News and knowhow for farmers

Inter-cropping maize with sunflower reduces bird damage

maize sunflower intercrop
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Farmers who target off season green maize market may save up to 10 per cent lost to birds besides improving soil fertility in their farms by intercropping maize with sunflower.

In this, prepare the land in mid-February for early planting in March during the long rainy season. As for the short season prepare the land in mid-July for planting between mid-August/September.

Single and double row methods of sunflower -maize intercrop are planted at a spacing of 75 cm by 30 cm.

Fertilizer application is recommended at two handfuls of farm yard manure per hole. Plant one maize seed and three sunflower seeds per hole. To distract birds, plant four rows of sorghum on the edge as guard rows. Thin weak sunflower plants when they attain a height of 15cm leaving just one plant per hole.

To increase plant vigor and crop yield, weed the plants two to three weeks after germination and repeat after four to five weeks.

At 40cm, apply Calcium Ammonium Nitrate top dressing fertilizer around the stems of the maize and sunflower plants.

To further reduce the chances of bird invasion, erect scarecrows to scare away the pests.

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A farmer displays maize intercropped with sunflower in Zambia. Courtesy

Some of the diseases that affect the sunflower in the field are yellow blotch and wilting which cause yellowing and distortion of leaves and rotting of the stems, leaves and head respectively.

Harvesting of sunflower is done when the head turns deep yellow. In this, cut the heads and peg them upside on the stocks until the dry. Alternatively, crush the yellow heads and dry the seeds in the sun for three to five days. After drying, keep the seeds in well aerated stores.

A farmer can obtain eight – 10 (50 kg bags) of sunflower per and 20 – 25 (90 kg bags) of maize per acre in the intercropping. This reduces dependency on maize, provides feed for dairy and poultry and supports bee keeping.

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