|Production Technology of Napier grass|
How to Grow Napier grass
Common name: Napier grass, elephant grass, Uganda grass.
Scientific name: Pennisetum purpureum.
Napier grass is a leafy, branching, vigorousgrowing perennial, attaining, under favorable conditions, a height of 10 to 15 feet at maturity. It has a strong, extensive fibrous root system which enables the plant to become quickly and permanently established in the soil. The leaf blades are usually 1 to 1% inches wide and 2 to 3 feet long. seed heads which are golden yellow to tawny in color and from 5 to 10 inches in length.
Napier, Merker, French Cameroon, Uganda hairless, clone 13, Pakistan hybrid, umfufu (local variety in South Africa) etc.
Napier grass is truly a tropical species, but it is very adaptable in nature and can be grown successfully in the subtropics and even in the warmer sections of the Temperate Zone. It can be grown at altitudes ranging from sea level to 2,000 m above sea level. When grown at altitudes above 2000 m, growth and regeneration after cutting is slow and it may die due to frost. It does best in high rainfall areas, over 1500 mm per year.
Napier grass has been grown successfully on a wide range of soil types in various parts of the world. but does best in deep, fertile, well draining soils.
Although Napier grass is aggressive and perennial in nature, competing very well with most weeds, it becomes well established in perfect stands only if planted in a thoroughly prepared seed bed. On new land or land that has been out of cultivation for some years, several plowing may be necessary. This procedure of ploughing and disking should be repeated once, twice or more if necessary.
Time: Plant at the beginning of the main (reliable) rainy season. Either canes or splits can be used for propagation. Canes require less labour and planting material. While splits are labour intensive and requires a lot of planting material.
Materials: Napier grass is propagated largely by vegetative means, either using stalk cuttings or rootclump divisions. Well developed hard stalks are best, not less than 3 or 4 months of age and not older than 8 to 12 months.
• Napier grass should be planted in rows.
• Spacing to adopt depends on moisture availability/rainfall.
• Recommendation for high rainfall areas is 90 by 60 cm or 100 by 50 cm.
• Recommendations for the low rainfall areas are 100 by 100 cm or 100 by 120 cm.
• Planting holes of 15 – 20 cm deep are recommended for farmers using cuttings and splits.
• Farmers using whole cane are advised to dig furrows of 10 – 15 cm deep.
Method of propagation
1. Cuttings Style
• Cane cuttings are placed at an angle of 450 inside the planting holes.
• Care should be taken to ensure that at least 2 nodes are within the soil.
• The buds of the cuttings should face up and should not be damaged.
• 11236 cuttings are required for planting per acre
2. Splits Style
• Splits are placed within the planting holes and firmly put in the soil.
• 14045 splits are required for planting per acre.
3. Cane Style
• Cane are laid end to end in the furrow and covered with soil.
Fertilizer and Manuring
• 1 bag of 50 kgs of NPK (20:20:0) is applied at planting per acre.
• One spade full of farm yard manure can be applied in the planting holes at planting time.
• Apply two 50 kg bags of NPK 20:20:0 per acre in the middle of the long rains.
• Another two 50 kg bags of NPK 20:20:0 at the onset of short rains.
• Alternatively apply 30 kg of CAN at the beginning and another 30 kgs in the middle of the long rains. 40 kgs of CAN should be applied in the course of the short rains.
• Slurry (mixture of dung & urine) can be applied immediately after harvesting in a furrow along the rows of Napier and covered with soil as weeding is also done.
Napier grass can be intercropped with various legume crops and shrubs. Intercropping with legumes improves the quality of the fodder and soil fertility.
After planting a new crop of Napier is kept clean of weeds by Carrying out a minimum of two weeding (3 weeks after planting then 3 or 4 after the first weeding) before first harvest.
Irrigation is essential for high yields. A furrow system is quite satisfactory, applying water about every 10 days during the dry weather.
Important disease are Head Smut, Napier Stunting Disease, Snow Mould Fungal Disease etc.
• Avoid using manure from livestock fed on smut infected plants.
• Use of clean planting materials.
• Uprooting and burning of affected materials.
• Observe routine agronomic measures.
• Use resistant varieties
• The first cutting is expected 3 – 4 months after planting (when at one meter high).
• At first harvesting it is recommended that the cutting be done at a height of 5 cm from the soil/ground. This is to allow for more growth of new shoots.
• Cutting intervals usually depend on rainfall availability and the level of management.
• Successive harvests should be done when the crop is 1.5 meters.
• Napier should be cut 5 cm from the ground.
Expected yield is 20,000 to 40,000 kg of fresh Napier per acre.
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