Azolla as a fodder for livestock

Azolla: Agriculture zone is the titanic part of Pakistan’s GDP tentatively it covers 25% of GDP. Furthermore, 55% of labor force is employed in agriculture sector.

Azolla as a fodder for livestockThe livestock sector contributes about half of the value added in the agriculture sector, amounting to nearly 11 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP. On the flip side, livestock sector facing many problems to maintain feeding of animals and birds.

Pakistan faces a deficit of feed sources, as demonstrated by shortages of 57.24 million tons of dry matter (DM), 28.62 million tons of total digestible nutrients (TDN), and 1.76 million tons of digestible protein (DP). (Dairy development in Pakistan-FAO). At present over 190 billion rupees worth of agriculture produce, and by-products of agriculture are being used in poultry feeds (Pakistan Poultry Association, 2018).

Here we have a far better option which fulfil the quantity and quality need of feeding in least price as compare to current market. Both dairy and poultry sector need a proteins, carbohydrates, oils, minerals and multivitamins in their concentrate or in feeding source,

So they use expensive and different meals, cereals and additional minerals, multivitamins to maintain their quality and to get optimum results which ultimately increase its price on the other hand we have AZOLLA as a solution.

Azolla is a small plant which can easily grow in Pakistan and require just few inches of standing water for its growth, but the interesting part is that its rich in protein, dry matter, minerals, oils etc. which we needed for our livestock and it also have optimum palatability

Azolla is a genus of seven species of aquatic ferns in the family Salviniaceae. They are extremely reduced in form and specialized, looking nothing like other typical ferns but more resembling duckweed or some mosses. Azolla is a highly productive plant. It doubles its biomass in 3–10 days, depending on conditions, and yield can reach 8–10 tons fresh matter/ha.

Azolla meal contained (%DM) 21.4 crude protein, 12.7 crude fiber, 2.7 ether extract, 16.2 ash and 47.0 carbohydrate. A gross energy value of 2039 kcal kg was obtained. The concentrations of calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium were 1.16%, 1.29%, 1.25% and 0.25% respectively, while those of sodium, manganese, iron, copper and zinc were 23.79ppm, 174.42ppm, 755.73ppm, 16.74ppm and 87.59ppm respectively.

The chemical score index showed the potential of Azolla meal as a good source of protein. Leucine, lysine, arginine and valine were the predominant essential amino acids. To produce Azolla we just need a standing water and sunlight. Asian or typically Pakistan environment is optimum for it. As it can grow on few inches of standing water, we can grow it in slap by slap in open environment just to increase its production per hector.

After harvesting Azolla just dry it in sunlight for 2-3 day as we have very hot environment it can be done in greenhouse or can be done by hot air blower and use in the concentrate or make pellet’s for poultry by adding some other necessary ingredients in it. Azolla can be found in the wild or in some garden and aquatic stores. In several countries Azolla is considered an aquatic weed and its import, possession and distribution are prohibited or discouraged.

In other countries Azolla has disappeared due to indiscriminate use of pesticides and needs to be nurtured as an endangered species. So, we can collect from any wild or aquatic garden and grow in our handmade pounds. Azolla prefers a placid water surface and temperatures around 20-30°C. It will die if it is subjected to prolonged freezing, but it can survive short periods of freezing.

Azolla growth rate is greatly reduced above 35℃ and it dies at temperatures above 45°C. It thrives in plenty of light (though not in direct sunlight) and in water that is rich in all essential plant nutrients. Azolla can grow in a nitrogen-free solution, but the nitrogen concentration level in water does affect growth and nitrogen fixation rates it is especially responsive to phosphorus and requires a continuous supply of this nutrient to maintain rapid growth.

Azolla that is exposed to intense sunlight or heat turns red and grows more slowly. A good location for a Azolla cultivation is in the shadow of a north facing wall or under a tree canopy. If no shadow is available, then shade cloth or mesh can be used to decrease the amount of light falling on the Azolla. Shade cloth can also be used to prevent animals, such as birds, from eating Azolla and polluting the cultivation.

Azolla can grow in layers and form mats that are several centimeters thick. However, Azolla grows best when there are gaps between the plants. It is therefore advisable to harvest Azolla regularly so that plants do not crowd or overlap, and to gently stir the water occasionally so that fronds break and the Azolla multiplies.

After an Azolla cultivation has been seeded it takes some time for the growth to stabilize. Once stabilized, the doubling time of Azolla is 3-5 days if the conditions are good in a 2 square meter cultivation about 250 grams of Azolla can be harvested daily. In a 100 square meter cultivation it is possible to harvest about 10 kg of Azolla daily.

The table below shows the ideal conditions for most species of Azolla.

Temperature

20°C – 30°C

Light

25 – 50% of full sunlight for 20h / day

(3000 – 6000 lux)

Relative Humidity

85 – 90%

Water Depth

3 – 5 cm

pH

5 – 7

Salinity

0.3% – 2.5% depending on species

Nutrients

All essential plant macro- and micro-nutrients

except Nitrogen

There are three basic methods for growing Azolla; In hydroponic systems using liquid nutrients and no soil, in systems with soil and water, and in aquaponic systems such as integrated rice, duck, fish and Azolla farming.

Among small farmers common method of growing Azolla seems to be to use a one to two square meter pond by placing a tarp over a frame of bricks or over a shallow pit the pond is then filled with water and about 2 kilos of cow dung.

A half to one kilo of cow dung is periodically added to keep the cultivation going. Some also add a couple of liters of “Jeevamrutha”. Jevamrutha is a microorganism-rich mixture made of water (20-25 L), cow dung (1-1.5kg), cow urine (0.3-0.4 L ), palm sugar (0.1-0.2kg ) and soil (less than a handful taken from under a tree or from other undisturbed land) that is mixed together and kept in the shade for three to four days.

Using soil and water is a cheap, reliable and easy way of growing Azolla.  In regions where Azolla cannot survive outside throughout the whole year (extremely hot or cold environments) you need to keep an off-season stock growing indoors until you can plant the Azolla outside.

Indoor we can use daylight fluorescence keep on for 18 hours per day, but it grows incredibly slow under these conditions than it does outdoor if the conditions are good, the Azolla grows considerably slower under these conditions than it does outdoors if the conditions are good, but it survives.

Transfer to fresh soil is required only every three months or so.Some factors troubleshoot the production of Azolla such as intense sunlight, high temperature and humidity, phosphorous deficiency, potassium deficiency, iron deficiency, calcium deficiency.

In a nutshell, due to its high production and optimum nutritive values and amino acid profile Azolla is the best source of fodder for all types of animals and can be use as a human food as well.

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