LESSON NINE: PASTURE AND FORAGE CROPS
Meaning: Pasture is an area of land containing grasses and legumes meant for feeding farm animals.
Forage crops are grasses and legumes which are primarily grown for the feeding of livestock.
Uses of forage crops:
1. Forage crops are used as livestock feed. They are mainly fed to ruminants. They can be served as soilage, silage, hay, straw
2. They are used as cover crops. Legumes are mostly used in this regard.
3. Grasses are used as roofing materials.
4. They help to check erosion.
5. They are used as mulching materials when they are cut and dried.
6. They are used as green manure.
Types of pasture
a. Natural Pasture: Here, grasses and legumes grow naturally on their own. Natural pasture can also be referred to as rangeland or natural grassland. They are not established by man. Such can be found in within the savannah areas of Nigeria.
Characteristics of Natural Pasture
i. It contains grasses, legumes, herbs, shrubs and tree.
ii. They used to raise ruminants.
iii. As a result of lack of maintenance, the grasses and legumes may be of low quality.
iv. The soil is of low fertility
v. The vegetations there have good regenerative ability.
vi. They can withstand trampling by farm animals.
vii. They are drought resistant.
viii. The growth of new grasses is enhanced by burning.
ix. The productivity of the vegetation is improved through the introduction of more legumes.
x. Natural pastures are found in the Guinea Savannah areas West Africa.
b. Artificial Pasture: This is referred to as an established or improved pasture. The grasses and legumes are intentionally planted/raised and managed by man to sustain farm animals.
Characteristics of Artificial Pasture:
i. Artificial pasture contains high quality grasses and legumes.
ii. It contains a grass to legume ratio in a desired proportion.
iii. It has regenerative ability after grazing.
iv. It contains high palatable and nutritive weeds.
v. It withstands trampling by the livestock.
vi. The legumes enrich the soil with soil nitrates
vii. The mixture has the ability to provide adequate diet for the farm animals
Common Pasture Grasses and Legumes
1. Bahama (Cynodon dactylon): it is perennial grass. It is propagated through stolon. It has a high drought resistance. It si about 60cm tall. It is dominant and difficult to remove.
2. Carpet grass(Axonopus compressus): it is a perennial crop. It is a creeping plant with adventitious roots. The stems are compressed and two edged. It has aggressive growth. It is not very nutritive. It is propagated through seeds and stolons.
3. Elephant grass (Pennisetum purprueum): It is high leafy grass. It is an erect grass. It is a perennial cane grass. It has dull-green with purplish leaf blades. It is vigorous and aggressive in nature. It is palatable to livestock.
4. Giant star grass (Cynodon plectostachyus): It is a perennial grass. It is creeping with adventitious roots. It is propagated by seeds and cuttings. It is ideal for silage preparation. Its height is about 1m to 2m. It is palatable to livestock.
5. Guinea grass (panicum maximum):
It is a perennial grass. It has a vigorous growth. It grows to about two metres tall. Its root stock is short. It is propagated through seeds and stolons. Its seeds are many with low viability.
6. Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana): It is a perennial grass. It has a dominant and spreading ability. It has drought resistance. It does not withstand repeated cutting or grazing. It is propagated through stolons. It is ideal for silage preparation.
7. Northern gamba grass (Andropogon gayanus): It is a perennial grass. It is drought resistant. It is propagated through stolons. It is not very palatable because of the hairy nature. Its height is about half to one metre. It is well distributed in the savannah.
8. Southern gamba grass (Andropogon tectorum): It is a perennial grass. It grows well in waterlogged area. It is also hairy and not palatable. It is propagated through stolons. It is ideal for silage preparation. It is well distributed in the rain forest areas.
9. Spear grass (Imperata cylindrica): it is a perennial grass. It is dominant and difficult to remove. It has creeping underground rhizomes. It has needle-like leaves tips. Its shoots appear from each node along with adventitious roots. It is propagated with rhizomes. Its seeds are produced on a very hairy head of spikelets.
1. Calapo (Calapogoniun mucunoides): it is a perennial legume. It is a vigorous climbing legume. It is palatable and highly nutritious. Its leaves are very wide, and trifoliate in nature. It can spread over the soil to form a good cover crop. It is essential for silage preparation. It is propagated through seeds.
2. Centro (Centrosema pubescens): It is a perennial legume. It is a creeping and twining legume. Its stems and leaves are hairless. It tolerates shade. It is very drought resistant. It is highly nodules-rooted. It is palatable and highly nutritious to ruminants. It is propagated through the seeds, which are self-propagated.
3. Puero/Tropical kudzu(Pueraria phasaeloides): it is a perennial legume. It is a vigorous climbing legume. Its leaves are trifoliate and are attached to the stem through a pulvinus. It is not very resistant to drought. Its stems and leaves are densely hairy. It is propagated through the seeds, having self-dispersal ability.
4. Stylo (Stylosanthes gracilis): It is a perennial legume. Its leaves are trifoliate and are attached to the stem through a pulvinus. It is highly nodule-rooted. It spreads over the soil to form a good cover crop. Its stems and leaves are hairless. It is palatable and highly nutritious. It is propagated through seeds. It can be used as hay and silage.
