At this week’s international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture, Gregory Sikumba presented a poster on farmer preferences of selected Napier grass accessions in northern Tanzania.
In Tanzania, livestock feed availability is one of the major problems hindering livestock productivity. This is caused by large fluctuations in the quality and quantity of forage due to seasonality, limited available pasture land and degraded soils. Therefore, farmers have inadequate feed resources to meet the optimum feeding requirements of their cattle. In mixed crop-livestock production systems, integration of improved forages for livestock feed is often neglected relative to food crops, yet livestock can make a positive contribution to whole farm productivity. More specifically, sustainable integration of forages such as Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and legumes can increase feed availability and quality, hence cattle productivity, and improve soil fertility through biological
nitrogen fixation and soil erosion control.
A participatory variety assessment study was conducted in three villages in Babati district of Tanzania during 2014, to quantify yields and identify the selection criteria used by farmers to select Napier grass accessions. A total of six accessions (KK2, KK1, ILRI 16837, ILRI 16835, ILRI 16803 and ILRI 14984) were grown and harvested after 1 month on three field trials replicated three times per plot. Participatory assessment involving 77 farmers was conducted on the field trials managed by farmers using a rating and voting exercise. Farmers ranked their preferred Napier grass accessions and their selection criteria were documented. Agronomic data on yield (t ha-1), height
(m) and number of tillers per stool were collected from the field trials to establish the most productive accessions.
The number of leaves per tiller, number of tillers per stool, tolerance to drought, regeneration period after harvest, and plant height were the five key criteria used by farmers to select and rank Napier grass accessions. Hairiness was not an important consideration since farmers fed any available feed resource due to severity of feed shortage. Farmer’s ranked Kakamega (KK) 2, ILRI 16835, ILRI 16837 and KK1 as first, second, third and fourth best accessions respectively. However, ILRI 16835 produced the highest yield (mean = 1.77 t ha-1 (DM); sd = 0.93). Irrespective of the dry matter (DM) yield showing no significant difference between the accessions (mean = 1.40 t ha-1 (DM); sd = 0.97), the number of tillers showed a significant (P<0.001) positive relationship with dry matter yield for all the 6 accessions. About 54% of farmers appreciated the new strategy of planting Napier grass on the contours showing an indication of potential for integrating fodder crops in the maize based farming system of Babati district.
The co-authors of the poster are: Gregory Sikumba (ILRI), Walter Mangesho (TALIRI), Ben Lukuyu (ILRI), Festo Ngulu (IITA) and Mateete Bekunda (IITA)
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