By: Stuart Brown, CAMAG Consulting
Published: 2015-02-15


This article is from ECHO Asia Note #23

[Editors’ Introduction: Stuart Brown is an agricultural consultant with over 16 years of experience, the last five years of which have been in Cambodia. Stuart has two primary areas of expertise: tropical agronomy, which includes forage systems, soil sampling and analysis in tropical farming systems; and commodity value chain research. He has worked extensively with both the international development community and the private sector.]

Introduction – What are Forages?

In its simplest definition a forage is any plant material grazed or fed to livestock. However, a more specific definition that’s presented in this article focuses on plants (grasses and legumes) that are planted specifically to provide superior feed benefits to livestock due to: 1) higher protein content, 2) lower labour requirements, and 3) additional farming system or social benefits.

Forage grasses are characterized as either: short, spreading types or upright, clumping, and tussock-forming types. Forage legumes can be separated into three categories: short and spreading, forming a low cover which develops new plants at stolons or rhizomes; twining and expansive, spreading over a wide area but not developing new plants through stolons or rhizomes; or shrub or bush-like plants and trees. The grasses described in this article that exhibit “best bet” characteristics are clumping, while the legumes are shrub or bush-like. I will also provide information about additional legumes, favored for their multi-purpose use, which can be characterized as short and spreading or twining and expansive. All species are detailed extensively in the sections below.

Many smallholder farmers raise livestock, mostly cattle, as part of their farming system. In Cambodia, many farmers maintain a small herd of cattle for a variety of reasons: a “cow bank” that can be sold when cash is needed for cultural celebrations, accidents or other unforeseen expenses; a source of fertilizer for their farming system (rice, vegetables); and a source of animal power to pull implements or for transportation. While the latter is becoming less and less common as mechanization rapidly increases, cattle remain important and shifts toward mechanization also open the possibilities of alternative income uses for the livestock maintained by farmers (smallholder dairy or beef fattening to increase farmer incomes).

In lowland rice production farming systems in Southeast Asia, farmers that maintain a small herd need to provide feed solutions that will maintain the cattle’s condition. Farmers are often forced to find feed solutions from the surrounding landscape. In the wet season it is common practice for farmers to utilize locally available plant materials, such as roadside grasses and bund grasses, for animal forages. After the rice has been harvested, in the beginning of the dry season, rice straw is used as a forage. Farmers will often spend hours in the morning and evening seeking grasses to cut and transport back to their cattle, and will occasionally buy cut grass from smallscale grass traders. In many cases, these resources are low in protein, but they are the most readily available. They are often used with no or limited knowledge of alternative options for animal feed.

Many of the forages that farmers currently provide to their livestock are of low quality but are perceived as being readily available and low in cost. However, the opportunity costs of spending time seeking forages is often not considered; the time spent herding and tethering animals to find feed is also time away from other educational or income generating activities. I propose an alternative method: to integrate tropical forages into the smallholder farming system, in order to improve farmers’ livelihoods.

The forages discussed in this note are well-adapted to tropical environments (wet season/dry season; predominantly acid soil conditions), are well-researched “best bets” for smallholder systems, and potentially have solutions for the time/labour, economic constraints of smallholder farming systems in Southeast Asia.

Each of these grasses and legumes include the following attributes:

• Are available commercially or through international development institutions,

• Have been carefully selected through research and field application by international and national experts in the region to fit into smallholder farming systems,

• Are generally adapted to Southeast Asia’s climate and soils (see species details below),

• Are already being promoted and implemented in participatory ways throughout Southeast Asia,

• Offer greater productivity benefits than locally available feed resources,

• Are simple to grow and to manage, and

• Provide additional farming system benefits over and above livestock feed.

Growing Forages for Livelihood Improvement

Social Benefits

The use of forages within a smallholder farming system offers significant benefits to a farmer in terms of labor and time savings. Forages can be planted close to the house and animal pens, saving significant time when gathering the feed. Also, smallholder farmers that keep animals are often confronted by feed shortages, particularly in the late dry season. Growing forages close to the home can help farmers through this critical period of the year when feed is often in short supply.

