Few days back, while reporting and analyzing a pearl farm, so that all our Krishi Jagran/ Agriculture World readers get to know about the magic of pearl farming and the ways in which its done, we met this farmer who was very excited about his small Azolla pond. The village in the outskirts of UP, is primarily dependent on wheat and paddy for the filling up their pockets, and animal husbandry is an occupation which is taking up a wider and better face in the village. But feeding the animals is the most important thing, which has to be looked into for the best productivity.
Though dairy is a profitable business since it renders the farmer with a lot of by products in terms of manure, dairy products and milk etc. the foremost important consideration is the feed which the animals take. But feeding the animals is not a small task, on a rough average dairy animals eat upto 9 Kg of feed, which has to be nutritious for a good production of milk, and this need can be easily satisfied with AZOLLA. Azolla is amazing since it has the capability of replicating by three times in a span of 3 days and is a wonder fodder for animals.
Another thing to be noted is, AZOLLA has a number of other uses as well, which we mention here :
What is Azolla?
Azolla is a small aquatic fern with a branched stem and bilobed leaves. The roots that emerge from the stem help the plants to float on water. It is generally found floating on stagnant water. There is a small cavity on the upper most part of the leaf which houses as many as 80,000 blue green algae having the capacity to fix atmospheric nitrogen and make it available to Azolla. In return the blue green algae gets shelter and food from Azolla fern and blue green algae. When the plant dies and decays in the soil nitrogen becomes available to plants.
What All can AZOLLA do?
= Azolla can double its body weights in 3-5 days. In 3-4 weeks, 5-10 tonnes of biomass can be obtained from one hectare providing at least 30 kg nitrogen. Plant body analysis of Azolla (dry weight basis) has shown that it contains 4.5% nitrogen (N), 2.6% phosphorus (P) and 0.9% potash (K).
= Besides NPK, Azolla is a good source of secondary nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and sulphur.
= Since it contains 16-24% protein, it is used in the production of cattle and poultry feed.
= The use of Azolla in rice field at the rate of 200 gm square metre area can increase rice yield by 12-38%. Experiments have shown that application of 10 tonnes of fresh Azolla biomass in one hectare, adds as much as 100 kg nitrogen.
= In rice fields a good growth of Azolla can check weed growth as well.
More than seven species of Azolla have been identified so far. It grows well in soils with less clay and more sand with an optimum pH ranging between 5-7 and temperature range of 20-30 degrees C. Azolla can be dried and preserved for later use as manure. It has been estimated that 300 kg dry Azolla is equivalent to 5 tonnes of green Azolla.
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