By George Munene
Sugargraze is a new hybrid specialty forage introduced to the Kenyan market by agri-produce multinational Advanta. The multi-cut high sugar forage promises farmers a 30 per cent increase in milk output.
Given it is a sorghum variant sugargaraze is drought tolerant compared to other fodder crops such as maize and napier grass. It thrives in both high and low potential areas with poor soils, where maize production is poorer.
This also makes it an ideal source of fodder when maize and other feed sources fail.
It is high yielding with an acre giving up to 40 metric tonnes, which is much more forage than other sources of fodder such as maize. Unlike maize, their lower leaves do not dry out as the plant matures, remaining green and retaining a higher crude protein content.
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To other fodder sources such as maize, sugargraze has the advantage of ratooning (growing again). The second crop matures earlier but depending on the level of feed might yield slightly less than the first crop. This cuts on cost in land preparation, purchasing of seeds and replanting.
The late flowering sorghum cultivar has a high sugar content (Brix 16-18%) that is a superior source of energy to cows. This also improves its ensiling quality enabling farmers to make high-quality silage besides making it extremely palatable hence minimal feed waste.
Sugargaze should be established at a seed rate of 5kg per acre in heavy black soils and 6kg on light soils prepared to a fine tilth and at a planting depth of 5-6cm depth. The soils should preferably have a PH range of 5.5-7.0.
For optimum growth, farmers should conduct soil tests to establish their soil’s nutrient deficiency. Whilst planting phosphatic fertiliser should be applied at a rate of N-30kg/acre, P-2Kg/acre. Adequate nitrogen ensures fast growth and regeneration after cutting. Top dressing can be done at the third-week post-establishment using any nitrogenous fertiliser.
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Sugagraze is mature for harvesting after 75 –90 days after flowering for green forage and 85 days for green forage. Ratoon (second harvest) matures in just 50-60 days after the first cut. A farmer should leave a 6-8 inch stalk above ground to allow for immediate regeneration of multi-cuts.
“Sugargraze is harvestable for one and half years before needing to be changed,” says Jomo Mwangala a seed agronomist at Elgon Kenya Limited
Advanta Seeds International: +254703879082