Planting forages within the confines of the family household, or on other land not suited to cropping, can potentially free the family members’ time for other opportunities such as education or alternative business ventures. These concepts are eloquently stated by Connell, Stür and Horne (2010).

Confining animals close to the family home (with forages nearby) provides an opportunity to manage the manure more effectively. Manure can be collected and composted efficiently, for greater benefit to the cropping systems of the household.

In northern Laos, a group of farmers used to spend up to 3 hours per day gathering and preparing feed for their pigs. Often the food was not of a high quality, and the pigs grew poorly. Then, the high protein legume, Stylosanthes guianensis cv. CIAT184, was established in fodder banks within household compounds and the surrounding area. As a result, feed preparation was reduced to less than 30 minutes per day, and pig fattening time was reduced to six months from ten.

Soil Improvement and Environmental Benefits

The incorporation of forages in a smallholder farming system can have a variety of environmental benefits, such as soil protection and erosion control, soil fertility improvement through legume nitrogen fixation, and the reduction or elimination of short-term shifting agriculture.

This is particularly significant in upland regions of Southeast Asia, which can be very vulnerable to erosion in the wet season and to rapid reduction in fertility if the land is not allowed to rest. A modified farming system that includes perennial forage species allows for permanent cover all year round. If legumes are included, fertility can be maintained or enhanced.

The benefit of erosion control is closely related to the social benefits identified above. By maintaining permanent soil cover in erosion-prone landscapes, soil is preserved and a steady supply of forages is available to feed livestock, thus reducing the time needed to find feed sources. This in turn opens opportunities for other employment and livelihood benefits.

Income Generation through Livestock Improvements

The demand for beef cattle is growing across Southeast Asia, as the region rapidly develops, and smallholder farmers will want to tap in to that growing demand. One method of doing so is to speed up the fattening time for the animals, which in turn decreases the time it takes to get them to market, by feeding the cattle higher protein forages.

Improved tropical forages can be fed as a high protein feed to improve the weight gain and health of livestock. Protein helps develop muscle and provides energy for the animal. In order for animals to gain weight and improve their health, they should ingest between 12 and 15% crude protein from dry matter forages. Also, forage guides indicate that cattle require 2.5 to 3.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day, or 10 to 15% of their body weight in fresh forages each day, in order to grow well and put on weight. (More details regarding crude protein of forages is discussed in the section on “best bet” forages.)

In Cambodia, cattle commonly are fed rice husks and rice straw, which can’t be digested very easily and take a long time to break down in the stomach. This means that a cow can take in less food, and as a result, accumulates less fat and muscle.

Fresh leaves of young grass and legumes are easier for the cattle to digest than rice straw, and will lead to quicker weight gain. For optimal growth, young cattle require large quantities of fresh grasses and legumes.

Grasses provide a high yield of plant material. For example, Panicum maximum can yield up to 25 tonnes/hectare/year in a medium to high fertility soil. With higher fertilizer inputs of between 200 to 400 kg of N/Ha, the grass can yield even more, provided that adequate water is available.

While legumes do not yield as much plant material as grasses, they provide the multiple other benefits already mentioned in the previous section, “Soil Improvement and Environmental Benefits.” Legumes are higher in protein than grasses, so less feed is needed to provide a significant benefit to cattle. Legumes also provide essential minerals and vitamins for healthy growth. Aside from nutrition, legumes provide added nitrogen to the soil through leaf loss, roots and production of biomass. Combining grasses and legumes in cattle’s diet will significantly improve the quality of the animals and the resultant sale price for slaughter.

An optimum use of forages is to develop multiple single-species stands of each forage adapted to a location, so that there is variety of diet for animals but ease of harvesting for the farmer. With single-species plots, a farmer can easily identify the appropriate mixes of feed to supply to livestock. An example may include multiple rows of Panicum maximum or Stylosanthes guianensis between trees in a newly established orchard. As the orchard develops, the forages may be of less economic significance while the orchard becomes more economically important. Boundary plantings of tree legumes can also provide significant feed resources in spaces that otherwise might be unused.

The use of the forages listed below can enable a farmer to increase the size of his or her herd plus reduce the time necessary for animals to reach a critical market weight. The concept could be considered a “buy thin, sell fat” strategy.

