Knowing the growth stages of maize is crucial for farmers seeking to enhance crop yield and sustainability. Maize crop requires careful management from germination to maturity. Familiarity with these growth phases empowers farmers to make informed decisions on irrigation and fertilisation timing for optimising resource use and minimising environmental impact. In essence, understanding the growth stages of maize is a practical tool for farmers, for maximising productivity, ensuring yield security, and adapting to changing climatic conditions.

The 8 key growth stages of maize for crop management:

  • Maize requires a soil temperature of 10°C required for germination  
  • Seeds need sufficiently fine and moist soil around
  • Average of 12-17 days required to reach emergence, depending on soil temperature 
  • Appearance of new roots (crown roots)
  • The plant is no longer dependent of the seed’s reserves – it is weaned 
  • Sensitivity to nutrient deficiencies, phosphorous in particular
  • Final plant density determined
  • Initiation of the ears (number of rows)  
  • At 10 leaves we reach the elongation stage. Great need for water and nutrients  
  • Plant is sensitive to cold temperatures (<8°C), low sunlight and to the application of herbicides
  • Plant stage that determines the number of ears per plant
  • The number of ovules is 90% established 
  • At this growth stage there is a great sensitivity to lack of water and nitrogen 
  • Fertilization of ovules by pollen  
  • High sensitivity to water deficit:
    • If water stress, grain development can be disrupted
    • High temperatures can cause no exit of the bristles
    • Fertilization problems can cause disturbed grain development
  • Beyond this stage, grain abortions are no longer possible
  • Happens at 3 weeks after fertilization, i.e. 250 dd after flowering
  • Final number of grains  
  • Stage marking the end of maximum sensitivity to water stress
  • 50% moisture stage
  • Last irrigation stage = 32% whole plant DM stage
  • Grain physiological maturity – end of grain fill  
  • Grain moisture at 32%
  • Formation of black layer: closing of vessels between grains and cob

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