The demand for milk production will continue to increase thanks to the population boom. For the 1st time in India, the nation became the world’s leading producer of milk in 2006. But since then, milk production has declined for a range of reasons. Despite declines in the industry, demand for dairy products keeps on rising. Projections state that in 2020, demand will outstrip supply unless farmers adopt sustainable agriculture practices and solutions. Planting superior Napier grass is one way to meet demand, increase cattle feed, and protect farmers’ income.
What are the significant issues facing dairy farmers in India?
Unfortunately, cattle rearing is declining in many areas that are key to milk production for a range of reasons. Mainly, the high cost of production, shortages in labour, and shrinking land. While the world’s population increases, and more and more people need to be fed, the planet can’t increase its arable landmass. Farmers will have to become savvier with sustainable agricultural practices and solutions.
Also, a significant dependence on cattle feed materials has increased the cost of many concentrate feeds. Straw normally used to feed lactating camels, and other cattle have become more scarce. Areas customarily used to grow hay have been turned over to rice cultivation to meet higher food demands for the human population. Superior Napier grass can solve some of these issues and make farming more sustainable. Green fodder grasses like natural Napier grass and hybrid Napier grasses can help farmers become more profitable while protecting the environment.
What is Napier grass?
Napier grass is a tall, leafy grass that looks similar to bamboo. It grows in abundant clumps and is native to the African continent, but it can grow well in subtropical climates too. Natural Napier grass can produce high yields and are relatively hardy plants. But they have a coarse texture that cattle don’t always find palatable. In natural Napier grasses, the leaf blades and sheaths are hairy, with serrated leaves and dry, fibrous stems.
But agricultural scientists and farmers alike could not ignore the sustainability potential of Napier grasses. In 1953, Indian scientists created a hybrid form of Napier grass between the natural plant species and the Bajra plant. The Bajra plant is a more succulent plant that cattle prefer to graze on, while the Napier grass plants give higher yield potential. The super Napier CO (BN) 5 species and other Napier grass hybrid plants are drought-resistant, fast-growing, high yield, and also palatable to cattle.
Hybrid Napier grasses are perennial grass plants. They can be retained on a field for up to three years. While natural Napier grasses produce a lot of leaves, hybrid Napiers are far superior with leaf production. The leaves are not only more abundant on the hybrid plant, but they are also larger, less hairy, and not sharp or coarse. Hybrid Napier is also faster growing. Its parentage is Interspecific hybrid between Fodder Cumbu IP 20594 (Pennisetum glaucum) and Napier grass FD 437 (P. purpureum Schumach)
How is superior Hybrid Napier grass planted and cultivated?
Napier grass will grow all year in tropical climates, where the ideal temperature is 31 degrees celsius. Appropriately watered, the plant will give an abundant yield, and total water requirements are between 800 and 1000 mm. Light loamy and sandy soil are preferred to more substantial soil types, but the plant can grow in a range of soil textures. The soil must be wet at the root zone, but not stagnated for the plant to grow well. Napier grasses do not like water-logged or flood-prone fields. pH levels should range between 5 and 8 for superior Napier growth.
Napier grass also requires a compact seedbed free of weeds, debris, and clods. Before preparing a ridge, a base application of manure should be made. Irrigation for Napier grass is easiest when ridges are made across a slope with spaces of 60 cm across and 25 cm high. About 16,000 cuttings are planted per acre.
Napier grasses are a sterile hybrid. When searching for superior Napier grass for sale, farmers will find slips or stem cuttings to plant – not seeds. The best Napier grass cuttings are those with two nodes in the middle portion of stems that are between three to four months old. Cuttings should be placed at a slant near the side of the ridge, with one of the two nodes planted below the soil.
Superior Napier grasses are ideal for increasing cattle feed and milk production. These hardy Napier grasses can not only protect farmers’ income and cattle health, but they can also help sustain the environment for generations to come.