Are you looking for cheaper and quality animal feed? Imagine a crop that can double its biomass within 2-3 days, requires minimal input costs, and is in high demand among farmers. This post will educate you on Azolla farming in kenya.
Azolla is also known as mosquito fern, duckweed fern, fairy moss, or water fern. It is an aquatic fern that is rich in nutrients and can be used as a feed supplement for livestock giving you more yields and profits. It is is a branched, free-floating aquatic fern with a rapid growth rate.
The Azolla plant has 3 varieties or species that you can grow in Kenya. These are, Azolla Nilotica, Azolla Imbricata and the Azolla Pinatta. The most common variety that is grown in Kenya is Azolla Pinatta.
For centuries, Azolla plant is used as a natural fertilizer and livestock feed. It is commonly found in freshwater environments such as ponds, lakes, and rivers.
Facts about Azolla
- Azolla is a fast-growing aquatic plant that can double its biomass within 2-3 days under ideal conditions.
- Azolla contains 25-30% protein, which is higher than most other conventional animal feed sources such as maize, wheat, and soybean.
- Azolla is rich in essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, making it a complete feed for livestock.
Uses of Azolla
Azolla farming has gained high popularity among Kenyan farmers due to its many benefits for farmers and the environment. Azolla has fast growth rate, high nutrient content, and low production cost. In addition, it is rich in nitrogen. Due to these benefits, it has been known to increase crop yields when used as a natural fertilizer. Additionally, Azolla can be used as a cheap, protein-rich feed for livestock such as poultry, goats and cattle.
Azolla farming is also a sustainable and eco-friendly practice. Azolla fixes nitrogen from the air and converts it into a form that can be easily absorbed by plants. This makes it an excellent organic fertilizer that can improve soil fertility and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, Azolla is a non-toxic and non-invasive plant that does not pose any harm to the environment.
Benefits of Azolla farming
Why should you consider growing Azolla? Below is a summary of top benefits of Azolla farming that you can get;
- Low production cost: Azolla farming requires minimal input costs. The only significant cost involved is the initial setup cost of the pond or tank, which is relatively low
- High yields: Azolla can double its biomass within 2-3 days under ideal conditions. You can harvest the crop every 5-7 days, providing a continuous supply of feed for your livestock.
- High market demand: The demand for Azolla seed and plants is increasing in Kenya. It is high among organic farmers who are looking for cheap organic livestock feed and organic fertilizers.
- Multiple uses: Azolla can also be used as a natural fertilizer, a biofuel, and a source of bioactive compounds for the pharmaceutical industry.
- Mosquito control; Azolla restricts the mosquito breeding process. It prevents the survival of larvae and hinders laying of eggs on surface.
- Weed control; Azolla is a perfect companion plant for organic paddy rice farmers. It works by nitrogen fixation, blocking sunlight and works as mulch that prevents waterloss and hinders weed growth.
Where to grow Azolla in Kenya
Are you wondering if your place is fit for azolla farming? You can grow azolla in ponds, ditches or wetlands. You are good to go if you have a source of stagnant or slow moving water. Best ecological conditions for growing azolla are;
- Access to fresh water
- Soils with pH of 3.5-10. The Optimum growth is observed at pH 4.3-7.
- Temperature ranges of between 20-30°c.
- An area with full or partial shade, with about 25-50% access to sunlight daily.
- A supply of composted manure.
- Available space, for the purposes of holding manure.
How to grow Azolla in Kenya
As shown above, Azolla farming gives you an opportunity to improve your farm’s profits and yields. Below we give you six steps of how to start and manage an Azolla farm: these include location selection, pond making and harvesting.
- Choose the right location: Azolla farming requires a location that receives plenty of sunlight and has access to a reliable source of water. The ideal pH range for Azolla growth is between 6.5-7.5.
- Set up the pond or tank: The pond or tank should be constructed using a UV-resistant material such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The pond should be at least 50 cm deep and have a surface area of at least 10 sq meters. The pond should also have a drainage system to prevent waterlogging.
- Prepare the Azolla culture: 500g of Azolla culture is required per square meter of the pond. The Azolla culture can be obtained from a reputable supplier or by collecting it from a natural source. The culture should be kept in a small container with enough water to cover the plants. The container should be placed in a shaded area for 2-3 days to allow the plants to acclimatize to the new environment.
- Introduce the Azolla to the pond: Once the culture has acclimatized, it can be introduced to the pond or tank. The culture should be spread evenly across the surface of the water. The initial density should be around 100-200 grams per square meter.
Maintaining Azolla Pond
To be sucessful, its good to Maintain the right conditions. Azolla requires the right conditions to grow and thrive. The ideal temperature range for Azolla growth is between 20-30 degrees Celsius. The pH should be maintained between 6.5-7.5, and the water should be changed every 7-10 days. • Remove any litter or aquatic weeds seen in the pond regularly.
Harvest and sell the Azolla: Start harvesting after 2-3weeks. Plastic sieves can be used for harvesting. Azolla can be harvested every 5-7 days. Harvested Azolla is to be washed thoroughly to remove dirt and the smell of cow dung before feeding them to animals. The harvested Azolla should be dried in the sun for 1-2 days to reduce its moisture content. The dried Azolla can be sold to livestock farmers or used as a natural fertilizer. The price of a kilogram of Azolla goes for Ksh 1000.
Azolla farming in Kenya is an easy way to improve your yields and profits. You can use Azolla as an organic fertilizer and a livestock feed. Other benefits include reduced costs, increased crop yields, and improved animal health. By following the guidelines and tips outlined in this article, farmers can successfully start and manage an Azolla farm for maximum profitability and sustainability.