Cultivation of Napier Grass for Cattle feeds

  • Napier or elephant grass is a perennial grass which provides nutrition and palatable green fodder around the year  
  • It contains about 8.2 per cent protein per cent 34 per cent crude fibre. 10 5 ner cent ash with both calcium and phosphorus in proper balance. 
  • For hay-making this grass is too coarse, but it can be used for silage making. 
  • A combination of Napier grass with lucerne or berseem or cowpea provides good quality palatable fodder for cattle. 
  • Napier grass is considered as a soil-restoring crop as grass leaves the soil richer in organic matter.

Origin, History and Distribution;

  • Napier or elephant grass is a native of Rhodesia in South Africa, where i is found growing extensively. 
  • The plant seems to have been used extensively as fodder for the first time in Rhodesia. 
  • The name “Napier grass’ is given in honour of Col. Napier, who first drew the attention of the Rhodesian Department of Agriculture in 1909 to the fodder value of this grass.
  • it was introduced to India in 1912 from South Africa.
  • It is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia Africa, southern Europe and America. 
  • Napier grass is a tall perennial grass growing to a height of about 150 to 200 centimetre. 
  • It is similar to sugarcane, in habit of growth. It grows in clumps of 20 to 30 stalks. 

Climatic Requirements and Soil ;

  • Napier grass can grow both under tropical and subtropical regions, but it grows best under warm tropics. 
  • Grass stands drought for short spells and regenerates with rains. It is very susceptible to frost. 
  • Napier flourishes well on a variety of soils especially on those with good moisture retention capacity. 
  • It can not survive in waterlogged soils. It can withstand saline conditions to some extent. 
  • With good drainage, fertile loam is best suited for its optimum growth.

Crop Rotations and Mixed Cropping ;

The following cropping patterns involving hybrid Napier may be of much use for a wide range of climatic conditions.

(1) Hybrid Napier is intercropped with cowpea during Kharif berseem during Rabi.

(2) Hybrid Napier is intercropped with cowpea during Kharif and lucerne during Rabi.

  • In the above two rotations, Hybrid Napier may be planted from February end to June-July. 
  • Earlier planting is better to get more and timely production but it needs assured irrigation. 
  • NB-21 and Pusa Giant varieties are better for intercropping. 
  • Two budded stem cuttings or rooted slips should be planted at the spacing of 90 centimetres between rows and 60 centimetres between plants. 
  • Cowpea should be planted between the rows to increase the yield and quality of forage, a buildup of soil fertility, suppress weed growth and also conserve soil moisture. 
  • With the start of winter, the growth of Hybrid Napier is checked due to low temperature, particularly in the northern parts of India and hence berseem or lucerne may be planted to get forage during that period. 
  • Hybrid Napier supplies fodder for four to five years. The stumps of Hybrid Napier become old and tillering capacity diminishes considerably, hence fresh planting is taken after four to five years.

Field Preparation;

  • The land should be prepared well and should be free weeds 
  • A good seedbed which is firm and well levelled is required in Hybrid Napier grass cultivation. 
  • Give the first ploughing with a mould-board subsequent two ploughings with a cultivator or harrow. Planking follows every ploughing.
Varieties of Napier Grass;  
CO-1, Hybrid Napier-3, (Swetika), CO- 2, CO-3, PBN -83, Yashwant ( RBN- 9) , IGFRI – 3, IGFRI- 4, IGFRI -5,  NB – 21, IGFRI – 6, IGFRI – 7, NB – 37,   PBN -233, KKM-1, APBN – 1, Saguna, Supria,  and Sampurna ( DHN- 6) .

Seed and Sowing;

  • A well-prepared seedbed with adequate moisture is essential for its establishment at the end of February or March. 
  • The grass does not produce viable seeds, hence it is propagated by vegetative means. 
  • When stem cuttings are used, each cutting having two or three nodes with potent bud is planted with a the spacing of 90 x 60 centimetre. 
  • One bud is buried Underground for the sprouting of roots and the rest one or two are kept at above ground level for the sprouting of shoots. 
  • When root-stocks are used they are separated into root slips and planted to a depth of 25-30 centimetre in the soil at a spacing of 90 x 60 centimetres in February-March or in July at the onset of monsoon. 
  • About 27,800 root slips or stem cuttings are needed for planting one hectare of land.

Manures and Fertilisers ;

  • Hybrid Napier is quick growing and responds to high fertility.
  •  Add 15-20 tonnes of farmyard manure or compost to the soil at least one month before planting. 
  • Apply phosphorus and potash according to soil test in deficient soils at the time of sowing. It should be followed by a top dressing of nitrogenous fertilisers at the rate of 100 kg nitrogen per hectare. 
  • The topdressing should be done twice in a year; one fifteen days after planting at the rate of 50 kg nitrogen per hectare and the other towards the end of the winter season. 
  • If convenient, divide the whole amount of nitrogen into three or four equal doses and apply after each cutting for quick growth.

Water Management ;

  • Immediately after planting, the plot should be irrigated heavily 
  • Subsequent irrigations should be given at weekly intervals for about two to three weeks by which time the planting would get established.
  •  Later, the plot would need irrigations at intervals of a fortnight or so, depending upon rainfall and other seasonal conditions. 
  • During rainy season after heavy and continuous rains, excess water from the field should be removed as Napier grass is very sensitive to waterlogging conditions.

Weed Control ;

In the initial stage  inter culture operations are necessary to keep down weeds while the grass  is getting established. Two to three weddings are required to control the weeds weeding maybe done either with hand hoe or wheel hoe

Diseases and Insect Pests ;

There is no problem with diseases and pests in Napier grass occasionally attacked by grasshoppers and stem borers. These controlled by spraying Emamectin Benzoate 5% SG at the rate of 220 gms per hectare. Two sprays are enough to control these Sprayings should be done at least 30 days before cutting of fodder.

Harvesting ;

  • If the planting is done in February-March, the crop will be ready for the first cut by the middle of May. 
  • Subsequent cuttings can be taken every 45 to 50 days, except during the winter months of November to January, when growth is rather slow, and the interval of cutting would have to be extended. 
  • While cutting the grass, it is desirable to leave a stubble height of at least 10-15 centimetre from the ground level so as to avoid damage to the young growing buds near the base of the plant.
  •  The crop should not be allowed to completely mature as the cattle will not relish the fodder and at the same time its nutritive value falls drastically.

Yield ;

Napier grass yields about 300 -400 tonnes/ha/year ( 6 – 7 cutting) of green fodder on an annual basis under good crop management. The yield of Napier grass mainly depends on the type of cultivar used and influenced of both the environment and management practices employed.



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