Planting maize

The most heat- and water-sensitive growth stage of maize – flowering – must not coincide with midsummer drought.

Getting started with maize
Plant population per unit area is more important than specific row width.
Photo: FW Archive

Selecting the correct maize cultivar is an important part of production planning. Every cultivar has its own adaptability and yield potential. The one you choose should be adapted to your specific production conditions.

Next, consider the stability of the cultivar. Greater stability allows you to predict yield for your conditions far more accurately. The length of the growing season of the cultivar is important, especially in cooler production areas.

A cooler environment causes large performance differences between cultivars in the period from planting to flowering and physiological maturity. This accentuates differences among the various growing periods.

Lodging and prolificacy
Lodging of maize plants has a financial implication due to the number of ears that may end up lying on the ground, making hand- picking uneconomical.

Good progress has been made in reducing the lodging problem, but some cultivars still lodge more than others. Prolificacy is the potential to produce more than one ear at maturity. It is valuable where plant population is lower.

Planting
Start planting as soon as groundwater and soil temperatures will ensure good germination. If the minimum air temperature is 10°C to 15°C for seven successive days, germination should proceed normally. Virtually no germination or growth takes place below 10°C.

Schedule planting so that the flowering stage – the most heat- and water-sensitive growth stage of maize – does not coincide with midsummer drought.

Planting depth varies from 5cm to 10cm depending on soil type and planting date. Plant at a shallower depth in heavier soil than in sandy soil.

Plant population per unit area is more important than row spacing. Under dryland conditions, row spacing can vary from 0,91m to 2,1m or 2,3m, depending on your implements and the type of soil tillage system used.

Source: Du Plessis, Jean: Maize Production (department of agriculture).