[Editor’s Note: This article focuses on forages which may be useful for ruminant animals, ie. those animals which contain a multi-chambered stomach, which allows the animal to acquire nutrients from plant-based food through fermentation in the stomach. For other non-ruminant animals, such as pigs, forages can be given, but ECHO Asia also promotes fermented feed production through Natural Farming approaches and supplementary protein for healthy growth.]

Optimal Use of Space and Dual Purpose Use of Forages

Many forages have multiple roles in a farming system. For example, in addition to providing fodder for livestock, tree legumes can form living fences and barriers to protect main cash crops. In many parts of Indonesia, Gliricidia sepium is used as a living fence. This species is reasonably long-lived. When planted closely, it can form a suitable barrier to livestock while also being cut for feed and green manure.

In Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and elsewhere, live tree legumes are used instead of poles for pepper production, reducing the logging of native tree species for pole production. These living fences are cheaper than timber poles, provide nitrogen through fixation and leaf drop, and at certain times of the pepper development can provide critical shade requirements.

Tropical Forage Species for Southeast Asia

Many species have been trialled and introduced into Southeast Asia: Ruzi grass, a variety of Brachiaria species, paspalums, stylos, etc. The following list includes what I consider “best bests” for livestock production based on availability of commercially available seed or cuttings; adaptation to a wide range of agroecologies; and ease of management for the predominantly smallholder farming systems, which generally include a combination of cropping with livestock

[Editor’s Note: As is the case with most information distributed by ECHO Asia, agriculture is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We encourage our network members to think carefully about some of the options available and how they might fit into a particular environmental context, cultural context, or project. We would also encourage you to try these first in a low-risk setting (such as a Small Farm Resource Center or other similar farmer project) to work out the proverbial “kinks” before fully extending to farmers.]

 

Panicum maximum (synonym Megathyrsis maximus)

Common Name: guinea grass

Crude protein: 6-25%, depending on age and N supply

Description:

P. maximum is an upright grass very suitable for cut-and-carry situations. It is

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 1

 

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 2(above) Figure 1: Solid stand of Tanzania or Purple Guinea on raised beds in a former rice field in Kandal Province, Cambodia (source: Stuart Brown 2011). (below) Figure 2: Left - Tanzania grass flowering; Right - Mombaça grass (source: Cook et al 2005).

generally adapted to locations with a short dry season, and should be irrigated in areas encountering a long dry season. This species includes both short varieties (S Types) and tall varieties (TM Types). The latter varieties are available in Southeast Asia as Si Muang, also known as Tanzania or Purple Guinea, and the larger Mombaça Guinea (see the “References and Further Reading” section below).

Mombaça Guinea can be up to 1.65 m tall with long leaves up to 3 cm wide. Research suggests it is up to 28% more productive than Tanzania Guinea. It has reasonably good drought and cool tolerance. Also, in line with the higher productivity mentioned above, it provides greater potential live weight gain for cattle than other P. maximum varieties (Cook et al, 2005).

Tanzania, or Purple, Guinea has a somewhat broader adaptation than Mombaça Guinea, but has only moderate drought and cool tolerance. Figure 1 and Figure 2 illustrate the physical characteristics of the two varieties readily available in Southeast Asia.

Establishment:

These varieties can be established by directly sowing seed or by transplanting divisions from older, more established plantings at the commencement of the wet season. P. maximum is most simply and rapidly established through rooted cuttings. To do this, lift the established plant and pull apart tillers, making sure there are roots present on each tiller. Trim excess leaves to minimize moisture loss and to give plants a greater chance of establishment.

If planting from seed, be sure you are using a known and reliable seed source. Plant approximately 5 kg of seeds per hectare, in rows about 50 cm apart, to a depth of no more than 2 cm. P. maximum seeds are small, and planting deeper than 2 cm is likely to result in inconsistent germination and poor stand establishment. For more information regarding establishment see Stür, W.W. and Horne, P.M. (2001).

