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Introduction

Napier grass is also called as elephant grass due to its tallness and vigorous vegetative growth. The plants tiller freely and a single clump may produce 50 tillers under favourable climatic and soil conditions. Unfortunately, the grass is coarse-textured, the leaf blade and sheaths hairy, leaf margins sharply toothed and stems less juicy and fibrous. In 1953, a cross was made in India with bajra which is more succulent, leafy, fine textured, palatable, fast growing and drought resistant than Napier to combine these qualities with its high yielding potential.

Compared to Napier grass, Hybrid Napier produces more tillers and numerous leaves. It grows faster and produces more herbage but the stems are hard and the plants are hard and the plants less persistent. Pusa Giant Napier has larger leaves, softer and less persistent hairs on leaf blades and sheaths and less sharp leaf edges. The stems are also less fibrous than Napier. The tillers are more numerous and grow faster.

Soil and climate

The grass grows throughout the year in the tropics. The optimum temperature is about 31 C. Light showers alternated with bright sunshine are very congenital to the crop. Total water requirement of the grass is about 800 – 1000 mm. Hybrid Pennisetum can grow on a variety of soils. Light loams and sandy soils are preferred to heavy soils. The grass does not not thrive well on waterlogged and flood prone lands. Phenomenal yields are obtained from very deep fertile soil rich in organic matter. It tolerates pH ranging from 5 to 8.

Varieties

The popular hbrids are Pusa Giant Napier, Gajraj, NB- 6, NB- 21, NB- 35, Suguna and supriya

Season


Planting is done with the onset of southwest monsoon.

Planting materials

Being a sterile hybrid, the grass is planted by rooted slips or by stem cuttings. Cuttings of moderately mature stems (3 months old) and preferably from the lower two thirds of the stem length sprout better than the older stems.

Method of planting

A spacing of 60 * 60 cm is recommended for pure crop of Hybrid Napier. In inter cropping system, spacing is adjusted to accommodate the companion crops. The planting rate depends upon the spacing and the weight of the cuttings or rooted slips used. It is modified in crop mixtures or inter cropping with other forage crops.

The cuttings with three nodes are stuck into the soil with the basal end down, either vertically or at an angle to such a depth that two nodes remain within the soil and one above the soil surface. The under ground nodes develop roots and shoots while the upper ones develop shoots only.

Fertilization

Farm yard manure @25 t/ Ha and phosphate and potash @ 50 kg/Ha each may be applied at the time of land preparation. Apply N @ 200 kg/Ha in two or three split doses followed by gentle raking, if possible.

Irrigation

The field should be provided with good drainage during the rainy season, as the crop can not withstand water stagnation. Frequency of irrigation depends upon the rainfall and weather conditions.

Weed management

Weeding is required at first two months.

Intercultivation practices

Early inter cultivation once or twice is necessary before the plants establish and grow vigorously. Subsequently, inter cultivation should be given as when necessary.

The grass can be inter cropped with legumes such as cow pea, Calapogonium, Centrosema and Glycine. Inter cropping with legumes improves the quality of fodder.

Harvesting

The first cut is taken at 9 -10 weeks after planting. Subsequent cuts are taken after 4 – 6 weeks or when the plant attains a height of 1.5 m. Annually at least 6 – 8 cuts are possible. In order to encourage quicker regeneration from the basal buds, stubbles of 10 – 15 cm is left out at harvest.

Green fodder yield ranges from 20 – 250 t/ Ha per year from 6 – 8 cuttings.

Yield potential

നന്നായി പരിപാലിച്ചാൽ ഒരു വർഷം ഒരു ഹെക്ടറിൽ നിന്നും 350 മുതൽ 400 ടണ്‍ വരെ പച്ചപ്പുല്ല് ഉത്പാദിപ്പിക്കാൻ ശേഷിയുള്ള ഇനങ്ങളാണ് സിഒ 3, സിഒ 4, സിഒ 5 എന്നിവ. ഒരു പശുവിന് ഒരു ദിവസം 25 മുതൽ 30 കിലോ വരെ പച്ചപ്പുല്ല് ആവശ്യമുണ്ട്. ഉത്പാദനക്ഷമതയുള്ള ഒരു ചെടിയിൽ നിന്ന് ഒരു പ്രാവശ്യം 5-6 കിലോഗ്രാം പച്ചപ്പുല്ല് കിട്ടും. ഒരു ദിവസം 4-5 ചുവട് അരിഞ്ഞെടുത്താൽ ഒരു പശുവിനു വേണ്ട പുല്ലാകും. സാധാരണയായി ഒരു സെന്‍റിൽ ഉദ്ദേശം 100 ചുവട് ഉണ്ടാകും. മൂന്നാഴ്ചത്തേക്കുള്ള പുല്ല്. ഇപ്രകാരം, നല്ല സൂര്യപ്രകാശം കിട്ടുന്ന മൂന്നു സെന്‍റ് സ്ഥലത്ത് സങ്കരനേപ്പിയർ പുല്ല് കൃഷി ചെയ്താൽ ഒരു പശുവിനെ വളർത്താനുള്ള തീറ്റപ്പുല്ല് ലഭിക്കും.

Processing and value addition

Hybrid napier is superior in quality than Napier grass and contains about 10.2 % crude protein and 30.5 % crude fibre. The leaves are larger and greener, the sheaths are softer and the margins less serrated and hence the herbage is more palatable. It is juicier and succulent at all stages of growth. It is less fibrous and more acceptable. The oxalate content of some of the varieties may be high. It can be mitigated if harvested at longer intervals (45 to 60 days).

The grass is ideal for green fodder, silage and hay.

The fodder may be cut into pieces using a chaff cutter and ensiled. Legume fodders may be mixed with the grass in the ratio 1:2 to produce balanced silage. The fodder can also be converted into hay during the dry summer periods. The chaffed material is exposed to In the sun by spreading uniformly for a day. Further drying is done under the shade to preserve colour. The quality of the silage or hay remains more or less the same as green fodder.