Azolla farming – Cultivation of Azolla for Sustainable and highly Nutritious Animal feed!

What is Azolla?

Azolla a free-floating aquatic fern seems to hold the solution for this situation. Azolla fixes atmospheric nitrogen in association with nitrogen-fixing blue-green alga Anabaena azollae, making it an excellent source of protein for livestock. It belongs to the family Azollaceae and orders Pteridophyta. The plant is highly productive with the ability to double its weight in seven days. It can produce 9 tons of protein per hectare of pond per year. This can be used as a part of feed or as a supplemental source of protein and minerals in the cattle ration.

Azolla as a Cattle feed –

India is the largest producer of milk but still, there is an acute shortage of feed and fodder for dairy animals. The shortage of fodder is, therefore, compensated with the use of readymade commercial feed resulting in an increased cost of milk production. Azolla is an amazing Alternative for green Fodder. It provides sustainable Fodder to animals. Azolla has a high content of proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B12, Beta Carotene), growth promoter intermediaries, and minerals.

Production of Azolla –

  1. First of all, a pit of 8ftX4ftx3 ft is dug in the field. The size of the pit can be varied depending upon need. The pit is covered with a polythene sheet (preferably two-layered) to retain water properly.
  2. About 7-8 kg of fertile soil is uniformly spread over the sheet. Slurry made of 2-3 Kg cow dung and 30 gms of superphosphate (as phosphorus source) in 10 litres of water is poured onto the pit. The pit is then filled with water.
  3. About 2-2.5 Kg of fresh and healthy Azolla culture is inoculated in the pit. The pit will be filled with Azolla within 2-3 weeks depending upon environmental conditions. Azolla can be harvested daily and fed fresh or maybe sundried for storage.
  4. Some of the Azolla should be left in the pit that serves as inoculum for the next crop. If half of the Azolla growth is harvested the rest half of the pit can be filled in 2 weeks.
  5. For proper maintenance of Azolla production, the water level should be checked in the pit regularly and 20-25% freshwater should be added in the pit at 2 weeks to prevent nitrogen build-up in the bed.
  6. After six to eight months of continuous production soil and water should be replaced along with fresh Azolla culture inoculation. During pest and disease conditions fresh beds along with a fresh culture of Azolla should be prepared.

Cost of Azolla Unit –

The expenditure on preparing a 6 X 4 feet pond is minimal at Rs.500 (sheet plus labour cost). 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.

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