Management:

P. maximum is a reasonably “hungry” feeder in terms of nutrients. In smallholder single-species stands used for cut-andcarry, use of animal manure will help maintain a stand of P. maximum. However, for greater productivity, inorganic fertilizers may be necessary. According to Cook et al (2005), P. maximum will require maintenance fertilizer if consistently cut and fed to animals. Infertile soils may require the application of between 200 and 400 kg/Ha of N per year.

Varieties such as Mombaça Guinea can be cut every 6 weeks in the wet season and every 8 to 10 weeks in the cooler dry season. Depending on location in Southeast Asia, irrigation may be necessary to ensure continued growth and leaf development.

Weed control is critical. Target weeds for removal especially during germination and early establishment, and after cutting. Nutrient management is also important to ensure the valuable grass stand remains productive and does not offer opportunities for weed encroachment.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Panicum maximum: http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/ Forages/Media/Html/Panicum_maximum.htm

Tropical Seeds – Mombaça Guinea: http:// www.tropseeds.com/mombasa/

Tanzania Guinea: http://www.tropseeds. com/tanzania-guinea-grass/

 

Brachiaria species hybrid (cv. Mulato II; Cayman)

Common name: brachi hybrid, brachiaria hybrid

Crude protein: from 10-17%, depending on soil fertility

Description:

Mulato II has a semi-erect growth habit and is an artificial hybrid cross between Brachiaria ruziziensis, B. brizantha, and B. decumbens. It has a greater degree of drought tolerance than Panicum maximum. Mulato II is widely adapted to tropical acid soil conditions, and performs best between pH ranges of 4.5 to 8.0; it is more tolerant to high aluminium levels than many other grass species.

cv. Cayman is another Brachiaria hybrid species [Ed Note: “cv.” stands for cultivar, or cultivated variety, which is a named variety with a specific set of traits that makes it distinct from other cultivars and varieties]. It has similar production characteristics to Mulato II, but is more resistant to moist soil conditions over a longer period of time. Cayman is more likely to produce well in seasonal circumstances in which the soil is not necessarily flooded but remains moist over a number of weeks, often during the peak of the main wet season.

Establishment:

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 3

Figure 3: A solid stand of Brachiaria hybrid cv. Mulato (source: Cook et al 2005).

Brachiaria is generally established from seed if it can be purchased through a reliable source, and tends to have a high germination rate with rapid establishment. A seeding rate of up to 5 kg per hectare is deemed suitable for a solid stand of Brachiaria, with rows planted approximately 50 cm apart. Figure 3 shows a solid stand of Brachiaria spp. hybrid cv. Mulato, illustrating its upright and leafy characteristics.

Brachiaria can also be established through rooted cuttings, similar to P. maximum, ensuring a very rapid establishment and allowing the plant to compete with weeds.

Management:

The Brachiaria species are most often used as cut-and-carry varieties in Southeast Asia, due to their upright nature and to the smaller plots available to most smallholder farmers. Depending on stand condition and prevailing environmental circumstances, these varieties can be cut every six weeks with close monitoring of soil fertility.

Brachiaria hybrids will respond quickly to the application of nitrogen. If available, the application of manure will also be beneficial. Grass stands should be monitored for signs of nutrient deficiencies, and fertilizer or manure should be added accordingly.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Brachiaria spp. hybrids: http://www.tropicalforages.info/ key/Forages/Media/Html/Brachiaria_spp._ hybrids.htm

Tropical Seeds – Mulato II: http://www. tropseeds.com/mulato-ii/; Cayman: http:// www.tropseeds.com/cayman/

 

Paspalum atratum

Common name: atratum; paspalum

Crude protein: between 5 and 10%, depending on soil fertility

Description:

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 4

Figure 4: Clumping characteristic of Paspalum atratum (source Cook et al 2005).

Paspalum atratum is another upright leafy grass very suitable for cut-and-carry feed, similar to the species described above. It requires a moderately fertile soil, but will tolerate low fertility acid conditions if nutrient management is addressed. It is extremely useful for sites that encounter occasional water logging in the wet season, but is generally not suited to long dry seasons, where a more drought tolerant species such as the Brachiaria spp. hybrids may be more suitable.

