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Pre-emergence herbicides for maize crops

Unlocking Maize's Full Potential

"Pre-emergence herbicides for maize crops" is an innovative agricultural technology designed to improve weed management in maize cultivation across Sub-Saharan Africa. This technology enhances maize crop performance during its critical early growth stages by applying chemical agents to prevent weed seedlings from developing roots. By effectively reducing weed encroachment and competition for vital resources such as light, nutrients, and moisture, this technology accelerates the growth of maize crops and ultimately increases grain yields. It provides a cost-effective and sustainable solution to address the challenges associated with high weed infestation, labor-intensive weed removal, and reduced maize grain productivity in the region.


This technology is TAAT1 validated.


Scaling readiness: idea maturity 7/9; level of use 7/9

Cost: $$$ 27 USD

Application of pre-emergence herbicide/Ha

ROI: $$$ 61—80 %

Reduction in weeds

0.7 - 1.6 Ton per hectare

Grain yield increase

349 USD

Gross margin per hectare


Open source / open access


  • High Weed Encroachment: Weeds in farmlands across Sub-Saharan Africa are a significant problem, leading to the loss of water and nutrients from the soil, reducing grain yields and returns on investments in agriculture.
  • Labor-Intensive Weed Removal: Manual or mechanical weed removal is labor-intensive and expensive, often requiring 2-3 repetitions to effectively control weed encroachment.
  • Risk of Weed Seed Dispersal: Other weed control methods may inadvertently promote seed dispersal from weeds, resulting in long-term issues and recurrent herbicide use.
  • Necessity for Multiple Herbicide Applications: In areas with high weed encroachment, multiple herbicide applications are often needed throughout the growing season, making early-stage control important to increase the effectiveness of post-emergence herbicides.
  • Regional Variability: The specific formulation of chemical agents and timing of herbicide application can vary based on the types of weeds present, local weather patterns, and farming practices.


  • Effective Weed Control: Pre-emergence herbicides prevent weed growth during the critical early stages of maize development, reducing competition for light, nutrients, and moisture.
  • Increased Grain Productivity: By eliminating weed competition, these herbicides significantly increase maize grain yields, making them a valuable tool for improving food production.
  • Fertilizer Efficiency: Maize crops treated with pre-emergence herbicides demonstrate improved fertilizer efficiency, ensuring that applied nutrients are used more effectively by the crop.
  • Resilience to Drought: The use of pre-emergence herbicides enhances maize crop resilience to drought conditions, a crucial advantage for regions with erratic rainfall patterns.
  • Seed Dispersal Prevention: Pre-emergence herbicides virtually eliminate the seed dispersal of weeds, leading to long-term reductions in weed encroachment and less need for recurrent herbicide use and labor.
  • Enhanced Effectiveness of Post-Emergence Herbicides: Early-stage weed control through pre-emergence herbicides complements the effectiveness of post-emergence herbicides, particularly in areas with high weed encroachment.
  • Reduced Time Pressure for Pest Control: By preventing weed damage during the initial growth stages, pre-emergence herbicides alleviate time pressures for additional pest control measures during the growing season.
  • Suitability for Various Climates: Pre-emergence herbicides are effective in a range of climates, from humid to semi-arid, and offer short- and long-term benefits in weed management.
  • Customizable Formulations: Different herbicide formulations are available to address specific weed types found in maize crops, allowing farmers to choose the most suitable option.
  • Enhanced Herbicidal Activity: Adjuvants can be added to herbicide formulations to improve herbicidal activity, making the application process more efficient and effective.
  • Food Security and Soil Fertility: Pre-emergence herbicides, when combined with proper soil fertility management, contribute to increased grain production and food security, particularly in regions with degraded soils and low fertility.

Key points to design your business plan

For Seed multiplier 

Developing pre-emergence herbicide technology presents a transformative solution aimed at tackling early weed growth in agricultural fields, ultimately enhancing crop productivity and sustainability, empowering diverse farming communities, and contributing to improved global nutrition.

In Sub-Saharan African countries, specific regulations govern the compliance and use of chemical agents for weed eradication in croplands, which must be adhered to by agro-input companies supplying local markets.

To ensure efficient production of this input, it is imperative to identify reliable suppliers for raw materials.

Your potential clientele encompasses wholesale distributors of inputs to retailers, as well as development projects, government agencies, and NGOs.

