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Many people regard maize as a breakfast cereal but this is far from the truth.


Although maize serves as a staple diet for some 200 million people in developing countries from morning till noon, around 60% of global maize production is used for animal feed. This means that the global importance of maize is expanding where growth in meat consumption is increasing.

In developed countries maize is predominantly consumed as second-cycle produce, in the form of meat, eggs and dairy products. However, in a processed form it is also found as fuel (ethanol) and starch. Starch in turn involves enzymatic conversion into products such as sorbitol, dextrine, sorbic and lactic acid, and appears in household items such as beer, ice cream, syrup, shoe polish, glue, fireworks, ink, batteries, mustard, cosmetics, aspirin and paint.

One highly effective seed

Maize is truly an astonishing crop: plant one seed, and you get over 500 kernels in return. It utilises sunlight very effectively, outstripping the yield per hectare of other grain crops. Current varieties need 450 to 600 mm of water per season, which is mainly acquired from soil moisture reserves. At maturity, each maize plant will have consumed 250 litres of water. Improving the water use efficiency for maize will therefore go a long way in producing more maize from less water.

Enhancing production gains with new traits

Hybridization over many years has allowed enormous productivity gains, and this has been complemented in the last decade by the development of biotech traits in North America, Latin America, Asia and South Africa. Syngenta is currently one of the main players in the development of new traits to further enhance production gains. To safeguard their substantial investment in new traits, growers need a range of solutions to protect their crop from weeds, insects and environmental stress.

Crop Enhancement: a new field of research captures value for growers

Syngenta’s focus has expanded over the past number of years and we have created a new research field, known as “Crop enhancement”, within the industry. Currently we are leaders in this new research field, which is aimed at producing better yields, which were traditionally ascribed to crop protection alone. With our extensive knowledge of the physiological processes which occur in plants and how these can be managed in conjunction with crop protection, we find ourselves in the position where we can build further upon our motto of “Bringing Plant Potential to Life”. This approach creates new value for our clients and everyone who is directly or indirectly dependant on agriculture.  Our approach is therefore one of yield management rather than the traditional approach of weed-, insect- and disease control.

Global resources, local offers

On a local level, maize is the largest produced field crop, and the most important source of carbohydrates in the southern African region. South Africa is currently the main maize producer on the African continent with most production concentrated in the North West province, the Free State, the Mpumalanga Highveld and the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Approximately 10-12 million tons of maize is produced in South Africa annually on more-or-less 2.5 million hectares of land. Currently almost half of the production consists of white maize, for human food consumption.

Locally, human consumption of maize is expected to decline to 4.58 million tons in 2020, 4.6% lower than that consumed as food in 2010. However this drop in demand for maize will be offset by the expected increase in animal feed of close to 6.4 million tons by 2020.

It is foreseen that the growing world population will become increasingly dependant on maize for feed (directly and indirectly) and fuel. The quest for “growing more from less” to help feed the global population energizes Syngenta to stay at the forefront of technological innovations in the production of maize. Locally Syngenta has already commercialized some traits in maize and also offers the grower a complete crop enhancement approach.

Apart from product solutions, our crop enhancement approach offers include scientifically founded recommendations based on the latest research in the physiology of the crop. Seed care products from Syngenta include Cruiser, Celest XL for seedling diseases and Avicta for nematode management. Important herbicides in the range include Callisto, Camix, Camix Plus, Dual Gold & Metagan Gold. For growers who plant glyphosate tolerant maize, Halex GT is a solution for post-emergence weed control. Fungicides from Syngenta include Amistar, Amistar Top, Artea & Score while Karate EC and Karate Zeon comprise our insecticide portfolio.

Capturing value for growers with intergrated crop solutions

Syngenta’s Synpack Top has been formulated on the principle of yield management where total crop protection (insect-, weed- and disease management) is viewed preventatively, taking into account the latest research in crop physiology and technological developments in product development. Syngenta’s approach to crop enhancement forms an integral part of the Synpack Top, and selected products with such characteristics already form part of the approach.


Sources:;; Maize production – Department of agriculture of South Africa, Jean du Plessis;
The South African Agricultural Baseline 2011 - Bureau for food and Agriclutural Policy (BFAP)