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Azolla – The Miracle Fern as Cattle Feed

It is a floating fern consisting of branched, short, floating stem and bearing roots which hangs downward in the water. It is a kind of green fodder which is used as a feed for cattle, as it is easily digested by the animals. Azolla contains high amount of nutritional benefits as compared to other green fodder. Along with this it is also helpful in nitrogen fixation in rice crop. Therefore it is also used as bio-fertilizer and green manure in the rice field. Azolla is a rich source of protein content, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals (like calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium). Azolla can also be given to goat, pig, sheep and rabbit as feed substitute.

Cultivation of Azolla:

• Artificial water body is required for the cultivation of Azolla.
• For construction of artificial water body, the pit of having dimensions 2m X 1m X 20cm (length X breadth X width) should be dug.
• Cover the pit with plastic gunnies to protect it from water seepage, soil temperature and to prevent root development of nearby trees.
• Spread sieved soil@10-15 kg uniformly on the plastic sheet.
• Mix Cow dung@5 kg, azophos@40 gm and azofert or SSP@20 gm in 10 ltr water to prepare the slurry. After mixing it properly, filter it, and then add more water in it to make the level of up to 8 cm.
• Inoculation of diseased and pest free fresh Azolla is done.
• The Azolla grows within 7-10 days in the pit and about 1-1.5 kg Azolla can be harvested.
• The slurry made by mixing dung@2 kg, azophos@25 gm and azofert@20 gm in 2 ltr water should be given once in 7 days for the rapid multiplication of Azolla.

Harvesting:

Harvesting should be done with the help of plastic tray having holes of 1 cm 2 mesh size.

Precautions:

• Don’t add cow dung slurry, super phosphate and other macro and micro-nutrients except nitrogen at faster rate as it will lead to early maturity or sporulation stage.
• For the good growth and development of Azolla, temperature should not go up to 30 C. If temperature goes up maintain the temperature by covering it with shade net.
• Daily or in alternate days remove the bio-mass to avoid overcrowding.
• Check the pH on daily basis and maintain it between 5.5 – 7.
• The harvested Azolla should be washed thoroughly before feeding to animals.

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