Efficacy of traditional maize (Zea mays L.) seed storage methods in western Kenya.

  • PW Wambugu
  • PW Mathenge
  • EO Auma
  • HA van Rheenen
Keywords: Cow dung, airtight, seed, viability


Seed security is key to the attainment of household food security among resource poor farmers in developing countries. In a baseline survey carried out in Siaya and Busia Districts of Western Kenya, storage was identified as a priority problem facing onfarm seed production. During the survey, it was found that about 80% of the farmers produce and store their own seeds for planting in the next cropping season. During this process of seed saving, farmers reported some decline in seed quality thus leading
to poor germination and eventually poor yields. A storage experiment was, therefore, set up with the objective of improving the efficacy of traditional maize seed storage methods in maintaining seed viability and vigour as compared to some improved ones. The traditional methods included hanging cobs over the fireplace and storing in gunny bags with cow dung ash as the seed treatment. These were compared with seed
treatment using Mortein Doom®, a modern seed protectant and cow dung ash; in both cases seeds were stored in airtight containers. These treatments were applied on two maize varieties: Rachar, a local variety and Maseno Double Cobber, an improved variety and the experiment was carried out in the houses of four farmers. Quality analysis of the seeds was done first before storage and then after three and six months of storage. The results indicate that the traditional methods had the poorest
performance. They had significantly lower vigour after three and six months’ storage and recorded significantly higher insect damage. Seeds hung above the fireplace had the highest insect damage and this was about 99% higher than the damage recorded for seeds treated with ash and stored in airtight plastic containers. Seeds hung above the fireplace also had significantly higher moisture content increase. The best
treatment was storage in airtight containers with either Mortein Doom® or cow dung ash as the seed treatment. Genetic differences in storability between the 2 varieties were not observed. This study concluded that the principle of airtight, though not new, should be used to design low cost seed storage containers for resource-poor farmers which will result in better seed quality. The study further shows that cow dung which is freely available in most homesteads is a good seed protectant and is effective in
maintaining seed quality in storage. Cow dung ash should therefore be combined with air tight storage to increase the seed longevity.

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eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358