Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (KALRO) has released a new double yielding and high protein content napier grass variety that is performing better than the traditional types which have more fibre content than nutrients.
Ronald Omariba, an agricultural extension officer in Kisii County said as opposed to the common grasses, the new giant napier variety gives a yield of up to 100 tonnnes per acre in a year.
“The existing varieties give between 50 tonnes and 60 tonnes per acre per year. With the new variety, you need one acre to produce what two acres will give over the same period and land,” he said.
Double production from an acre means better land usage, with the rest remaining for other uses.
A great per percentage of common napier grass varieties is roughage and carbohydrates. Their nutritive value, especially proteins, is as low as 8.3 per cent per given mass.
Giant napier grass has a protein content of up to 25 per cent per given mass, the extension officer, who is in charge of Keumbu Sub-county said.
After the establishment, the grass is ready for harvest by the end of three months. Common varieties may take four months to mature.
“Giant napier is ready for harvest when the stalks-cane part- is two to three feet, when nutrients are highest. The advantage with this type again is that it is easy to chew and nutritious even with hardened stalks; no wastage,” he said.
In well drained fertile soils, a farmer can harvest more than 100 tonnes per acre per annum, the officer said during the Kisii County Agricultural Society of Kenya Show, 2016.
It is also tolerant to drought, and can give the 100 tonnes per care per year in regions with as little as 150mm per annum rainfall. With irrigation, it can do well in dry areas just like in the tropics where there is sufficient rain.
For the best results, even when a dry spell strikes, the growing the grass using Tumbukuza method will give ‘above board’ results.
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It can be propagated by splits or canes. Splits are best for Tumbukiza while canes require terrace-like drills.
The variety is available at KALRO regional centres.