Maize Agronomy

Maize Agronomy

Primary tabs

Varietal Selection

The choice of appropriate maize varieties for a given location is very important because every variety has extensively been tested and recommended based on climatic conditions, soil type, yield potential, tolerance/resistance to pest and diseases or maturity period among others (Table 1). 

i) Open pollinated variety (OPV)

These are stabilised varieties in which farmers do not need new seed each year. If farmers follow proper selection procedures they can use their seeds selected from their harvests up to three seasons after which they can buy fresh seeds from seed companies. However, yields of OPV are lower than hybrids.

ii) Hybrid

Hybrids are high yielding and new certified seeds should be purchased every season.

Eco-zone and main areas where found



Yield      potential           (bags/ acre)

Highland zones with high rainfall; Altitude:15002100m above sea level;

Areas: Trans Nzoia, Uasin

Gishu, Nakuru, Kericho,

Nandi, Bungoma, Laikipia, Kisii, Narok and Tea zones of Central and Eastern provinces

H 627

H 626

H 625










Highland zones, high rainfall; Altitudes: 1000-1700m above sea level; Areas:

Baringo, Siaya, Kisumu,

Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega,

Nakuru, South, Nyanza, Taita


H632, WE1101






Coffee zone medium long growing season; Altitude: 1000-1800m above sea leave; Areas: Coffee zones of Central and Eastern provinces, Kisii, Narok, Nakuru, Siaya, Kisumu,

Busia, Kakamega,Bungoma,

West Pokot, Keiyo,





Duma 43









Dryland areas. Marginal areas with low rainfall.(400mm-800mm); Altitude:

1000-1800 above sea level;

Areas: Kitui, Machakos, West

Pokot, Makueni, Kajiado,

Isiolo, Lower Meru and

Embu, Siaya, Kisumu

KCB, KDV 1, KDV 4 and KDV 6,

Sungura, Sawa









AItitude: 800 - 1200 m above sea level, Drier areas same as for Kitui, Machakos, Makueni drier areas DLC 3-4 11
Lowland zones - Hot humid; Altitude: 0-1200m above sea level







Recommended maize varieties in the Western Kenya and Rift Valley regions under KCEP are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Recommended maize varieties for Western Kenya and Rift Valley regions under KCEP

Variety Source


Ecological Zone where grown

Yield         potential           

(90       kg       bag/acre)

H 6218 Kenya Seed Company Highlands 56
H 6213 Kenya Seed Company Highlands 52
H 6210 Kenya Seed Company Highlands 50
H614D Kenya Seed Company Highlands 33
H629 Kenya Seed Company Highlands 35
H624 Kenya Seed Company Highlands 35
H 517 Kenya Seed Company Highlands 20
P 30G19

Pioneer Seed Company

Medium 30


Seedco Company Medium 30

Western Seed Company

Medium 30

Source: KALRO-KCEP Technology Validation Report, 2016.

2.1.2 Seed selection and treatment

Farmers are advised to use certified seeds that are available at the authorized agents. Maize variety selection depends on:

i) End-use

Maize is primarily grown for grains, silage and stock feed. Ensure the variety you grow is suited to the end use market you are aiming for.

ii) Maturity

Plan to sow seeds of chosen variety in the recommended planting windows outlined in Table 2, ensuring maturity, expected rainfall and expected harvest time (days to harvest) . It is also important to ensure harvest will not be far into the dry season as prolonged drought will encourage the onset of aflatoxin in maize.

iii) Stability

Select varieties that have well developed roots, strong stalks, and are resistant to root and stalk rot. These features help prevent the plant from falling over/logging, which can lower the yield and quality of the grain.

iv) Insect and disease tolerance/resistance

Always select a maize variety that is known to have tolerance/resistance to a disease or insect pest common in your area where is to be grown so as to attain maximise yield potential.

Note: If you receive or acquire a new maize variety, then test it on small plots before scaling up the production to big plots. Observe and compare the performance of the new variety with the other varieties at every stage of growth under similar management conditions of planting time, weeding and soil fertility management. This will help you to choose the best performing variety under local prevailing conditions.

Table   2:         Land preparation practices/technologies mostly employed in the major maize growing areas  

Land    preparation     practices/technologies
  Maize  zones Conventional            land        preparation: Conventional            land    preparation



1 Highland Plough twice and and harrow once medium or plough once regions but at least 3  months before the anticipated time of planting + 2 harrows just before planting


One plough (disc or

 moldboard) +

1 harrow

Use Glyphosate

 based herbicide at 2 l/acre during fallow and 1.2 l/ acre at least  2 weeks before planting


Lower coast and Dry areas of Lower eastern

This involves the use of oxen to plough the land. However, it is not suitable where soils are heavy and terrain is steep  

2.1.3 Testing for germination

While the germination percentage (%) of seeds is supposed to be indicated on every sold packet, farmers often get non-germinating seeds and this results in disappointment after planting. Therefore, it is advisable always acquire fresh seeds from an authorized dealer based on the packaging date shown. If there is remnant seeds from the previous stock, a farmer should always conduct a simple germination test. Counting a 100 seeds of a selected maize variety and put between moist old newspapers does this. After four days of incubation, the germinated seeds are counted and divided by the total seeds and expressed as a percentage. For example, if out of the 100 seeds 85 seeds germinate, germination percent will be 85%. A germination percentage of 85-100% is considered good for the maize seed. In case germination rate is lower, you may increase sowing density correspondingly to ensure appropriate plant density (for example plant 2-3 seeds) per hole.

To ensure high maize yields, select highly productive land suitable that is suitable for maize production. For example, avoid steeply sloping land, or near a swamp, very sandy soils, and areas with shallow surface soil, places with couch grass or under trees.

Plant immediately following the first effective rainfall. Choose a seed variety that suits the expected rainfall you receive in your area. Use shortseason varieties in dry areas, and only choose a long-season type if you are in a very high rainfall area or you have access to irrigation.