organic.
Organically certified seed remains the best option for farmers, however, accessibility of organically certified seeds is a major challenge. Many generations of farmers have always relied on their neighbours, community seed banks, Agricultural Research Institutions, local and international NGOs, national and community seed banks, large seed supply companies among others to obtain seeds.
Good harvest is largely the result of careful seed selection and good storage of seed in preparation for planting.
Factors to consider when doing seed selection
One of the most important factors to consider is the specific climatic and environmental conditions of your area. Just because a seed variety is doing well in one region, does not mean it will obviously do well in another. If you are not well informed of the varieties suitable for your area, consult with an agricultural extension officer. You can also attend farmer field days organized within your area to see how the various seeds are performing in local conditions before trying them out in your fields. The more you know about a seed product, the more likely you’ll be successful in managing it. After selecting the right seed for your field, ensure good farm management practice to yield optimally.
Maize varieties and their suitable climatic conditions (Source: Kenya Seed Company)
These varieties are bred and recommended for medium to high altitudes (1500-2100m) where day temperatures seldom exceed 28ºC during growing season and where the night temperatures drop to as low as 8ºC. Rainfall requirements ranges from 800-1500mm. Examples include H6213, H6212, H6 210, H9401,H629, H628, H627, H626, H625, H614, H624, H623, H516, H515, H513, H511, PH4, PH1, DH01,DH02, DH03, DH04, Katumani composite and DLC 1.
These are Highland hybrids grown particularly in Trans-Nzoia, Uasin-Gishu, Nakuru, Laikipia, Kisii, Narok, Bungoma, Kakamega, Nandi, and Kericho. Tea zones of central Kenya: Nyahururu, Bungoma, Bomet, Nyeri, Kiambu and Meru tea zones, Timau, Nkubu, Nanyuki, Kirinyaga, Igembe, Bukwa and Mbale.
Medium Altitude Agro-Ecozone ( 1000-1700m)
These varieties are commonly grown in coffee growing belts. The favorable rainfall is between 750-1000mm. Some of the varieties in this category include H515, ideal for early to medium transitional zones and lowland areas of Kirinyaga, West Pokot, Bungoma, Homa Bay, Kerio Valley, Kagio, Mwea, Makueni, Kitui, Marakwet, Baringo and Koibatek, Voi, Mwatate, Mariakani, Garissa; and H516 which is ideal for areas such as Western Kenya, Elgeyo Marakwet, coffee zones of central Kenya, Tharaka Nithi Nyanza (Migori, Kisii, Nyamira), Baringo, Embu, Chuka.
The altitude in this zone falls between 1000-1700m where the temperatures ranges from 12ºC to 30ºC and has rainfall similar to that of high altitudes. Hybrid 624 is a typical example in this category and can do well in areas such as Bungoma, Kakamega, Bumula, Lanet, Nandi, Laikipia and Narok.
Lowland Agro-Ecozone: PH1 and PH4
Pwani hybrids are fairly short varieties resistant to lodging and more tolerant to moisture stress and recommended for altitude range of 0-1250 metres above sea level with 400mm of rainfall. It has an added advantage of good husk cover hence reduced crop loss even when attacked by birds and weevils. It is also suitable under inter-cropping systems. PH1 and PH4 are recommended for the Lake region and the Coastal strip of Kilifi, Mpeketoni, Hola, Gariseni, Voi, Mwatate, Kwale and Kinangop.
Dryland Agro-Ecozone: Katumani Composite B
This is a fast growing open pollinated variety, which is fairly short and produces short cobs. It is a drought escaping variety flowering within 60-65 days and maturing within 90-120 days.The variety performs well within altitudinal range of 1000-500m above sea level and is a variety for marginal rainfall areas. The variety requires 250-500mm of rain, and has performed extremely well in arid marginal areas in many parts of Africa particularly in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania and Namibia.
Dryland Agro-Ecozone (DLC1)
This is another open pollinated variety which is recommended for arid and semi-arid regions. This variety flowers earlier than Katumani Composite B by about 4-7 days and is shorter but more prolific. Under unfavorable conditions, the variety performs better that Katumani Composite B. The variety is best suited where rainfall duration is short and amounts to less than 350mm. The variety is a good substitute for Katumani where rainfall is erratic.
Production of own maize seed by smallholder farmers
As a way of coping with drought conditions and climate change, many smallholder farmers are now continuously developing on-farm breeding strategies.
Own maize seed can only be produced from varieties which are not hybrids. Hybrid varieties are made by planting two varieties in the same field, allowing only the male parent to produce pollen, and harvesting the seed only from the female parent. This is controlled crossing of two different parents. The offspring (the hybrid) will perform better than the average of the parents or even better than each of the parents.
However, if you try to plant the seeds from the cobs of these hybrids, your plants will not have the characteristics of the mother plants and also the yields would be different.
If selecting seeds from your harvest to plant the next season, ensure to select from non-hybrid seeds. Select seeds from vibrant, high yielding variety that has shown robust growth. Properly selected and stored seed will yield satisfactorily.
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