P. atratum has leaves that are soft and highly palatable when young, but that tend to become coarse and less palatable when older. P. atratum is best suited to frequent cutting, (resulting in more rapid plant growth), producing an excess of young leaves for quality animal feed. Figure 4 highlights the clumping nature of P. atratum.

Establishment:

As with other species, P. atratum can be established easily by rooted cuttings or by seed. If establishing from seed, use between 2 and 5 kg per hectare, plant it in rows approximately 50 cm apart, and ensure that weed control is maintained during the critical germination and establishment period.

Management:

This species is very tolerant of frequent and low cutting, but is best managed by allowing moderate regrowth before cutting. Cut approximately every six weeks in the main growing season and every eight weeks in the dry season.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Paspalum atratum: http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/ Forages/Media/Html/Paspalum_atratum. htm

Tropical Seeds – Ubon Paspalum: http:// www.tropseeds.com/ubon-paspalum/

 

Pennisetum purpureum

Common name: elephant grass; napier grass

Crude protein: varies according to age of regrowth and soil fertility, but can range between 9.5 and 19.7%

Description:

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 5

Figure 5: Mature stand of Pennisetum purpureum (source Cook et al 2005).

This is a tall grass species that forms large clumps similar to sugar cane. It can grow to over three metres tall if left to mature and form canes. It spreads through rhizomes or by rooting at nodes, and will form new plants when nodes touch the ground.

P. purpureum is reasonably drought tolerant, but only after forming an extensive root system. Otherwise it performs best for leaf production in areas with high rainfall and a short dry season. All of the cultivars in this family require high fertility for persistence, and production will decrease under declining fertility. Figure 5 shows a mature stand of P. purpureum, ready to be cut for maximum leaf yield.

Establishment:

This grass can only be established by fresh stem cuttings, with at least two nodes buried in the soil to ensure root development. Seeds produced from P. purpureum hybrids are generally either of low viability or sterile, depending on the variety.

Management:

P. purpureum requires a highly fertile soil to maintain productivity. Therefore, care must be taken to ensure fertilizer—particularly nitrogen—is adequate for continued high leaf production. Often this species is grown close to animal enclosures, so that manure can be regularly applied. However, livestock manure alone will not be sufficient to maintain this species.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Pennisetum purpureum: http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/ Forages/Media/Html/Pennisetum_purpureum.htm

[Editors’ Note: ECHO Asia has received and propagated a cross of napier (Pennisetum purpureum) with pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), which was bred by the Thailand Department of Livestock Development and dubbed “Pakchong 1” or “Super Napier” and claims to have up to 16-18 % crude protein. For cuttings, please contact echoasia@echonet.org.]

 

Stylosanthes guianensis

Common name: common stylo; stylo

Crude protein: between 12 and 20%

Description:

The leguminous S. guianensis produces high quality feed for all classes of livestock. It

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 6

Figure 6: Stylo ready for first cut (source Cook et al 2005).

can be fed dry or fresh, or can be processed into hay or a leaf meal for storage and later use. It is a short-lived perennial (living two to three years) that grows as a small shrub across a wide variety of soils and environmental conditions. It stays green well into the dry season.

S. guianensis is predominantly used as a cut-and-carry species, but is also useful in a long-term pasture system if left to produce seed and if rotational grazing is implemented. Figure 6 shows the soft leaf and stems, which are highly suitable for fresh animal feed.

Establishment:

S. guianensis is best established by seed. Most varieties produce seed prolifically in the dry season. Approximately 5 kg of seed per hectare is sufficient to establish single-species stands. Plant in rows of approximately 40 cm apart to facilitate harvesting and weed control.

Management:

Take care to ensure that the frequency between cuts is neither too short nor too long. If the species is left to grow tall and woody, the plant may have too few growth points from which to re-establish. Plants perform best when cut about 15 cm from the ground, to allow for low multiple growth points to develop (see Figure 6). Future cuttings can be made on an approximately eight week cutting schedule, depending on moisture and plant development.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Stylosanthes guianensis: http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/ Forages/Media/Html/Stylosanthes_guianensis_var._guianensis.htm

Tropical Seeds – Ubon Stylo: http://www. tropseeds.com/ubon-stylo/

 

Arachis pintoi

Common name: pinto peanut

Crude protein: between 13 and 25%

Description:

This is a very attractive, low-growing legume with an impressive daily display of yellow flowers. It is a high quality feed for all classes of livestock, and can withstand aggressive grazing or cutting. However, it requires a reasonably fertile, well-structured soil, and will need irrigation unless grown in areas with little or no dry season.

