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ICAR-Indian Grassland and Fodder Research InstituteICAR-Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute
(Indian Council of Agricultural Research)
Near Pahuj Dam, Gwalior Road, Jhansi - 284 003 (UP) India
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  Technology- IV: Azolla as supplement feed for livestock  
Azolla farming, in general, is inexpensive and it can be multiplied in natural water bodies for production of biomass. Biomass productivity is dependent on time and relative growth rate and efficiency of the species. Azolla is very rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B12, Beta Carotene), and minerals including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, ferrous, copper, magnesium. On a dry weight basis, Azolla has 25-35% protein, 10-15% mineral content, and 7-10% comprising a combination of amino acids, bio-active substances and biopolymers. During lean/ drought period it provides sufficient quantity of nutrients and acts as a feed resource.
Target area and suitable states :
It can successfully be grown round the year in southern states like Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and during monsoon and summer months in states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, U.P., Bihar, M.P., Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh. In North East and North West hilly states where winter is pronounced, azolla can be grown in monsoon and summer months.
Cultivation methodology
The biomass production under natural condition i.e. in rice field is only 50 g/ sq.m/day as against optimum production of 400 g/sq.m/day. The production efficiency can be increased by growing azolla in pits lined with synthetic polythene sheet in courtyard /back yard preferably in open space or on terrace where availability of sunlight is adequate. Production of azolla is good in nursery plots. Even the water bodies, ditches in the vicinity can also be used for production of azolla. The methodology for cultivating Azolla by the livestock farmers economical is described here under:
  • A water body of 2 x 1.5 x 0.4 m is dug and leveled to maintain uniform water. It should be lined with a silpauline sheet or any other polythene sheet. Silpauline is a polythene tarpaulin which is resistant to the ultra violet radiation in sunlight. Width of the bed is maintained at 1.5 m to enable the cultural operation from both sides.
  • About 10 – 15 kg of sieved fertile soil is uniformly spread (depth of soil layer should be about 10 cm) over the silpauline sheet which will provide nutrient to the azolla plant. Slurry made of 5 kg of pre-decomposed (2 days) cow dung and 30 g of super phosphate mixed in 10 litres of water, is poured onto the sheet. More water is poured on to raise the water level to about 20-25 cm.
  • About 0.5 – 1 kg of fresh and pure culture of azolla is inoculated in the water of the pit. This will grow rapidly and fill the pit within 10 – 15 days. From then on, 500 – 600 g of azolla can be harvested daily. Biomass should be removed at regular interval to avoid overcrowding or else growth is restricted.
  • A mixture of 20 g of super phosphate and about 1 kg of cow dung should be added once every 5 days in order to maintain rapid multiplication of the azolla and to maintain the daily yield of 500 g.
  • A micronutrient mix (about 40 g of nutrient mix made by mixing 10 kg rock phosphate, 1.5 kg magnesium salt and 500 g of murate of potash) containing magnesium, iron, copper, sulphur can also be added at monthly intervals to enhance the mineral content of azolla. This not only takes care of the micronutrient requirement of azolla but also the cattle when it is fed with the azolla.
Azolla is a highly productive plant. It doubles its biomass in 3–10 days, depending on conditions and it can yield upto 37.8 t fresh weight/ha (2.78 t DM/ha dry weight). It has been demonstrated in more than 50 farmers’ field of country through Adarsh Chara Gaon (20), Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav (10) NGOs (10) and KVKs (10). A farmer can realize a net profit of over Rs. 4000 per annum from the additional milk yield and reduced usage of concentrates' feeding for livestock.

Days for which fodder will be available:
Six months in a year

Estimated Expenditure on demonstration:
The cost involved in setting up Azolla plot varies between Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 for a structure of 5x2 sq m. The primary cost is in the form of manual labour, which can be contributed by the family labour. While estimating the cost of Azolla plot, two units of Azolla beds have been considered to maintain regular yield of azolla fodder.

Estimated expenditure per demonstration (Specify the unit area of demonstration):
Rs 5000 per 0.20 ha demonstration

Per unit cost:
The cost of producing Azolla with above method will be Rs1.0 to 1.5 per kilogram.

Source of inoculums:
  • Blue Green Algae Facility , IARI, NewDelhi
  • IGFRI, Jhansi
  • Central and State Agriculture Universities Natural Resources Development Project-NARDEP Technology Resource Centre Kanyakumari Tamil Nadu
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