By George Munene
After five days of feeding azolla from his pond to his flock of 40 birds, George Muturi, proprietor of Agritech organic farm recorded an increase in egg output of 27-28 eggs from 17 every week.”
Azolla is an aquatic fern that serves as a rich source of high-quality plant protein feed to supplement traditional livestock feed for poultry, pigs, fish, goats and cows. It can also serve as a green fertiliser. In a Moi University, Department of Soil Science 2013 study aimed at soil fertility improvement in irrigated rice-fish farming system in Kenya‘s Lake Victoria basin, Azolla at 2 ton/ha+ urea 72 kg N/ha + fish (T2) gave a 25.9% increase in rice height.
Azolla is easy to propagate with a farmer needing no more than a source of stagnant water, azolla plant material and some manure/compost material. It doubles in biomass every 72 hours if it is well-nourished with yields of 2kg/day in a 4 to 4.5 m2 pond with 10-15 cm depth. The crop can be maintained by adding one kilogram of cow dung and an optional two 80-100 grams of superphosphate every two weeks.
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As a livestock feed azolla has higher protein content (19-35%) than most green forage crops. Mineral content of 10-15%, 15.7% crude fiber and 7-10% essential amino acids (vitamins A, B12 as well as Beta Carotene.
You will need a source of stagnant or slowly moving water. This can be a pond, a dilapidated cutout water tank or a held up dam liner. You will need fully composted manure to provide food for the growing azolla.
At least a foot to two feet of space is needed to ensure you have a foot of space to hold the manure and growing room for azolla. You will need at least 800 grams of azolla culture for a 2m2 pond.
Before introducing the azolla into the setup leave the setup for a couple of hours to a day.-Azolla can grow in soils with PH ranges of 3.5-10 but optimum growth is observed in the 4.3-7 range. Optimum temperatures for growth ranges between 20-30 °C. Azolla also grows best in areas of full or partial shade (25-50% of full sunlight). Anything exceeding half sunlight cover reduces the rate of photosynthesis.
Azzola is harvestable every 3 days.
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George Muturi, proprietor of Agritech organic farm in Kiambu propagates his azolla in a foot deep 1.5M*7.5M dam liner pond held up by tree posts and bamboo. He adds 6 buckets of manure and one bucket of vermicompost The azolla is ready for harvest after just three weeks. Every three days he collects up to 10-15 kilograms. For Muturi, one kilogram of azolla is fit to provide sufficient dietary protein for up to 50 of his chickens. Most of his azolla he feed to his pigs and chicken, though he sells 10-20 kilograms of it at Sh1000 per kilogram every month to farmers looking to propagate it.
If there is a slowdown in the rates of growth add more manure to ensure that the azolla is well nourished.
Azolla is fed directly or dried before being given to livestock directly or mixed in with concentrates. When dung is used to as fertiliser for azolla it should be washed before being fed to the animals. Fresh azolla is perishable thus need to be dried under shade for storage and the propagation pond needs to be drained every six months.
George Muturi: 0717411668