A. pintoi is a ground cover that also fixes nitrogen. As a ground cover, in time it can help exclude weeds from orchards. Being a ground cover species, A. pintoi does well with moderate levels of shade under trees. As mentioned, A. pintoi is a very useful species for orchards; it also forms a good association with Gliricidia sepium in pepper plantations (see Figure 7).

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 7

 

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 8Figure 7: Arachis pintoi as a ground cover under pepper. Note the use of Gliricidia sepium as a live support (source Cook et al 2005). Figure 8: Arachis pintoi showing nut formation (source Cook et al 2005).

Establishment:

If good quality seed is available, this species will generally establish well. Planting from seed allows the plant to develop a robust root system. However, seeds deteriorate quickly if not planted in a timely manner. It is often better to develop the species in an orchard through rooted cuttings from well-established stands of A. pintoi, ensuring that stolons are cut with sections showing some root development. There is another reason for establishing new stands of A. pintoi through cuttings rather than seed. A. pintoi seed is actually produced underground, similar to its relative the peanut, and it is difficult to harvest the seed correctly without loss or damage to the plant (see Figure 8).

Management:

A. pintoi does not require the addition of nitrogen fertilizer; however, in certain low fertility soils, the stand may require the addition of phosphorus and some micronutrients.

The species is well-suited to low cutting, but take care that cutting does not allow the opportunity for weed incursion; clumping grasses in particular will begin to dominate. In terms of a grazing environment, A. pintoi forms a good association with the grass species listed above.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Arachis pintoi: http:// www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/ Media/Html/Arachis_pintoi.htm

Tropical Seeds – Arachis pintoi: http:// www.tropseeds.com/arachis-pintoi/

 

Leucaena leucocephala

Common name: leucaena

Crude protein: up to 30%

Description:

L. leucocephala is a versatile legume species that has been naturalized in Southeast

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 9

Figure 9: Leucaena leucocephala; note the regrowth from a low coppice (source Cook et al 2005).

Asia. It is a long-lived tree legume very suitable for planting near smallholder farming households, and stays green during the dry season. This species has multiple benefits for smallholder farming systems, and it can be used as high quality, high protein leafy feed for ruminant livestock; a living fence; and firewood and construction material. L. leucocephala can be cut frequently and aggressively.

Establishment:

Leucaena is best established from seed. However, it generally develops slowly, so be sure to protect young plants from animals and from weed incursion. Seeds have a hard seed coat and should be scarified to ensure seed germination. Methods of scarification vary; for example, you can immerse seed in near-boiling water for up to 5 seconds and then immediately dip into cold water, or you can individually clip the small pointed end of the seed with scissors, to open the seed to moisture.

L. leucocephala is not particularly tolerant of acid, infertile soils. However, in my experience, this species is more tolerant than suggested in the literature. It is often found on the sides of roads in the lowland rice zones of Cambodia and within weedy urban areas of Phnom Penh, areas with soils that are usually acidic and somewhat low in fertility. If you work in a challenging environment, it is worth trying this species.

Management:

This species is extremely tolerant of low and frequent cutting. To aid in harvesting leaf and stem for livestock, the plant is commonly coppiced at approximately 1 metre and allowed to form multiple stems at a convenient height. Figure 9 shows the coppicing ability of this species.

L. leucocephala does not typically require inorganic fertilizer. However the addition of manure from livestock will benefit the trees.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Leucaena leucocephala: http://www.tropicalforages.info/ key/Forages/Media/Html/Leucaena_leucocephala.htm

[Editors’ Note: ECHO Asia offers two types of Leucaena through our Seed Bank. Please be aware that, even though it is naturalized in many parts of Southeast Asia, it has the potential of becoming an invasive species.]

