Key factors affecting the quality of maize

Title: Key factors affecting the quality of maize

First author: Thabang Ramogodi


PhD candidate, North-West University, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Potchefstroom Campus.
BSc Plant pathology (UP), BSc (Hons) Plant pathology (UP), MSc Quality Management (UK.)

Co-author: Professor Anna-Marie (AMF) Pelser


Research Professor, North-West University, Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences- Entity Director – GIFT, Mafikeng Campus.

HED (Home Economics, PU for CHE), B Com (UNISA), B Com Hons (PU for CHE), M Com (Industrial Psychology, NWU), PhD (Education Management, NWU)

Ensovoort, volume 42 (2021), number 6: 5


Maize is the staple food of the population in many countries. Dependence on this food source only becomes greater and greater as the growth of the population increases. If knowledge regarding the planting, harvesting and needed quality of the food source is not shared, local and export needs will soon not be able to be met, especially in the drought-stricken years. Loss of maize produced during production and after harvest due to poor quality management and a poor quality maize product also causes the problem to escalate. These losses are even greater for emerging maize farmers who are struggling to meet the minimum quality of maize production. A growing population requires a fast-growing, affordable, high-quality staple food source. This article aims to enrich the knowledge of the emerging farmers regarding the identification of factors that influence the quality of maize. It is also intended to develop and promote the understanding of these farmers and thus develop them as maize farmers by presenting the knowledge in a simplified manner so that new knowledge can blend in with existing knowledge. This paper gladly debates the knowledge required by the emerging farmer regarding the maize quality which is also defined as the range of specifications for physical and composition thresholds according to final requirements for use. Although several factors play a role in the quality of maize, not all factors are of cardinal importance. Relevant factors will play a negative role during the grading process in the delivery of maize at the silos, and it is also these factors that need attention during the growing season of maize. Relevant factors that are not addressed urgently can lead to a crop with low production. Aspects such as underdeveloped maize heads, ie maize heads without sufficient kernels as well as the presence of foreign material/objects can directly affect the quality of maize and the grading outcome. Some of these relevant factors include planting dates, seed cultivars, seed quality and soil quality, fungi, mycotoxins, weeds, insects, pesticides, harmful seeds, fertilizer application and more. Key factors that influence the quality of the maize are among others pre-plant factors such as soil quality, planting dates and seed quality. Factors after planting include fungi and mycotoxins, insects, weeds and poisonous seeds and after-harvesting factors include moisture content and hygiene. Information on all these factors will be transferred to emerging farmers and their knowledge regarding quality maize production illuminated and broadened. Knowledge transfer to farmers of this essential information is done in a simplified manner using an Integrative Simplification Theory (IST) that deals with a nuanced approach to simplicity and disintegration avoidance. In this matter, knowledge is power.

Keywords: Emerging farmers, Integrative Simplification Theory, Maize quality, Post-harvesting factors, Post-planting factors, Pre-planting factors

1. Introduction

The success of emerging maize farmers and the importance of maize quality are synonymous with one another. This notion is distinguished because the marketing of maize is sorely based on the quality produced.

Thus, the need for emerging maize farmers to know what maize quality is and understand the factors that affect their maize’s quality is justified. Maize quality is defined as maize grain, which complies with regulatory and statutory requirements consistent with customer and consumer requirements (Van Aswegen, 2018). The maize quality can also be defined as the range of specifications for physical and compositional thresholds according to final requirements for use (Nuttall et al., 2017).

Many factors can affect the quality of maize, but not all of them are significant. Significant factors negatively affect the outcome of the grading process during the delivery of maize at the silos. Suppose those factors are not addressed throughout the growing season of maize. In that case, they may produce defective maize kernels and foreign matters directly affecting the quality of maize and the grading outcomes. Some of those factors include planting dates, seed cultivars, seed quality and soil quality, fungi, mycotoxins, weeds, insects, pesticides, noxious seeds, fertilizer application, and more.

The biggest problem is not that the factors affecting maize quality are not reported, but that these factors are disintegrated and framed difficultly for emerging maize farmers to understand. Therefore, this paper aims to identify the factors that affect maize quality and promote their understanding by developing maize farmers by presenting them in a simplified manner. This simplification is done using an Integrative Simplification Theory (IST) that deals with a nuanced approach to simplicity and disintegration avoidance. The success of this conceptual paper would also provide a solid basis for an empirical study.

