Malawi: Farmers adopt one-to-one maize planting technique (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

| May 30, 2011

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Violeti Phiri vows she will never plant four maize seeds in a planting station again. She walks around her one hectare maize field, her face filled with joy in anticipation of a bumper harvest. She says, “For the past thirteen years I have been wasting my time and energy by planting four maize seeds per station.”

Mrs. Phiri comes from Kanyinji village, in Mzimba district in the Northern Region of Malawi. She explains why she decided to adopt the one-to-one maize planting technique, and plant just one maize seed per station: “I had been planting four maize seeds per station on ridges for many years. This cultural practice made my family food-insecure, as we frequently experienced hunger at the beginning of each new planting season.”

In 2007, she visited the demonstration plot of a nearby extension worker. She says, “I noticed that more cobs were produced on the plot with one-to-one planting technology than the other plots with three or four maize seeds per station.”

In 2008, Mrs. Phiri planted her maize with the one-to-one technique, also known as “one-one” or “one-by-one”. She says, “I was very surprised to note that I harvested 50 bags … while previously on the same piece of land I used to harvest 17 bags of 50 kilograms each.” Mrs. Phiri plants hybrid maize and follows the extension worker’s advice to use urea and fertilizer. She says this helped produce the bumper yield.

Andrew Mvula is a small-scale farmer from the village of Musitimale in the southeast part of Mzimba district. He adopted the one-to-one maize planting technique in 2008. He says, “I learnt about this technology in 2007 from the field day held in my area.”

Mr. Mvula has just over one hectare of land to grow maize. In the first year, he used the one-to-one technique on one-third of this land. On the remaining land, he used three maize seeds per station. Mr. Mvula thought the new technology was labour-intensive and time-consuming. But he was surprised to harvest 30 50-kilogram bags from the smaller piece of land, and only nine bags from the larger area. So in 2009, Mr. Mvula decided to completely adopt the technique and use one-to-one planting for all his maize.

Mr. Mvula learned from the extension worker that there should be 25 centimetres between planting stations and 75 centimetres between ridges. This spacing gives the best chance for a good yield. Mr. Mvula says one-to-one maize planting has various advantages. “There is reduced competition on food, water and air between plants; weeds are overcome when the plants have grown, and moisture retention is good because plants are close to each other.”

With one-to-one maize planting, Mr. Mvula now boasts of having surplus maize each year. He says, “I can now manage to pay school fees for my children, buy soap and other groceries using proceeds from the sales of my surplus maize.”