Posts Tagged ‘Elephant Grass’

PLANTING NAPIER GRASS

Napier grass is a fodder grass that produces a lot of high-protein forage. It is also known as “elephant grass”, “Sudan grass” or “king grass”. Its scientific name is Pennisetum purpureum.

Napier grass is best suited to high rainfall areas, but it is drought-tolerant and can also grow well in drier areas. It does not grow well in waterlogged areas. It can be grown along with fodder trees along field boundaries or along contour lines or terrace risers to help control erosion. It can be intercropped with crops such as legumes and fodder trees, or as a pure stand.

The advantage of napier grass is that it propagates easily. It has a soft stem that is easy to cut. It has deep roots, so is fairly drought-resistant. The tender, young leaves and stems are very palatable for livestock and grows very fast

The disadvantage is that it is an aggressive plant that spreads through rhizomes under the ground. If it is not controlled, it can invade crop fields and become a weed. The older stems and leaves are less palatable for Goats.

Plant them angled into the ground at about 30 degrees, so two of the nodes are buried in the soil and one is above the ground. Plant more rows with a spacing of about 90 cm (3 feet) between the rows. Planting “slips” or “splits”* If you planting “slips” or “splits”, you do not have to wait a long time for the grass to grow before you can multiply it. Seedlings from the slips become established more quickly than those grown from cuttings. Cut Napier grass stems at ground level to remove all the green material. Dig up the clump of roots and shoots growing under the ground. Separate each seedling from the clump. Each seedling must have both roots and a shoot. Trim the roots to about 5 cm (2 inches) long. Plant the seedlings in small holes or a furrow. Cover the roots with soil, but leave the shoots open to the air. Planting whole stems is useful during the heavy rains, and in hilly areas where you need the grass to sprout quickly to cover the ground. Plant them along the contour to control erosion. Cut whole young stems of Napier grass, about 2 m (6 feet) long. Put the stems end-to-end in a furrow, and cover them with soil. Water immediately.

Weed the Napier grass plot regularly. If any of the cuttings die, fill in the gaps with new ones. Harvest the grass when it is 90_120 cm (3_4 feet) high. Harvest the grass following a pattern. Beginning at one end of the row, cut enough grass to feed your animals for 1 day. The next day, cut the next grass along in the row. Carry on until you reach the end of the row. In this way, you will always be able to cut fodder for your livestock. Apply liquid manure by digging trenches in between the rows of grass. Pour liquid manure into the trenches If the livestock do not eat all the grass, use the remainder as mulch or compost. Cut the grass 15_25 cm (6_10 inches) above the ground. Some farmers have found it is better to cut at ground level, though this may damage the plant too much. Fill in any gaps in the rows with fresh cuttings. Don’t use older stems as planting materials, as they will not germinate well. Don’t intercrop with cereals, as the grass will compete with the crop for nutrients and light. Don’t allow animals to graze on the napier grass, as they may damage or kill the plants. Don’t allow the grass to overgrow, as it may become a weed. Don’t allow the grass to grow too high (more than 120 cm or 4 feet), as Goats will not eat the tough bits.

Happy Planting!