2. Background

Maize (Zea mays L.) is the most important crop in South Africa. Its nutritional and economic value is primarily due to the high starch content in matured grains, accounting for about 75% of the weight. Maize has numerous applications, such as human consumption and animal feed, biofuel production and biofilm production. It is also regarded to be a source of protein and energy. Other maize uses, particularly Zeins which represent 50% of the kernel’s proteins, including being used as a raw material for films, application of plastic and coatings (Berta et al., 2014). Maize is also used as raw material for manufactured goods such as paper, textiles, medicine, paint and food (DAFF, 2018).

Maize is the world’s most distributed crop (Sendin et al., 2018). On the African continent, maize has a rich past dating from the 16th century. In Central Mexico, maize was domesticated around 1500 BC. It was then brought around 1500 AD to the African Continent, wherein a relatively short time of 500 years, it rapidly spread to every corner of the continent. Now it is the biggest grain crop in Africa. First introduced in 1655 in South Africa, maize has since become a dominant food product (Sihlobo, 2018) and the most consumed crop in South Africa (Sendin et al., 2018). Maize is produced throughout South Africa, but the Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and the Northwest Provinces are the major producing areas. The average commercial maize planted every year ranges from 2.50 million to 2.8 million hectares (Sihlobo, 2018). For the majority of the South African population, it is the staple food and main feed grain. White maize accounts for 60% and yellow maize accounts for 40% of the production (DAFF, 2018).

Though annual South African domestic maize production varies considerably depending on rainfall, the average production has remained steady and good over the years. However, consumption has increased as the population has risen, and maize production will soon fail to meet regional and local demands, particularly in the drought-stricken years (Mulungu & Ng’ombe, 2019). Losses of produced maize during production and after harvesting due to poor quality management also perpetuate this problem. These losses are even greater for emerging maize farmers struggling to fulfil minimum quality and quantity production needs (Maponya et al., 2018). Therefore, appropriate quality controls, in particular during maize production, should be given priority. In order to achieve good maize quality, the question must be asked: which key factors affect the quality of maize produced by emerging farmers?

3. Problem statement and objectives

The prospects of emerging maize farmers, reaping the benefits of their investments depends greatly on their ability to meet the minimum production requirements in terms of quality and quantity (Maponya et al., 2018). This is crucial because the farmer’s income is directly proportional to the maize’s quality and quantity. However, maize’s quality is even more important because maize’s market value is determined by its quality level. In essence, this means the poorer the quality of maize produced, the less profitable is the farmer, which can greatly affect his sustainability. Even when many researchers have shown the value of quality management (Siva et al., 2016), emerging maize farmers are still not competent as to the factors that affect the produced maize’s quality. Most emerging maize farmers, rely mainly on extension officers to provide maize-quality-related knowledge, which is crucial for their maize production success.

This paper precedes a bigger study that aims to develop a quality management framework for emerging maize farmers in South Africa. After determining a management problem, the bigger study came into being after determining a lack of quality management framework to help emerging grain farmers improve their product quality and quantity to increase their overall business performance for sustainability (Murphy & Leonard, 2016). However, the bigger study’s success depends on a strong foundation that identifies and understands factors that affect maize quality. Therefore, this paper aims to develop the literature foundation by identifying and understanding the key factors that affect the quality of maize and simply packaging them for maize farmers to comprehend easily. Maize farmers must be constantly informed regarding new developments in the maize industry as well as aspects that could undermine quality maize production. New trials and the outcome of the trials on the production of maize must be communicated to the emerging farmers in such a way that they will show understanding for new information and be able to implement it in order to be able to produce an excellent quality maize product. It should be borne in mind that emerging farmers must compete with experienced farmers to enter a segment of the market segment, and they must therefore be well informed.

This paper investigates the key factors affecting the quality of maize and the available best practices to mitigate those factors and present those in a simplified manner for maize farmers to comprehend. It is necessary to identify and understand those factors to have a firm foundation to develop a quality management framework for emerging maize farmers.

4. Methodology

The way a research study is performed is greatly influenced by the research methodology and the research instruments used to achieve the study’s purpose and goals. In order to respond to the research questions, this conceptual paper used only secondary data obtained through a literature search of articles from journals, Google Scholar, Emerald, and other platforms. This article precedes an empirical investigation.

