Guide to maize cultivation in India. Complete information about maize crop or corn and it’s production from seed rate of maize to cultivation and harvesting.
Globally known as the ‘queen of cereals’, maize ranks third as an important food crop of India. It is a versatile crop, can grow under a wide variety of geographical conditions. It can also be cultivated throughout the year. The most maize producing states in India are Karnataka, Andhra, Bihar, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Although it is used as a staple food, it also serves as a basic raw material for proteins, starch, oil, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, gum, paper and packaging industry, etc.
Information about Maize
Scientific name of maize is Zea mays. The word ‘mahiz’ in Taino evolved as ‘maiz’ in Spanish which later in English came to be called ‘maize’. It is known by different names all around the world. However, it is most widely called as corn. In India it is knows as Makka Cholam, Maka, Bhutta etc. An interesting factor to note here is that corn has no wild variety. It has only cultivated variety.
It grows as tall as 10 ft in height. Some of the natural strains can also attain a height of 43 ft. The stem is very thick and rounded. The roots are fibrous, running deep into the soil. The leaves are long and linear. Both male and female flowers grow on different parts of the plant. Male flowers develop at the top end of the stem in a cluster while the female flowers are borne inside the cobs. The corn grains are rounded, disc-like and range in colors from creamy white, yellow, orange to even red and purple. The corn varieties differ in crop duration, height, shape and color of the seed, composition and even its usage.
Ideal Conditions for Maize Cultivation in India
Although maize is known as an agro-versatile crop, ideal conditions are preferred for its optimum growth and productivity.
Climate for Maize Cultivation
Maize cannot tolerate frost and hence it is a Kharif crop sown just before the monsoons arrive in India. It requires about 70 mm of rainfall. Alternate spells of sunshine and rainfall is optimal for maize production. It can tolerate temperature up to 35⁰C.
Season for Maize Production
Since maize requires a good amount of rainfall followed by a healthy spell of sunshine, it is a kharif crop. Sowing is done generally during June and July months. However, it is also sown during the months of January- February and September – October. In case of seed production, the seed maturity period must not coincide with the monsoons. Hence farmers sow during the November and December months for seed production.
Soil for Maize Production in India
A soil with pH of 5.5 to 7.0 and a good drainage capacity is preferred for maize cultivation. Loamy sand, black soil and even clayey loam is suitable for maize. Both red soil and alluvial are said to be optimal for growing maize. However, it requires a good amount of organic matter even in a super-fertile soil. In case of black soil of the clayey variety, it is advisable to mix a considerable amount of sand so as to increase the drainage capacity of the soil. Soils that hold water is not preferred for maize cultivation.
Crop Rotation with Maize Crop
Maize can be grown as a single crop in a year or 2-3 crops in the same year because both short and long duration varieties of the crops are available. In areas where maize is grown as a mixed crop, crops that are of short variety are grown between the tall maize plants. When short duration variety of maize is cultivated, it is generally rotated with crops like potatoes, beans, chillies, chrysanthemum, onions, etc. Some farmers also grow ragi although it is also a cereal crop. In places like Uttar Pradesh, where maize is grown as a field crop, carrots or wheat are grown as subordinate crop.
Water Requirement in Maize Production
Maize is both sensitive to less water and more water. Hence a well-drained soil that lets water drain off while holding back adequate amount of moisture is preferred. In other words, irrigation must be regulated as per requirement. Moisture levels must be maintained at optimum during the flowering stage since it is a critical stage for maximum yield production. Drip irrigation once in every 2 days is the most preferred method of irrigation as it ensures moisture retention to optimal levels.
Varieties of Maize or Corn
Maize of different varieties are available each with different characteristics. Some of the common hybrid varieties are as below along with their characteristics:
|Area of Cultivation
|Thick stem with dark green, broad leaves.
Grains are light orange and bold.
|Downey mildew (high)
Leaf blight, rust, stalk borers
|AP, Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu
|Grains are flat and bold. They have a white dent.
|95 to 110 days
leaf blight, rust, stem borers
Bear a single cob with tight husk;
Grains are yellow colored.
|Downey mildew, leaf blight and rust.
|Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh
|Thin and long ears;
White cob; Stay green even after maturity.
|Stalk rot complex disease; Maydis leaf blight
In addition to the above there are other hybrid varieties like Ganga Safed2, Ganga4 and Ganga7. There are other composite varieties of maize available such as Amber, Jawahar, Vijay, Kisan, Sona, Rattan, Vikram, Shakti, etc.
Cultivation Process of Maize
Land Tilling and Ploughing
Since maize requires highly fertile and tilled soil for cultivation, the field is ploughed numerous times. This step is typically carried out during the months of April- May if the monsoons begin in June and in June-July for the late season crop which is during the months of September to October. The soil dods are broken down, stubble, weeds and volunteer plants (plants remaining from the previous harvest) are removed and burnt. The soil must be prepared into a fine tilth or powder. Post this primary ploughing, the land is harrowed and levelled properly.
Once the ground is levelled, the organic manure like cattle manure is added, ploughed and harrowed again. 7-8 tons of manure per acre is required. Coir pith and Azospirillum can be used in lieu of cattle and farm yard manure.
For garden cultivation of maize, the plot is prepared in the form of beds. Shallow furrows are dug at a distance of 40 to 50 cm for sowing. The beds must be suited for irrigation facilities.
In case there is an additional crop to be planted along with maize, then the spacing is made wider. The furrows are dug at a distance of 50- 60 cm in case of field cultivation.
Seed Rate of Maize
5-6 Kg of seeds are needed per acre for maize cultivation. The seeds are treated with 2 gram carbendazim for 1 Kg seeds. Once this treatment is done, the next day the seeds must be treated with Azospirillum mixed in rice gruel. Shade dry the seeds for maximum half an hour after this process.
Land must be irrigated a day before actual sowing so that there is enough moisture during the sowing. Once again, it must be irrigated immediately after sowing. The crop requires irrigation on the 3rd day after sowing in case there are no rains. It is advisable to irrigate the field as soon as dryness in the soil is seen. However, during the early growth stage care must be taken to avoid water stagnation in the field. After 30 days of growth, irrigation once in a week is usually sufficient.
Growth and Harvesting
Once the land and seeds are ready, the seeds are sown. The land is irrigated thoroughly a day before the plantation. Sow the seeds when the land is sufficiently moist. The seeds typically sprout within 6 days and rise well above the ground. The growth maybe slow initially, however, it picks up from the 3rd week. The young cobs can be eaten boiled or raw after 2 months. After a period of 100 days, the crop is ready for harvest. The late varieties are allowed to mature, go dead ripe and then harvested once the leaves dry out in the fields.
Harvesting is done when the outer cover of the cobs start turning from green to white. Although hand harvesting is easy to do, in case of large areas of plantation, machine harvesting is better as it save manual labor.
Pests and Diseases in Maize Cultivation
The most common disease affecting maize crop is downy mildew. Leaf spot and blight is the next major disease. Spraying half Kg of Mancozeb per acre 20 days after sowing takes care of both these diseases even in high intensity. However, in severe cases, it is advisable to remove the affected plant and destroy it completely.