Baby corn farming in Africa is quite easy since the production of baby corn resembles production of maize whose production is wide spread across Africa. Baby corn is grown mainly for export market though in recent times, it has been accepted in many of local diets in Africa especially in the urban areas. It is unusual to find baby corn in a supermarket in Nairobi or one in Lagos.
What is baby corn? Baby corn is the ears of the corn/maize plant harvested before they develop seeds. However, there are special seeds used to produce baby corn as opposed to the maize seeds commonly used for maize production.
To grow baby corn well drained, ventilated and fertile soils are required. Corn takes a very heavy toll on soil fertility and therefore a grower of baby corn should prepare the soils by adding nutrients by use of compost, manure or fertilizers. The ideal pH for corn growing ranges from 5.8 to 7. Once the land has been adequately prepared, the seeds are planted in rows separated by 90cm and 30 cm between individual plants in a row.
Baby corn is planted at a depth of 3-6 cm depending on moisture and temperatures of soil, deeper for dryer and less warm conditions. The most important nutrient for baby corn farming is nitrates; phosphates and potassium are required for seeding of corn which would not be of concern for a baby corn grower. Water is very important throughout the growth of the baby corn. For baby corn farming in Africa, irrigation is important to growing the baby corn till it attains maturity. Weeds should be kept in check throughout since the corn crop is sensitive to competition from weeds and yields maybe greatly reduced and the crop growth and development may be stunted. Mechanical removal of weeds is recommended since most export markets are sensitive to chemical use during growth of crops.
Some of the pests that affect baby corn farming in Africa include, Cutworms, Grasshoppers and locusts, and The African armyworm. The cut worm attacks mainly the young crop and cut the crop at ground level before making holes in the initial leaves and removing sections of the leaves’ margin the cut worm may be put on check by eliminating weeds early, and ploughing early to expose the worms from the ground .
The grasshopper and locust cause widespread damage to the crop by attacking every part of the crop and preventing pollination. Grass hoppers and locusts can be controlled by use of their predators e.g. blister beetle larvae, ants, domestic birds, allow for plant cover since the grass hoppers lay eggs on soil. The African army worm is by far the worst pest to attack corn crop. The worm completely eats up the crop and although it is a rare pest, it can cause a lot of losses to a baby corn farmer. It can be controlled by practicing good hygiene in the fields.
Baby corn matures in between 45-60 days depending on the weather and environmental conditions. The ears should be harvested when they are about 5-10 cm long and 8-16 mm in diameter at the base. Harvest should be done about 1 to 3 days after the silks appear.