Other legumes include: Cowpea (Vigna sinensis), Muccuna (Muccuna utilis), Soyabeans (Glycine max), Sun hemp (Crotalaria juncea)
1. Amaranthus (Amaranthus viridis): it is an annual weed. Its flower heads are on terminal spikes. It has numerous seeds. It grows well on light soil under warm conditions. It is propagated through the seeds.
2. Crow foot grass (Eleusine indica): it is an annual grass. It ios an erect grass. It grows mainly in waste places. Its roots help to control erosion. It has deep penetrating roots. It is used for raising ruminants, especially under extensive management system. It is propagated through the seeds and asexually.
3. Tridax (Tridax procumbens): It is an annual weed. It grows to about half to one metre tall. The ray florets are white. Its fruits have hairy pappi which aid in seed dispersal through the wind. It is a useful feed for rabbits.
4. Water leaf (Talinum triagulare): it is an annual weed. Its flowers cluster on the fork of the leaves. It is an ideal food for man and feed for rabbit. It is propagated through the seeds. They are well distributed in gardens and farmlands.
5. Wild marigold (Aspilia africana): It is an annual weed. It is not a poisonous weed. The fruits are dispersed by animals. It is a palatable feed for rabbits it gives the whole pasture an orange-yellow carpet. It is propagated through the seeds. It survives mostly in the rain forest zones.
Another example: Pig weeds (Boerhivia diffusa).
Factors affecting the distribution and productivity of pasture:
Establishment of pasture
Sequential processes taken in the establishment of pasture: Site selection, Land clearing and clearing of debris, cultivation of land, seeding, supplying, planting of legumes, cutting of grasses to encourage tillering, weeding, fertilizer application, irrigation, paddocking.
In setting up pasture, the following considerations are to be given to the species to be chosen:
1. Adaptation of species: the legumes should be adapted to the local environment.
2. Ability of the species to penetrate: the ability of the forages to grow continuously throughout the year. This helps to control the cost of establishing pasture.
3. Palatability: the forages should be tasteful. This can be measured by the quantity of the grasses and legumes consumed.
4. Compatibility: The grass to legume mixture must be able to grow together.
5. Time of maturity: the forage crops should be able to mature within a short time.
6. Regrowth potential: This is the ability of the species to regrow, withstand trampling and grazing.
7. Topography of the area: Tufted species of pastures should be used where the land is prone to erosion. The tuft nature of the pasture prevents erosion.
Problems associated with seed production
1. Prolonged head emergence within the species. Some species, such as Panicum maximum take thirteen months or more to produce seeds, and four to five weeks to mature.
2. Prolonged flowering within the head which can last for seven weeks or more in some species. A quick flowering within the head is essential.
3. Decreased duration of flowering. The early flowering of the pastures does not last long and therefore, leads to smaller and fewer seeds that are produced.
4. Low seed rate: This is found when there is prolonged flowering and decrease flowering duration.
5. Low number of tollers. In most tropical species, there are few head-bearing tollers without a corresponding increase in the individual weight of the caryopsis.
6. Indirect factors like low seed retention, extensive logging and spikelet diseases.
Management Practices of Pasture
1. The stocking rate: The species of livestock and their real numbers to be placed on the pasture should be determined. This is to prevent over grazing resulting from overstocking. The ideal method of stocking is permitting two types of livestock to exist on a pasture.
2. Burning: This should be done within a wide range of time. This will permit increase in the regeneration of the pasture.
3. Fencing: This is the grouping/dividing of the pasture into sections known as paddocks. This facilitates grazing, especially if the pasture is very productive.
4. Use of fertilizers: there should be application of fertilizers or organic manures. This promotes rapid and bountiful growth of the pasture.
5. Use of suitable forage species: the species to be introduced should be proven for productivity, adaptation to the environment, respond to grazing and absorb nutrients from the manure.
6. Shading: There should introduction of trees with vegetation which can form canopy. These trees will provide shade and increase the grazing ability of livestock.
7. Weed control: The pasture should be kept free of weeds. This reduces competition with the forage crops.
8. Pest and disease control: Measures should be taken to control the invasion and attack of insect pests. Plant diseases should also be checked to improve productivity of the pasture.
9. Irrigation: There should be supply of water to the pasture to encourage the growth of forage crops especially during the dry season.
Major factors affecting pasture include:
1. Climatic factor: Such as rainfall, temperature, cloud cover, light, day length, light intensity, relative humidy.
2. Soil factors: They include soil pH, soil organisms, soil fertility, soil texture, type and structure.
3. Biotic factors: They include pests and diseases
Other factors include: pollution, topography, farming system, social, religious, and economic factors
Productivity of pasture
1. Climatic factors such as high temperature, length of day light low rainfall are required.
2. The forage crops should be able to survive and spread vegetatively (Persistence).
3. Adequate control of pests and diseases attack promotes the viability, nutrients, quantity, and survival of the pasture.
4. There should be controlled stocking of farm animal. This helps to control overgrazing.
5. Proper management programme should be carried out to ensure greater productivity.
6. The aggressiveness of the forage crops to compete with weeds and retard growth of weed should be applied.
7. Forage crops with high drought resistant ability should be grown. This helps to maintain high productivity and ensures availability of forage in and out of season.
8. Seed Viability should be ensured in order promote continuous productivity.
9. The species of pasture to be cultivated should be easily cultivated, have high yield of dry matter, and have the ability to tolerate other species of forage crops.