Top-dressing Fertiliser for Maize

As each year comes to an end, South African maize producers need to ensure that they have done everything they can to maximise their crop yield. As a farmer, you know that it’s crucial to manage your maize crops in accordance with your initial production plan. This is especially important during your chemical and fertilization programmes.

Your production plans need to be constantly evaluated and if changes are necessary, they need to be implemented now. Understanding when and how much fertilizers your crop requires is imperative when you need to evaluate the fertilization programme.

The Stages of Maize Growth

Maize production consists of 5 key growth stages. Understanding the principles of maize growth and development will enable you as a farmer to apply crucial production inputs. Soil tillage, crop rotation, fertilization, pest control and irrigation all need to be applied at the correct time and rate to achieve the optimal yield and profit.


  • Stage 1: Germination up to leaf stage or V5
  • Stage 2: This stage is from V5 up to V9 or the initiation of the ears
  • Stage 3: From V9 up to the flowering stage
  • Stage 4: Flowering up to the doughy grain stage
  • Stage 5: This is when the grain reaches physiological maturity

During the leaf stage or V5, the theoretical yield is initiated. Now is the time to correct any nutrient shortages your crop is experiencing. To help you determine what your crop requires, apply your fertilizer according to leaf analysis. We suggest you check fertility throughout the year to ensure your maize has all the nutrients that it needs.

The right fertilizer composition is crucial during planting as it will have an effect on your yield. New leaves appear every third day or so which means that the need for plant nutrients as well as moisture increases during this stage.

Maize Top-Dressing

Timing is key when applying your maize top-dressing. It needs to be applied at the correct crop growth stage and at the recommended rate. Stages V6 to V8 are when the growing point and tassel rise above the surface of the soil. This will be your designated time for a nitrogen top-dressing. In order for the capture of your final harvest potential not to be adversely affected, all nutrient deficiencies must now also be eliminated.

Top dressing ensures that the fertilizer you put down is used optimally towards the benefit of your maize plant and ultimately the yield. In certain cases, it will make economic sense to increase the top-dressing and if you’re in an area that experiences above average rainfall, then applying more fertilizer will make sense. During a drought year, you can cut back on your top dressing as the plant may not require the full amount. Keep in mind that your yield will be lower. It is important to understand and explore your options and to do what works best for your farm to ensure your maize crop gets what it needs. Contact your fertilizer expert at Bell Africa AgriTraders to help you with the decision.