5. Conceptual and theoretical framework

This section presents the conceptual and theoretical framework of the article. In order to advance and systematize knowledge about related concepts or issues, a conceptual framework links concepts, empirical research, and relevant theories (Rocco & Plakhotnik, 2009). A conceptual framework is a rationale for why a study should be conducted (Varpio et al., 2020). This study’s conceptual framework (Fig.1) highlights the relation between the key factors affecting maize quality and potential solutions. The framework suggests a transition from disintegration to simplification of potential solutions to these key factors.

Figure 1: The conceptual framework

A theoretical framework concerns the logical creation of a connected set of premises and concepts from one or more theories to scaffold a study. It is about the researcher’s reflection on the work that he or she takes part in using a theory (Varpio et al., 2020). The Integrating Simplification Theory, which suggests a dynamic approach to business thinking and organizing, is the basis for this paper. The Integrating Simplification Theory is the process of engaging in simplicity to avoid disintegration while desisting from complexity. All types of waste due to imbalance are referred to as disintegration (Sharda, 2014). The imbalances are between the process of managing quality and emerging farmers in this study.

In this study, the Integrating simplification theory entails converting complex and disintegrated maize quality concepts to simple and integrated concepts for emerging farmers to comprehend with ease. This paper investigates the key factors affecting maize quality and the available best practices to mitigate those factors. Therefore, this theory has emerged to provide a basis to answer the main concern or the main question of the research: which key factors affect the quality of maize produced by emerging farmers? By applying the Integrating Simplification Theory, those factors and the best practices will be simplified for farmers to comprehend. The comprehension of these factors by emerging maize farmers will enable them to better manage maize quality and improve their income and sustainability. In order to ensure that the information in this paper reach the emerging farmers and be understood with ease, these factors can be disseminated through the use of farming workshops or information sessions, farm days, and weekly farming magazines.

6. Key factors affecting the quality of maize

Many factors can affect the quality of maize, but not all are key. Therefore this section of the paper discusses only those factors which are key. These factors are key because if not addressed during the production stage and harvesting, they will directly affect the maize’s quality, resulting in the maize not making the higher grade quality. These factors are categorized as follows: pre-planting, post-planting and post-harvest. The section also advises emerging farmers on best practices to mitigate the effect of those factors in a simplified manner.

6.1 Pre-planting factors

Pre-planting factors are those that emerging farmers must address before the planting of maize begins. Those factors include planting dates, quality of seeds and soil quality.

6.1.1 Soil quality

Soil quality for the study can be defined as the soil’s ability to function within an ecosystem to sustain maize crop health and maintain a quality environment (Bünemann et al., 2018; Maddonni et al., 1999). Poor soil quality can lead to poor quality maize crops and great financial loss for emerging farmers. Therefore, it is crucial to know the soil’s quality and its contents to supplement whatever is missing. For instance, poor maize crops can result from incorrect fertilization caused by a lack of knowledge of the soil content. Another example that can result in poor maize crop production is the soil’s ability to hold moisture as South Africa is an arid country where maize is often produced under dry-land conditions. Therefore it is imperative that before engaging in maize production, the soil should be evaluated for soil functionality factors such as soil potential, soil type, and soil nutrients. The emerging farmers must know the type of fertilizers required to get a good maize crop, but that will not be possible if the soil’s functionality status is unknown. Therefore, It is essential to take a soil sample and get the soil tested by an accredited laboratory before planting commences.

6.1.2 Planting dates

Planting maize on the wrong date in the growing cycle may result in catastrophic losses. Wrong planting dates can lead to extreme heat and mid-summer drought coinciding with the most sensitive growth stage (flowering stage), which will not give the survival of the maize crop any chance. On the other hand, late maize planting can cause frost-damaged maize, resulting in maize being covered on both sides of the crown kernel with wrinkles and having a pear-like appearance (Aswegen, 2018). It is therefore essential to plant maize only when the planting conditions are optimal.
The maize planting season in South Africa is between October and mid-December. This period provides the optimum conditions required for maize crops to survive the harsh month of January when the crop’s ability to survive is tested by extreme heat and low rainfall, which can then grow to full size before winter frosts begin in late April. In essence, for planting to begin, sufficient soil temperature and groundwater are required. Germination can usually only occur if a minimum air temperature of 10 to 15 °C is maintained for seven consecutive days since no germination will occur below 10 °C (Du Plessis, 2003). The fact that weather conditions are complex and unpredictable is a well-known fact. However, early forecasts can be made about the upcoming weather patterns with the assistance of the 4IR, particularly big data and Artificial intelligence (AI). Determining whether the season prediction is normal, abnormally dry (El Niño) or abnormally wet (La Niña) is essential. Emerging farmers should also embrace 4IR, which has the opportunity to provide an important source of knowledge to enhance decision-making.

