Azolla as fodder has been experimented in Peepal research Centre, Dehradun. Main aim of the Azolla unit at our Research Centre is to provide the right option in front of farmers. Many farmers, due to limited resources, often struggle to produce sufficient feed for those animals. The advantages as evinced by the farmers are that it provides green fodder throughout the year and farmers without much skill can set it up. In addition to their farming activity to the fodder requirements of remaining part of the year. Azolla can be supplemented with regular feed of the animal. For Azolla, cultivation required less investment; hence it is a low-cost alternative for a good feed and good biofertilizer.
Azolla is a free-floating water fern consisting of a short, branched, floating stem, bearing roots which hang down in the water.
Its green fodder grown on water surface.
Why Azolla cultivation:
Azolla has many nutrient benefits compared to other fodders. Azolla fodder is an excellent alternate feed supplement for livestock, poultry and fish
This is boon for dairy farmers because it drastically reduces the feed cost and results in milk yield
Benefits of Azolla:
- Azolla contains very high proteins, amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B12, Beta Carotene) and minerals, so it is the excellent nutrient feed for livestock.
- It helps to increase the milk yield in cow, sheep and goat.
- Azolla has low lignin content. So animals easily digest.
- It also showed an overall increase of milk yield by 15–20% when 1.5–2 Kg of Azolla was combined with regular feed.
- Azolla fixes atmospheric nitrogen and store in leaves, therefore, it is used as green manure.
- Azolla in paddy farm there is increase rice production by 20%.
- Azolla plant can form a thick layer on water surfaces, so it uses for weed control in paddy farm.
- Azolla has another ability Azolla restrict mosquito breeding process, and thus Azolla also called as “mosquito fern.”
Nutrition Value in Azolla: Serving size: 100g
|Minerals||10 – 15 %|
|Amino acids||7 – 10%|
Azolla cultivation procedure:
- Create an artificial pond for growing Azolla.
- For creating Azolla cultivation pond, select partially shaded area because Azolla needs 30% sunlight too much sunlight will destroy the plant. The area under the tree is preferable.
- If you decide to grow an Azolla for the large scale you can make small concrete tanks otherwise you can make the pond any size you want.
- Dig out the soil for pond and level the soil after that spread the plastic sheet around the ground to prevent water loss. Make sure the pond is at least 20 CM Deep.
- Add some soil uniformly on the plastic sheet in the pond. For 2M X 2M size pond add 10-15 kg soil.
- Azolla needs Phosphorus to grow well you can use Super Phosphate along with cow dung slurry. Cow dung increases the available nutrients. Use, cow dung 4-5 days old.
- Next, fill the pond with water to a level of about 10 cm this will allow the short route of the Azolla Plant to float freely then leave the pond for 2 to 3 days so the ingredients can settle.
- After 2-3 days add Azolla culture in the pond by gently rubbing Azolla in hands. It helps break Azolla into smaller pieces for faster multiplication.
- After two-week start harvesting. From pond of 2M X 2M size, you can harvest 1kg Azolla each day.
Important tips to grow Azolla:
- Azolla rapidly grows so maintain Azolla biomass 300 Gms – 350 Gms /sq. Meter hence harvest daily to avoid overcrowding.
- Azolla grows well where optimum ideal temperature range is 20-35 0 C
- Add once in 5 days mixture of Super Phosphate, and cow dung also add mixture containing magnesium, iron, copper,
sulphur etc. at weekly intervals to enhance the mineral content of Azolla.
- Replace 25 to 30% old water with fresh water, once in 10 days; it helps to prevent nitrogen build up in the pond.
- Replace complete water and soil, at least once in six months and then add Fresh Azolla seeds.
- Maintain the water level of at least 10 cm, so Azolla root doesn’t grow in the soil by keeping the roots floating it becomes easy to harvest.
- Harvested Azolla wash thoroughly, so it removes dirt and smell of cow dung and then feeds them to animals.
- The azolla biomass should be removed daily to avoid over crowding.
Economics of Azolla Cultivation: Generally, it costs Rs. 2000 for 2M X 2M pond size including plastic sheet.
A farmer can obtain a net profit of over Rs. 10,000 per year from additional milk yield and reduced usage of concentrated feeding for livestock.
Limitations of Azolla Cultivation: High summer temperature, extreme lower temperature, water scarcity and low humidity makes it difficult to adopt azolla cultivation.
Bottom Line: Azolla cultivation is an excellent option for farmers who wants increase milk production and save supplemental feed cost in livestock.
Individual dairy farmer can take up this activity to supplement feed requirement of the cattle