This article focuses on Azolla farming in Kenya. Azolla is an aquatic fern that consists of a short, branched and floating stem, with roots hanging down in water. It is a highly productive plant that doubles its biomass within 3-10 days.
Azolla is primarily used as a livestock feed. It can be used to feed livestock such as cattle, poultry, pigs, fish and many more. It has high nutritional value, one main reason why it is a preferred livestock feed. It can also be used as organic fertiliser.
Varieties of Azolla
There are various varieties or species of Azolla that can be grown. This includes:
- Azolla Nilotica
- Azolla Imbricata
- Azolla Pinatta.
The most common variety that is grown in Kenya is Azolla Pinatta.
Nutritional Benefits of Azolla
- High protein content
- It is rich in essential amino acids, fiber and vitamins such as vitamins A and B12.
- Azolla is rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium.
Ecological Conditions for Growing Azolla
- Can be grown in ponds, ditches or wetlands. You are good to go if you have a source of stagnant or slow moving water.
- Soils with pH of 3.5-10. Optimum growth is observed at pH 4.3-7, while optimum temperature ranges between 20-30°c.
- Access to full or partial shade, with about 25-50% access to sunlight.
- Fully composted manure. The manure is necessary to provide for the Azolla that is growing.
- Enough foot space, about two feet of space for the purpose of holding manure. With proper spacing, azolla can yield up to 12 tonnes/ha.
Harvesting of Azolla
- Azolla can be harvested after every three days. Since it is primarily used as a livestock feed, it can be dried before being fed to animals. Alternatively, Azolla can be fed directly to animals.
- Azolla is highly perishable. It’s good to consider drying it immediately just in case of a surplus harvest.