6.1.3 Planting Seeds

The best planting seeds comprise good quality seeds and the best cultivars (Aveling, 2012). Seed quality can be defined as seeds that are pure, healthy, viable and vigorous. Good cultivars contain seed-quality characteristics and others such as insect resistance, heat tolerance, drought tolerance and more. Farmer-saved maize seeds are often of poor quality, and their use by emerging farmers should be discouraged. The use of poor maize seeds for planting can result in devastating financial losses caused by poor yields. Those poor yields can result from seed-borne diseases, poor germination, and the presence of weed seeds (Barnard & Calitz, 2011).

The seed production industry has been drastically changed by technology, offering farmers more options to increase yields on the best seeds. By choosing high-yielding cultivars of good quality, yields can be easily increased. However, to make the best cultivar choices for the farmer, it is important to have a good prediction of the season ahead. In farming decision-making, this also brings to the fore the value of 4IR. Farmers would know whether to pick a long or short cultivar and select a cultivar appropriate for drier or wetter conditions with advanced knowledge of the anticipated season.

6.2 Post-plating factors

Post-planting factors that emerging farmers must address after planting maize begins immediately after planting throughout the growing process until harvesting begins. Those factors include fungi and mycotoxins, weeds, insects, pesticides, and noxious seeds.

6.2.1 Fungi and mycotoxins

Maize fungal diseases are critical because they have a significant effect on the quality and quantity of maize. Most notably, are the fungi causing ear rots as they directly influence maize grains’ quality and quantity. Some of these ear rot-causing fungi produce mycotoxins detrimental to human and animal health when consuming maize products (Thompson & Raizada, 2018). Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites specific to fungal species produced when conditions are optimal during farm production, maize storage, and maize transportation (Meyer et al., 2019). The problem of fungi-infected maize and mycotoxin is also exacerbated by farmers, particularly emerging farmers who use untreated seeds from the previous season, planting late in the season mainly due to changes in rain patterns, promotion of pests and diseases through crop monoculture and no-till agriculture, and lack of control of insects such as stock bores that spread fungal infections (Alberts et al., 2019).

A multifaceted approach to the management of maize diseases and mycotoxins that includes a comprehensive understanding of agricultural activities, technologies, weather trends, climate change and the occurrence of mycotoxins is necessary (Alberts et al., 2019; Shephard et al., 2019). By employing good agricultural practices such as crop rotation, transgenic hybrids, and early planting, mycotoxin contamination can be minimized (Phokane et al., 2019). Easy, realistic, culturally acceptable, and cheaper methods of fungi-infected maize and mycotoxin reduction can be used in cases where resources and advanced technology are lacking, as is the case with emerging farmers. For example, post-harvest grain sorting and cleaning can effectively reduce fungi-infected maize and mycotoxins, while the use of enhanced varieties would be advantageous during pre-harvest (Misihairabgwi et al., 2019). Besides, the use of biologically derived products, insecticides and pesticides to control mycotoxigenic fungi and transgenic Bt hybrids to control stock borers should be encouraged (Alberts et al., 2019). In terms of aiding in the control of fungi and mycotoxins, the advent of the 4IR, especially Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and drones must never be underestimated.

Big Data and AI can help emerging farmers access detailed information that can inform decisions about farming. By processing and translating it into knowledge to help farm management decision-making, AI increases the value of collected data. The conversion of data collected on individual maize plants to the whole field level can be extended to a range of magnitudes by providing monitoring information critical for identifying infected fungal crops early. With Big Data and AI, through the targeted allocation of insecticides and pesticides, emerging farmers can also increase cost allocations. Drone technology may also be employed for crop scouting and tracking, accurate insecticide and pesticides spraying, prescription map production, high-level mapping and field inspection and crop damage assessment. Drone data may generate images that monitor plant changes and indicate their health, helping farmers track their crops for diseases.

