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Azolla Plants - a Natural Nutrient Supply for the Cows

The author is a villager, M.Phil. in Botany, MBA Marketing, a certificate in IPR and farming in South India. Natural farming is his passion.

Azolla plants cultivated in a pond

Azolla plants cultivated in a pond

Milch cow nutrition

Lactating milch cows need balanced nutrition for profitable milk yield and healthy life. Feeding of high-quality fodder, cattle feed, mineral supplements is very important for maintaining high-quality milk. The quantity of milk reduction during winter and summer can be overcome by providing high-quality fodder to the cows.

One of the complaints by the farmers as well as the consumers are regarding poor quality cattle feed and the adulterated mineral supplements with hormones, which result in a problematic situation. Consumers don’t like hormone content in the milk due to the physiological ill effects on the consumers.

Continuous feeding of dry feed and paddy straw of hay to the cows cause loss of body nutrients and protein. Milk quality decreases and the cows may fall sick due to hay fever of ketosis. These are very bad luck situations to the farmers and recovery of cows from such debilitating situations result in considerable loss of profit from dairy farming.

A polythene lined Azolla pond

A polythene lined Azolla pond

Azolla pinnata and A. microphylla are cultivated as a fodder crop and also as a biofertilizer. As a fodder, it is being promoted worldwide by the dairy development agencies. It is also called as duckweed or mosquito fern and seen worldwide. Azolla applied as biofertilizer, improves water holding capacity and nitrogen requirement of plants.

The assimilatory nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere happens in Azolla at a great speed due to the symbiotic association with Anabaena azollae the algae. Its leaves have the colonies of blue-green algae, Anabaena, because of which, the plant does faster nitrogen fixation. It is a typical example of symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

There are multitudes of benefits by growing Azolla plants. Azolla not only as fodder and biofertilizer but act as a growth promoter, yield enhancer, mosquito suppressant, weed controller, water purifier and soil reclamation agent. It is also used as a vegetable in some locations for its protein richness aspect.

Fresh and natural fodders

To overcome such situation, fresh hybrid grasses and fresh Azolla are the alternatives, which give nutrition as well as a considerable amount of natural proteins and fibre. Fodder containing these helps in avoiding additional mineral supplements and reducing the amount of cattle feed.

Cows being ruminating, love fresh grass, especially the maize, hybrid Napier and even some quantity of grazing of wild grass from pastures.

Azolla is the floating fern on water, which is tiny and dichotomously branching. It is a very tiny pteridophyte, of 3 to 4 mm size and always grows on water. It multiplies vegetatively in an exponential manner in considerably great speed. It is found on stagnant water bodies, like the pond, paddy field, shallow lake, etc. Azolla microphylla is the species which is becoming extremely popular.

Azolla cultivation

Azolla cultivation can be done profusely on naturally occurring ponds. However, there are other uses of the pond for washing of cloth or bathing, etc. due to this Azollae get lost.

  • Small artificial pond containing Azolla is an asset of the dairy farm.
  • A square or rectangular pond of 2 m x 3 m is easy to make by polythene lining for Azolla cultivation to feed two cattle throughout the year.
  • The pond can be prepared artificially by digging the soil one foot deep and covering it with HDPE sheet or by seasoning and waterproofing the bunds.
  • If HDPE sheet is used, mix 5 kgs of pure soil in water per square meter. This will supply nutrients to the growing Azollae.
  • Besides, 10 kg of cow dung also can be mixed in the pond.
  • Fill the pond with water, leaving a small gap on the top.
  • Phosphorus fertilizer such as monopotassium phosphate and micronutrient hydroponic solutions can be mixed in the pond water, which will ensure faster growth and better nutrition.
  • Azolla multiplies vegetatively from its rhizome buds naturally, very fast. This is the reason why it is the most preferred water plant as fodder.
  • To start Azolla cultivation, a handful of seed materials of fresh Azolla plants are sufficient.
  • Within two weeks, it will fill the entire pond with a green cover.
  • At this stage, we can start harvesting by using porous harvesting implements.
  • Then the harvested Azolla needs to be washed in water and can be fed fresh or can be mixed with cattle feed and fed within two days.

Azolla is highly nutritious which provides amino acids, vitamins A and B12 and proteins as well as mineral ingredients as well as some quantities of phytochemicals. Half of the cattle feed can be supplemented by Azolla plants as fodder. It meets all the protein and mineral requirements of the cattle.

Regular harvest and pit maintenance are the only requirements for successful Azolla farming.

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  • Care must be taken to prevent contamination of the pond with litter and garbage, which cause rot of Azolla.
  • Azolla requires 40-60% light only, because of which, the growth will be vigorous and profuse. A high amount of light causes yellowing and necrosis in Azolla. Moreover, the ideal temperature for Azolla is between 20 to 32 degree Celsius.
  • Care must be taken to use good soil, mixing which will not increase pH over 6.5. Ideal pH is between 5 to 6.5 for good growth and quality of the water fern.
  • Washing the Azolla plants is important. Otherwise, cows may refuse it due to cow dung smell.

Azolla harvesting

Have well nourished cow

Feeding fresh green Azolla as fodder to cows increases lactation and fat and protein composition of milk as well as taste. Moreover, it is achieved due to less stress, low starvation and further health benefits of cows. Half a kilo of Azolla, twice a day, can improve the health of medium-sized cows. For the precise amount of feed and nutrition, a trained veterinarian can be consulted.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Halemane Muralikrishna


Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on May 23, 2020:

Yes. Azolla is a wonderful herb. It grows very well in our climate. Thank you, Mrs Sneha, for reading this article with keen interest.

Sneha Bhat from India on May 23, 2020:

Thank you sir for sharing this article..Even though Azolla is a small green plant, it does wonders in plants growth...

Jnanesh Sharma H from South India on January 22, 2020:

Wow, Azolla seems to be a very fascinating topic for me, would try growing it to feed my cows. Thank you for being so informative.

Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on November 09, 2019:

Thank you Ms Prantika and Ms Suchismita for your comments. Some dairymen call it the proteinules for the cows. By this, you will come to understand, how much protein these have. Compared to the artificial nutrient supplements, these are naturally good.

Suchismita Pradhan from India on November 09, 2019:

I never knew before about this natural fodder.After reading your article I will definitey advice my milkman to think about it.Thanks for sharing.

Prantika Samanta from Kolkata, India on November 09, 2019:

Very well explained about Azolla and it's importance. Good to know that Azolla is green gold of white revolution.

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