Fern Azolla was found to be a very nutritive and cheap organic feed substitute for dairy cattle, poultry, pig, rabbits, fish and many more.
Azolla is a floating fern mostly utilized as bio-fertilizer for wetland paddy. It belongs to the family of azollaceace.
The fern Azolla, hosts a symbiotic blue green algae anabaena azolle, which is responsible for the fixation and assimilation of atmospheric nitrogen.
Fern Azolla was found to be a very nutritive and cheap organic feed substitute for dairy cattle, poultry, pig, fish etc.
Azolla is rich in protein, almost 25-30 % 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 vitamins A and vitamins B12.
It is also found to contain almost all the essential Amino acids, many probiotics, Biopolymers and B 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 Fern Azolla due to high protein content and low lignin content.
The trail carried with Azolla as feed substitute shows that there is an overall increase of milk by 15-20% by supplementing feed with the same quantity of Azolla on dry weight basis without affecting milk production.
Azolla feeding also improve the quality of milk and health.
Azolla feeding also improves the weight of broiler chicken and increasing the egg production in case of layer.
Azolla can also be feed to sheep, goat, pig and rabbit as feed substitute.
How to grow Fern Azolla
An artificial water body is made to grow azolla.
A pit size of 2 Mt. Length, 1 Mt. Width and 20cm depth should be dug on earth.
This pit is then covered with plastic gunnies to prevent the growth of roots of nearby trees, protect the soil temperature and seepage water.
Silpuline plastic sheet / plastic sheet is spread over the plastic gunnies without any fold.
About 10-15 kg. Sieved soil is uniformly spread over the plastic sheet.
Five kg of cow dung and 40 gms of azophos and 20 gms of azofert or SSP made into slurry in 10 liters of water and is pour in the pit, then more water is poured to make the water level at about 8 cm.
About 1-2 kg of fresh, pest and disease free azolla seed culture is inoculated in the pit.
Azolla will fill the pit within 7-10 days. About 1-1.5 kg of Azolla can be harvested daily thereafter.
About 2kgs of dung, 25gms of Azophos and about 20gm of azofert made into a slurry in 2 liters of water should be applied once in 7 days to keep the azolla in rapid multiplication phase and to maintain the daily yield of 1- 2kg/pit
Azolla should be harvested with a plastic tray having holes of 1sq cm mesh size.
Plants should not be allowed to enter maturity stage or sporulation stage by periodic application of cow dung slurry, super phosphate and other macro and micronutrients except Nitrogen.
Temperature should be retained below 30 degree centigrade in case the temperature goes up, the light intensity should be maintained by providing shade net or other devices.
Bio-mass should be removed every day or alternative days to avoid overcrowding. pH should be tested periodically to see that it never goes below 5.5 and above 7.
Seed stock is maintained separately,, treated with pesticides and fungicides.
Azolla should be well washed with water before feeding to livestock to get rid of smell of cow dung.
Biomass collected from the field applied with the pesticide should not be used as a feed for livestock.
Article Credit: New Vision Uganda