6.2.2 Insects

Insect outbreaks are typically very costly to emerging farmers because they have no financial ability to replant if their entire harvest is destroyed, resulting in them quitting farming entirely. Countless grain insects affect maize crops and inflict severe losses in yield and quality. Insects may wipe out a significant part of the harvest or cause cavities in the maize kernels’ germ or endosperm. New invasive pests such as stem borer and fall armyworms, which can spread rapidly to disrupt maize production are the biggest threats to emerging farmers (Botha et al., 2019; Van den Berg, 2017). The most recent danger is the outbreak of cutworm infestation, which is stated to have established resistance to chemical treatments and can cause serious damage to the maize crop (Dempsey, 2020).

An integrated approach to pest management is recommended for effective insect control. Registered pesticides, biological surveillance, Bt technology, and pheromone traps should be included in the approach (Kotey et al., 2017; López-Castillo et al., 2018; Togola et al., 2018). However, synthetic pesticides can be effective in managing insects (Kamanula et al., 2011). Agricultural practices such as no-till have intensified some of the insects’ outbreaks; hence, traditional tilling practices typically control the insects by burying the worms, which kills them. However, for these controls to be effective, the role of early detection and identification can never be overemphasized. Pesticides are chemicals commonly used in maize production to combat insect pests to safeguard crop quality and enhance food safety (Freitas et al., 2017). When used properly, synthetic pesticides have been shown to provide efficient control against insects. However, they establish pesticide residues when not used correctly according to the recommended dose of use, making grain unhealthy, thus affecting its quality (Kamanula et al., 2011; Akoto et al., 2013). In the maize farming industry, pesticide residues are abundant, which significantly affects maize quality. Emerging maize farmers must therefore resolve this challenge if they want to succeed in producing high-quality maize.

6.2.3 Weeds and Poisonous seeds

Weeds can lead to a devastating loss of maize crops and poor maize quality because of poor weed management practices and insufficient resources, especially for emerging farmers. Proper weed management by emerging farmers is often affected by the poor use of mineral fertilizers and herbicides and the lack of weeding labour, which delays weeding to a stage where economic damage cannot be avoided (Mhlanga et al., 2016). Some of these weeds produce poisonous seeds when harvested together with maize. Poisonous seeds refer to seeds or parts of seeds that are hazardous to human or animal health when consumed.

Weed control by emerging farmers requires adopting an integrated program that combines the best knowhow and cost-effective practices. The approach must include crop competition, manual weeding, herbicides, sufficient nitrogen fertilization, and others. Crop competition is one way of controlling weeds. Crop competition includes increased planting density, reduced row spacing, and competitive cultivars with the ability to suppress weeds. In combination with other agronomic practices, crop competition practices can increase their effectiveness in controlling weeds. Crop competition is economical and particularly important for emerging farmers who sometimes cannot afford herbicides (Mhlanga et al., 2016). Moreover, sufficient Nitrogen fertilizer is critical to promote the maize crop’s strong growth, which can outcompete the weeds (Khan et al., 2012).

6.3 Post-harvest factors

Post-harvest factors refer to those that emerging farmers must address from harvesting maize until delivery at the grain storage facility or the next step in the value chain. Those factors include moisture content and hygiene.

6.3.1 Moisture content

Moisture content is critical to maize’s economic value as it affects its quality, premiums, discounts, and storability (Hellevang, 1995). Harvesting maize with excess moisture can cause heat damage to maize due to internal fermentation or external heat. Excess moisture can also cause sprouted maize resulting in maize kernels developing roots or visible sprouts, and the shoots or plumules in the germ become visibly discoloured (Van Aswegen, 2018). Moreover, moisture can also affect important quality factors such as breakage susceptibility, hardness and kernel density. (Dorsey-Redding et al., 1990). In the market system, maize is often affected by biological agents such as insects, fungi, and rodents. Their proliferation is influenced by the grain’s moisture content, amongst other factors (Manu et al., 2019). Similarly, high moisture, coupled with high relative humidity creates optimal conditions for mycotoxigenic fungi to produce mycotoxins (Afzal et al., 2017).

