1.1 Background of the study
Maize (Zea mays L.) is a member of the grass family (gramineae). It originated from South and Central America. It was introduced to West Africa by the Portuguese in the 10th century. Maize is one of the most important grains in Nigeria, not only on the basis of the number of farmers that engaged in its cultivation, but also in its economic value. Maize is a major important cereal being cultivated in the rainforest and the derived savannah zones of Nigeria. Maize has been in the diet of Nigerians for centuries. It started as a subsistence crop and has gradually become a more important crop. Maize has now risen to a commercial crop on which many agro-based industries depend for raw materials (Iken and Amusa, 2004).One of the major tasks facing Nigerian agriculture is the provision of an adequate and well-stable food supply to meet the requirements of a growing population. One of such food crops is maize. The significance of maize to the modern society is first and foremost clearly reflected in the importance of the crop in the diet of man and animals throughout the world (Onwueme and Sinha, 1991). Abubakar (1999), ranked maize as the third most important cereal after wheat and rice globally. In Nigeria, maize is produced across the country right from the mangrove region in the south to the Sahel Savannah in the North (Edache, 1999; Tauna, 1999; Olukosi and Raphael, 1997). Maize production in Nigeria has also been on the increase both in terms of hectarage and production. A seven-fold increase in production occurred between 1984 and 1994. Similarly production increased from 6,515,000.0 to 7,019,500.0 tonnes (7.75%) between 1999 and 2003 respectively (CBN Annual Report 2003). The total area under maize cropping in Nigeria was estimated to be 3.0 million hectare (Lamarde, 1994). Traditionally, production ranged from 0.4 – 1.7 tonnes per hectare, but with improved methods and improved inputs, the yield could be up to 4 – 5 tonnes per hectare (Lamarde, 1994). Maize is the most important cereal in Nigeria and is grown either as a vegetable at the backyard or on the farm (Kehinde, 1997). With adequate supply of these inputs and the provision of adequate storage facilities, the rapid expansion of maize could be sustained. Since the 1970s, the federal government made it a policy to increase the maize production through the increased use of fertilizer. This led to the decision by the Federal Government to establish local fertilizer plants as against relying entirely on fertilizer importation as the case was prior to 1976. The effectiveness and sustainability of these plans varies with government. For maize farmers, access to fertilizer is an important input considered in the production decision. This have direct effect on the level of productivity, thus increased productivity contributed to economic development and policies for effective mobilization of the resources for transforming self-sufficient oriented maize farmers to commercial and market oriented agriculture (Nyako, 1999).