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Dairy farmers being motivated to cultivate azolla

  • Ravi.P.Benjamin
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Farmers display azolla in their fields in Visakhapatnam district.
Farmers display azolla in their fields in Visakhapatnam district.

The Department of Animal Husbandry is popularising the cultivation of azolla for supplementing the fodder requirements of the cattle farmers in the district. Most of the cattle farmers depend on the traditional and seasonal fodder for feeding their animals. The cattle farmers have inhibitions on growing it due to a little bit of manual work involved initially in growing the plant. In the context of more than 700 mini dairies being set up in the district by the year 2015, large amount of cattle feed is required to feed another 7000 cows and buffaloes which will be added to the cattle population. Animal Husbandry department's Joint Director Y. Simhachalam told The Hindu that special focus is being given by the department to popularise azolla plantation among the dairy farmers. Every dairy farmer including the self-help groups which are going to launch the mini dairies will be asked to take up the fodder cultivation as the plant has multiple nutrients which will be a boon to the cattle.

Azolla is a floating fern mostly utilized as bio-fertilizer for wetland paddy and as cheap organic feed substitute for dairy cattle, poultry, pig, fish etc. It is rich in protein, almost 25-30 per cent on dry weight basis, it is also found to contain essential minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese etc apart from appreciable quantities of vitamin A and vitamin B12. It is also found to contain almost all the essential amino acids, biopolymers and carotene. The above mention bio-chemical constitution along with the rapid multiplication rate makes azolla ideal organic feed substitutes for livestock. Livestock can easily digest it due to high protein content and low lignin content. The trail carried with azolla as feed substitute shows that there is an overall increase in milk production by 15-20 per cent by supplementing feed with the same quantity of the plant on dry weight basis without affecting milk production. It is also found that azolla feeding improves the quality of milk and health. It also improves the weight of broiler chicken and increases egg production if used as poultry feed. The same can be used as feed for sheep, goat, pig and rabbit.

Requirement

For growing the plant, a pit size of two metre length, one metre width and 20 centimetre depth should be dug. The pit is then covered with plastic gunnies to prevent the growth of roots of near by trees, protect the soil temperature and seepage water. Sieved soil is uniformly spread over the plastic sheet. Five kg of cow dung and 40 gm of azophos and 20 gm of azofert made into slurry in 10 litres of water is poured in the pit, and then more water is poured to bring the water level to eight cm.

About one to two kg of fresh, pest and disease free azolla seed culture is inoculated in the pit. The lush green crop will fill the pit within seven-10 days and about one to one-and-a-half kg of crop can be harvested daily thereafter. About two kg of dung, 25 gm of azophos and about 20 gm of azofert made into a slurry in two litres of water should be given once in seven days to keep the crop in rapid multiplication phase and to maintain the daily yield of one to two kg. The Central Government is also extending an incentive of Rs. 5,000 for growing azolla and the beneficiary is expected to invest another Rs. 5000 to grow the crop.


  • Tests show that azolla feeding improves quality, production of milk

  • When used as poultry feed, the weight of broiler chicken increases


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