Almost all emerging farmers in South Africa do not have the resources to store their harvested maize on their farms. Thus, immediately after harvest, they deliver their maize at the silos nearby to sell or store at a cost. This relieves the farmers of the tedious and difficult task of self-storage, which requires infrastructure and the know-how of grain storage. However, the farmers can only deliver their maize at the silo only when the moisture is 14% or lower because the lower moisture minimizes maize deterioration after harvesting and during storage. Otherwise, they will have to pay drying costs which will eat into their small profit margins. Emerging farmers can wait until the maize has dried to an appropriate moisture content before delivery to the silo to avoid paying the drying costs. However, waiting too long will result in maize being overdried, causing it to weigh less while maize is sold based on weight. Also, waiting too long has risks for the crop still associated with natural disasters, pests, animals and diseases.

6.3.2 Hygiene

As much as all the abovementioned factors are paramount for maintaining maize quality, the importance of hygiene during harvesting and maize transportation to the silos cannot be over-emphasized. If higher hygiene practices are not observed during harvesting, foreign matter will form part of the harvest, downgrading the harvest quality. Foreign matter includes any other matter found in maize grains and is partially allowed to be present in maize’s consignment provided they do not exceed the permissible allowance. However, there is a zero-tolerance for stones, glass, coal and metals; thus, they are not allowed in any maize sample. Also, during maize transportation, zero-tolerable substances such as animal dung and fuel can contaminate the maize (Van Aswegen, 2018).

General precautions, including avoidance of possible foreign matter sources and other contaminants, should be exercised from planting through harvesting and delivery to the silo. Maize should not be harvested while it is raining to keep it from getting wet. If it rains after loading or during transportation of maize, use a tarp to cover the load. Every piece of equipment used for harvesting must be inspected, washed and sanitized. Take great care when handling the field corn to prevent contamination and keep the maize of good quality. Before transporting maize, the trucks should be inspected and washed to avoid maize contamination. The inspection and cleaning are conducted to avoid maize contamination by other grains, bird droppings, and fuel.

7. Discussion

While proper quality management in many organizations and industries has been shown to have the power to enhance overall business performance (Siva et al., 2016), emerging farmers still struggle to meet the minimum production requirements in terms of quality and quantity (Maponya et al., 2018). The lack of knowledge of the key factors affecting maize quality has been identified as one reason for that failure. This lack of understanding is because these factors that affect emerging maize farmers’ quality are disintegrated and framed in a difficult manner. Therefore, this study aims to identify the key factors that influence maize quality and promote understanding for emerging maize farmers by presenting information to them in a simplified way. This simplification is done by basing this study on the Integrative Simplification Theory (IST) that explores a rigorous approach to simplicity and avoidance of disintegration.

The key factors that affect maize quality are presented in a simple integrated manner through a framework that categorizes those factors into three categories: pre-planting, post-planting, and pre-and post-harvesting (figure 2). Pre-planting factors must be addressed during the planning phase of planting. Those factors include planting between October and mid-December, which provides ideal conditions for the maize crop’s survival and prosperity, planting in soil of superior quality, using great quality seeds genetically modified to be resistant against some insects (Bt) and herbicides (Round-up ready). Post-planting factors must be addressed immediately after planting until the harvesting of the maize crop. Those factors include scouting for and controlling fungi, weeds and poisonous seeds, and insects. Pre- and post-harvest factors are those that must be addressed around the harvesting period. Those factors include harvesting the maize when moisture is below the acceptable level of 14% and ensuring that high hygiene levels are observed throughout the harvesting period, including the maize’s transportation to the silos or a maize processing plant. Moreover, higher standards of food safety and good agricultural practices should be adhered to from start to finish to ensure that high-quality maize safe for human and animal consumption is produced.

Figure 2: The key factors affecting the maize quality of emerging farmers

8. Conclusion

Maize quality is central to emerging farmers’ well-being because their income depends sorely on maize quality and quantity. Maize quality is also crucial for the marketing of grain. Thus, emerging farmers must understand and comprehend the key factors that affect maize quality and possible solutions to counter those factors’ negative effects. However, these factors must be presented simply for emerging farmers to comprehend for that to be possible. Therefore, this study has grouped those factors into three categories: pre-planting (planting dates, soil quality and planting seeds), post-planting (fungi and mycotoxins, insects, and weeds and poisonous seeds), and pre-and post-harvesting (moisture content and hygiene). The simplification of these key factors will ensure that the farmers’ easy comprehension will improve their maize quality management knowledge and enhance their chances of being more profitable and sustainable.

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