 

Gliricidia sepium

Common names: gliricidia

Crude protein: between 18 and 30%

Description:

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 10

 

The Use of Tropical Forages: Southeast Asia 11Figure 10: Classic living fence possibilities (source Cook et al 2005). Figure 11: Gliricidia sepium, showing high yield of leaf biomass (source Cook et al 2005).

G. sepium is another medium-sized tree legume that has a variety of uses in smallholder farming systems. G. sepium is commonly used as a living fence around household gardens, where the leaf and stem can be cut and added to compost. It is also a useful, high-yielding leafy legume supplement for livestock (see Figure 10). Some report that cattle and buffalo need to be “trained” to eat Gliricidia due to its smell, but it will be readily consumed if mixed with other forages (Horne, P.M. and Stür, W.W. 1999).

Cook et al (2005) suggest that G. sepium is suitable for living fences; cut and carry feed for livestock; firewood; shade and protection of seedlings in nurseries; and climbing plant support, particularly for pepper production.

G. sepium can be grown in a wide range of environments, including the acid soil landscapes common in the region. However, it will generally not tolerate wet or waterlogged soils for any length of time.

Establishment:

G. sepium originated in Central America. It has been naturalized across Southeast Asia in areas suitable for its development, and readily produces seed in areas with a defined dry season. To establish it, plant stem cuttings of about 1.5 metres in length, directly and uprightly placed in their final location. With adequate moisture, leaves should appear within four weeks. To make a living fence, use live stakes, placed according to the space requirements of the fence supports.

If establishing G. sepium by seed, scarification is not necessary. High germination rates are common. Seeds can be planted in a nursery, either in a seed bed or in individual seed raising bags for establishment at other sites. Plant seeds no deeper than 2 cm.

Management:

For use as a feed source, cut G. sepium approximately eight months after establishment. For highest productivity, cut at a height of about 1 metre every three months, depending on moisture availability. G. sepium is leguminous and fixes nitrogen, so it should not require additional fertilizer except for occasional application of manure. Figure 11 highlights the large biomass produced rapidly by this species.

For more information refer to:

Tropical Forages – Gliricidia sepium: http:// www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/ Media/Html/Gliricidia_sepium.htm

Seed Sources

Ubon Forage Seeds (agent for Tropical Seeds)

Faculty of Agriculture, Ubon Ratchathani University, Thailand 34190 Office: +66 (45) 353506 Email: michaelhareubon@gmail.com www.tropicseeds.com

ECHO Asia Impact Center

270/5 Tung Hotel Road Soi 6 T. Watget A. Muang Chiang Mai, 50000 Thailand Office: +66 (53) 304028 E-mail: echoasia@echonet.org www.echocommunity.org

References and Further Reading

Connell, J., Stür, W.W. and Horne, P.M. 2010. Forages and farmers: case studies from South-East Asia. ACIAR, Canberra and CIAT, Vientiane. ACIAR Monograph No. 142. 120 pp. [Online] Available: http:// aciar.gov.au/publication/mn142

Cook, B.G., Pengelly, B.C., Brown, S.D., Donnelly, J.L., Eagles, D.A., Franco, M.A., Hanson, J., Mullen, B.F., Partridge, I.J., Peters, M. and Schultze-Kraft, R. 2005. Tropical Forages: an interactive selection tool., CSIRO, DPI&F(Qld), CIAT and ILRI, Brisbane, Australia. [Online] Available: http://www.tropicalforages.info

Horne, P.M. and Stür, W.W. 1999. Developing forage technologies with smallholder farmers – how to select the best varieties to offer farmers in Southeast Asia. ACIAR Monograph No. 62. 80 pp. [Online] Available: http://aciar.gov.au/publication/mn062

Horne, P.M. and Stür, W.W. 2003. Developing agricultural solutions with smallholder farmers – how to get started with participatory approaches. ACIAR Monograph No. 99. 120 pp. [online] Available: http://aciar.gov.au/publication/mn099

Stür, W.W. and Horne, P.M. 2001. Developing forage technologies with smallholder farmers - how to grow, manage and use forages. ACIAR Monograph No. 88. 96 pp. [online] Available: http://aciar.gov.au/publication/mn088


Regions

Asia