Establishing robust partnerships with wholesale distributor networks is pivotal for the success of your business venture.


For Users:

Utilizing pre-emergence herbicide technology presents a transformative opportunity to enhance crop productivity and sustainability by thwarting early weed growth in agricultural fields.

Take into account delivery expenses to project sites spanning Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, alongside potential import clearance and duties.

When considering the budget, factor in the cost of pre-emergence herbicides and labor for their application. This includes rates of USD 27 per hectare for blends of pendimethalin and atrazine, and USD 25 per hectare for blends of metolachlor and atrazine, using 1 kilogram of active ingredient per hectare, with an estimated cost of USD 20 per liter.

In terms of cost analysis, maize crops treated with pre-emergent herbicides demonstrated an increase in grain yield ranging from 0.7 to 1.6 tons per hectare compared to unprotected weed-infested fields, resulting in additional net revenue ranging from USD 404 to USD 515 per hectare. Weed control through pre-emergence herbicides in fertilized maize crops also elevated gross margins by USD 84 to USD 433 per hectare.

To optimize outcomes, consider forming partnerships with agricultural development institutes, fertilizer suppliers, and agricultural service companies to provide support and aid in distribution.


Positive or neutral impact

Adults 18 and over
Positive high
The poor
Positive medium
Under 18
Positive low
Positive low

Positive or neutral impact

Climate adaptability
It adapts really well
Adaptability for farmers
It helps a lot
Carbon footprint
It doesn't reduce emissions at all
It makes a big difference
Water usage
It uses a little less water

Negative or unknown impact

It hurts them

Countries with a green colour
Tested & adopted
Countries with a bright green colour
Countries with a yellow colour
Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia Algeria Angola Benin Botswana Burundi Burkina Faso Democratic Republic of the Congo Djibouti Côte d’Ivoire Eritrea Gabon Gambia Ghana Guinea Guinea-Bissau Cameroon Kenya Libya Liberia Madagascar Mali Malawi Morocco Mauritania Mozambique Namibia Niger Nigeria Republic of the Congo Rwanda Zambia Senegal Sierra Leone Zimbabwe Somalia South Sudan Sudan South Africa Eswatini Tanzania Togo Tunisia Chad Uganda Western Sahara Central African Republic Lesotho
Countries where the technology has been tested and adopted
Country Tested Adopted
Cameroon Tested Adopted
Ethiopia Tested Adopted
Ghana Tested Adopted
Kenya Tested Adopted
Malawi Tested Adopted
Nigeria Tested Adopted
Rwanda Tested Adopted
South Africa Tested Adopted
Tanzania Tested Adopted
Uganda Tested Adopted
Zambia Tested Adopted

This technology can be used in the colored agro-ecological zones. Any zones shown in white are not suitable for this technology.

Agro-ecological zones where this technology can be used
AEZ Subtropic - warm Subtropic - cool Tropic - warm Tropic - cool

Source: HarvestChoice/IFPRI 2009

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that are applicable to this technology.

Sustainable Development Goal 2: zero hunger
Goal 2: zero hunger
Sustainable Development Goal 5: gender equality
Goal 5: gender equality
Sustainable Development Goal 13: climate action
Goal 13: climate action

  1. Dilution of Herbicides: Start by diluting concentrated herbicides in water according to the prescribed ratio and following recommended safety precautions. This ensures the chemical agents are properly activated.
  2. Application Equipment: Herbicide solutions can be applied to farmer fields using either backpack systems with one or two spraying nozzles or tractor-mounted systems equipped with multiple spraying nozzles. The choice of equipment significantly affects herbicide placement, the effectiveness of weed control, and labor requirements.
  3. Protective Clothing: Workers applying herbicides should wear appropriate protective clothing to avoid direct contact with chemical agents. This includes gloves, masks, and other protective gear.
  4. Soil Moisture: Ensure that the soil is at an optimal moisture level for herbicide application. It should be moist but not too wet or too dry. The timing of herbicide application should be synchronized with rainfall or carried out approximately one week after tilling the croplands but no later than when maize plants are 10 cm tall.
  5. Field Selection: Prioritize the use of chemical weed control management technologies on fields with the highest levels of weed encroachment and the presence of difficult-to-control weed species. This approach maximizes the potential for yield and income gain and helps steadily reduce weed infestations on farms.

Last updated on 22 May 2024