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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).

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