A new hybrid grass called Pakchong Napier, which is gaining popularity among dairy farmers in Bhutan, could be the answer to fodder shortage in the country.
Nutritious, fast growing and high-yielding this super grass, which claims to contain 16 to 18 % crude protein of a paddy straw feed, is seen as the best alternative to address fodder shortages in high altitude areas particularly during winter according to Dhan Bdr Gurung with Regional Livestock development Center in Zhemgang.
Gurung said that Pakchong’s grass growth with its fast growing nature can yield about 200 tonnes an acre a year, enough to feed 20 dairy cows for 12 months.
Records maintained by the center shows that the initial crop can last for around seven years, prior to replanting, with new crops and can be harvested once a quarter. The stalks are cut close to the ground, and in no time, new shoots come out.
The fodder is best suitable under wet tropical or sub-tropical climate with a minimum annual rainfall of 1200mm. The soil texture best suitable is acidic red loam or mildly saline soil. It also has excellent resistance to excessive rains and waterlogging during rainy season,
To do a conduct a comparative study and evaluate the forage yield, nutrient quality and morphology, the grass was distributed to all four regions and propagated at Pasakha and Phuentsholing for west, Kikhorthang for west-central, Tingtibi, Bhur and Darjethang for east-central and Lingmethang for east.
It was also distributed to Nimshong in Trongsa, Nangkor, Trong and Ngala geogs in Zhemgang and Singye, Dekiling, Chuzagang, Umling and Sompangkha geogs in Sarpang from the germplasm banks established in Sarpang and Tingtibi.
To encourage farmers on growing the super grass officials have carried out a program on its performance and plantation technique.
As per the center, the fodder has other advantages including making fertiliser by mixing with cattle manure and in making silage. The grass is also suitable to feed to hogs, chickens, ducks, plant eating fish, horses, and rabbits and for feeding earthworms in vermiculture.
The super grass was developed by Dr. Krailas Kiyothong of Thailand by crossing Pennisetum purpureum (Elephant grass) and Pennisetum glaucum (Pearl Millet). He named it ‘Pakchong’ after his research place. The Regional Livestock Development Centre, Zhemgang introduced it in sub-tropical areas under east-central region to achieve fodder self-sufficiency.